The International Reading Association’s 57th Annual Convention, 2012… Virtually

If you haven’t ever gone to an International Reading Association convention, I hope you make it there one day–they are phenomenal! Since I began attending them, this is the first one I’ve missed since 2005. Thankfully, I can follow along virtually. If you would like to do the same, the links below will help you.

If I missed anything, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks and enjoy this virtual professional development! :)

Posted in IRA's 57th Annual Convention - 2012 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Using Skype in the Classroom

image of a child at a computer

Photo by Ernst Vikne

Skype… What’s the hype?

Today, I am giving a presentation at California State University, Fullerton’s Community Literacy Festival about using Skype in the classroom. In preparation for this presentation, I did a lot of Googling and ran across many outstanding resources which I bookmarked in Diigo. (See lists below) They made me title my presentation, “Skype… What’s the Hype?” After viewing the videos I plan to share with my audience, I cannot see how they could not get hyped about Skype. The way educators are using it in the classroom is truly amazing–including Skyping with authors, conducting Mystery Skype sessions, and attempting to visit 80 schools around the world via Skype. Although it’s not in my PowerPoint presentation (Whoops!), the Global Read Aloud Project, created by the deep-thinking educator, Pernille Ripp, also known as @pernilleripp on Twitter, is another wonderful example of how Skype can be used in the language arts classroom.

Many of the resources I found that made me so hyped about Skype come from one truly inspiring educator in particular, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, also known as @langwitches on Twitter. In my presentation, I am sharing several of the videos she created with the amazing students at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, Florida. There is one video in particular that I wish I had enough to time to show during my presentation, but it is almost 21 minutes in length and I have so many others I want to show. Again… after watching the video, I cannot see how anyone would not be hyped about using Skype in the language arts classroom. For your viewing pleasure, I will embed it below. :)

Around the World with Skype from langwitches on Vimeo.

Skype Resources

P.S. Here is another resource that will help you get authors into a school with a limited budget: Achieve Author Visits on a Budget.

Posted in Skype, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Upcoming Literacy Events

image of a book

Photo Credit:

There are many exciting literacy events coming up in the next few months and I thought I’d share some with you. I will list them in the order in which they take place.

Posted in Reading Conferences & Conventions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading for a World Record & to Support Early Literacy

We Give Books & Read for the Record

Are you familiar with We Give Books–a Pearson Foundation Initiative? If not, let me tell you a little bit about it. We Give Books has several literacy campaigns and they have several high-quality books on their website for you to read. What do you do? Select a book from their growing library and read it. Once you finish reading the book, select a literacy campaign you would like to support. A book will be donated for every book you read online. Yes, it’s as easy as that to support literacy around the world!

To learn more about We Give Books and Jumpstart’s Read for the Record (which happens today, October 6, 2011), click here: The book that millions around the world are pledging to read today is “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney.

Because I am not currently teaching little ones, I thought I would videotape myself reading it and share it with you. Perhaps you have some little ones that might like to hear it. Here is my reading:

Being a lover of comedy and sign language, I will also share this video of comedian, Keith Wann, reading the book in American Sign Language:

Llama Llama Red Pajama – ASL Version with Keith Wann from Keith Wann

Posted in Read Alouds | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Review of Social Bookmarking & Other Link Curation Tools

What I Wanted

If you have followed the TWRCtank for awhile, you know that I had a long list of resources in the sidebars on the right-hand side of this blog. Several people mentioned they did not like all the scrolling and they wished there was a way to indicate that I added new resources to the list. Over the past few months, I’ve played around with many technology tools trying to figure out the best way to share resources for teaching reading/language arts with you.

Many of these these tools are called social bookmarking tools. By social, I mean that you are able to easily see other people’s public bookmarks and they can see yours. (Most of the sites I tried allow private and public bookmarking, but some force all your bookmarks to be public.) Social bookmarking tools also usually allow you to follow and be followed by people with similar interests.

The tools I tested are Delicious, Diigo, Pinterest, PortaPortal, Scoop.It, Sqworl, Symbaloo, WordPress pages, and the WP-Table Reloader plugin. Obviously, there are pros and cons with each tool and they will vary depending on your wants and needs. I wanted a technology tool that:

  • Created a visually attractive end-product
  • Was not intimidating to non-users
  • Allowed me to annotate each link
  • Was relatively easy to use
  • Could easily be shared with others
  • Did not require a lot of scrolling
  • Had some capability of indicating when I added new resources

Why Social Bookmarking?

It is impossible for one person to find all the great resources on the Internet. Luckily, social bookmarking is an easy way to share and keep up with the latest and greatest, as well as with the golden oldies. (I am a big fan of shared knowledge.) Until this point, I’ve been collecting and storing my links to literacy resources in an almost unmanageable number of folders in my email account. Now that I have found the tools I want to use, I can start going through them again and bookmarking them publicly. I also look forward to finding out what others are bookmarking about teaching reading/language arts.

In case you haven’t tried these tools yourself, but you are interested in social bookmarking, I created a table of pros and cons. Keep in mind that my research was not extremely thorough and some of my information may be inaccurate. That said, if you are ready to venture out into the social bookmarking world to start sharing your knowledge, I hope the table will help you select the tool that best matches your wants and needs.

My Evaluation of Each Tool

I tried to bookmark the same ten links so I could better compare the end product of each tool. In doing this, I sadly discovered that some tools would not allow me to bookmark all ten links. I will share the end product for each tool below the table of pros and cons. The ten links I tried to bookmark are about reading comprehension.

Pros & Cons of Link Curation Tools

Technology ToolCostIs It Social?ProsCons
DeliciousFreeYes1. Can tag bookmarks.
2. Can see how many times the link has been bookmarked.
3. Can add multiple tags to each link.
3. Can change level of detail on link descriptions (low, med, high)
4. Can display alphabetically or by date bookmarked.
5. Entire link collection is displayed in one place via a list of tags.
6. Can leave/read comments about each link.
7. The date the link was bookmarked is given.
8. Easy to bookmark.
1. It looks intimidating to the non-user.
DiigoFree, but can pay to have ads removed.Yes
1. Can tag bookmarks.
2. Can save links to lists.
3. Can set up account so it cross-posts links to Delicious.
4. Can add multiple tags to each link.
5. Entire link collection is displayed in one place via tags or list titles.
6. Can get a free educator account.
7. Can leave/read comments about each link.
8. The date the link was bookmarked is given.
9. Easy to bookmark.
10. Can highlight & put sticky notes on text on pages you bookmark. (Note: I think only certain people can use the sticky notes & using the highlighter made my list of links look horrible at the advanced detail level because it included all the HTML code from the selection I highlighted.)
11. Can join Diigo groups.
1. It looks intimidating to the non-user.
PinterestFreeYes1. Visually pleasing (if the images at the link are good).
2. Easy to pin.
3. Can leave/read comments about each bookmark.
1. Can't bookmark links that do not have large images (ex. pdfs & podcasts)
2. Number of characters allowed in description is limited.
3. You MUST pin an image for each link you want to save & available images at links are not always what you want.
4. Cannot pin link to multiple boards. Must pin each one separately.
5. Can't leave/read comments about each link.
6. No clear way to show when links are new.
PortaportalFree, but can pay to have advertising removed. This also gives you the ability to upload your own files for download.No1. Number of characters allowed in description is limited, but sufficient.
2. Entire link collection is displayed via category lists.
3. Can easily alphabetize lists & categories.
4. Has a "NEW" icon you can use to indicate new bookmarks.
5. Other available icons: Wow!, :), Thumbs Up!, & Cool!)
6. Not as easy to bookmark as the others, but it's not that difficult either.
1. If you have many items in a category, it will require lots of scrolling.
2. Customization is limited.
3. Cannot copy links from one category to another. Must enter each one manually.
4. Can't leave/read comments about each link.
Scoop.ItFree Yes1. It can pre-populate a description for you.
2. The number of characters for your description is sufficient. (It may be unlimited.)
3. Easy to scoop links.
1. Not all links can be scooped.
2. Can scoop a link to only one curated topic at a time.
3. Seems less user-friendly than the others, but I didn't play around with this one much.
4. For the most part, I did not think this was visually appealing.
5. Can't leave/read comments about each link.
6. No clear way to show when links are new.
SqworlFree, but can pay to have advertising removed.No1. Visually pleasing when an image from the link can be grabbed.
2. Easy to bookmark links.
3. Can move tiles around to alphabetize, but it takes work if you've saved a lot of bookmarks.
1. Number of characters allowed in link title & description is EXTREMELY limited.
2. Can't leave/read comments about each link.
3. No clear way to show when links are new.
4. When images cannot be grabbed from links, a default sqworl icon is used.
SymbalooFreeYes1. Logos of popular websites will be displayed when you save the URL.
2. Can easily copy links to different webmixes.
3. Visually pleasing when pre-populated link icons are good or when you are good at customizing them yourself.
4. Pretty easy to save links.
5. Can be embedded in a blog or webpage.
6. Can apply for a free educator account. Why? Click here to read a great post about the Symbaloo educator account.
7. Can easily color code the tiles.
8. Can customize the wallpaper.
9. Can use your own images for each tile icon.
1. You are not allowed any characters for a link description & you only have about 30 characters for the link title.
2. Can't leave/read comments about each link.
3. No clear way to show when links are new.
4. More for curating websites than for curating links to articles, videos, and podcasts.
WP-Table Reloaded pluginFree, but you can donate.Somewhat - Comments could be left on the webpage below the table. Another possibility is to embed a Google Doc survey asking for feedback on the link curation.1. Visually pleasing when there aren't a lot of columns.
2. Unlimited number of characters for link title & description.
3. Can easily alphabetize table columns.
4. Can leave/read comments about each link.
5. Many ways to customize if you know a little HTML & CSS.
6. Lots of help on the Internet to help you customize.
7. Could enter & bold "NEW" in the table to indicate new links. Can also make the hyperlink color different to indicate new or visited links.
8. If users dislike scrolling, they can limit the number of rows to display on each page to ten.
1. Requires some HTML & CSS.
2. A blog or website is required to use this plugin.
3. Cannot save links to multiple tables.
4. There is a way to freeze the table header, but I think the javascript is outdated so it did not work for me. If I figure out how to update that, this option will become a pro.

The End Products of Each Technology Tool

Here is a Symbaloo I curated that will show you the end product for each of the of the tools discussed in the above table. However, I did not use the WP-Table Reloaded plugin with the same ten comprehension links because I had already created a simple WordPress page for that. Therefore, I’ve included that in the Symbaloo, along with a tile showing the end product for vocabulary resources compiled using the WP-Table Reloaded plugin. Click on each tile to see the end product for each tool.

In case the Symbaloo does not display properly, here is its URL:

Your Thoughts & Shares?

What ways do you think you could use these tools? How have you used them already? What end product did you like best? How do you you share great resources you’ve discovered?

If you have already started curating public links related to literacy, please share a link to them in the comments below. I can’t wait to find more people on these social bookmarking sites who share my passion for reading/language arts. And remember… sharing is caring. :)

*Note: I would like to give a shout out to the folks in the We’re Bloggers group on the WeTeach Ning for helping me think this through. I really appreciate your time and feedback! :) Another shout out to Tobias Bäthge. I love your WP-Table Reloaded plugin and all the help you give over the Internet.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Posted in Reading Comprehension, Resources for Teaching Reading/Language Arts, Social Bookmarking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments