YouTube: Canadian professor's research promotes literacy

The outcome of Dale Willows’ latest research project is a successful foray into social media with the launch of a new YouTube channel. The Balanced Literacy Diet channel is based on a framework that presents literacy concepts using the familiar terminology of a healthy diet and is designed to help teachers launch their students on a trajectory of success by implementing effective literacy strategies. Since its initial launch in September, 2011, the Balanced Literacy Diet channel has received 5,000 views, gathered 146 subscribers and its videos been uploaded 12,000-plus times. Comments from teachers using the material are enthusiastic: “This is so practical—lots of inspiration for classroom teaching".... “I can’t wait to use these lessons”.... “So glad to see all the progress on the Literacy diet! Love the great videos!”

Dale Willows, a professor in OISE’s department of Human Development and Applied Psychology and at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, believes that teachers who have developed a deep understanding of literacy have the power to prevent literacy failure. Her research, grounded in the notion of a “balanced literacy diet”, demonstrates how teachers can more effectively learn and understand the necessary ingredients for children to become successful readers. The idea for the project was born out of a collaborative effort between Dale and the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment, a Miami-based non-profit organization dedicated to the study and prevention of violence through education and the application of research-based knowledge.

The Balanced Literacy Diet channel is part of a soon-to-be-launched Balanced Literacy Diet website for teachers, school administrators, parents, and teacher educators organized around 15 key ‘food groups for literacy. Based on what is known from research and practice, the ‘food groups’ represent essential ingredients of effective literacy instruction in elementary school. The website explains the importance of each of the literacy food groups and presents hundreds of ‘recipes for literacy, detailed lesson plans and downloadable materials. Many of the recipes are demonstrated with how-to videos in which different ‘classroom chefs’ explain and present some of their favorite literacy recipes in their own personal styles.

An innovative feature of the website is that it includes virtual classroom visits – through the power of virtual tour technology. These virtual tours will allow website visitors to navigate around classrooms of exemplary literacy teachers, ranging from Pre-K to Grade 6, zooming in for a closer look at teaching materials and examples of children’s work. By clicking on “hot spots” virtual classroom visitors will be able to watch videos of teachers sharing insights and demonstrating how they set up and implement effective and engaging instruction.


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