Posts Tagged ‘digital learning’

The Global Read Aloud: Connecting Through a Love of Literature

Friday, September 25th, 2015

AUTHOR: Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Technology & Library Media Services

The Global Read Aloud is a project started by a Wisconsin teacher looking to create connections between her students and other students around the world through the love of literature and the power of a really good book. Over the past 5 years the Global Read Aloud (GRA) has grown from a small project that included a few hundred students and one book to an initiative that impacts over 500,000 students and includes an author study component and age specific title selections.

To participate a teacher would sign up via the Global Read Aloud website. The teacher chooses which title to read to his/her students, and can also choose a method to connect with other teachers/classrooms reading the same book. Teachers can connect via Edmodo, Facebook, and Twitter. Through these connections, teachers can set up video conferencing sessions between classes via Skype or Google Hangouts, or they may choose to post student work on the Global Read Aloud wiki.

This year’s Global Read Aloud officially runs from October 6, 2015 to November 16, 2015. There will be a schedule posted on the Global Read Aloud wiki to help teachers keep pace with the 6 week project and to prevent any unintentional spoilers. Teachers can read to their class daily during each week, or designate one day during each of the 6 weeks as a GRA day. While reading, teachers can incorporate higher level reading comprehension skills by asking students to make predictions about what may happen next in the story, analyzing character traits and motivation, and examining elements of author’s craft.

Here are a few examples of ways classrooms have participated in the Global Read Aloud in the past.

  • Check out this example from 2014 where students used the tool Padlet to share their initial predictions prior to reading each of the titles included in the Peter H. Reynolds author study.
  • While reading The One and Only Ivan during the 2012 GRA, Fifth Graders in Buenos Aires, Argentina were inspired to create protest signs that corresponded with the story and share them via the video creation tool Animoto.
  • Mrs. Moore’s 3rd grade class in Arizona shared their thinking about 2014’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane via their class blog.

If you are reading this article after the 2015 deadline for participation you can be thinking ahead to how you might like to participate in 2016, or you may consider how you could recreate this event at a local campus, district, or state level. Perhaps you have a colleague that teaches in another state or country who would be interested in collaborating with you on a smaller scale project. The main goal is to connect with other classrooms to share the joy of reading, but the real beauty of the Global Read Aloud lies in the natural integration of technology tools for communication, collaboration, and creativity into an engaging academic event that supports literacy. Students are able to connect digitally and share ideas, thinking, and interpretations with other students under the safe guidance of their teacher. It is also a wonderful way to begin (or continue) classroom conversations around the digital citizenship concepts of internet safety and curation of an appropriate and respectful digital presence.

Their World, Their Classroom: Innovating to Reach Digital Natives

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Author: Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Technology & Library Media Services

In Issue 15 of Insight, Cynthia Holcomb reflected on an article from the Washington Post in which a teacher spent two lethargic and inactive days experiencing school from a student’s perspective. Both articles present a simple but powerful idea that could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of our classroom practices: consider the student’s perspective. Marc Prensky did just that for his book Teaching Digital Natives. Prensky (2010) suggests we can impact the level of student engagement and attention span by delivering “what students need in the ways they need it” (p. 2). To help us out, he interviewed students from various backgrounds around the globe with the goal of finding out what today’s students want from their classroom learning environments. Surprisingly, or maybe not, he found students want the same things regardless of their socioeconomic status or global location.

Consider the list below of the nine things Prenksy (2010) found that today’s digital natives want from their learning environments. Our challenge as educators is to listen to what our students are asking from us and think about new ways we might approach our classroom practices in response.


They do not want to be lectured to.

Can we reframe student learning objectives in the form of rich questions and allow students to use their digital devices or other resources to discover the answers (with varying levels of support depending on age and ability levels)? Can we pre-curate appropriate resources that will help students independently explore the content with a higher likelihood that they will encounter reliable answers to our guiding questions?


They want to be respected, to be trusted, and to have their opinions valued and count.

Granted, respect and trust have to be earned, but are we giving them enough opportunities to earn it? How often do we allow students to weigh in and offer their opinions on classroom discussion and decisions? Tech tools like Tricider, Today’s Meet, Padlet, Edmodo, and Google Classroom allow each student to have a voice, and, along the way, pave the road for formative assessment as well as teaching digital citizenship and quality commenting.


They want to follow their own interests and passions.

How can we uncover students’ interests and incorporate those interests into instructional activities? This practice not only helps teachers build strong relationships with students, but also helps make learning relevant to them. Could we explore the power of social media to learn more about our students? Can we help them see the natural connections between the topics that interest them and standards we are teaching?


They want to create using the tools of their time.

Technology is a significant part of students’ personal lives and it is showing up more frequently in our classrooms as well. This can be intimidating to teachers who are not yet confident in their own technology skills. The good news is you don’t have to be the technology expert! Could you occasionally allow students to showcase their own tech knowledge by giving them some freedom of choice in how they demonstrate mastery of academic objectives? You provide the academic guidelines, they provide the tool; they feel respected and valued, you learn something new. Everyone wins!


They want to work with their peers on group work and projects (and prevent slackers from getting a free ride).

Let’s face it: students like to learn with each other and from each other. How can we create more opportunities for group work but still monitor students for understanding and provide academic support? How do we set guidelines for group work to help all students do their fair share? Consider asking students what THEY think is the best method of achieving this goal and how they suggest “slacking” should be handled. This is another way to give students a voice and show that you respect their ideas and input.


They want to make decisions and share control.

When we allow students to make decisions and share control we are demonstrating that we respect them, trust them, and value their opinions. This sets the stage for students to take control of their own learning. Can we find more opportunities in our instructional day to give students choices in how they learn new material and demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills?


They want to connect with their peers and share their opinions, in class and around the world.

Allowing students to share their work with a public audience is a powerful motivator for driving quality. How can we harness the power of technology to make a wider audience possible? Could we facilitate the digital distribution of student work through a classroom blog, website, or Twitter account in order to model appropriate digital citizenship? Could we set up a Skype session or Google Hangout with an author or an expert in a particular field and have students pose questions or showcase final projects?


They want to cooperate and compete with each other.

Some students like to learn cooperatively. Some students prefer competition. Some like both. Some like neither. How can we get to know our students’ preferences and make sure we are creating a balanced variety of learning activities? Or, even better, can we create more opportunities for students to choose activities that support the same learning goal but utilize different methods?


They want an education this is not just relevant, but real.

“When are we ever going to use this?” It’s a question students have been asking for generations, and, frankly, it’s a valid one. In an age where students are developing pancreatic cancer screeners, publishing novels, and creating apps to help fellow students, are we creating enough opportunities for students to see how their classroom learning connects to their real world? Are we staying current ourselves with the knowledge and skills students need to be successful in today’s world? Where do we even start with that?


We start by asking our students and genuinely considering their perspectives.



Holcomb, C. (2015). Instruction from the student point of view. Insight: A newsletter for curriculum, instruction and assessment. Retrieved from

Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Strauss, V. (2014). Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked at what she learns. The Washington Post. Retrieved from