Friday, November 23, 2012

Common Core State Standards, Pt. 2

One of the ways that I've worked hard to incorporate technology in my class is by acquiring eReaders for my students and the other 6th grade Language Arts classrooms. And it has been work. It's unfortunate, but the nature of public education funding is such that most of us gave up asking for money for classroom supplies years ago. I can remember the day when I used to have a whole $250 budget to use on whatever supplies my classroom needed as the year progressed. It wasn't a lot, but compared to today it was everything.

And of course education technology isn't cheap. $250 would buy a lot of paperbacks, but it won't get you far in acquiring the technology resources our classrooms need if we're going to create a learning environment that's anything like the "real world" we're hopefully getting our students ready for. So I've faced the challenge with some creative fundraising. One thing works in our favor when it comes to seeking funds; people generally like schools, realize times are hard, and want to help out kids and classrooms. Therefore, getting the eReaders for my school has been a matter of finding out where the money is and communicating the need and the expected benefits. I'm never too proud to beg, and a firm believer in the Theory of the Squeaky Wheel. You won't get anything if you don't ask, and never take the first "no" as the final word; it often just means you haven't communicated clearly enough.

Through a combination of funding from and our local school parent group, we now have 25 Nook eReaders for our 6th graders. I won't go into all the benefits here, but there are many, and after rolling out the first five eReaders last spring, I'm starting to see the increased engagement among my struggling readers that I had hoped for. I'm also seeing more willingness to read appropriate-level texts among my lower level readers who don't have to worry about other students seeing the cover of their "little-kid" books.

One of the foundations to the Common Core Reading Standards, embedded in the College and Career  Readiness standards, is the expectation that students are not only reading contempory literature, but also "...seminal U.S. documents" and classic literature. In this area the eReaders are an excellent resource. I've found the Barnes and Noble Nooks to be durable, user friendly, and - unlike the Amazon Kindle - easy to set up so that students can't go online and "one-click" order a bunch of books (or other stuff) on my dime. But both B&N and Amazon have extensive libraries of free books that can be loaded on their eReaders. And Project Gutenburg has made available for free an extensive library of books that can be downloaded easily to most eReaders, thanks to the fact that the copyright has expired on books written before 1923, so they are considered public domain.

Of course, at the 6th grade level, it will take a lot of extensive reading work for many of our students to get to the point where they can confidently tackle Moby Dick or Huck Finn with any hope of deep comprehension - and that's a topic for another post - but with proper support, many of our students can and are accessing these "old" texts using our "new" technology.

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