Friday, April 25, 2008

Literacy Blogs

I've been reviewing the current state of literacy blogs, after 18 months of writing this. I haven't found a lot to add to previous findings but it is all listed on the blog page. It is good to report that blogs are being written at all and read of course. There is a cluster of blogs in Canada, a couple in the US and one or two others. There remains only one significant current blog for literacy writers, but I kid myself that there are others which are not publicly listed. Bloggers come in all shapes and sizes and I enjoy reading personal tales as well as posts focusing on being a teacher.

Readers not familiar with the format of blogging will benefit from subscribing to RSS feeds and displaying these. There are a number of different ways of doing this. I like the look and feel of Google Reader and this is usually reviewed well. For myself I use Pageflakes and would find life online difficult without that application. I have put some of these current literacy blogs on the published Skills for Life Pageflakes page I have made, so anyone interested can see how easy it is to scan RSS feeds.

There are a lot more ESOL blogs and many of these are of interest. Over the next couple of weeks I will sort and consider these.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Speaking and Listening Page

I've added a Speaking and Listening Page to the Skills for Life Website.

This is not quite like an "activities" page, because it does not necessarily go directly to online activities. It has come about because I increasingly work with learners needing to improve speaking and listening skills while being supported and with tutors providing this support. There are quite a few relevant audio files published or activities containing audio to listen to, but they are not very easy to organise while planning. So I have linked all the component parts of the excellent Skillswise resources for a start. I am also listing relevant units from the published DFES packs and from the newer NLN resources. I cannot link to the NLN resources outside of college because of copyright, although I can put links on our Moodle site. The DFES ESOL packs have good resources which can be run as as Moodle courses from Moodle to Go, and this works smoothly. It would be nice to have the same facility for the Literacy packs, but the CDs provided can be ripped to Windows Media Player or similar and preferably labelled for easy reference.

I wonder how much these Literacy audio files get used. As a literacy tutor I have always put the emphasis on reading and writing skills, but the needs in support are different. Learners have very different support needs and may be receiving support for literacy or for language. I have found the process of sorting out suitable learning materials difficult, and I hope that by listing everything on one page it will make the process of planning a bit easier for me and for others.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Seeing Yourself in Print - Reflect 10

Reflect 10 is out in print and pdf download from the NRDC but not yet online.

There's a piece on elearning for ESOL which covers a number of applications, including blogs and captioned pictureshows, but does not go into much how to do it detail. The ideas would have application usually for literacy as well, though I suspect some tutors would ask for advice on how to fit the idea into the curriculum.

Seeing Yourself in Print is a nice piece about publishing learners' writing from the past (Write First Time and Gatehouse) to current initiatives such as NRDC's own Voices on the Page. The authors stress the confidence coming from seeing your writing in print.

Elearning tutors may help by allowing learners to see their writing in virtual print (online) as well, through things like Skillswise's Your Stories and blogs in general. The Skills for Life website started with a magazine, which the learners liked to show family and friends, and that certainly contributed to confidence.

When I worked in Adult Education as a literacy tutor in the 80s, I ran a poetry class in the evenings for any Basic Education students who wanted to do something in May and June after the year's classes had ended. The real confidence came from the writing itself. We were able to put the emphasis on expression and technique rather than on correcting and producing acceptable English, and the learners found this liberating. And, yes, they did take pride in seeing their names in the magazine, produced with a BBC B and a dot matrix printer.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

E-Book on Literacy and Dyslexia

Hugo Kerr’s highly recommended chapter on dyslexia from “The Cognitive Psychology of Literacy Teaching: Reading, Writing, Spelling, Dyslexia (& a bit more besides)” brings me back to the ongoing debate, at least in my mind, about the “reality” of dyslexia.

Hugo is truly sceptical about dyslexia, without going quite as far as to suggest that it doesn’t exist. I might have agreed more fully a few years ago, though I would never have read the amazing quantity of literature quoted, which covers the field. In those days I really was more anti-dyslexia, I believed that it didn't matter to the way I delivered my teaching; I wondered about trying to put those views into order. Looking back now, I remember a few people in particular who came to me for help with spelling, but their needs were great and they never seemed to make as much progress as others.

Now I feel I am more of a believer. I have written in this blog before here and here ideas around the definition of dyslexia. From Hugo’s quoted definitions I am probably closest to the Moray House definition; I certainly do not like the idea of the primacy of reading or literacy difficulty.

I wonder about the other, perhaps secondary, “symptoms” of dyslexia, which include:
  • Memory difficulties
  • Organisational difficulties
  • Difficulties listening to two people at once
  • Mis-saying words
  • Difficulties with maps
  • Difficulties with maths
I wonder about the idea, in Cynthia Klein for one, of difficulties with different sorts of processing, motor, auditory and visual, and the different sorts of literacy problems consequent; I have done these analyses and find them useful.

I wonder about the continuum, about dyspraxia and dyscalculia.

I wonder above all about all those people I have worked with who find great relief in the diagnosis of dyslexia; once it is accepted, there can be release from the anxieties remaining from school and there can be a new addressing of current priorities. As a support tutor I can move away if desired from teaching spelling to supporting writing and expression.

In the UK the diagnosis of dyslexia is crude and unsatisfying, and open to abuse. However it is very often needed for funding to ensure support, and therefore necessary.

I found the book from Maggie Harnew's site, as so often. I'll read more of it, when I can find when I get used to the idea of an e-book - I don't find it easy on a landscape monitor.

Read The Words

I've added a link to Read the Words to the Dyslexia Resources page on the Skills for Life Website. I know that dyslexic people sometimes use or are recommended software to turn text into speech. This is a free version and might be attractive if you don't want to use it a lot. I find the slurs between words difficult sometimes, but a dyslexic student pointed out that you have to learn to use software like this so that you become used to its peculiarities; I don't need to use it so I am not a good judge. Just don't try to read a web page from the url; cut and paste the text instead. I can see how this could be a really useful tool.

Another purpose of the site is to embed speech on your web page, so here goes.

It sounds pretty good to me, though I did have to switch to Internet Explorer to get the embedding to work.