Boys, Literacy and Technology/ Literacy, Technology and Boys/Technology, Boys and Literacy
Posting #4 June 19th
During the last five years or so there have been many studies on the topic of boys and literacy in the popular media
(Macleans, National Post) as well as trade and scholarly journals. Long an area
of interest to educators, the so called ‘gender gap’ is now being re-examined and re-analyzed against a backdrop
of various innovative technologies now being employed to support literacy programs.
As technology creates new forms of communication unimagined even a few years ago in our predominantly print based school
curriculum, many students and in particular boys are increasing using computer based literacy expression and practices (instant
messaging, complex simulation and video games, web design and blogs) not previously recognized or even given much credence
in the typical school system.
Certainly, a much broader topic than this weblog entry can possibly touch upon; the main focus here will be a look
at some of the truly innovative programs and sites in existence in various locations with some reflections on just why they
are so successful; particularly with boys.
Kathy Sanford (2004) in her two year qualitative study at the University of Victoria, entitled, ‘Morphing Literacy; Boys Reshaping Their Literacy’
went beyond just test score data and common cultural perceptions of gender to better understand boys literacy practices today. What she concluded was that for boys, literacy is a means to an end. Having some purpose for reading was vitally important.
Sanford put forward the view that the typical traditional literature based language arts program just did not resonate
with boys because outside of school boys chose active, purposeful reading such as how to books, fantasy, sports magazines,
comic books and graphic texts. It wasn’t that boys didn’t read or
didn’t like to read but they wanted the power to choose what they read and they didn’t usually find this in the
For more details on her study go to
Two other writers echo these sentiments. Wilhelm and Smith (2002) in their
book, ‘Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys’ also discuss why boys accept
or reject certain ways of being literate, how boys read different kinds of print and what qualities of print appeal to boys.
David Booth, a University
of Toronto professor and author of ‘Hockey Players
Read; Boys, Literacy and Learning,’ goes on to suggest three concrete strategies to help boys develop the vitally important
self-identities of themselves as readers.
- give boys choice and ownership in their reading
- use questions that help boys identify their interests and helpthem discover all the
varied topics that can be explored in fiction or non fiction
- most importantly; validate the impact of computer technologyon boy’s literacy and use their
interest in computers to reinforce reading skills especially critical reading skills.
A computer program/site that facilitates the implementation of the foregoing strategies is called NoveList. This is a computer interface that enables the reader to use several different ways to select books. Describe a plot, find similar books and join book talks (techno-book reports?) are
just three of the many ways that NoveList can help boys find a book that they can get interested about.
A resource for both students and teachers, the developers describe their
program as follows.
is a fiction database that provides subject heading access, reviews, annotations, and much more for over 120,000 fiction titles.
It also includes other content of interest to fiction readers, such as Author Read-alikes, Book Discussion Guides, BookTalks,
and Feature Articles. For school media specialists and teachers there are Standards-Based Thematic Units and Picture Book
Extenders, as well as specific teaching guides for using fiction in the classroom.
Another future forward program is something called ‘considerate text’ which uses specific word choice,
an organization of concepts and in some cases supplementary computer graphics and audio narration to assist and engage struggling
readers. This software program highlights text onscreen as the recorded narration
plays. Students can start and stop the audio to match their own reading speed
or loop back and find pronunciation and definitions of unfamiliar vocabulary. Adding to the interactivity, a key motivating
factor with boys, is the ongoing tracking, assessment and automatic recording of progress and improvement.
can be found at
Delving into the virtual reality realm, which has a built in appeal to boys already hooked on a wide variety of video
games in their out of school hours, www.thinkport.org has developed an impressive free collection of online field trips and other
web based learning materials that have demonstrated a way to boost reading levels and help improve test scores among middle
school students according to the result of study (2004) by Maryland Public Television.
This study concluded that students who used the virtual field trips performed better on unit tests than the students
using only traditional methods. Results also showed improved reading and comprehension
among poor and economically disadvantaged students, particularly boys. Providing background experiences, albeit virtual ones,
tapped into boys propensity for visual and multi-sensory learning.
Another useful summary of the differences between boys and girls literacy experiences in school is given in an Australian
research report on Boys and Literacy (Alloway, et al (2002) ‘Boys, literacy and schooling expanding the repertoires
of practice.’ Department of Education, Science and Training (Austalia)
Available at www.gu.edu.au/school/cls/clearinghouse/)
Certainly, it can be said that NoveList, Considerate Text and Online Field Trips are just some of the ways that technology
has made some significant inroads into connecting boys with relevant and positively reinforcing literary practices.
Now literacy, of course is not exclusively concerned with reading. What
about writing? In a previous blog (or two) the wonders of web blogs or blogs
were explained and lauded as a way that technology has added a new, exciting hyper-linked dimension to the long standing practice
of journaling. What are some other ways that computers can help boys break the
written literacy barrier by first encouraging them to write and secondly become better writers?
To cite just one example, the Peace River North School District certainly has developed a successful writing program for all the sixth and seventh grade students in the whole district involving the use of
wireless PDAs and laptop computers. Started as a small 18 month pilot project by a techno-savvy teacher, the program has now
expanded in its fourth year of operation to include 1,150 students and 37 teachers in 17 schools. The Wireless Writing Program has shown demonstrated success in improving student achievement, motivation
and learning skills through the integration of technology with classroom writing instruction.
The benchmark used for assessment is the province wide British Columbia performance standards.
Since full implementation of the WWP, the gap between male and female
students has narrowed from 21% in 2003 to 8% in 2004. the gap between aboriginal
students and the total population narrowed from 17% in 2003 to 5% in 2004.
David Vandergugten, Principal of Technology Services School District 60-Peace River North
While it can be said this is only one school district, the sample used for gathering data is sizable enough to warrant
making a claim that laptop and PDA use by students particularly with male and aboriginal students can indeed improve writing
performance, which is considered a necessary prerequisite for success in high school and post secondary education.
The final section of this blog will be a look at the modeling factor, or some ways in which the image of reading for
boys can be enhanced. Doing his part in raising the ‘cool’ level
is author Jon Scieszka, previously an elementary school teacher.
“We tell kids that reading is important for everyone. Then
we show them that reading is done mostly by moms or women teachers or librarians. We
do not show boys an equal number of male role models for reading.”
To encourage boys to read, Scieszka has launched a popular website called www.guysread.com in his belief that the internet is a perfect place
to connect boys with a database of books that have been recommended by other males of all ages. Scieszka also believes that the online world/community gives boys the opportunity to explore literacy options
through technology with the added benefit of being semi- anonymous with no peer pressure or approval factors intruding.
And let us not forget the power of mentoring with boys of different ages and grade levels. Big buddy/ little buddy matches have proved very successful in encouraging emerging or struggling readers. Sometimes, it’s the one to one attention whereby the reader is not put on the
spot; as in a group reading situation in a classroom, that can help build the confidence in the weaker reader to keep persevering.
The website, www.mentoringboys.com is a good resource for reading more about mentoring.
In the end. it comes down to how parents and educators view technology because essentially it is only adults who still
separate paper print based text from multi-media communication in our ‘mediasphere’ to use the term I used in
the very first posting in this series of blogs.
Our students have not lived in a world without computers and cell phones and
iMovie and the sooner we acknowledge and adapt to the pervasive impact of these multi-modality technologies the better off
our students will be in the school system and beyond. The school definition of literacy has been far too slow to change and far too slow to acknowledge the changing
nature of literacy in our society.
Even a casual observer cannot dispute the motivating power of technology on boys and now with research solidly backing
this, we, as educators, should be considering how we can harness this force to improve boys engagement and achievement in
a wide varieties of literacy activities.
From multimedia authoring and presentations to voice recognition and transcription to the use of spell and grammar
checkers these tools and the programs outlined in this blog as well as those in continual development are increasingly
available to support new literacy programs.
With such reports as the one recently published by the Canada Council of Learning stating
that 42% of Canadian adults are literacy challenged (a statistic almost unchanged from 10 years ago) we cannot
ignore the clarion call much longer to radically revise the reading curriculum and to rethink assessment strategies and criteria
to better reflect the literacy demands of the future. The expiry date for the
hyphenated term techno-literacy is very, very near. For our students, the hyphen
is already invisible; there is no separation; no separation at all.
'Dismal literacy rates no surprise to researcher’, Penticton Herald, May 14, 2005, page D3
Acker, J. (2003). Study says boys may actually be literate. The Gazette Online, . Retrieved Jun 18, 2005, from http://www.usc.uwo.ca/gazette/2003/january/31/news2.htm
Blair, H. (2004, December 15).Let's study gender gap on reading. Edmonton Journal, pp. A18.
Booth, David, (2002) Even Hockey Players Read; Boys Literacy and Learning Pembroke Publishers, CA
Smith, Michael W. & Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. (2002) Reading Don't Fix No Chevys: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Portsmouth, NH
Smyth, J. (2003, January 23).Study says pokémon, simpson, net are vehicles for learning. National
Post, pp. C73.
The Wonders of Web Logs or Blogs (Posting #3) June 12th
Once again, it was an interesting experience being online with
all my fellow students and our prof, Dr. Moulton live from Calgary on Saturday morning in my quiet, darkened classroom speaking
into my new omni-directional mike that was most recently used as a boom mike for the fourth grade film project.
Thanks for your feedback and appreciation for my contributions
to the subject matter of how web logs or blogs are a natural 'fit' in the realm of techno-literacy which includes the distance
learning class that we are currently involved in.
In doing some further research on educational blogs I discovered
this fantastic site which features an impressive list of how teachers can use blogs in the classroom in ways that go beyond
just journalling featuring hypertext. Sometimes, as educators, we just don't think expansively enough. In any case, here's
the link. There's also a list of classroom blogs from K-12 that can be viewed among other relevant aspects of school
From NECC 2004 Conference,
"Weblogs: The Possibilities are Endless!"
And the uber-list?
Teachers could develop a
classroom blog to..........
post short current events articles to invite students thoughts, reactions, and possible
create a literature circle
post photos and ask students to create captions
foster book discussions in
the form of an online book club
encourage student writing to demonstrate learning
direct students to curriculum web
sites and have them read and make responses
communicate with another classroom
react to teacher entries about what
they are learning and make connections to how this learning is relevant for them
post quotes and have students write their
interpretation and apply it to something in their life
invite one student a day to post a summary of and their reflections
on the day's learning
observe the growth of plants or animals or keep records of science experiments
spot and record
student kindnesses or good deeds
develop new vocabulary by writing about the new word and having students create sentences
or a brief paragraph using new vocabulary
enable students to post their ideas for the classroom or school
write short reviews of books they are enjoying reading
Teachers could create an informational class blog to ......
a daily/weekly synopsis of the curriculum taught
a birdseye view of the class for parents
and celebrate class achievements
list class-related information such as calendars, events, homework assignments and other
relevant class information
examples of good student work and the teacher's response to it
provide a day-by-day description
of a specific teaching unit
a moment in time out of the classroom day to share with family and friends
could create a reflective, journal type blog to..........
share ideas for teaching activities to use in the classroom
classroom technology management techniques
make reflections on each teaching day
explore important teaching and learning
tips for beginning teachers
gems of wisdom from the students in their classroom on any number of ideas
on using specific technology programs in the curriculum
a record of a new teaching project with what worked and what didn't
can have your students create their own weblogs to..........
complete class writing assignments
create an ongoing portfolio
of samples of their writing
express their opinions on topics you are studying in class
write comments, opinions, or
questions on daily news items or issues of interest
discuss activities they did in class and tell what they think about
write about class curriculum topics, newly-learned vocabulary words and idioms
showcase their best writing pieces
You can also ask your class to create a shared weblog to...
complete project work in small groups, assigning each
group a different task
showcase products of project-based learning
complete a webquest
Like wow! Hard to improve
on this list, for sure.
For another super link to a site for educational technology and
specifically the educational use of weblogs look at http://www.weblogg-ed.com/why_weblogs
That said, let me conclude by mentioning that if you are unfamiliar with webquests; you can check out
the link on my class website which explains and lists webquests for all grade levels.
I now return you to your regular programming as I continue to work on my final assignment,
Boys, Literacy and Technology
Literacy, Technology and Boys
Technology, Boys and Literacy
I welcome questions, comments. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Have a wonderful week...summer's coming!
On Virtual Classes and Reality (Posting #2) May, 29th
Yesterday morning, the class 'met' in cyberspace in real time. We could hear but not see each other and the nine
participants and the instructor/facillitator were physically in a wide span of locations. Some were in Calgary
and could have actually been in a face to face class but Kirsten and myself from the interior would have been shut
out from the opportunity had it not been for the online option.
Not without it's drawbacks. I would have like to 'see' my classmates, however, it was interesting to be put
in 'break-out' groups by Dr. Moulton to discuss three topics with just two other people before coming back to the larger
group to report back.
This is my fourth online class so I knew somewhat what to expect and was glad to see one way the main page whiteboard
can be used on Elluminate. I can read manuals but actually seeing how things work make more of an impact on me.
Even though I was in the group that looked into the slick technology tool called a Smartboard,
this posting/relection will focus on the fascinating topic of virtual reality; the when, where and perhaps more importantly,
I've used the introduction of this particular posting as a springboard into this topic because what is an online
class if not virtual reality? The nine of us are physically spread across time zones and geographical space but
are connected seamlessly (well, almost except for a few computer glitches and adjustments) in cyberspace through
But first a definition:
The book, ' Megatech Cyber Space' defines it as the science of creating an artificial environment with powerful computer
I agree but feel that the definition is a bit too limited in something as limitless and boundless as cyberspace.
I would also include the science of bringing interactive environments to the user with powerful computer systems.
In both cases, the key word is 'interactive' viewing' as opposed to the typically passive television viewing experience.
With virtual reality, the user/participant has immediate interaction and varying degrees of control over what he or she
views. Whereas, the only control that a television watcher has is channel selection.
And yes, this is a blanket statement which certainly could be regarded as an overgeneralization in light of some programming
like 'Sesame Street' whose format does promote reaction from its young viewers but this show and it's ilk comprise a
very small minority of programs.
In my expanded definition, I go past the computer generated imaginary worlds and spaces to include real life sound and
sights that the average student would not experience except through a computer.
In the Saturday class, I described an actual class incident whereby my class was able to listen to the sounds of the
rainforest live via a listening webcam stationed in a rainforest across the world. In this category I would also list
the plethora of visual live webcams around the world from the ''Bridgecam' on the floating bridge leading into Kelowna to
the more remote and inaccessible places on our planet. For a mind boggling directory of webcams check out http://earthcam.com
And our virtual 'eyes' actually go beyond our planet. Early this year, I had my class in the lab researching
space websites and at that very moment a space probe was landing on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Right in our school
lab in the interior of B.C. we were able to watch this incredible space achievement.
Through the wonders of virtual reality, the walls of the classroom disappear and if the virtual reality units described
in research projects funded by the National Science Foundation are any indication of the future, the applications for science
education are unimaginable. The 'sci-non fiction' possibilites of tele-immersive learning environments are explained
very well on
With the use of ImmersaDesk and QuickWorld technology to mention a few aspects, the future is ....yesterday.
On the literacy front, David Warlick and The Landmark Project is pioneering a virtual reality literacy center whereby
the students take 'virtual fieldtrips ' into the literary world. The system takes the e-book (I've mentioned the site,
previously which I've used with success with my first graders.) to the next plateau by letting the teacher guide the
reader through the story by controlling the pace of the story thereby concentrating on the student's level of
of literacy and interaction. The center is composed of various reader stations each capable of video networking,
internet access and voice simulation. All these stations have a
VR interace to include software, visual and auditory headsets,
, microphones and touch sensitive fingers or gloves
that enhance the multisensory experience.
For more information, take a look at:
To conclude this brief foray into the fascinating world (real and imagined) I will quote from a greeting card that I
picked up last summer at a Mayne Island bookstore.
Things are not as they seem. Neither are they otherwise.
Jefferis, David 'Cyber Space: Virtual Reality and the World Wide
Web', Crabtree Publishing, Niagra on the Lake, 1999
Musings on Our Mediasphere (Posting # 1)
As I mentioned on the discussion board, I've elected to post my series of thoughts and reflections on course topics on
this existing blog. After employing blogs for other courses, I now feel rather restrained by two dimensional writing
that does not have the capability to add hyperlinks to expand and extend content. I also particularly like the
'work in progress' feature of blogs whereby they can continually be revised, updated and edited on an ongoing basis as
new ideas or thoughts manifest themselves on my learning journey. In the technology education field, this not only
makes sense but is vital to keep reasonably current.
With the blog format, I feel that I am now giving the reader the option to explore beyond what he or she has read, which
in my experience, usually leads to many other relevant tangents.
I welcome feedback either directly through this blog or on the main discussion board on Blackboard. Namaste.
Joanna Babiak of Penticton
But first a definition of mediasphere. I offer the following:
Mediasphere is a term used to describe the collective ecology of the world media, including newspapers, journals, television, radio, books, novels, advertising, press releases, publicity and the blogosphere, to include any and all media both broadcast and published.
Time for some March Musings...
First of all, the good news is that I have received word that I can indeed attend the International Conference on Educational
Media, Hypermediea and Telecommunications in Montreal during the last week of June. http://www.aace.org/conf/edmedia/default.htm
I have not visited Montreal in quite a few years and the draw of being a delegate at such an exalted conference
is equal to the draw of being in Montreal just before the famous jazz festival. The sessions and tutorials in this
conference dovetail nicely with the course I've picked out to take in spring sesson, 'Technology and Literacy' and the one
in summer session 'Leadership and Technology.'
I have also been doing some reading on the life and times of a well known perhaps underappreciated Canadian visionary,
Marshal McLuhan who's most well known quotation is 'the medium is the message' which has been interpreted, reinterpreted
and misinterpreted over the last few increasingly media rich decades. In fact, there is renewed interest in what
this rather eccentric communications visionary had to say about a lot of areas that in his day and age were only concepts
but have since materialized. His writings have also been revisited in light of some of the amazing technological
breakthroughs that future forward people only dreamed or speculated about in a very ephemeral sense.
Well, I certainly could go on in this train of thought but my off-line life awaits some attention. Many things
to attend to prior to spring break. And so it is on this eight day of March...
Comments? Questions? Dispatch one and all to email@example.com
Just a couple of Marshal McLuhan links to check out:
What is the Meaning of 'The Medium is the Message?' by Mark Federman
On Reading McLuhan by Mark Federman
Groundhog Day, 2005
Well, according to the two most famous rodents on both sides of the border, Wiarton Willie (in Canada) and Punxsutawney
Phil (U.S.A.), it's a split decision whether there will be an early spring or six weeks of winter remaining. Certainly
with all the snow gone and reports of snowdrops and crocuses in neighbourhood gardens spring in these parts could very well
arrive earlier than other parts of Canada. I'll be dusting off my golf clubs shortly, I think.
On the fourth grade front, the class worked at developing the film concept, 'initiative.' We now have a chart with
three parts that can now be worked into a script and a shot list. Now that it's February, 'compassion' should be easy
to flesh out during Friday's class. We anticipate starting to film by month's end.
Be sure and check out Niko Theodosakis' fantastic website www.directorintheclassroom.com
He donated the latest version of his classroom guide to the school and this is the 'textbook' that we are using to
work through for our short filmmaking project. We are hoping to film at least 3 of the 5 concepts developed.
The seven core ethical values/concepts are as follows:
Positive Mental Attitude-Mind -The mind is where our dominant thoughts are rehearsed. Our mental rehearsals contribute
significantly to our character development. Since so much of the world focuses on worst possible outcomes and results we set
out to teach kids to work for the best possible results. Problems are merely questions to be solved and to work through not
Respect- Eyes & Ears-These body parts are where so much of respectful listening takes place. We wanted kids
to know the importance of looking at each other and actively listening to each other. Respect is demonstrated consideration
and holding others in high regard. It happens by disciplining the eyes and ears to focus on others ideas.
Integrity- Mouth- All our words and agreements mean something. We've trained kids to learn the importance of counting
on each others words. While integrity starts with truth about what we believe about ourselves and tell ourselves it is revealed
through our agreements and commitments to others. We help children realize the power of keeping agreements. They learn people
with Integrity will not only stand out today but also in the world of tomorrow.
Compassion-Heart- We chose the heart because of the need for compassion in our school and community . In the Values
in Action! Curriculum we teach kids about the importance of having a heart for others. We stress the "others" curriculum by
various kinds of "Heart Projects" Service clubs, service hours, walk for mankind, and love of neighbors. Kids become aware
the major decisions of life come from the heart. They learn that ethics do not equal rules and that a large part of ethics
depends on what our heart tells us.
Cooperation- Hands- In order to stay clean hands have to wash one another. The spirit of cooperation begins within
ourselves with our hands needing to cooperate with each other, otherwise they would never get clean. We teach kids there are
things we do together that we cannot accomplish by ourselves. We teach them that cooperation focuses on "we" not just me..
Perseverance- Stomach or Gut- The Stomach was chosen as the place in the body that represents fortitude. You have
to have guts to keep forging ahead and pressing on. The higher we set our goals the more we need to persevere. We teach children
the stomach keeps tract. When we are persistent enough to complete our work and the challenges that we encounter our stomach
feels good. When we make excuses and fall short of our goals our stomach feels pain and discomfort.
Initiative-Feet -The highest form of responsibility is initiative. It's taking the "first step" to help someone
while everyone else is standing around and watching. We teach children that success happens when we take the steps to make
it happen. Our goal is to develop non-prompted lifestyles See what needs to be done and be a person to take the steps without
anyone telling or prompting you!
We chose 5 of the above to work with in five classroom groups and from there three will be filmed. Well, that's the
plan anyway. In the world of low/no budget filmmaking anything can and frequently does happen. But the students
are certainly keen to try their hand at scriptwriting and filming so I'm acting as the 'guide on the side', not the 'sage
on the stage.' So we'll see where that leads to. In the next entry, I'll list a few specific filmmaking links
that can be read on in-camera editing which is what we'll be using for the sake of both economy and time. Shooting a
film in sequence using in-camera editing is a challenge for sure but I believe it is a valuable learning experience
to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse then film rather that film everything and try to fix it in post production. Possible
but highly time consuming. Ron Howard and Jodie Foster have much bigger staffs and budgets than me! :-)
Well, that's it for this Groundhog's Eve and so it is...