There is no question that modern technology can help even the most exceptional teachers support and improve classroom lessons.
Every day, there are more and more examples of teachers using computers, interactive whiteboards, laptops, tablets, podcasts, and other tools to build on classroom instruction and customize learning to meet the needs of their students.
How are teachers using technology?
While technology may not replace the valuable experiences our students have with print books, they open doors that the print books cannot, and at the same time motivate and engage students.
How can you provide students with appropriate texts matched to their specific reading level with e-books?
Reading teachers want students to have the e-book or digital reading experience they will connect most readily to; however, they also demand the same careful consideration of developmentally appropriate criteria used to select print texts. Finding a reliable source for expertly leveled e-books is critical. Secondly, teachers or parents must find suitable programs for the specific hardware—whiteboard, laptop, tablet, etc.—that is available to them.
For instance, NewmarkInteractive.com is a subscription-based online resource with an extensive e-library that offers easy-to-use, precisely leveled texts. Teachers and parents can direct students to specific books of appropriate reading level and topic (e.g. Science, Math, Social Studies, Fiction). Convenient access is also key—NewmarkInteractive.com can be used on any brand of whiteboard, laptop, or desktop computer.
How can you support students based on their reading level so that they engage with e-books successfully?
Customization options in e-books are astounding and make differentiating the e-book experience easy and efficient. For example, the ability to place support through virtual sticky notes on virtual pages at the point of use takes differentiation to a new level.
If a teacher is discussing a vocabulary strategy using context clues to determine meaning, he or she may encounter a scenario like this. The teacher assigns an e-book to a group of students who needs to practice a strategy and notices the following text:
Pourquoi tales often point out character flaws, or foibles, that people have, such as being boastful, proud, or impatient.
Using an e-book, a teacher can place a virtual sticky note for students right in the margin that reads:
"What is another word for ‘foible’? Give an example."
The students can respond on the virtual sticky note and the lesson yields differentiation, strategy application, and even accountability.
How can you conduct pre-reading activities to model meaning-making strategies for shared reading?
Teachers often model asking questions as a strategy for before, during, or even after the reading. When text is projected through the whiteboard, teachers can use the software pen tools or notes tool to place questions directly into the text. The lesson becomes interactive as students add their questions to the text or put check marks next to questions they also have, or propose answers, which can later be confirmed.
What are some specific examples of using an interactive e-book as part of a reading lesson?
Adding an interactive whiteboard into a reading lesson provides teachers with a range of tools and options. For example, in a text rich with comparison and contrast, highlighting tools allow teachers to focus on the author's signal language.
The use of color also becomes a key way for students to hone in on the words that show what is alike: like, and, also, both, etc., using one color, versus what is different: but, while, however, although, etc., using a second color. This creates the context for students to see the rhetorical pattern of text, which becomes their road map for successful reading.
Ways to integrate e-learning with print materials
Interactive e-books and activities can be integrated with print materials in many ways! For example, you might begin your science lesson about weather with an exciting interactive e-book about Amazing Storms. Use the CD-ROM on your whiteboard to introduce the entire class to the topic. Encourage students to be active learners and come up to the whiteboard to read aloud, highlight key vocabulary or images, or complete comprehension activities after reading.
After introducing the whole group to the lesson and attracting their attention through the engaging interactive features of the CD-ROM, use the print books with a small group of students to hone in on literacy skills and provide targeted attention to students of specific reading levels. Or send the CD-ROM or the print book home with students for independent reading or reading with parents. For other ways to combine print and interactive materials, ask your fellow teachers! We have been amazed by the creative lessons that teachers across the country have shared with us.