Tag Archives: Julie Nora

Julie Nora On The Magic Of The Heinemann Fellows Program


by Julia Nora

We work in a variety of roles and disciplines, and we live in all four corners of the continental United States, and some in between: Sasha is the Founder and Director of the Milagros Charter School in Los Angeles; Michael—a math teacher at an independent school in NY; Valerie—a New York-based coach who works across the country; Amy—an English teacher in an independent school in Louisiana; Lisa—a coach in Minneapolis; Jessica—a fifth grade teacher in Skokie, Illinois; Lorilee—a coach in Springfield, Massachusetts; Kate— a second grade teacher at an independent school in Seattle; and Tami—a principal in Montana. This is my second year as a member of this reflective and talented group of educators, the first cohort of the Heinemann Fellows.

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The Heinemann Fellows: Julie Nora On Authentic Audiences For Writing


Julie Nora is a Heinemann Fellow with the 2014–2015 class, and has been an educator for 24 years. In today's post, Julie talks about having her students engage an authentic audience by creating a poll and effecting change for a school dance.

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The Heinemann Fellows: Video Spotlight on Julie Nora


Earlier this year, Heinemann hosted a symposium for its 2014–2015 class of Fellows. Each Fellow gave a presentation on his or her action research project, and afterward sat down to answer some questions. Today, Julie Nora explains the inspiration for her work, and how her action research project has changed her interactions in the classroom. Videos below after the break.

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The Heinemann Fellows: A Review

Over the last three months, the 2014–2016 class of Heinemann Fellows wrote posts for our blog. Each Fellow described his or her background and defended a specific line of questioning, while offering us valuable insight into an established professional belief. This is a group of dedicated, ambitious, and earnest educators, all of whom have the desire and capacity to effect lasting change in the profession. Below, you can find each of the Fellows with an excerpt from his or her post. Click through to read further.


Introduction by Ellin Keene

"Stay tuned because these insightful, curious, gifted educators are about to infuse our profession with something very rare: original knowledge about teaching and learning."


Lisa Birno: Purposeful Use of Talk 

"I realized that the purposeful use of talk unlocked many of the barriers my students faced. I saw that talk didn't just level the playing field for my struggling students."


Tamara Ward: Giving Voice to Rural Schools

"Because small rural schools lack the resources and staffing of larger schools, teaching in them is more than just teaching. I am called on to wear many hats and have to roll up my sleeves and pitch in no matter what."


​Sascha Robinett: Knowing You Matter

"It is exhausting, overwhelming, and lonely at times. But the opportunity to create a culture in which all members feel they matter and have impact is worth the effort."


Lorilee Cabrera: Coaching and Luck

"I have a secret, though. All of this "luck" isn't just luck. My luck exists at the intersection of hard work, good timing, and education."


Amy Greenbaum Clark: Teaching Poetry

"Writing is subjective. We can't ignore the ethos of teaching poetry—as if the various forms of writing don't inform one another!"


Jessica Lifshitz: The Questions That Change Everything

"There had to be a better way to talk to my students about their reading. There had to be a better way to help them pick up on their thinking and push them toward new insights."


Julie Nora: Having Students Write for a Global Audience

"Students report they prefer writing on a tablet or computer, however most school tasks and online assessments require students to use technology differently than they do at home."


Kate Norem: Supporting Purposeful Student Writing

"These very different pieces of writing were creative, ambitious, and highly motivating, and I wondered, 'What is it about these creative pieces that hooked some of my most reluctant writers?'"


Michael Pershan: Student Feedback

"I have been looking more carefully at feedback that makes a difference for my students. The closer I look, the worse the commonly offered advice seems."


The Heinemann Fellows is a group of educators who wish to pursue the shared goal of advancing the teaching profession. Membership in the group is not a reward for past accomplishments, but rather an investment in an educator's originality, insight, and potential impact on teaching. In today's post, Ellin Keene provides the introduction to an ongoing series of blog posts about and by the current class of fellows.

Visit the Heinemann Fellows home page and follow along on our public Twitter list.


The Heinemann Fellows: Julie Nora On Having Students Write for a Global Audience

Julie Nora is a Heinemann Fellow with the 2014–2016 class, and has been an educator for 24 years. In today's post, Julie discusses integrating technology with her specific set of classrooms.

by Julie Nora

What happens when children write for an authentic, global audience?

When you walk into the International Charter School (ICS), you are immediately struck by the sights and sounds of our diverse community. At any given time, Spanish, English and Portuguese are heard throughout our halls, as all of our students are learning through either a Spanish/English or Portuguese/English dual language program. Our families represent more than forty countries. Fifty percent of our students identify as Latinos, one third identify as African American, representing mostly a Cape Verdean population. Fifty percent of our students are English Language Learners (ELLs)—proficient in Spanish or Portuguese. Sixty percent of our students live in poverty. Similar to dual language schools across the globe, our goals are for students to become bilingual and biliterate, perform on grade level in all academic areas, and develop positive cross cultural attitudes and behaviors.

This linguistically and culturally rich environment—where I am the Director—is the context for my Heinemann Fellows research project. I am interested in leveraging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to extend teaching and learning, providing opportunities for students to engage in authentic writing tasks, and finding meaningful opportunities for students to use their multiple languages with authentic audiences.

In integrating technology into school, Alan November distinguishes between automating, where we merely “bolt technology onto existing procedures and practices,” and informating, which creates opportunities for empowerment through new sources of information and relationships. This year, ICS students will be taking their state assessments online, a perfect example of automating—bolting technology onto our existing practice of taking standardized tests. Many argue that introducing online assessments to schools is perhaps the only way to force schools to integrate technology into teaching and learning.

As an administrator, I loathe the prospect of online standardized tests becoming the main way we integrate technology into teaching and learning. I would prefer to informate rather than simply automate, and to this end, I am partnering with the fourth grade classroom and technology teachers to study this question, “How will having an authentic writing task for global audiences (through a blog/internet) impact student engagement and quality in writing in a dual language setting?”

Students report they prefer writing on a tablet or computer

I have just begun to collect data, starting with a survey about technology. Ninety-six percent of our students have access to the internet at home. While that seems promising, we need to be more proactive in increasing internet access (for those who don't have it) so that the growing use of technology in schools does not disadvantage children in new ways and amplify the socioeconomic disparity between the rich and poor.

More students have access to a tablet or mobile phone than to a computer, not surprising considering phones and tablets are cheaper and more mobile than desktop or laptop computers. Students report they prefer writing on a tablet or computer, however most school tasks and online assessments require students to use technology differently than they do at home. How can we leverage the access they do have to make better connections between school and home? How can we provide access when they do not have it?

I have also given students an initial writing attitudes survey where their sense of self as writers often emphasized neatness, spelling and grammar. However, in a subsequent free write, students listed a multitude of interesting reasons why they write. Through our use of ICT, we need to help them see that writing purposefully is a big part of who they are as writers.

At school, students are doing online research about a "wonder" (i.e. How do fireflies light up?), which will become the subject of their blogs. I'm noticing their thinking strategies are different when they research online. They move from video to photo to text as they synthesize information about their wonders. With near infinite resources available to them, they access more information in a shorter period of time. The trick is to teach students to search strategically and responsibly. We've asked them to complete this research at home, hoping to increase uses of ICT at home and introduce parents to these uses.

The opportunity to continue on this path with colleagues in my school and the other Fellows from across the country is pretty phenomenal. Though my journey has just begun, I have learned so much already and the students have not yet completed their blogs. I can't wait for what’s to come.

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Julie Nora is the Director of the International Charter School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Her action research seeks question is, "How will having an authentic writing task for global audiences impact student engagement in writing and the quality of their writing in a Two-Day Immersion setting?"

Follow Julie's progress on Twitter.

Visit the Heinemann Fellows page.