iPads & Literacy Learning

In working on my Master’s (and now again in my PhD)  I came across an article on a teacher who used an IPad to bring a child up a full grade level in reading in a six week period. My son has an IPad and LOVES it, so what better way to help teach him than through using what he loves?! Wrong! For some reason, he cannot separate the use of his iPad for learning and fun. If he has to read he would rather read a hard copy (I understand that) and he prefers to do learning activities that do not involve his iPad unless it is an educational video. Why is this? I wish I knew! Using the iPad in learning is innovative, but this situation caused me to think deeper about innovative curriculum and instructional methods. I think sometimes it is easy to think that innovation means the implementation of technology. This is not true. As a homeschool mom of a middle schooler with special needs, developing instructional methods and learning activities that are innovative is the key to my child’s success. Therefore, just the right amount of technology use and hands-on learning must take place.

I would love to hear your experiences on innovative methods and curriculum in the literacy classroom for those students who struggle with reading.


Innovation in Education

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2017), innovation is a new idea or method as well as an introduction to a new approach.  Innovation in education calls for new teaching and learning approaches to be used that will actively engage all students.  In my experience, innovative curriculum often (a) changes the role of the teacher and student, (b) encourages students to take responsibility for their learning, and (c) is authentic.  I have found that students learn and retain more when they are actively engaged in the learning process by getting to choose topics and projects.  Project-based and problem-based learning often allow students to do just that while still meeting state standards.  Giving students a choice and more control does not mean that it is a free-for-all, but it does mean that teachers become more of a facilitator than a lecturer resulting in a deeper engagement and learning experience.

It is common to think that when hearing the phrase, “innovative curriculum” one is referring to the implementation of technology in our classrooms.  Lindenmuth (2015) expressed that simply integrating technology into our classrooms does not make it innovative and therefore, is not enough.  Technology is a great tool for any classroom because information is just a click away and it allows students (& their teachers) to connect with others from around the world.  Thus, helping them to build the 21st-century skills that they need to be successful both in and out of the classroom.  Therefore, as teachers, it is vital that we review and analyze all resources to help ensure the success of ALL students (Green, 2014).  As an educator striving to provide innovative curriculum for my students, I would love to hear about some of the innovative ways you have used to engage your students, especially those with special needs.



Green, L. S. (2014). Through the looking glass. Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 36-43.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2017). Innovation. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innovation

Lindenmuth, D. T. (2015). A model for expanding tech in classrooms. School Administrator, 72(9), 12.

Literacy & PBL

Many things shape a student’s academic experience.  The attitude towards education that students see modeled at home plays a significant role in this experience.  Students motivation is often affected by their ability and ease at which they can perform in each class.  Therefore, if students are struggling in reading and literacy finding new and innovative ways to engage them is the key to their success.  Hsu (2014) found that project-based learning (PBL) has the “potential to enhance students’ reading skills” (p. 81).  Studies found that this type of learning produced a positive attitude toward learning from the students involved and allows the merging of content area (Hsu, 2014).  Working with many students that struggle with reading fluency and comprehension I have learned that providing instruction that meets their interests is one way to get them engaged.

Each student has different needs and learning styles.  Therefore, finding what learning methods work best for them is essential.  When differentiating instruction educators must provide learning activities that allow activities at various learning levels.  PBL is one way to meet these needs and provide students with active, real-life learning (BIE, 2016).  Studies show that students with speech sound disorders (SSD) will often have reading disorders decreasing their motivation to read (Anthony, Aghara, Dunkelberger, Anthony, Williams, & Zhang, 2011).  For example, due to the difficulty in reading students with SSD can lose their motivation to read.  Therefore, using PBL in literacy classrooms allows the students to take control of their learning creating within them a new excitement for learning.

Creating engaging and effective instruction means that educators consider the motivational needs of students (Malloy, Marinak, Gambrell, & Mazzoni, 2013).  Malloy et al. (2013) stated that if students are not motivated, they will not learn.  When students are engaged in what they are doing, they will be more enthusiastic about what they are learning, and will respond more efficiently (Malloy et al., 2013).  Discovering new and innovative ways to get and keep students engaged in literacy learning is important.  Hence, providing new learning methods is critical.

PBL helps students to take ownership of their learning causing them to become more engaged in their learning that in turn makes it more meaningful to them (Walsh, 2010).  Bell (as cited by Walsh, 2010) stated that by taking ownership of their learning students are motivated to complete the given tasks.  When students have no motivation to read and see no reason to do so, their learning is affected (Walsh, 2010).  PBL is a student-directed learning approach that allows students to “choose and create projects” giving them ownership of their learning (Walsh, 2010, p. 3).  Research shows that interacting with one another causes an increase in students reading proficiency skills (Walsh, 2010).  When students are permitted to demonstrate their learning through creating their projects they will become more motivated and engaged in what they are learning (Walsh, 2010).

Tompkins (2010) stated that the goal of literacy instruction is that all students have what they need to reach their full potential in literacy.  Good teachers make instructional decisions based on their knowledge of reading and writing, current research, appropriate expectations, and their understanding of individual student’s strengths and needs (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998, p.8).  Providing literacy instruction that is engaging and meets the interests of students can increase motivation along with reading proficiency skills.


Anthony, J. L., Aghara, R. G., Dunkelberger, M. J., Anthony, T. I., Williams, J. M., & Zhang,(2011). What factors place children with speech sound disorders at risk for reading problems? American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20, 146-160. doi: 10.1044/1058-0360(2011/10-0053).

Buck Institute for Education (BIE). (2016). What is project-based learning (PBL)? Retrieved from www.bie.org/about/what_pbl



Hsu, L. Y. (2014). Integrating culture with project-based instruction in an EFL classroom. English Teaching & Learning, 38(1), 61-90. doi: 10.6330/ETL.2014.38.1.03.



Malloy, J. A., Marinak, B. A., Gambrell, L. B., & Mazzoni, S. A. (2013). Assessing motivationto read: The Motivation to Read Profile-Revised. The Reading Teacher, 67(4), 273-282. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.1215.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1998). Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children. Washington, DC: Author.



Tompkins, G. E. (2010). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Walsh, K. (2010). Motivating students to read through project-based learning. EducationMasters. Retrieved from http://fisherpub.sjfc.edu/education_ETD_masters/5











Technology and Social Change

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Technology can completely transform learning, and we must be willing to change our way of thinking to involve its use in our classrooms (Laureate Education, 2012a; Laureate Education, 2012b).  A willingness to change one’s way of thinking or their actions is important to bringing about social change.  The contribution of every member of a group brings about more change and an increase in problems solved (Laureate Education, 2012b).  As educators, being change agents is vital to the development of ourselves and our students.

There are six different types of change agents the (a) ultra-committed change-maker, (b) faith-inspired giver, (c) socially conscious consumer, (d) purposeful participant, (e) casual contributor, and (f) social change spectator (Walden University, 2017).  The change agent type that is most beneficial to my workplace in regards to implementing technological innovation is the faith-inspired giver.  This type of change agent believes that setting a good example for others is important (Walden University, 2017).  Not only is this important to this type of change agent but this group of change agents feels that because they have been blessed, they should bless others (Walden University, 2017).  This type of change agent is beneficial to the implementation of technological innovations in the homeschool environment because they are more hands-on in their approach to social change and do their part to bring about a successful change to the environment in which they are involved.  In the homeschool environment, I believe that the purposeful participant social change agent is the least beneficial because they participate in social change projects as a way to benefit themselves.  Homeschooling is not about benefiting or building yourself up instead the focus should be on providing the most effective learning environment for students.

New technologies facilitate learning by deepening students understanding rather than focusing on decontextualized factoids (Laureate Education, 2012a).  Therefore, by implementing technological innovation in the classroom, we make learning more meaningful and engaging for students.  In the homeschool learning environment, the implementation of technological innovation may be easier and less costly due to the smaller class size.  In my social change approach, it is essential that I keep everyone involved in the change process, so that true change takes place (Laureate Education, 2012b).  For example, instead of using just traditional methods of instruction, I can make sure that students have devices so they can have easy access to information instead of wasting brain space on something they can easily look up or may not need (Laureate Education, 2012a).  Access to these devices and inclusion in decision-making not only provides students with easy access to information, but it also provides them with 21st-century learning skills.



Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012a). The impact of technology on learning. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012b). OLPC, education, and social change. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Walden University. (2017). What kind of social change are you? Retrieved from http://impactreport.waldenu.edu/



We live in a world that has been “transformed by technology,” and this transformation has changed the way that students learn (Morgan, 2014, p. 20).  Therefore, using technology to improve reading skills is of specific interest to me.  Digital storytelling is a way that teachers can motivate students to learn while also improving their 21st-century skills (Morgan, 2014).  Movie Maker and iMovie are often used in digital storytelling projects and can be as simple or as complex as one wants them to be which encourages students to try new things (Morgan, 2014).

Morgan (2014) stated that digital storytelling requires students first to use pencil and paper then digitize their final copy by adding pictures, music, text, and narration into a movie.  When using digital storytelling in a way that focuses on the following seven elements, students’ progress is made not just in reading but in writing, creativity, motivation, and understanding different subjects (Morgan, 2014).  The seven elements are point of view, dramatic question, emotional content, the gift of your voice, soundtrack, economy, and pacing (Morgan, 2014).  When engaging in digital storytelling projects students can choose the topic for their project enhancing their motivation and creativity from the beginning.  Here is a link to Bob Dillion’s blog on the power of digital storytelling: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-power-of-digital-story-bob-dillon.  In her blog, Andrea Lunsford discussed digital storytelling and described how to implement it into the classroom, here is the link to her blog:    https://community.macmillan.com/community/the-english-community/bedford-bits/blog/2016/04/18/multimodal-mondays-digital-storytelling

Bringing new literacies into the classroom is not an easy task due to the extra time required for teachers to learn and understand them, but digital literacy is just as important as textual literacy and enhances learning by including images and sounds (Laurate Education, 2012).  I chose digital storytelling because Movie Maker and iMovie are easy to use making the implementation easier for those teachers who are not confident in their technology skills (Morgan, 2014).  While some are resisting the change, others are embracing it and using it to make students learning experience more effective.  Digital technologies have changed the way that our brains function and encourage us to behave in certain ways; therefore, it is important to take time away from the screen and enjoy those around us (Keegan, 2012).  By walking away from technology from time to time, students gain new personal experiences which provide them with new ideas to develop into digital stories.



Dillion, B. (2014). The power of digital story. Edutopia. Retrieved fromhttps://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-power-of-digital-story-bob-dillon

Keegan, S. (2012). Digital technologies are re-shaping our brains. Qualitative Market Research, 15(3), 328-346. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012). Digital literacy. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Lunsford, A. A. (2016). Multimodal Mondays: Digital storytelling. Retrieved fromhttps://community.macmillan.com/community/the-english-community/bedford-bits/blog/2016/04/18/multimodal-mondays-digital-storytelling

Morgan, H. (2014). Using digital story projects to help students improve in reading and writing. Reading Improvement, 51(1), 20-26. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.


Innovation Blog

Instructional innovation is a new way of providing students instruction that helps to increase motivation and engagement.  One such instructional method is project-based learning (PBL).  When using PBL, students build their collaboration and communication skills by working together on final projects showing what they have learned (Hsu, 2014).  PBL is an instructional innovation in which students work to find answers to questions or problems that are complex and engaging (BIE, 2016).  When students are engaged in meaningful learning experiences, such as PBL, motivation, engagement, and reading skills are enhanced (Hsu, 2014).  This type of instruction also teaches students to take ownership of their learning (Walsh, 2010).  Although PBL is not a new approach to instruction, it is an excellent way to allow students to make connections between what they are learning and real-life situations (Burns, 2016).  Ross Cooper wrote a blog on preparing teachers for implementing PBL.  The link to his blog is http://edge.ascd.org/blogspot/project-based-learning-professional-development-part-3-the-workshop-model.  Maggie Menkus wrote about using PBL in the literacy classroom to make books come alive.  The link to her blog https://www.bie.org/blog/pbl_turns_a_book_into_reality.

Educational neuroscience is an emerging field that brings together science and education (Fischer, Goswami, & Geake, 2010).  This movement seeks to develop a “strong educational practice and policy by connecting cognitive science, biology, and human development with education and by creating new infrastructural institutions to relate research to practice and policy” (Fischer, Goswami, & Geake, 2010, p. 77).  In PBL, students have a voice and a choice in what projects they take part in (The Aberdeen Green School, 2016).  As we know, no two people are alike which means that each student learns in different ways and at different levels.  PBL provides students with the opportunity to be challenged and yet successful because differentiation and scaffolding must take place for it to be effective (The Aberdeen Green School).  The brain changes based on an individual’s experiences; therefore, when students work together they gain new shared experiences and become more capable learners (The Aberdeen Green School, 2016).  The projects that students do in PBL give them opportunities to make connections between old and new experiences as well as old and new material.


Buck Institute for Education (BIE). (2016). What is project-based learning (PBL)? Retrieved

from http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl

Burns, J. (2016). 7 innovative instructional practices to engage students and support

learning. Allen Distinguished Education. Retrieved from



Cooper, R. (2016). Project-based learning professional development (part3): The workshop

model. ASCD Edge. Retrieved from http://edge.ascd.org/blogspot/project-based-learning-


Fischer, K. W., Goswami, U., & Geake, J. (2010). The future of educational neuroscience.

Mind, Brain, and Education, 4(2), 68-80. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Hsu, L. Y. (2014). Integrating culture with project-based instruction in an EFL classroom.

English Teaching & Learning, 38(1), 61-90. doi: 10.6330/ETL.2014.38.1.03.

Menkus, M. (2016). PBL turns a book into reality. PBL Blog. Retrieved from


Walsh, K. (2010). Motivating students to read through project-based learning. Education

Masters. Retrieved from http://fisherpub.sifc.edu/education_ETD_masters/5