Tag Archives: 2013

Mystery Skype. A truly collaborative event.

Last week, the ENG3C class participated in a Mystery Skpye. What an adventure!

A Mystery Skype is an online event held through Skype in which neither group knows where the other group is in the world. Through a series of closed questions (yes/no), participants piece together where they are calling from until one group guesses the correct location of the other group.

Minds On

This opening exercise was certainly a fun and engaging way to set the stage for the real purpose of the call: a conversation between teens about their lives. As the conversation about First Nations people grows in the public domain, more and more people are realizing that they do not know very much about First Nations people or the issues emerging from their communities. What interferes with the general public’s understanding of First Nations’ issues is the ongoing use of First Nations’ stereotypes, and this is a topic that some educator’s meet head on in their classrooms. Sarah Le from Orangeville District Secondary School is one such teacher. Through a variety of texts, Mrs. Lee, pushes her students to understand the multiple perspectives that must co-exist in our society, including that of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.

Our camera person listening intently for the next question.


The Skype went off…with a couple of hitches. We were met with the challenge of acquiring the right gear (external webcam and tripod), finding an Internet signal that would give us enough bandwidth to enable the video to work, and overcoming our shyness and nervousness to both be on camera and to think on the spot! But we did it. We had coaches scrounging up the gear for us and teaching me how to get the technology ready, we had students problem solving how we might solve our weak Internet issue, and we had students who stepped up to the plate at the last second to take on larger roles than they had originally prepared for. What’s the definition of collaboration? To create something together that we could not create individually. We certainly nailed collaboration in this event!


When the Skype call ended, the first question we had was, “When do we do this again?” We were energized and engaged, and we wanted more. Our reflections about this event are ongoing. Students are / will be posting to their own blogs using the “What? So What? Now What?” reflective model.

from Commons Wikimedia.org


What happened?

What did you observe?

So What?

Did you learn a new skill or clarify an interest?
How is your experience different from what you expected?
What impacts the way you view the situation/experience? (What lens are you viewing from?)
What did you like/dislike about the experience?
How did the experience relate to your coursework?

Now What?

What learning occurred for you in this experience?
How can you apply this learning?
What can be done to improve this type of work?

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Re-thinking Assessment in OOE13

Co-Creator: I received credit from Open Online Experience. http://cred.ly/c/42307

Open Online Learning 2013 presents an opportunity to re-think how educators and learners go about assessment. What is evidence of learning? Who decides? We can, of course, co-create the success criteria, but as we move to more self-directed learning the success criteria will need to be individualized too. As we move toward student inquiry, what students present as evidence of their learning will vary; and as students push their learning to where they need to go, their products will uniquely represent that learning.

When we step outside the box, there are so many possibilities. When we begin to understand what it is we need to learn and what we care about learning, then, how we might go about that learning will not only surprise us, but will challenge our notions of what evidence of learning looks like.

About a year ago, I ran into the idea of badges as ways to symbolize learning. Of course, I thought it was hokey. Badges are good for Scouting  and Guiding,  not real learning.

Now don’t jump all over me…I realize my thinking here was flawed, but that is the way many people view badges. You get them for swimming levels and skating levels; you certainly don’t get them for academics.

By participating in experiences like OOE13, educators have the opportunity to experience learning in ways that are completely new to them. As I learn online via my PLN, moocs, blog reading, and/or participation in Twitter chats, Connected Educator Month events, or a whole host of other venues, I might want to acknowledge that learning in some way. And that’s what badges do. The process allows me to select the evidence that I believe is relevant, meaningful, and valid to me, to cite that evidence, and then to be acknowledged.

Twitter Vs Zombies: I received credit from Open Online Experience. http://cred.ly/c/42278

I am so proud of the badges I have earned to date. They inspire me to reach for more. Isn’t this the role of assessment?

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#Cyberpd 2013 ~ Collaboration for learning

This is the final day for the incredible book study on Alan November’s Who Owns the Learningfor #cyberpd 2013. This event is hosted annually be the marvellous Cathy MereJill Fisch, and Laura Komos. To read what others are saying see the Jog the Web that houses the #cyberpd blogs.

November’s message is that students must have the opportunity to experience purpose and ownership in their work.  We can create such opportunities by incorporating roles or jobs for students that enable them to contribute to the learning of all. When students are tutorial designers, scribes, and researchers for their peers in their classrooms, and importantly, beyond their classrooms, and their work is available on-line, they leave a legacy of their contribution. How exciting and engaging is that!

My personal goal for this summer is to become better versed in creating visual content. I have where ever possible to represent my thinking about Who Owns the Learning? visually.

A few posts back, I wondered about the learning that would emerge by annotating an existing video in Popcorn Maker. What I discovered was that not only did the process of annotation deepen my understanding of the content, it also extended my editing skills.

By chance, I came across a post by Kim Wilkens in her Google+ community Women Learning Tech about using Popcorn Maker as a collaborative tool. She asks “What does open and closed mean in the digital age? Members of the community were invited to view her video and then to add their thoughts. What do you think of their collaborative experiment? This remix represents two contributors. There were more, but the challenge in making this a collaborative project is that each participant needs to ‘pick up’ the most recent remix to add his or her thoughts, not the original version.

I decided, since Chapter 5 is on the student as global communicator and collaborator, I would give Popcorn Maker a go with the #cyberpd crowd. I Tweeted out the idea, and Amy Rudd jump into the project. The first portion of this video is mine, and Amy’s portion is the VideoScribe.

If you would like to try your hand at Popcorn Maker and at collaborative content creation, click on the remix button found at the bottom of the screen below.  Add your ideas, save, and Tweet out the new remix.

For some reason, the Popcorn Maker begins to play as this page loads…so I have removed it for now. You can access the remix HERE.

I do like this idea, especially for assessment as learning. I envision my students each creating 30 seconds of video (either in Popcorn Maker, an Animoto type tool or in Movie Maker) and then annotating the video with links and text  that illustrates their big learning (synthesis) of a unit. Students can post their individual Popcorn Maker video to their blogs, but we can also connect them all (remixing) and post the class reflection on a wiki.Thanks to the #cyberpd folks for engaging in this book study in such creative style! We have definitely moved from thinking and writing about the ideas, to creating visual content too! Thanks to Cathy Mere for gathering our posts at Jog the Web and for initiating our own board on Pinterest. 

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#Cyberpd 2013 ~ The Student Researcher

Darren Kuropatwa speaks about the shift of control from teacher to student as we ask our students to take on more of their learning responsibilities. Central to ensuring that this is a successful shift is preparing our students to cope with the volume of information to which they have access. If I am no longer the disseminator of  the content, then I must ensure that my students have the strategies and the critical thinking skills to find, filter, assess, and attribute information.


The Process:
I have made many Glogs over the years. I use Glogster when I need to create layers of information that my audience can choose to access. As you scroll over the Glog, those elements that are linked to on-line text will have a WWW appear. Click, and you are whisked away to relevant, supporting information. Normally, I would have the Joyce Valenza video embedded in the Glog, but it is in Vimeo, and for some unknown (the temperamental nature of the tool) reason, Vimeo was not going to embed for me today. I first made this Glog in a horizontal template, forgetting that I wanted to embed it  here. Although, you can chose code for a blog size Glog, it still appeared squashed. So, I reconstructed the Glog in a vertical template. As an aside: My grandmother used to say “stupid head makes for sore feet”. I need to update this saying to reflect the consequences of not thinking through my on-line work!

The Reflection:
I have spent hours on the ideas emerging from chapter 4 because in spite of being a teacher who has always taught researching skills, the shift of control that I want to happen in my class room means that I am not the sole purveyor of content. I want to teach with student inquiry. I want students to decide what part of “Why is global dignity important?” (for example) is meaningful to them. I want them to engage in the research process- find, filter, choose, create, attribute, share-because the work is meaningful to them. I want students to be excited about learning. 

Questions I am thinking about:

  1. How do I gain the attention of students who already think they know how to research?
  2. How much time will each step in the process need?
  3. Where will students think about their work as researchers? Journals? Blogs? Wiki? Is there choice here for students?
  4. What tools will students use to gather their research? Paper? Google docs? Wiki? Word?
  5. Will they work collaboratively? And if so, how will that happen? Google docs? Wiki? 

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#Cyberpd 2013: Chapter 3

#Cyberpd is an annual on-line book study hosted by Cathy Mere, Jill Fisch, andLaura Komos. Today begins the sharing of our thinking on chapters 3 and 4 of Alan November’s Who Owns the Learning?, although in this post, I will tackle chapter 3 only.

“The Student as Scribe” is all about how our students can work collaboratively everyday using the various tools that are available to schools now. But I so appreciate Kuropatwa’s point that this work is not strictly about the technology, but about pedagogy. He explains how deliberate and intentional he is in introducing the collaborative tool students will use for scribing.  “That time can involve going over the goals for the scribe posts, outlining how to set up the blogging or other program, reviewing the basic option settings” (pg. 46).  And, he is equally intentional about ensuring that his students do receive feedback from a global audience. This is the work that is before us. The way we plan has to change, the way we assess has to change, and the way we teach has to change. Thus, we have the “shift of control”.

Since one of my goals for this summer is to become better acquainted with visual tools, I decided to push myself here to create a video, and then to annotate the video using Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker. These tools support the work our students need to do to read deeply, make connections, synthesize main ideas, and consider audience and purpose.

The Process:I used Sparkol Videoscribe (the 7 day desktop trial version) to create the initial video. I then uploaded that video to Popcorn Maker. There I added the pop ups, the thought bubbles, the images, and the Wikipedia page on Alan November.

I created the videoscribe quite quickly this time, although I did run into a problem at the video rendering stage where the process got hung up at the zero mark. After many attempts at finishing the video, I did consult ‘them’ and I discovered that in fact this is a problem for many people. Finally, by re-saving as a new file, I was able to render the video and upload it to YouTube.

Popcorn Maker is quite straightforward to use. There are a number of tools, or Events, with which you can annotate a video. The only glitch here was that in the tutorial on Popcorn Maker one of the Event choices was Twitter, but Twitter did not appear in my list. I did consult the Google + community Making Learning Connected (#clmooc), and according to one member, “Twitter recently changed something with third party apps and sites. I’ve been hit and miss with some sites & Twitter working.” Very odd.

The Reflection: 

Chapter 2 (Students as Tutorial Designers) and Chapter 3 (Students as Scribes) are merging for me as I consider these tools. In both tutorials design and in scribing (if students create a video as the note), other students in the class can annotate the video to include their own understanding of the key concepts or examples. Another idea is to have the scribe take the back channel conversation generated while viewing a content area film or a film adaptation of a novel and annotate the film using the main ideas that emerged from the tweets.

The salient point is that students must be generating their own content. Videoscribe and Popcorn Maker are superb tools to help teachers and students do exactly that.

This week’s host is Jill over at My Primary Passion. Head over there to link up with all the terrific conversation around Alan November’s Who Owns the Learning?

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Professional Reading: Summer of 2013

Here is my potential list of reads for this summer. It is long, but I am an optimist. And these titles cover a range of topics. Diversity is the key here.


I will be focusing on thinking in all of my teaching next year and I have heard great things about Making Thinking Visible.

Next up, Notice & Note. I absolutely love annotation strategies that help students dive more deeply into texts. But there are always some students I don’t seem to reach, and they continue to struggle to create meaning with the text. Notice & Note promises to support that during reading stage for grades 4 to 12 students, and of course, Kylene Beers’ reputation in her previous work on reading precedes her.

Harvey and Daniel’s Comprehension and Collaboration is a must read for anyone thinking about student inquiry.
I am intrigued by the maker space movement that is emerging across the globe. I belong to a family of makers (long before it was chic). We build, bake, grow, construct, assemble, sew, and create , and I have in the past brought my predilection for making into my classroom. I am looking forward to adding to my repertoire with Invent to Learn.

This book has been on my TBR list since in came out last spring.  I have been inspired by November’s videos and his latest book will, I am sure, support my thinking about learning in the modern world.

I teach adolescents, many who struggle with the learning process. How can I resist giving Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain a go?
Love Dan Pink’s interdisciplinary approach to life. I know he is a business writer by trade, but his ideas do crossover to education and our personal lives. As my children are growing up and moving away, I have looked for ways to keep us involved in each other’s lives. Having a family book club is one thing that we do. To Sell is Human might be next on our list. I know educators are reading it, and I am hopeful that it will also appeal to the mechanic, the solider, the dancer, and the musician in the family.



These two books by Peter H. Johnston are on my list every summer as re-reads. Changing the way we speak to our kids and each other, and re-configuring our approach to learning takes time and it takes support. Each summer I take some time to reflect on Johnston’s words and on how I am faring.

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Digital Literacies

Literacy is a big conversation. As a literacy coach, you’d think I’d be comfortable in it, but that isn’t necessarily the case. For starters, you won’t hear much about the complexity of literacy in the work I do with teachers. The truth is that it is tough to get people to move beyond the fundamentals of reading and writing. I say ‘people’  (meaning adults) because it isn’t just teachers who need to take their heads out of the sand. From senior administrators to parents, some learning about what literacy was and is morphing into must happen. How does the traditional view of literacy fit into the modern classroom? What does it look like? How is it assessed?

As we move to modernize our systems and try to figure out how to use the tools of the transformative learning environment, educators will struggle with all of the explanations and taxonomies presented. This post represents my current thinking on how I can support teachers in their understanding of the transformation from the traditional literacy perspective (reading and writing) to digital literacies as Doug Belshaw envisions them.

How to begin? With backward design, of course. We start where we want to be and plan backwards to where we are.

Let’s start with some definitions of literacy. Then we can have a look at Doug’s thinking about digital literacies.  A subset of digital literacy is web literacy, so we can look at that next because it may provide us with a way to get to digital literacies. And then, I think Silvia Tolisano’s work combining the SAMR model with Alan November’s thinking provides another entry point to digital literacies along side the web literacy standard.

Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society. — UNESCO

The ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities at home, at work and in the community – to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.” (*Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society: Further Results from the International Adult Literacy Survey*, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Human Resources Development Canada and the Minister responsible for Statistics Canada, 1997).

The ability to use language and images in rich and varied forms to read, write, listen, speak, view, represent, and think critically about ideas. It enables us to share information, to interact with others, and to make meaning. Literacy is a complex process that involves building on prior knowledge, culture, and
experiences in order to develop new knowledge and deeper understanding. It connects individuals and communities, and is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a democratic society.
–Literacy for Learning: The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy  for Grades 4 to 6 in Ontario (2004)

The last definition moves into more complex territory. Now we have to think critically, share, interact, and connect not just so we may communicate clearly, but because literacy “is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a democratic society.”  But this definition reflects 2004, a time pre-iPhones, and iPads, pre-Facebook and Youtube. Can these definitions support the way we can now interact in the world? In what ways does our idea of literacy have to shift?

Let’s have a look at what Doug Belshaw thinks about digital literacy. From his dissertation, What is digital literacy? Doug  outlines eight (8) essential elements of digital literacy:


And from his ETMOOC presentation, here are Doug’s explanations of each of the elements:

  1. Cultural – “The nature of literacy in a culture is repeatedly redefined as the result of technological changes.” Hannon (2000)
  2. Cognitive – “Functional internet literacy is not the ability to use a set of technical tools; rather, it is the ability to use a set of cognitive tools.” Johnson (2008)
  3. Constructive – “[Digital literacy is] the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools…in order to enable constructive social action.” DigEuLitproject (2006)
  4. Communicative – “Digital literacy must therefore involve a systematic awareness of how digital media are constructed and of the unique ‘rhetorics’ of interactive communication.” Buckingham (2007)
  5. Confident – “Modern society is increasingly looking to [people] who can confidently solve problems and manage their own learning throughout their lives, the very qualities which ICT supremely is able to promote.” OECD (2001)
  6. Creative – “The creative adoption of new technology requires teachers who are willing to take risks…a prescriptive curriculum, routine practices…and a tight target-setting regime, is unlikely to be helpful.” Conlon & Simpson (2003)
  7. Critical – “Once we see that online texts are not exactly written or spoken, we begin to understand that cyber literacy requires a special form of critical thinking. Communication in the online world is not quite like anything else.” Gurak (2001)
  8. Civic – “The ability to understand and make use of ICT-digitalliteracy-is proving essential to employment success, civic participation, accessing entertainment, and education.” Mehlman (2007)
Great. 8 ways to think about digital literacy. How to do this? One way may be to use the grid below from the Mozilla Web Literacies project. Maybe before we can dig into digital literacies, we need to move past being only consumers of the web to makers of the web. If I am exploring, creating, connecting, and protecting on the web, then I have a much better understanding of Doug’s idea of how “Confident” is an element of digital literacy.

Mozilla Web Literacies - Intermediate grid
Silvia Tolisana has created a  way for teachers to think about how to integrate technology in order to create the transformative learning environment that will support the work represented by the  above web literacies grid. Here too, if I can move my practice from Substitution to Redefinition, from printing out digital content to participating in collaborative wikis, then I am more likely to realize how “Constructive” is an element of digital literacies.


We need to be able to move from theory to practice. What are your thoughts and / or ideas about supporting teachers and students as they begin to learn how to be digitally literate?

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