Using Technology to Support Content Literacy in a

Using Technology to
Support Content Literacy in
a Bilingual 4th grade
Dr. Rita Moore, Willamette University
Neil Cantrall, 4th grade teacher,
Swegle Elementary
Jessica Lieuallen, Student Teacher,
Willamette University
ORATE Conference Focus
How do we model effective instructional
practices grounded in current research and
policy in our teacher education programs?
The Technology
18 Apple iPads (tablets), ear buds, and
applications were purchased with a grant
funded through Willamette University
These are on loan to Swegle Elementary
School to use in Neil’s classroom until Fall
The Setting
Swegle Elementary School, Salem, OR
Principal: Corina Valencia-Chavez
Swegle is located in NE Salem. It enrolls
approximately 600 K-6 students. The
school is 99% free and reduced lunch and
completely bilingual.
Introduction of the iPads Project
The iPads project began in Fall 2011 as a collaborative
effort between Neil, his practicum student, Jessica, and
Rita, a university professor to explore the use of IPads to
support reading and writing development of 30 fourth
graders in a a bilingual classroom.
We started by introducing applications to the entire class
but decided to focus primarily on five case studies this fall
expanding the project into the spring of 2012.
The research into technology and multi-modal
literacy access by elementary students,
particularly those from economically struggling
schools is not well explored (Dutro and Collins,
Further, studies of digital literacies appear to be
focused on adolescents indicating a need to
include a wider age range as well as a more
inclusive study of children, schools and
communities (Moje, 2009).
Choosing the Applications (Neil)
Story Builder
Sentence Builder
Question Builder
*Factor Samurai
Criteria for selection
-Where they can be accessed
-What made these successful
-What others might be useful
Neil’s Interest in the Project
A teacher’s perspective: Neil Cantrall
Little technology available at the school besides
the document camera and LCD
Resources limited
Time was limited
Most kids don’t have computers at home.
“My challenge is to take their Spanish skills, maintain and
grow them, and use them for increasing English
proficiency. The technology can help with this cross
Jessica’s Interest in the Project
The ability to use technology is critical to student
success in later years.
I want to be a risk taker as a teacher, especially
if it leads to greater student achievement
I believe the ELL population can greatly benefit
from guided interaction with technology.
Some of the applications we are using really
contribute to the areas they need to work on in
both languages such as descriptive and
figurative language.
Our Research Questions
Fall 2011
In what ways will the use of iPads as
instructional tools support the literacy
development of a focus group of five 4th grade
bilingual children? (strategic readers)
Spring 2012
In what ways will the use of the iPads improve
literacy development in a whole-class bilingual
Project Participants
30 fourth grade children from diverse
backgrounds in a high need, 99% bilingual
Five “strategic readers” who work with Neil
and Rita after school using the tablets to
further literacy skills.
Participant Characteristics
Most of the children (subjects) are Latino/Latina
The teachers (Neil and Rita) and preservice
teacher (Jessica) are Caucasian.
Neil, a Willamette MAT alum, is bilingual and
teaches part of the literacy block in Spanish.
Both Rita and Jessica have a working
knowledge of Spanish.
Project Procedures
1. Institutional Review Board approval from
2. Research Review Board approval from SalemKeizer.
3. Introduction of the project to participants.
4. Selection of applications and upload
5. Training of the students in use of the
6. Classroom observation and data collection
schedules of the investigators established
Data continues to be collected through field
notes, assessments of student performance on
lessons taught by the teachers, Google doc
entries from the teachers and preservice
teacher, the children’s writing samples and pre
and post project surveys, evaluations and five
student case study interviews.
We continue to analyze the data through
constant comparative qualitative methods
associated with action research. We look at the
data continuously over time and compare data
sources against each other.
Samples from the Data
Google Docs (Jessica)
“Good thing we started working on getting the iPads synced
because we had some technical difficulties. We need to focus on
buying apps and finding iBooks that will be great for this
class. Students were very excited and took great care of the iPads
during use. Students seemed very savvy with iPads. Students
asked questions when needed, and it was simple to get the
problems solved. Problems included: keyboarding splitting into two
(problem was not a problem but actually a feature). Students look
forward to using more of the iPads.”
“Neil and I have come up with a plan that uses the apps we have
bought. The week of Nov. 28th will be an intensive iPad week.”
Field notes (Rita)
Late November: The kids are still very excited
about “iPading” and appear to be much more
risk taking than when we began in October.
They are much more facile with the applications.
The instruction is more organized now that the
technology training is taking hold.
We decided to call October-November our
“training and experimental” time and choose 5-6
strategic readers to focus on in December
through at least February.
Student Writing Samples
We wanted to look closely at writing
samples and evaluate them “generously”
(Spence, 2010). This gave us a sense of
the children’s literacy abilities.
We evaluated a set of samples at the
beginning of the project to get a better
understanding of student writing strengths
and areas of development.
Student Writing: Oct. (Jessica)
Strong student voice
Willingness to share information
Followed direction
Writing puts emphasis on family life
Grammar, punctuation and spelling in two
Descriptive and figurative language skills
Semantic structures
Student Writing Samples: Dec.
Word choice
Length—they have more to say as writers
They write about what they know: family, pets, life, clean water, games, the
mall, food. Willing to share information
Organization (beginning, middle, end)
Sentence structure and syntax
Figurative and creative language
Experimenting with various kinds of punctuation
Figurative language
Writing Samples: What I’m
Thankful For
“I would be out in the cold.” (without a home)
“I am healthy.”
“Life is good.”
“If I didn’t have life I wouldn’t exist.”
“I am thankful for something silly.”
“Without my refrigerator my food would go to
“My house protects me from windy storms.”
“They are tasty.” (different kinds of food.)
Focusing on five strategic readers that Neil
and Jessica identified as children who
might benefit the most from extra
interaction with the technology.
These children in the spring, will serve as
technology experts for whole class group
activities with the tablets.
Time with the After School Focus
Group of Strategic Readers
Sentence Builder: Building sentences based on
prompts and picture clues.
The students build the sentence and say it aloud.
“Does it make sense?”
Those who are proficient in English and Spanish
move up the levels faster. One student jumped
8 levels in her DRA growth since Sept. in
Spanish. Her English growth is also rapidly
Semantic and Syntactic Awareness
Hearing the readers, it’s obvious that their
interaction with the technology is building
semantic and syntactic awareness rapidly.
Vocabulary building in both languages is
enhanced: How do you say “mecánico” in
Using Story Builder to Motivate
and Learn
Story Builder: Answer the prompts and create a
story. The following are the results for the
Verbal literacy reinforced in two languages
Builds a sense of story quickly
Use of humor
Use of voice
Use of details
Builds grammar and syntax
Share their stories: they are writers!
Where did we see these
results before?
The student writing samples from late
November showed gains in all of these
Primarily: length and vocabulary; sense of
story; humor and figurative language;
organization; many more details.
Story Theatre in Room 23
Story Builder (the application)
Sense of story
Oral presentation skills
Cooperative learning
Some of the children’s stories (Neil)
The children then wrote the stories they told thus
reinforcing written and verbal language skills
and strategies.
Assessments of student
performance (Neil)
These applications provide stats on the number of
sentences students correctly create, and how many
attempts they made. We gather the data on Monday,
and then gather the same data on Friday and compare
We focused on five selected students. These students
are low level readers and are also struggling with English
We believe the integration of the iPads, with specific
literacy-focused applications benefited these students
and helped increase their English fluency and ability to
correctly create sentences.
Betzaida and Judith
Elizabeth and Itzel
Student interviews (Jessica)
Video clips
Interview questions
Was there a change? (Neil)
Findings from pre and post formal assessment data based
on accuracy
at first attempt:
Jessica’s Experience
More than ever pre service teachers need
to know the new forms that literacy is
taking and the research-based literacy
tools that will support best practices in
teaching all students in all communities.
Jessica’s Practicum (whole class
use of the tablets in the fall)
What worked well: Small focus groups,
Story Builder and Sentence Builder apps,
the team effort and support from Neil and
Rita was strong and much needed.
Challenges: Finding adequate time to train
students on the iPads and being efficient
when using them. Working as a whole
class versus a small group.
What I learned about technology as
a pre-service teacher
Preparation is key! Having the iPads synced, set
up, charged and ready to go. It is my belief that
dedicating a two week “training” that integrates
the iPads into the daily routine would have
influenced a more successful project.
Rewards of participating in this project include
gaining insight on incorporating technology into
a classroom that lacks resources and gaining
the experience and knowledge of how to be a
more effective educator when using technology.
The Technology TWS (Jessica/Rita)
How we would modify the experience to
better introduce technology to the children:
Assess the technology skills of the students
Develop a 10 day unit on how to use the
technology: a model Teacher Work Sample
Establish a “Geek” squad of trained student “tech
experts” to assist their peers
Introduce each application as a mini lesson
Closing (all)
The lack of time for training the children initially
was an issue. Our solution is the Technology
TWS or a block of classroom time dedicated to
training using University resources when
We want to get to the point where the tablets are a
part of daily instruction…a tool not so much a
Dutro, E. and Collins, K. (2011). A Journey through Nine Decades of
NCTE-Published Research in Elementary Literacy. Research in the
Teaching of English, 46(2)141-161.
Metiri Group, 2008. Multimodal Learning Through Media: What the
Research Says. San Jose, CA: Cisco.
Moje, E. (2009). Standpoints: a call for new research on new and multiliteracies. Research in the Teaching of English, 43(348-362.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004, A Framework for 21st Century
Learning. Tucson, AZ: Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
Smith, G. & Thorn, S. (2007). Differentiated instruction with technology
in K-5 classrooms. Eugene, Oregon: ASCD.
Spence, L. (2010). Generous reading: Seeing students through their
writing, Reading Teacher, (63)8, 634-641.
Story and Sentence Builder for iPad v1.6 Application created by
Northwest Kinematics, 2010