Literacy and the Arts: Strategic Planning Initiative Grant

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1 Literacy and the Arts: Strategic Planning Initiative Grant Improving Literacy: Creating Fact-Based Digital Stories Year Two Final Report Rhonda S. Robinson, Distinguished Teaching Professor, ETRA Kristin Brynteson, Assistant Director, Center for P-20 Engagement, Doctoral Candidate, ETRA Elizabeth Anderson, ETRA, G.A.

2 Improving Literacy: Creating Fact-Based Digital Stories Project Overview This project continued a university/school partnership project which facilitated the teacher training, design, development, and implementation of an interactive factbased digital story telling unit. Six teachers and their classes with their university partners planned and created multidisciplinary, 4 th and 5 th grade science and social studies and middle school history units, using the digital story as a culminating activity. The partnership team integrated research, reading, writing, visual art, social studies and science into the creation of fact-based interactive digital stories. Year two continued and expanded this project started in fall, 2009, to include additional site teachers as well as provide additional data on the impact of the art and technology integration and the creation of an online resource support system. Introduction (from proposal ) The goals of the Illinois State Learning Standards center around helping students gain the proficiencies needed to be successful in both school and their community. Communication and literacy skills such as reading and writing are at the core of these skills. However, emerging technologies have changed the way we as a society communicate, and have increased the need for the literacy skills required to successfully receive, understand and deliver information. The students of today need to develop skills in what is being called the 'multi-literacies'. This includes acquiring skills in areas such as Information Literacy, Visual Literacy, Digital Media Literacy and others as well as reading and writing skills (McKenzie, 2009; Ohler, 2008; Valmont, 2003). Many organizations and researchers have explored the connection between reading and writing skills and these new literacies. For example, in 1999, the International Reading Association released a policy statement on adolescent literacy stressing that adolescent readers need a more complex set of literacy skills that will help them deal with the "flood of information" they are faced with on a daily basis (Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw & Rycik, p. 3). It is essential for students in the 21st Century to develop communication and literacy skills that include the ability to locate, evaluate, understand and critically think about information found through different media as well as the ability to interpret and create both visual and written artistic forms of expression.(mckenzie, 2009; Ohler, 2008; Valmont, 2003; Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw & Rycik, 1999; Illinois State Board of Education). Developing student proficiency in these new literacies helps students improve their ability to communicate in today's world of global, digital communication.

3 These literacies must also be developed within content areas such as science and social studies, meeting learning goals for students across disciplines. The challenge faced by teachers and curriculum developers in K-12 schools is incorporating these new literacies into the classroom in a way that engages and motivates students to continue to develop their reading and writing skills for learning. The use of visual literacy ideas and strategies to enhance verbal learning has been examined for over 45 years (Braden, 1996). Because visual literacy precedes verbal literacy in human development, it is the basic literacy in the thought processes that are the foundations for reading and writing. Berger (1972) explained, seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak (p. 7). Research has shown that activities such as on-line research, digital storytelling, factbased fiction, and the use of graphic organizers have all been used to aide students in the successful development of multi-literacy skills (Ohler, 2008; Livingston & Kurkjian, 2004; Heller, 2006; Stokes, 2002). Improving literacy through interactive story creation has been well documented. For example, in their research on authentic tasks and literacy development, Duke, Purcell-Gates, Hall, & Tower (December January 2007) found that student literacy improved when the learning activities were in a context that matches the functional context. Activities, such as having students read factual texts and create works of fiction from the factual content, have been shown to create a higher level of student engagement in the subject content and facilitate learning, retention and comprehension (Webster, 2009; Livingston & Kurkjian, 2004). Objectives: In FY10, the Center for P-20 Engagement funded a project designed to build upon this research in order to accomplish the following: Student Objectives Improve students' skills in reading for information and writing creatively from factual information. Improve students' technology skills as integrated within reading, information literacy, creative production, and visual communication. Enhance students interest in science through engaged learning activities Teacher Objectives Engage elementary level teachers in learning to design and implement multidisciplinary lessons involving all of the above literacies. Encourage elementary level teachers through participation in training activities and having mentor teachers (NIU researchers and last year's participants) in their

4 classrooms to integrate art lessons, practice technology skills, and develop a factbased visual story as a unit culminating activity / assessment of student learning. Model integration of art, technology, literacy, and science for 4 th and 5 th grade teachers The purpose of the continued project is to further develop the multi-literacies of teachers and students, investigating the design, development, teacher training for, and implementation of an interactive fact-based digital story telling unit. The purpose of the unit is to impact multi literacy development by guiding research, reading, writing, creating, communicating and presenting fact-based stories through the use of technology, art and creative writing skill development. First year results indicated high motivation for students, improved technology skills for students and teachers, and expanded science and story construction knowledge and skills for students. Furthermore, the goals of the project included facilitation of collaboration with partnership teachers in the design, development, implementation and assessment of enabling and culminating class activities that encouraged information, art, and technology literacy skills integration Additional Objectives of this funded year Increase student visual activities in art, design, animation, and story backgrounds Improve student narrative creation through review of plot structures and devices Involve teachers in more advanced technology utilization techniques and refinement and expansion of the unit designed in the first year of funding Collaboration As part of the previously funded FY10 project, we recruited one NIU Art Education student to develop and teach art lessons that would build the elementary student s art skills in preparation for the storytelling unit. This provided an opportunity for the NIU student to gain valuable real world experience and to earn clinical experience hours for his major. We had intended to continue working with NIU Art Education students, but recruitment of students through faculty, class announcements, and s, proved unsuccessful. In order to expand the number of art lessons through the school year, lessons provided by last year s Art Education participant were amended and several were facilitated by project staff members and teachers. We also investigated other collaboration possibilities with Literacy Depart faculty members, especially those involved with other Arts and Literacy projects. Terms and techniques from those other projects were incorporated into activities in this project.

5 Interdisciplinary Component By participating in preparatory activities throughout the first semester, and by completing the three week unit, students used technology and art in combination with reading and writing skills to improve verbal, visual and information literacy skills. Language Arts, Science and Social Studies were also integrated through the selection of research and story topics from those subject areas. Middle school students created backdrops, costumes, props, and acted out the scenes (from Roman history) they had researched and scripted. Visual arts, writing, theatrical arts, photography, animation, clay and other media, and musical selection were all integrated into the final productions for 4 th -6 th grade students. Outcomes/ Evaluation --Pre- and Post- tests were employed to gain a more detailed analysis of students abilities in technology, information literacy, and visual decoding and encoding skills. --Data are still being analyzed, but teachers and students involved reported in interviews and were observed to have improved greatly in technology use and in understanding and use of visual design terms and narrative creation. Motivation remained very high, and students repeatedly reported that they desired to continue to learn in this engaged and multi-disciplinary format. --Research will continue to assess the student outcomes to determine improved motivation, reading for content, locating and analyzing information sources, creation of art projects, creative story writing and digital visual story presentation/production. --Data include staff observation notes, teachers interviews, student focus group interviews, student projects including teachers assessment rubrics, teachers pre- and post- technology and student pre- and post-test scores, and results of a variety of preskills activities as reported by the teachers. --Research will also continue to assess the impact of online teacher training and the creation of a collaborative group for staff development, on facilitating change in teachers self-efficacy, related skills, and lesson planning. Findings While data are still being analyzed, it is clear from observing students working in the technology labs and in their classrooms that the multidisciplinary approach to gaining new skills in literacies was extremely well received and successful. Improvements were observed and reported in skills in narrative writing, technology manipulation, animation, art creation, and collaboration and

6 creativity based upon science and social studies content knowledge. Student Information Literacy skills as measured by the TRAILS pre- and post- tests showed improvement in all classes, especially in the categories we addressed, Identifying and Evaluating Sources. An unforeseen benefit to the students was an increased opportunity to share and present their stories to their peers. Two of the participating classes shared their stories by using a projector to show their story as they read it to the class. This provided an additional opportunity to practice oral reading and presentation skills as well as presenting with technology. All of these skills are included in the Common Core State Standards. Teachers indicated that including this activity into their classroom helped them reinforce and revisit ideas and concepts that were introduced earlier in the school year, something they did not normally have an opportunity to do. The teachers also benefited from this project through professional development activities. Full analysis of the data is incomplete, however, initial review of that data indicates a positive change in teachers comfort level with and willingness to include technology and activities that address students multiliteracy skills. All of the participating teachers who completed the exit survey indicated that they would include several of the new skills learned through the project into their classroom next year. One teacher who did not complete the exit survey did indicate in the exit interview that she is considering repeating this project twice next year, once in the fall and again in the spring. Interviews and other discussions with the participating teachers indicated a very high level satisfaction with how the digital story creation project integrated and enhanced their current classroom activities. According to the principal, the digital story creation activity, fits with science and science standards that are coming, it fits with common core in that s coming down the line in terms of collaborative effort and technical skill. It is beautiful how well it meshes. Through interviews and personal conversations the participating teachers indicated a similar perception of the project. The researchers have been accepted to present results of this partnership project to professional association conferences including Illinois Reading Council, AECT and IVLA among others. Articles will subsequently be submitted to professional journal including but not limited to the Journal of Visual Literacy and TechTrends. In addition to conference presentations, the researchers have delivered a professional development workshop outlining the digital story creation activity, and lessons learned on implementing the activity, to 12 teachers in district 205. Another anticipated outcome is the positive result of this collaboration between NIU and Genoa teachers and students as a conduit for improving partnership relationships and seeking further opportunities to improve teaching and learning in the district. The exit interview with the principal of the school was completely positive and the projects will be repeated next year, possibly with all 4 th and 5 th grade teachers and students.

7 Outline of year-long activity/timeline Fall 2010 September: Introduce project, share spring 2009 examples, and recruit new 4 th and 5th grade teachers at Genoa Elementary School. Teachers from the year project will participate (with classes or as mentors); four new teachers were volunteered/selected. Select team of teachers to guide unit (re-) design and development; provide overview of what is expected/required/outcomes for their students Ascertain technology skills and training needed among teachers and their students. October-November: Guide teachers in the collaborative design and development of unit plans after they have selected a unit topic/state standards being addressed. Develop online technology support tools, implementing changes recommended. Facilitate teachers in introducing technology skills development, information literacy, art activities, and creative visual story development in multiple class sessions during fall units. Review and improve assessment tools for teachers use in determining project impact on learning; Improve formative and summative evaluation steps and assessment tools used in Fall, 2010 as needed throughout: Develop professional development for new technology tools, especially online tools Deliver professional development to participating teachers in partner schools and assess Observe teachers with classes Assist with technology skill development with teachers in lab Guide in helping design, create, and facilitate appropriate art lessons Spring 2011 In collaboration with teachers schedules and curricular planning,

8 Schedule, facilitate, guide and co-teach, and assess unit plan activities with six teachers and eight different classrooms (approximately 200 students in 4 th, 5 th, and 6 th grades) in partner school; Collect evaluation data from teachers assessment at unit end (By May 30) Observe and assess impact of unit activities on students technology skills and literacy development as well as motivation and interest in science and social studies as lessons proceed. Summer 2011 With partner teachers Analyze and summarize data collected; revise as needed the unit plan (and any recommended changes to the teacher training); Select a new group of teachers or continue for with revised unit plan and make plans to repeat following year; Continuing: Publish, present, promote the results of research, the lesson plans created, and determine how and when to scale up to other curricula and schools. Quarterly reports (illustrated and including student work samples) to Partnership Office and College as requested:

9 Budget Summary Course release for Robinson, (Project Director/ Design /Assessment/Research, for spring, 2011) Course Equivalent for Project Manager, (Training facilitation, coordination, classroom observation and teacher support) Budget Actual $3500 $3500 $3500 $3500 Salary for 10 hour GA for both semesters, to support training and research activities Travel to schools or to university for participants ($.55/mi, TBD) Art supplies, print materials, copying, transcript typing, etc. Hardware or software for school project needs; transcription services through REPS for qualitative data collected Summer project assessment, data analysis and reporting, Planning next stage of project.(intersession stipend/teacher stipend) $3400 $ $200 $ $400 $400 $1000 $200 covered increase in GA salary. $1500 $1500 Total $13,500 Total $12,660

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