Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Text & Mentor Text & Live Text


If we were playing word association and I prompted you with “text,” what would you say?  Well, fifty or so years ago, my response would likely have been “sermon” or “scripture” or maybe even a specific memory verse because I heard “text” most frequently in the phrase “Our text for today’s sermon is . . .”  Now, of course, “text” has moved from noun to verb as in “Text me!” transmitted on portable devices.  In between now and then, “text” referenced a specific literary work that had been selected for study, such as Hamlet; in brief, book (or a particular passage) was synonymous with text.

When we look at how educators are now using the term “mentor text,” the meaning is grounded in that “old” (but not ancient) literary connection with an authoritative book.  We’ll do better if we step up into the quantum age of time-space-matter-ing. If we do this, when we construct mentor-text, we would be able to bridge across the past-present-future; we could claim our inheritance from those good old days as well as the vigor of our liberated youth.  We could construct our live-meaning of “mentor text” to fit situated-learning in digitally-informed classrooms for quantum time-space-matter-ing.  

For the past nine months, I’ve participated regularly in an elementary school that has been my mentor text on implementing technology into teaching and learning.  Just as the Bible texts were meant to be translated into daily life, this school enacts the meaning into schooling, not just words on a page.  The mentor text that has meaning for me is not in the already-outdated books on “Today’s Digital Classroom,” but it’s in the daily life of Ms. Nicholson, Principal Poling, and all teaching/learning at EKD Elementary.  While I haven’t seen texting, I’m impressed with EKD’s mentor text in class blogs, emails, Facebook postings, iPad connected to learning science, math, literacy, art, and just about everything else.  This EKD Mentor Text, like King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, still needs to be articulated if it is to mentor others who want to transform their practice.

If this articulation and transformation are to happen, we’ll have to claim the authority of our situated truth and authorize this specific time and space as mattering.  When I met with teachers in EKD Elementary yesterday to advance this agenda, I showed them the two-minute video (shown at the top of this blog) that reflected their text across grades 1 through 5.  I wanted them to witness themselves as Mentor Text because K-12 teachers are often so beautifully modest that they don’t see their power.  When I see this snapshot of their work, I’m almost breathless.

After watching this video, I told the teachers that our mission is now to articulate the EKD Mentor Text.  Each teacher was asked to identify one activity in which he or she was implementing technology in a way that boosted learning.  As background for naming and connecting our mentor texts, I showed another video I’d made that elaborates mentor text in a progressive three-step process and that textures the concept with examples.

After watching these two videos, it took Ms. Nicholson, a second-grade teacher at EKD, about 15 minutes to summarize her mentor text on Writing Informational Essays about Spiders.  I’m immediately impressed with how she’s integrating STEM, Literacy, & Technology!
Her overview states:
“After reading Charlotte's Web, students embarked on a research project where they researched a spider to write an essay and then created a model of their chosen spider. First, students opened up a KWL chart from the graphic organizer’s website, http://www.eduplace.com/graphicorganizer/. They opened it up in Type on PDF. After that, students went on My Big Campus [the school system’s Learning Management System] and opened up a MentorMob bundle that I created. The bundle contains videos and informational articles about spiders in general. As they worked though the bundle, they recorded their facts on their KWL charts (on their iPads).
Next, students are going to choose one specific spider that they would like to further research. They will gather information on their iPads using the Simple Minds map App. They will print out their organizer and then use it to write their informational essay. After writing their essay, they will create a model of their spider and create an Animate it movie with their Spider model.  In this, they’ll share the most important facts they learned about the spider.”
Ms. Nicholson identifies one of the Common Core Standards that this activity addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.2.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section. 

While I highlight Ms. Nicholson here, I could also have presented what the other teachers are doing.  EKD Elementary, with support from the University of Maryland Writing Project, is making a magnificent mentor text.  Stay tuned for more.