#CyberPD is an online professional development learning community where teachers read and discuss a common professional development text. Visit Reflect & Refine for more details and links to connect with the group. This year’s book is Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass.
The last chapters in Digital Reading focus on assessment and on building connections between home and school literacies.
Ch 6: Assessment: Keeping Our Eye on the Literacy
Common sense and good solid workshop practices are the foundation of the assessment practices recommended by Sibberson and Bass. In fact, the workshop approaches and techniques we’re already using represent best practice and we need to build on those as we integrate technology into our assessment.
Solid literacy assessment remains the same with or without digital tools. (90)
Sibberson shows how easy it is to integrate a focus on digital reading into the standard beginning-of-the-year literacy survey simply by asking questions about students’ digital and online reading lives.
There are also digital tools that can help us “gather real artifacts from a child’s learning and collect and organize the artifacts over time” (93). They give a run-down of a few tools that teachers may find helpful: Evernote, Google Docs, photos, ebook annotations, screen captures, kidblogs, and video and audio files. They also talk a bit about student-led conferences and digital portfolios.
Assessment has become a four-letter word at my institution, largely because we are so frequently asked to do things in the name of assessment that benefit no one and actually detract from effective teaching and learning. Assessment is not a numbers game. I love the approach to assessment here: it’s about documenting our students’ growth as learners, collecting evidence of their learning, and using that evidence to refine and revise our own teaching.
Ch 7: Beyond the Classroom Walls: Connecting Digital Reading at Home and School
This was one of my favorite chapters because it presents practical solutions to a problem that I constantly hear teachers talking about–how to involve parents and connect students’ home lives and learning. This is where digital tools can really have an impact. Parents have a window into what their children are doing in school when children blog and tweet about their learning. Many digital tools–Google docs, for instance–invite much more integration between home and school learning and literacy. Sibberson and Bass share a few ideas for whole-school programs that can involve parents in digital learning–Internet safety night, for instance, or my favorite, tech petting zoo, where parents can come in for demos of the different tools and technologies that are available for their students to use. Finally, they list ways that teachers can individually invite parents into the classroom through their online presence on a class website, blog, Twitter account, Pinterest, or other digital bulletin board.
Intentionality and authenticity. Have a rationale for what you do that is linked to what you’re trying to accomplish. And make sure that you’re not asking students to do things that “real” readers and writers would never do.
I also loved the spirit of invitation that informs this book. The classrooms described here are places of invitation, not coercion, and Sibberson and Bass extend that invitation to teachers. There’s no sense here of “this is what you should be doing.” Rather, it’s always, “this is what you might think about” and “this is what others have found helpful.”
A final note:
One thing I found very interesting about this book is that it assumes a deep familiarity and experience with workshop classrooms. The argument really is how digital reading fits into what teachers are already doing in their workshop classroom. I hope that workshop is the norm where Sibberson and Bass teach, but it’s definitely not the norm where I teach. In my eight years of teaching pre-service teachers, not one of my students has ever experienced a workshop classroom in their K-12 education. Only one has come into my classroom with any familiarity whatsoever with workshop (she did some observations in a middle school that had recently implemented workshop).
This is a problem.
What is going on in our education programs that pre-service K-8 teachers are graduating with no knowledge of Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins, Nancie Atwell? With no understanding of what actually works to develop and grow readers and writers?