Julie Pennington Receives Grant to Expand Multimodal Teaching

5/15/2014 - By: Rama Raja
Center for Learning and Literacy Using iPads in the Center for Learning and Literacy.

The Acquisition of Instructional and Research Equipment Grant was offered by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation to reward faculty innovation efforts and to enhance the infrastructure at the University of Nevada, Reno in support of instruction and research.

Julie Pennington, associate professor of literacy studies in the College of Education and director of the E.L. Cord Foundation Center for Learning and Literacy (CLL), was one of 18 recipients of the equipment grants. Pennington used the funds to purchase iPads and video recording equipment to offer instructional tools for both undergraduate students preparing to become teachers and elementary and middle school-age children learning to read.

The iPads will be used in eight undergraduate education courses. Of these, six courses will use iPads to teach kindergarten through eighth grade students.

Pennington says “iPads offer multimodal education” and allow children to use the technology for “digital storytelling, voice recording, writing stories, and finding video clips and pictures to incorporate into stories.” The iPads also have applications specific to certain age groups, such as letter and number identification for kindergarten students.

The CLL had received a set of iPads the year prior, which they use in their in-house clinic for struggling readers. Pennington said the results were fantastic. “The iPads are motivating and engaging. Kids who before were not excited when [a university student] would come and read books to them are now excited to do so, even if it is the same book on the iPad.”

The CLL now has two carts of 30 iPads apiece, allowing them to expand the use of iPads beyond the clinic on campus into local schools like Rita Cannan Elementary School and Lemelson STEM Academy. Beforehand, university students could only bring print-based material like books and paper with them when they went to read with children. The acquisition of iPads now allows university students the opportunity to include digital literacy into reading sessions at local schools. Pennington hopes the incorporation of iPads garners the same amount of enthusiasm and excitement from these local students as it did from students attending the CLL’s clinic.

Furthermore, Pennington believes the use of iPads allows university students to become better teachers. The International Reading Association has updated its professional standards to include digital literacy. The Washoe County School District has also begun to implement many of its reading assessments on iPads. Because the applications and programs found on the iPads used by undergraduate students now is the same as those used by the Washoe County School District, Pennington believes university students can have a more seamless transition into student teaching and the job market.

The video recording equipment purchased by the CLL is used to record tutoring sessions between university students and struggling readers. Recording these sessions can provide feedback to the child’s parents on what areas their child is struggling in, as well as provide feedback to the university student and faculty on how the student may improve their methods of teaching. Whereas the old technology was antiquated and unreliable, this new video equipment can be used to fulfill the CLL’s mission of enhancing literacy development in Nevada.


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