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Ted Kesler Changes Scope of Child Literacy

            With constant controversies and political debate surrounding the educational level and competencies of children, the future of the education system remains unknown. Though there are many campaigns and programs promoting strong literacy abilities, the origin of how children process information, however, remains a  fundamental yet questionable fact. Dr. Theodore Kesler, professor of elementary and early childhood education at Queens College responds to this inquiry with his research at PS/IS 499 Queens College School for Math, Science and Technology in developing children’s multi-modal responses to texts through computer-based work.


            Kesler’s teaching experience spans over 20 years. Like most undergraduate students, he did not start out on his current career path. He actually began his studies in pr-med, however, by his junior year he had delusions about the life of a doctor to which he felt it would not challenge him fully. “I also wanted to work with children,” he stated. After a stint as a math program teacher for various schools in New York City he was intrigued by the daily challenges of teaching and wanted to put his whole heart into it. “I always saw it (teaching) as a challenging profession because the context of my class varied from year to year, depending on my students.” In 1996-97 his efforts to change the structure of education was honoring by The New York Times in a nine-part series of articles by Jacques Steinberg entitled, Class 3-223: Mr. Kesler’s Struggle. That following year in 1998, he received the prestigious Bank Street College Early Childhood Teacher of the Year Award. Then, in 2001, he earned his National Board of Professional Teaching Standards license as a Middle Grades Generalist. With these prominent  accolades, Kesler advanced in the teaching field and earned his Doctor of Education degree from the Teachers College at Columbia University. While there he served as a full-time staff developer with the Reading and Writing Project from 2001 to 2008, when he joined the Queens College faculty.


            His research in focusing on developing children’s multi-modal responses as it relates to their overall literacy not only is geared towards challenging his students, but also allow him to stay afloat of the ever-changing technology as well. “I chose this focus because I want to invite active and authentic uses of technology for meaningful and important literacy development. I (also) want to become much more competent and fluent in the integration of technology and literacy,” he explains. Kesler used many facets of technology in gaining the attention of his 5th grade subjects such as: PowerPoint, Audacity, Flickr and Google Image sites (to name a few). Without the use of technology to entice student learning, Kesler found that the children become complacent and bored with just reading words in books. However, with the extensive uses of technology, the children are blown away by the possibilities through using different media. “I expect that student will both gain in their computer competencies and in their literacy development. I believe that the projects we are doing invite social negotiation and problem solving that contribute strongly to students’ learning.”

            It is Kesler’s belief that literacy is evolving and will soon consist of nothing but various uses of technology. “Literacy will become more than reading from books. I want to continue to be engaged and connected to the national conversations about it.” he proclaims. He is considering a new proposal to work with the 8th grade special education class at PS/IS 499 on learning how to read popular culture websites critically. As he continues to focus on integrating technology into the classroom he sees improvements in some schools that are promoting and integrating technology and inquiry work and not sticking to the basic textbook teaching.



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Division of Education

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expand  2010
November 27
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