Module 4 Reflection – for EDTC6433

ISTE 4 deals with digital ethics and etiquette.  In a world where students have unprecedented access to both information and interaction, teachers must promote and model respect for the intellectual property and emotions of the masses.  My question for ISTE#4 is: How will I address/acknowledge digital dangers and promote and model digital citizenship in a one-on-on school setting?

In this module’s required reading, Ribble and Miller point to lack of empathy and audience size as two problematic features of internet communication.  The diminished emotional component of web interaction only adds fuel to the dumpster fire that is every adolescent’s deficient empathy (I love them! I cannot tell you why!).  The perceived distance between online life and real life make cyber bullying and plagiarism feel like small secret short comings.  It would be easy for a kid to feel like no one gets hurt by this stuff.

That’s why we have to teach them that cyber bullying does hurt people, can lead to bigger problems; that turning in an essay or a graphic made by someone else is like depositing their money in your bank account.  It’s stealing.

I’m addressing this in my classes.  I teach in a unique school with a one-to-one teacher-to-student ratio.  One of my students has watched me shudder at a nasty comment or two directed at groups I’m part of or people I love. The uniqueness of my teaching situation allows me the opportunity to talk through how comments spat out in private land on real readers.

A few of my students came to our school because they struggled with the social pressures of a larger school setting.  Even in the context of a personal teacher-student interaction, it’s helpful to have reliable, well-researched resources to lean on.  I’m a fan of the Ophelia Project, not only because of the free resources they provide, but also because the organization’s history has encouraged one of my students. They’ve provided lesson plans and a particularly helpful one sheet that have helped me think through what kids need to learn about cyber bullying.  The Ophelia Project resources agree with the major points from our required reading (as well as the ALA’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner, posted by a friend) in a handy format.



AASL.  (2007). Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.  ALA Guidelines and Standards. Retrieved from:

Miller, T. M. & Ribble, M. (year). Educational leadership in an online world: connecting students to technology, responsibly, safely and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17: 1. 137-145. Retrieved from: file:///E:/ARC/!Winter%202016/EDTC%206433/M4/Educational%20Leadership%20in%20an%20Online%20World%20-%20Copy.pdf

CYBERCOOL: 15 positively powerful lessons to teach digital citizenship and stop cyberbullying.  2010.  The Ophelia Project.  Retrieved from

Cyber Bullying OneSheet.  (2011).  [OneSheet displays basic info on characteristics and contributors of cyberbullying.]  The Ophelia Project.  Retrieved from


Feedback-infused instruction – a relfection on Content Methods

  1. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

Standard 4 calls teachers to use knowledge of their content, pedagogy, and their students to improve learning.  This standard (and sub-standards 4.1 – 4.4) reveals the complex web of interrelated considerations teachers much keep in mind – pedagogical approaches, instructional outcomes, lesson and unit structure, assessment methods.  I have learned that feedback is an important tool for improving student learning, precisely because it can meaningfully coordinate this complex web of teacher activities listed in Standard 4.

Feedback is often considered a component of assessment (it’s the stuff teachers write on student essays, they stuff students try and fail to read before they lose it).  Hattie and Timperley, in their systematic investigation of feedback’s power to impact student learning, have argued that “Feedback is among the most critical influences on student learning” (105).  They’ve also outlined several specific best-practices that will make feedback more effective; the author’s findings indicate that feedback plays a critical role in planning and instruction as well as assessment.

Based on Hattie and Timperley’s findings, I planned a 3-week poetry unit around a feedback strategy.  I wrote 1-paragraph timed write prompt, created a rubric for grading the timed-write, and planned instruction based on that rubric.  I had students write an analysis paragraph on Monday of our last week, based on the same prompt as the summative assessment.  I planned to give detailed, task-oriented feedback on this first round of paragraphs before the final timed-write at the end of the unit.

And then I came down with a monstrous cold.

The chief aim for my poetry unit was to test the degree to which my feedback would impact student performance on a summative writing task.  I didn’t get to test that.  The process of writing feedback did, however, highlight another important conclusion of Hattie and Timperley’s investigation.  I found that it’s much easier to write feedback that is sufficiently detailed and highly relevant to the assessment task when I have already been equally detailed and explicit in my instruction.  As Hattie and Timperley point out, “[Feedback] is but part of the teaching process and is that which happens second—after a student has responded to initial instruction.”  If my feedback is meant to evaluate their response to initial instruction, my feedback will be most useful (and easiest to write) if I use the same language as I’ve used during instruction.

As a classmate has pointed out, feedback allows teachers to embed instruction into the assessment process.  To that end, I’m eager to keep Hattie and Timperley’s findings in mind as I seek to plan units with a specific feedback strategy in mind.

A major aim of the educative process is to assist in identifying these gaps (“How am I going?” relative to “Where am I going?”) and to provide remediation in the form of alternative or other steps (“Where to next?”). (105)

Module 3 Reflection – for EDTC6433

Question for ISTE #3 – How can I model and facilitate digital literacy for my 6th grade ELA students?

“Digital Literacy” – What’s that?

There are several definitions and alternative labels for digital literacy floating around in the education technology conversation.  I am thankful to Karon Dragon and Wasnieswski Ewa of the University of Alberta, who have provided the following summary:

Ranieri,  Calvani  and  Fini  (2010)  would  define  digital  competence  as  “the  capability  to  explore and  face  new  technological  situations  in  a  flexible  way,  to  analyze,  select  and  critically  evaluate  data  and information,  to  exploit  technological  potentials  in  order  to  represent  and  solve  problems  and  build  shared and  collaborative  knowledge”  (pg.542).  Martin (2009)  defines  e-literacy  as  “awareness,  skills, understanding  and  reflective  evaluative  approaches  to  operate  in  an  information  rich  and  IT  supported environment” (p. 97).

Flexibility, source analysis and evaluation, information synthesis, problem solving.  Awareness, reflection, evaluation.  Fortunately, much of this is already reflected in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Digital literacy is the term we’re using to adjust our notion of literacy according to how much more literature there is to be understood and sorted out.

With this definition in mind, he first step toward modeling and facilitating digital literacy should be to acknowledge the skills kids already have. As UCLA professor, Patricia Greenfield, has written,

The informal learning environments of television, video games, and the Internet are producing learners with a new profile of cognitive skills. This profile features widespread and sophisticated development of visual-spatial skills, such as iconic representation and spatial visualization.

In other words, the amount of time kids spend on their devices gives this generation a set of digital literacy skills unlike any we’ve ever seen.  Educators can leverage those skills by creating lessons, visuals, assessments and build on and reward those competencies.  To use just one example, iconic representation is useful for routines and other classroom communication.  If we leverage the fact that kids only need a symbol where we previously needed an explanation, we can reserve class time for the other skills involved in untangling a world wide web of ideas.

Untangling is a useful metaphor for what schools have always endeavored to help students do.  We set out the Odyssey, or Hamlet – or, if you teach 6th grade ELA – The Giver.  And we help kids pull out certain pieces to take a better look (analysis) and then arrange them in a meaningful order that will communicate some conclusion (synthesis).  The new literacy is the old literacy; there’s just a whole lot more text.  So we have to start setting out more texts at a time.  Which means that some of the time we used to spend close-reading novels will be spent close-reading the internet.

One difficulty will be keeping their attention.  This challenge of keeping kids on task is significantly altered when the ratio is 1-to-1, but it isn’t necessarily new or unique – or any more difficult!  Fortunately, it is easier than ever to track and respond to student tasks (programs like LanSchool let you monitor student screens).  Feedback is also faster and easier than ever before; using OneNote Class Notebook I can read work submissions in real time, and respond with feedback without shuffling through a pile of papers or a row of desks.

While technology has made broadened the realm of and demand for literacy, it has also provided some tools that promise to help us teach literacy more efficiently than we could before.


Dragon, K. and Ewa, W. (2012). “Relationships between Digital Literacy and Print literacy: Predictors of Successful On-line Search.” Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012. (PP. 1755-1758). University of Alberta, Canada.  Retrieved from

Greenfield, P. M. (2009).  Technology and Informal Education: What Is Taught, What Is Learned.  Science  Vol. 323, pp. 69-71. Retrieved from


Module 2 Reflection – for EDTC6433

I teach a Creative Writing elective. I chose to read Ellen Madden’s article on digital storytelling in search of a tech-savvy (ok, brag-worthy) instructional gimmick that might impress a room full of kids who would rather take their digital tech class again. But what I found was much more practical – and much more exciting – than a gimmick. Madden follows two teachers as they plan and implement a digital storytelling unit on The Outsiders. In this extremely practical overview of how we can use digital storytelling to target English Language Arts CCSS proficiency, Madden describes teacher approach, instructional methods, and the task of teaching the tech alongside the standards and the novel.

Let me explain why this is such a big deal. To start, here’s an example of something I’m trying to squeeze out of apathetic and underserved (but completely delightful) 6th graders in Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5 – Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

I want my students to be able to analyze one moment in an unfolding plot, and then tell me how it relates to the bigger picture. To comprehend a novel’s themes, students must drill down into key passages to analyze and make connections. So I might ask my students to analyze one chapter of the novel we’re reading right now, and tell me what that chapter contributes to the novel’s themes. How does the author use Chapter 9 to make some statement about friendship, or culture, or identity?

When I ask questions like this, I’m placing my students across the table from a text or author, in a posture of interrogation. This is great fun for a grown up with an English degree; I know what questions to ask. But many 6th graders aren’t great interrogators – they don’t always have specific questions about plot elements or character change. They aren’t interested in Socratic discovery. They are interested in making stuff.

In 2010, Grunwald Associates LLC reported that, “Teachers value digital media as instructional resources that empower them to engage student interest, promote creativity, and differentiate instruction.” It follows that, when I invite my students to create a digital representation of a text, I’m inviting them to sit next to – not across from – the author. Using a digital storytelling platform (my district uses Microsoft Sway) students look at the text and the author’s strategies as a co-creator.  This kind of creative imitation requires just as much analysis as interrogation, but it’s a great deal more accessible to kids. In other words, it’s fun.

Madden describes how the process of digital storytelling can be broken down into meaningful pieces which more explicitly reveal different elements of the story. The process begins with personal preference and individual goals – students choose the scene they find most compelling, and set out to convey that scene’s unique tone.  Students also manage their own learning throughout the process as they work to meet mini-deadlines, continually evaluating their progress.  Teachers can leverage these deadlines to blend instruction with assessment by explicitly tying all this creative activity to the technical concepts of characterization, setting, and juxtaposition.  Most importantly, students learn literary concepts by rolling up their sleeves and interacting with the text in a personal way.  As students create alongside the author, they confront a sincere need to communicate their ideas well. They are compelled to look more closely at what the author is doing – how the bullets flying in the background highlight the life-giving quality of friendship (or whatever). Re-creating the tone of a scene requires students to choose and consistently fold in repeated contributions to that tone – the way an author does.  They learn what tone is by “doing” tone – this is the very definition of authentic learning!


Maddin, Ellen (2013) Teaching Literary Analysis with Digital Storytelling: An Instructional Approach [PDF]. Retrieved from

Grunwald Associates, LLC (2010). Deepening Connections: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology. Retrieved from

Internship Reflection #1

4.2 All the instructional outcomes are clear, written in the form of student learning.  When teachers make learning outcomes clear, they promote higher student engagement and ownership of learning.  Clear learning targets allow students to focus on key lesson content as they engage in planned learning activities.  In the course of my internship, I have seen that the strength and clarity of learning outcomes (written and discussed as learning targets) is what allows my students to successfully engage with content and progress toward unit objectives.  In other words, learning targets provide the context that engages learners and makes activities meaningful (Ainsworth, 2010).

BlessingWay1During our recent novel study, I asked my students to draw a visual of a particular scene from the book, and to support this drawing with three quotations from the text.  On this particular day, I did not carve out time for my students to examine our learning target.  I believed that the parameters of the assignment would guide students toward learning outcomes.  This image shows one example of a student’s finished work.  The student drew a picture of the Navajo “Blessingway” Ritual and copied three quotes from the text, fulfilling the stated requirements of the assignment.  The quotations this student chose are from the chapter I assigned, but not all of them provide relevant insight into the visual. While the student did provide page numbers, they did not punctuate the quotations as one would when citing textual evidence to support textual analysis.

Through this experience, I saw how difficult it is for students to perceive the relevance of activities and to focus their efforts on specific skills without first engaging with a learning target.  In this example, the skills in question were visualizing text and supporting ideas with textual evidence.  While most students followed directions, they chose evidence that was only superficially related to what the image depicts, and neglected the punctuation I’ll be looking for on their essay at the end of this unit.  A learning target would have made clear that this assignment was more than a drawing and three quotes from the chapter, but an opportunity to practice writing an essay.  This has a significant impact on student learning; my students won’t likely read into the parameters of an assignment for bigger unit understandings unless I explicitly facilitate that process.  The more I can help my students understand unit objectives, the more they’ll be able to own their progress toward those goals. I can improve in this area by establishing clear instructional objectives, and then presenting activities as intentional practice of toward mastering those objectives.

Module 1 Reflection – for EDTC6433

My triggering event question for this standard: How can I use technology to promote authenticity among my grade 6-8 Creative Writing students?

The question I claimed to be researching was specific enough, but as I read articles looking for an answer, I spiraled out of control.  There’s a lot of jargon out there.  How can I be sure that implementing these technologies in the classroom will benefit students?  Education tech definitely sounds cool; kids will probably like this stuff, but will they learn more?  Or, to more specifically return to my question, will technology help my creative writing students begin to write more significant, more important pieces?  Will technology motivate better writing?

Three sources have shaped my thoughts on this question:

SAMR Duckworth Illustration

Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

First: Angela Duckworth’s illustration of what’s called the “SAMR Model” clarifies that there are different levels of technology integration.  My quest for the right educational technology needs to be informed by this spectrum of integration.  Is the app or program in question a mere substitute for pen and paper?  Substitutes about, and these may not deliver the increased engagement and achievement they promise.  Duckworth’s model helped me pinpoint the level of integration I’m aiming for.  If I’m going to ask my students to work with something other than Microsoft Word, I want reasonable assurance that the technology will not merely enhance, but transform their writing experience.

So began a second movement in Module 1: the quest for statistical evidence of transformation!  As I mentioned, there’s a lot of jargon out there.  But I can’t assume that every article using the word “catalyze” promotes a learning technology that will transform a learning experience. Fortunately, a groupmate posted Marzano’s article on the use and effectiveness of interactive whiteboards.  While interactive whiteboards most likely won’t be the key to more authentic writing for my middle schoolers, the article highlights some valuable principles of technology integration that helped me sort out my thoughts on our Module 1 articles.  Marzano reports that “…using interactive whiteboards was associated with a 16 percentile point gain in student achievement.” He unpacks the specific attributes of interactive whiteboards which boost learning, one of which is learner response devices (such as clickers).  These devices might be used as a substitute for the raising of hands or other formative assessment measures (thumbs up or down, fist-to-five), but thoughtful teacher application can make clickers a more transformative tool.

The resource most relevant to my question was shared by another classmate.  Writing Re-launched focused on using technology to transform writing instruction.  This article affirmed and powerfully justified some of the claims made in my earlier reading about the ways in which tech can increase motivation and engagement. The article (as well as several of my classmates) recommends requiring students to create and publish writing to a blog in order to raise the stakes on content and conventions.  This is a hard pill for me to swallow. My own bPortfolio makes me shut down; it brings out the very ugliest aspect of the writing process.  The pain.  (See timestamp on this post.)  So I hesitate to ask this of my students.

But as Greenhow et al have pointed out, I need to think about how kids express themselves these days. They aren’t finding their voice between the covers of their journal; they’re engaging in high-stakes identity formation on the world wide web.  Equally importantly, their jobs (or their graduate school programs, I’ll bet) will likely ask them to engage in dialogue over internet platforms as well.  Web writing is the most authentic (significant, relevant, real world) writing available.

So I’ll consider the blog thing.  Thanks for reading.

Reference: Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age. Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should We Take Now? Educational Researcher. 38(4). 246-259.

Heitin, Liana. Writing re-launched: Teaching with digital tools. (2011, April 4). In Education week: Teacher PD sourcebook. Retrieved from

The Role of Shared Thinking in Learning Environment – for EDU 6130

I see rules posted in most classrooms.  In many cases, teachers created these rules based on student contributions.  According to our Internship Performance Criteria (as well as the “State Eight”), evidence of student contributions to classroom norms is part of a “distinguished” learning environment:

5.4 Component 2d: Managing Student Behavior by Establishing Expectations

Distinguished – Standards of conduct are clear to all students and appear to have been developed with student participation.

Inviting students to suggest and modify classroom norms is an excellent way to encourage authentic consideration and ownership of their participation in a learning community.  But student-generated norms will not automatically boost student buy-in, nor do they necessarily reduce behavior problems. The practice has little power in itself, but a humble and empathetic teacher can put it to powerful use.

Hex. Good AudienceMy friend Mr. Hexagon has a unique version of classroom norms posted just above his whiteboard.  It’s titled “Good Audience” and lists five qualities that fit that description. Mr. Hexagon and his students created the list collaboratively, in perfect alignment with criteria 5.4.  But the real power of this classroom management tool, and one reason Mr. Hexagon is a distinguished teacher, is in the way he references the list when problems arise.  This 6th grade social studies teacher doesn’t have to repeat the words, “please be quiet” throughout class, or stand in front with an index finger pinned to pursed lips.  When a member of Hex’s class talks out of turn, he faces them and engages a calm, dignified conversation.

When one student interrupted a peer’s comment with a lively and mildly spiteful, “Whatever!” Mr. Hexagon turned to face him and asked, earnestly,

“Are you being a good audience member right now?”

“No.”  The student replied with thoughtful regret, but not shame.

“What will you do to be a better audience member now?” Hex points to the “Good Audience” poster.

“Not blurt out.”

“Thank you!  Perfect – you can do that!”

And then he’s back with the rest of the class.  This tiny conversation is well worth the time it takes because, for Mr. Hexagon, it isn’t a side bar. If students really are in school to think, and if they really are in social studies to think about the ways in which people affect each other and the world, then a 25-second dialogue about respectful audience behavior is well within bounds.

My friend’s use of community-made norms is an admirable instance of the second basic principle of Love and Logic – “share the thinking” (Fay and Funk, 1995, p. 26).  Mr. Hexagon shows his students dignity and respect when he invites them to think: think about what norms you want to operate by, and think about whether your actions honor the norms you’ve created.

Like Jim Fay and David Funk, Mr. Hexagon is committed to having this personally affirming and dignified method of discipline.  The learning environment he has built reveals his belief that kids will do what’s expected of them when they’re “treated with dignity and allowed to think” (Fay and Funk, 1995, p. 183).


Fay, J. & Funk, D. (1995). Teaching with love & logic: taking control of the classroom.  Golden, CO: Love and Logic Press.