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Literacy conference inspires educators with latest teaching methods

News PhotoMore than 300 educators got a taste of their own medicine at the 2010 Literacy Leadership Conference, visiting Drake’s campus to attend lectures and leadership training.

The two-day event, which was sponsored by Drake’s School of Education and the Johnston Community School District, focused on contemporary teaching methods, engaging and motivating K-12 students and utilizing 21st century media.

Nationally recognized scholars Richard Allington and Douglas Fisher gave the keynote addresses. Johnston High School educator Sarah Brown Wessling, recipient of the 2010 National Teacher of the Year award, presented a lecture.

A photo gallery of the event can be viewed online.

Jill Caton Johnson, associate professor of education at Drake, helped coordinate the event, which drew educators from across Iowa.

“Teachers are going to go back to their classrooms energized and educated about current teaching practices,” Caton Johnson said. “The convention serves as a refresher for educators to stay in tune with student needs.”

Nancy Peterson, a special education teacher for the Clinton Community School District, agreed with Johnson’s assessment.

“This conference is a valuable experience because it helps educators keep up with the latest research and classroom practices,” said Peterson, who attended both days of the conference. “It’s great for our students because we become more effective teachers.”

Calle Friesen, a Drake graduate student and a high school English teacher from Storm Lake, led a discussion on “21st Century Literature for 21st Century Readers.” The lecture focused on how the definition of literacy has evolved along with technology.

“We’re now a media-driven society,” Friesen said. “There’s a new brand of books that integrate media with literature, including illustrated novels, graphic novels, manga, digi-fiction and doodle fiction. Kids today are digital natives — if you want to engage them and teach them to read, you need to become familiar with what appeals to them.”

Caton Johnson and her collaborator Lindsay Law, a Drake graduate and current third-grade teacher, also explored new literary genres in a lecture titled “Using Graphic Novels and Graphic Poetry to Engage Student Thinking.”

“Graphic fiction and graphic poetry are becoming more and more popular with kids,” said Caton Johnson, who joined Drake’s faculty in 2003. “Teachers must embrace what kids enjoy and integrate new media into their classrooms.”

The conference was also sponsored by the Developmental Studies Center, a national nonprofit organization committed to empowering students and inspiring teachers.