Tagged: new york times

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New Kindle classroom! Kathleen Large’s students in San Francisco join the KCP!

Kathleen Largefavicon I am very happy to announce that there will be a new classroom joining the Kindle Classroom Project in just over a week.

Kathleen Large — whose beautiful classroom library I featured in September — is an outstanding English teacher at Leadership High School in San Francisco, where I taught for 12 years.

Kathleen runs a robust independent reading program in her classroom. She begins each class with silent reading, knows what each student is reading, makes recommendations, and conferences with students about their books. Kathleen’s students have read many books, given book talks to younger students, and written poignant essays about how reading has affected them. (Her students also read the New York Times!)

Here’s a sneak peek of her classroom library:

Kathleen's Classroom Library 2
Part of Kathleen Large’s classroom library.

It is an honor to partner with Kathleen in this work. She has already pushed me about the best role of Kindles in a reading classroom. The KCP is a reading program, Kathleen reminds me, not a technology program, and the Kindle is best introduced not necessarily at the very beginning of the year, but rather after a reading culture has grown.

That’s why Kathleen launched a “soft start” with 10 of her students before Winter Break. She met with them individually, asked them if they wanted to opt in, explained the requirements of the program, and answered students’ questions. So far, the news is wonderful: Students are texting Kathleen over Break to let her know they love their Kindle and are finishing books.

It will be exciting to learn how the rest of her students react on Jan. 5 when they find out that there are plenty more Kindles to check out!

It’s very clear to me that the quality of the teacher is the most important ingredient to a successful Kindle classroom. When a teacher understands reading instruction and how the KCP can fit into his or her classroom, things flourish, and the power of the KCP comes out.

I can’t wait to tell the story of Miss Large’s Classroom and its participation in the Kindle Classroom Project! favicon

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No Kindle? No problem. Become an integral part of the Kindle Classroom Project!

favicon If you don’t have a Kindle to donate, please don’t feel left out. Remember that the Kindle Classroom Project is a reading project, not a technology project!

Here are a few ways to become a sustaining, lasting donor to the Kindle Classroom Project. Choose one and then scroll to the bottom to donate!

For the Book Lover
A Kindle with no books is just an empty electronic device. The power of the Kindle Classroom Project is that students get to request books they want to read. Because of generous donors, I quickly buy these requested books and deliver them directly to the students’ Kindles. It’s like magic. For $10 a month, you can connect one student with a book that may change his or her life. Even better: Each book goes into the Kindle Library, accessible to all 225+ students participating in the program. Make a $10 monthly donation below!

For the News Junkie
I love waking up and retrieving my newspaper from the front steps every morning. Though I love my Kindle, I prefer reading the New York Times in print. It turns out, students in Kathleen Large’s classroom at Leadership High School also love to read the New York Times. They vie for Kathleen’s lone copy, taking turns, following key stories, and getting to know their world better. A print subscription is $15 a month. An e-subscription, which lacks the newsprint but allows the newspaper to be shared among six students, is $20 a month. The other cool thing about the e-subscription is that it gets delivered automatically every morning as students wake up. Make a $15 or $20 monthly donation below!

 Make a Kindle Come to Life
There are two features to Kindles that are inferior to physical books: (1) They are occasionally fragile, (2) They need charging every week or so. The problem is, Amazon no longer includes power adapters with new Kindles. That means that generous donors often send me their Kindles without plugs. To bridge the power adapter gap, I buy chargers at $6 each. Once a Kindle has its power cord and adapter, it’s ready to go to a student. Make a $6 monthly donation below!

For the Storyteller
For some students, silent reading is not easy. The page just has too many words, and all the text is overwhelming. The magic of a story is unlocked only when someone is telling it out loud. Several Kindle models (Kindle 2, Kindle 3, Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire) come equipped with a text-to-speech feature, but the voice is robotic. Though I’ve gotten used to it, most students prefer a real human. A relatively new feature at Amazon is called “immersion reading,” where students can follow along reading a book while a professional narrator reads out loud. An Audible subscription is $15 a month. This will ensure at least one audiobook per month. (It could be more than 1 book: Sometimes you can add professional narration for cheaper when you buy the e-book at the same time.) Make a $15 monthly donation below! (And thanks to Susan, my new friend on Twitter, for helping me with this!)

How to Donate
The easiest way is through PayPal. Click on the Donate button below. (Sorry for all the blank space.)

(Be sure to click on “Make This Recurring (Monthly)” — here’s a screenshot. Also, once you’re into PayPal, there is a Comments and Questions link. Click that so you can let me know how you’d like me to spend your donation!)

Screenshot 2014-12-26 18.36.04

You see? You don’t need to donate a Kindle to become a sustaining donor to the Kindle Classroom Project. There are many options. I can’t wait to see who is ready to make the plunge! favicon

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Get Your Students to Love the News, #4: There’s nothing like the real thing.

favicon If you’ve been reading this series, “Get Your Students to Love the News,” you’ll notice that I’m trying to suggest simple and easy and free ways that teachers can entice students to become avid readers of the news.

That’s my primary goal.

Journalism is changing, and the way that we find out about current events (Facebook, our phones, news aggregators, RSS feeds, Twitter) now is different from the way things worked last generation.

For that reason, it’s important to offer students digital and mobile options. As teachers, we don’t want to be fuddy-duddies.

But in my opinion, it’s still important to teach students the different ways that news is generated, and where news comes from, and that traditional news sources (like newspapers! wow, yes, they still exist!) play a crucial role in shaping how we understand the world.

The other day, I was reading a physical version of the New York Times, and a stranger stopped me and asked, “Hey, what’s that?” It was partly in jest, of course, but I saw his point. Print newspapers are, or might be, on their way out. This picture of a former student reading an actual newspaper (which Jenni from Berkeley, CA and and Denise from Alpharetta, GA donated) is rare.

Dezmond NYT - 2012

(Photo credit: Dezmond Oriola)

But I argue that we shouldn’t give up on the oldies-but-goodies. No matter what the studies say — they say that young people prefer reading on screens — there’s nothing like the real thing.

Here are a few ideas to keep print alive with your students.

1. Bring your newspaper or magazine to school.
If you subscribe to a print newspaper or magazine, bring it to school. Show it to your students. Talk about the different parts and terms of a newspaper (e.g., nameplate, headline, byline, above-the-fold, second deck, copy, photograph, cutline, article placement, newspaper sections, editorials, op-eds, and more).

Then ask your students: “How do you think these articles got into the newspaper? Who decides? Based on what criteria? Why this piece instead of another one?”

2. Have students compare publications.
Collect several publications (dailies, weeklies, monthlies) from friends and family and bring them all in. Let your students touch them and compare them. How are they similar and different? Which ones have better design? Which are easier to read? What topics does each emphasize?

Have students look at how different news sources handle the same current event. What’s the headline from the New York Times, and how is it different from the Wall Street Journal? Why?

3. Slowly introduce mobile apps.
Don’t skip to this step, and don’t go too fast. Remember, we want students to understand that news doesn’t come from thin air. Real people go out and report the news. They ask questions, do legwork, and write articles, which their editors read and revise before the piece goes to press.

Sidebar: Does my trust in old-fashioned journalism sound fuddy-duddyish to you? Do I put too much faith in today’s journalism?

Only after students have a sense that the Los Angeles Times is different from TMZ should you proceed. Have the class choose one news source that they all agree to download together. My vote: the New York Times (of course).

Then, let them choose one more for themselves. But don’t let them download a news aggregator. The rule is that it must be a real newspaper or magazine. (If you’re nice, I guess it’s OK to download the NPR app.)

4. Make sure they understand how to use the mobile app.
We assume that students, because they’re “digital natives” (a term I don’t like), know their way around mobile apps. That’s not always true. It’s always a good idea to do a little demo of the app for your students.

For instance, here are a few things that I’d show my students about the New York Times app. Here’s a screenshot to show you what an article looks like:

2014-05-09 03.40.30

You’ll see that the top is where the choices are. On the Android version, you can swipe left or right to go to the next article. Students will like that. Also, you can share an article (which I doubt your students ever do). It’s good to encourage sharing.

But then the real fun comes if you press on the “more” icon in the very top right corner. Sorry that I can’t take a screenshot of this menu, but your students will be very happy. They can:

  • Save the article on the app. This might come in handy if your students don’t use Pocket, Evernote, or a social bookmarking service (which is likely 100% true).
  • Add annotation. Digital annotation is all the rage these days (even though Diigo started the trend five years ago). The app lets students click on a paragraph and add (albeit rudimentary and clunky) notes and highlights, just in case they want to note something they’ve read.
  • Play the article or add it to a playlist. A robotic woman’s voice will read the article. This might be helpful for students who have trouble with challenging text. They can keep reading as they listen.
  • Change the font size. This is maybe the most important feature. I’ve found that cranking up the font size is one of the best ways for students to make reading more manageable.

All right, please let me know what you think. Do you think it’s important to familiarize your students with traditional news sources, or do you think that’s just a thing from the past? Please share your thoughts by leaving a brilliant insight. Thank you so much for reading this post! favicon

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Pocket + Evernote: Easy way for teachers to format news articles and nonfiction

favicon If you’re a teacher, you know this story.

It’s Sunday night, and you have a pit in your stomach because you still haven’t found a good article for your students to read tomorrow.

And then, after perhaps too long, you find it! And then you’re happy. That is, until you realize, again, that you have to spend 10-20 minutes formatting it to make it ready for student consumption.

Despite recent trends that favor readability (including Readability!), the Internet is still a mucky place for typography and design. There are ads, weird spacing, and random things that happen.

A quick example. Take a look at this New York Times article on climate change. It’s pretty nifty: It includes a photo essay, a video, and a colorful map. There’s nothing that can replicate the online version. But most teachers want to convert as much of the online experience into print, without taking with them all of the article’s sidebars, comments, and advertisements.

If you press Print on this article (whether from the webpage or your computer), you lose all the visuals. All you get is text. Now, I’m not an enemy of text. Text is my friend. But if I’m a teacher, I’d like at least one photograph to accompany the text. If I’m lucky, I’d also like the body font to be big enough for my students to read. And if possible, it would be great if I could shorten or modify the text (like Newsela does!) for English Learners and students with special needs.

Before going on, an important pause: I understand that some people may find that last sentence controversial. It’s an infringement of copyright (and maybe fair use even?), many say, to cut or modify an article. That might be true. On the other side, there may be people who ask, “Mark, why don’t you just copy and paste to a Word document? That seems easy, right?” Yes, it seems easy, but with many websites, it isn’t. I’ve found that it’s hard to strip away all the distractions, and it takes too much time. That time would be better spent thinking about my lesson.

The past several months, I’ve found a really easy way to render news articles beautifully and to make them easy to modify, if necessary. What’s great is that the process does not require any additional tools. I already use them. You may already use them, too!

My “hack” is Pocket + Evernote. Here’s what happens:

1. If I find an article I like, I save it to my Pocket. It looks like this. (Notice how nice and big and clean the text is.)

Screenshot 2014-05-07 16.47.04

2. On Pocket, I then clip it to Evernote. It looks like this. (Notice that Evernote makes things look similar to Pocket. What’s extra cool is that Evernote prompts you to “view original” in case you want to.)

Screenshot 2014-05-07 16.47.26

Also, you might not get the video on Evernote, but you still keep the photos. An example:

Screenshot 2014-05-07 16.47.41

3. On Evernote, I can also modify the text, as if we’re in a Word document. Because all the craziness has already been stripped away, it’s a much faster process than copying and pasting and cutting.

4. After I’m happy with my changes, I press Print, and that’s that. Seriously, one of the best things is keeping the body font large. Maybe it doesn’t need to be 22-point,  but your students will be so happy if you cranked up the normal 12-point to maybe 14- or 16.

And that’s that! If you’re a teacher out there who already includes a lot of news and nonfiction in your classroom, this Pocket + Evernote tip might be extremely helpful. Even if you don’t yet use Pocket and Evernote, I still think that you should consider it. It’ll save you time and anxiety.

Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a brilliant insight. favicon

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Extra: Parental Involvement Is Overrated

favicon In my Twitter feed this morning was an op-ed in the New York Times that challenges the benefits of parental involvement. Written by two sociology professors, who wrote The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education, the article looks at the evidence from the past 40 years and concludes that only a few very specific parental behaviors help students.

Mark Isero‘s insight:

Apparently, the research suggests that most parental involvement does not help students in school. The most effective thing a parent can do is expect, from an early age, that the child will go to college.

Please check out the article on Iserotope Extras. If you trust the professors’ research, then it’ll make you question a lot of things, like Back to School Night and whether you should call home about missing homework.

My idea after reading this article is that if it is true that parents’ expectations of their kids to go to college is important, then schools should employ them to put together college-going curriculum, specifically field trips.

At my last school, advisers spent many hours putting those field trips together. Maybe a parent group could do that?

And one last thing: Even though parental involvement may not lead to academic achievement, that doesn’t mean cut parents out altogether. They definitely make an impact on school culture and fundraising — always. favicon

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Dezmond and Ramir: New York Times winners!

 A few posts ago, I challenged readers to help me give a graduation gift — a three-month subscription to The New York Times — to two lucky students, one from my Advisory class and one from AP English.

In less than 24 hours, three generous readers — Iris, Jenni, and Denise — had funded the project, and the raffle was officially on.

Last Friday, amid quite a bit of buzz, we drew the lucky winners: Dezmond and Ramir!

Both students were extremely happy. Dezmond told me today that he can’t wait to start receiving his subscription. (I told the students that the paper would start on September 1, after they’d settled into college.)

Dezmond will be going to college in Seattle, while Ramir is heading south to Los Angeles.

Again, thank you to Iris, Jenni, and Denise. You’re providing a graduation gift that will transform my students’ lives. You’re helping them love the news and to enter a more complex world — all at a high reading level! 

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Give my students a grad gift!

Update: This project was funded in less than 24 hours! Thank you to Denise, Jenni, and Iris for your generous contributions!

Update #2: Ramir and Dezmond won! They’re both very happy. I’ll try to post more info soon.

 My students graduate on June 2 and go off to college and into the world.

I remember one of the first things I did when I got to UC Berkeley. I bought a subscription to The New York Times. I’d grown up with the San Francisco Chronicle, but I noticed that my peers had upgraded to The Times. Getting a subscription was one of the best decisions I made. Twenty years later, I still get home delivery now.

I’d like your help in giving two lucky students print subscriptions when they get to college in September.

The college student rate is $3 a week. That’s $36 for a three-month subscription. After that, the student will decide whether to extend the subscription.

The home delivery subscription will also allow the student full online access to nytimes.com.

Interested? Just click the ChipIn! button over on the right sidebar. Donate as much or as little as you want.

Thank you so much! 

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Technology in schools is not a panacea

 Yesterday, The New York Times ran an excellent article questioning technology’s impact on student achievement. Despite investing millions of dollars into technology, an Arizona district has found its test scores stagnant.

Writer Matt Richtel sums up what’s going on:

In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.

Richtel’s reporting is sound. He describes school leaders doing their best but making shortsighted purchases. He highlights that technology can distract as much as engage. And he emphasizes that having technology alone does nothing to improve learning; rather, teachers need to know what to do with it.

Still, even if technology does not directly lead to gains in test scores, I think it’s crucial to advocate for it in schools.

1. Schools should look like the world around them. There’s WiFi at McDonald’s and at the public library. Why not in most schools?

2. Schools should challenge the digital divide. One student owns a computer while another doesn’t. The first student is completing her homework more easily and suffers from less stress.

3. Schools should teach students how to use technology, to interact with information, and to be respectful online. This is also why we shouldn’t cut school librarians.

4. Teachers should be treated as professionals. And professionals have access to technology to do their job.

While technology is important, it’s important to invest in the right technology. SMART Boards, which do little to disrupt traditional teaching, are not the same as laptops. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean we have to get it.

But figuring out “the right technology” is not an easy puzzle. After all, what’s current one day is obsolete the next. By the time a school researches a product, puts in the order, and gets the equipment installed, the gadget is old. In addition, all devices have pros and cons. Kindles are great for English class, but they’re clunky for science. iPads look beautiful, but typing on them is horrible.

My school struggles with our very limited technology budget. Sometimes, I feel like we can’t get past fixing our current computers and printers. Maybe I should be happy that we have computers and printers in the first place.

Meanwhile, my students live in a scattered technology state. They’re comfortable on Facebook but have trouble fixing a printer jam. They snap pictures and listen to music but haven’t seen a library database. They text like crazy but balk at sending a professional e-mail.

Even if technology doesn’t mean higher test scores, there’s still a lot to learn from it.