Tag Archives: digital literacy

Dora in the 21st Century

A few weeks ago, I (Pooja) was watching an episode of Dora the Explorer with my niece and nephew. Dora and her friends were on an adventure and as per usual got lost. I expected Dora to whip out her handy animated friend, Map (see below).


For as long as I could remember, Map had been an integral character of the Dora the Explorer Show. Map helped the viewers understand the cardinal directions, locate familiar landmarks, and use a compass. So, I was surprised when I saw Dora reach into her pocket and pull out her phone and open Map App!!! After my initial surprise, I started to understand why the Map character had been replaced with an app. Viewers, like my 5-year-old niece and nephew had never held a map or seen a map, so of course they couldn’t relate to it. Now, an app? They know all about those!


The initial character Map was introduced to teach life skills. Do you  think the Map App will be able to teach the same skills or more?

The Digital Divide Persists


As educators we often believe we are living in an era post the digital divide. Everyone has access to the internet, right? If we see our students with Smartphones that must mean they are connected, right? Wrong. A distressing article from the New York Times reminds us the digital divide still persists. Although this article is written about the U.S. context,  I have to believe many claims are true for Canada as well. Cecelia Kang from the New York Times writes,

“With many educators pushing for students to use resources on the Internet with class work, the federal government is now grappling with a stark disparity in access to technology, between students who have high-speed Internet at home and an estimated five million families who are without it and who are struggling to keep up.” 

While trying to prepare students for the 21st century world, we as educators post homework and assignments online, ask students to post blog entries or participate in educational chat groups, and become active on social media in generative and meaningful ways. However, while we upgrade and innovate our pedagogies, we may inadvertently be leaving several pupils behind. How do we prepare our students for working and living in the 21st century, which is so digitally driven, while ensuring our most vulnerable students are not being left behind?

Read the full New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/technology/fcc-internet-access-school.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region%C2%AEion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1&referer=http:/m.facebook.com

A Beautiful Example of Digital Technology Used to Re-Imagine Literacy

I (Pooja) read a blog post I wanted to share with you all. Lee Bessette, a college instructor, shared an experience of how technology was used as a tool to “re-reading, re-teaching, realizing.” Bissette, while teahcing the works of Thomas King (Indigenous writer), had students use their laptops, smartphones, and tablets to make real-time connections with the text. She explained:

…all of my students have laptops or tablets or smartphones, so instead of me telling them who the actors are and why it matters, I have them use google. And find pictures. And look at the shows and history. And who W.P. Kinsella is and why he is being referenced. And then they can collaboratively annotate the text.

We didn’t come up with any hard answers, but just explored theories, including one reference to the first lines of Paradise Lost that a student found by googling “garden, heaven, seat, Eden.” And many of my students are still struggling with this level of discourse around literature. But, as I told them today in an email (I know, SO OLD SCHOOL OF ME), that these readings that we did today around the setting of the garden were completely new to me, too, even after reading and teaching this story countless times. And that it has taken 20 years of practice to have a DUH moment like that one I had before class about said garden.

But the moment wouldn’t have come if it hadn’t been for the integration of technology in active and productive ways in my classroom practice. I could have the students find and collect the information needed to begin to make meaning in the text and focus on taking that process of meaning-making to the next level. They still don’t believe me when I tell them to “google it” and require them to annotate together, but I think after today we are all finally heading in the right direction.

Bessette demonstrates how all the smart technology brought into class on a daily basis could be used in a truly meaningful way. She used technology to enhance student learning by digging into a text in multimodal ways. By having student collaboratively annotate the text, she had them learn from one another and in turn gain deeper insights. A great model for using digital technology to re-imagine literacy!

Read the whole blog post here:


Creating Interactive Content

I recently learned about a useful digital technology app I am sure I will be using this upcoming school year. Riddle is an app which let’s you easily and quickly create:

  • opinion polls
  • lists
  • quizzes
  • personality tests
  • commenticles (commenting on articles)

Riddle allows you to customize your content by adding images,YouTube videos, animated gifs, articles from the web, personal photos, etc. Once your interactive social content (opinion poll, list, quiz, test, commenticle) is created, there are several ways to share it. You can embed the content into your own blog or website. Or you could e-mail the link out to your class. You can also share your created content through Facebook or Twitter.

I spent 30 minutes playing around on this site and came up with so many great ideas on how to use it in my classroom. Using the opinion polls, I will create an ice-breaker activity and e-mail it out to my class and show the results on the first day of class. Also, if I want my class to discuss an article, I will use the commenticle feature. Below is a commenticle I made on Riddle:

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To learn more about RIddle and make your own interactive content this school year, check out the link:


Digital Technology Tools for the Classroom

Popular educational website Mindshift compiled a list of useful technology tools for the classroom. I have heard/used a few of the tools identified, however most are new to me. The article describes how these tools can be useful for social studies classrooms, but I think most tools can be used across a variety of subjects.

Below are a few I am most interested in exploring:

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Read entire article here: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/05/21/favorite-tech-tools-for-social-studies-classes/

A focus on digital literacy practices at AERA 2015


I  just returned from another American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference. While in Chicago, I attended several sessions focused around literacy education, teacher education, and critical pedagogy and noticed digital literacy practices were discussed in all sessions. Interestingly, in the studies discussed digital technology was used not only as a tool to teach but a tool to re-imagine the definition and uses of literacy practices. Interesting sessions I attended included:

*Digital Storytelling as Method and Narrative Assemblage (Korina Jocson, University of Massachusetts)

 *Digital Storytelling as Racial Justice: Digital Hopes for Deconstructing Whiteness in Teacher Education (Cheryl Matias, University of Colorado & Tanetha Grosland, Morgan State University)

*Digital Authoring: Negotiations of Identity, Agency, and Power Among Girls Resettles as Refugees from Thailand (Delila Omerbasic, University of Utah)

 *Digital Storytelling in Preservice Teacher Education: Diverse Understandings of Writing, Pedagogy, and Meaning Making (Sandra Schamroth Abrams, Saint John’s University)

Benjamin Herold from the Education Week blog noticed a similar trend at this year’s conference. On his blog he said, “Digital reading and early literacy were among the hot topics at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, held here last week.” He describes the findings of four studies which study digital reading and early literacy. He noticed a common thread which ran through many of these papers: “It’s important to look at how digital devices, apps, and e-books are actually being used in classrooms, and the most promising literacy practices with these new tools involve lots of human-to-human interaction.”

Read Herold’s blogpost here:



Critically Reading Selfies


The term ” Selfie” was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2013. People all around the world have been turning their phone camera around to capture themselves in a moment. Many people believe that our selfies reveal a lot about us. It is for this reason Professor Marino from University of Southern California has created an assignment for his students to critically read their selfies. His assignment is titled Know Thy Selfie 🙂 Marino believes that selfies help us analyze our identities because “each selfie bears information that can be used  to read our identity  characteristics: our race-ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and socio-economic status.”

The Assignment:

Write a thesis-driven essay in answering the prompt:

How do your selfies produce or obscure a sense of your identity?

1. Take or choose 5 selfies of yourself. You may be alone or with another person, but try to make sure you are a central and large part of the photo. All of the selfies should be different.

2. Examine your selfies for your performance of
Socio-economic staus

3. Consider these identity characteristics independently and as they intersect.

Some questions for reflection as you prepare your response.

What in your selfies is accurate?
What is obscured or ambiguous?
Does the image portray one identity trait more than others?
Where do the images place you in the spectrum of possibilities for each characteristic trait — for example, more or less feminine or masculine?
How might different audiences perceive the images differently?
How is the viewer addressed in the image?
How do your selfies play off other well-known images? How do they play off each other?
What is the apparent context of this image? How does that affect how it might be read?

Read more about ‘Know Thy Selfie’ assignment here:

View at Medium.com

Powtooning about Powtoon

I (Cathy) made a Powtoon about making a Powtoon.  Just follow the link below:


If you are not familiar with Powtoon, it is an animated on-line presentation software tool that creates explainers, videos and presentations.  If you can create a power point, you can create a  Powtoon.  Only a Powtoon is much more interesting and fun!  It is an effective  tool for flipped classrooms and they make great multimodal assignments for students.  You can find many how-to videos on youtube.  My favourite was  on script writing (for powtoons):


The Powtoon web site also hosts a set of tutorials to help you get started:


The Powtoon I created was through a free account.  In that account I have access to  five minutes of Powtooning, 10 tunes and 11 animation styles.  Cant wait to make another.

Hope you give it a try!


Using Instagram in the Classroom

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. That is probably one of the reasons why Instagram has become my social media app of choice. I love the simplicity of it. There are no words, simply photos. You get to see what your friends, acquaintances, and public figures (you choose to follow) are up to. My use of facebook has slowly dwindled while my use of Instagram has quickly ramped up. This seems to be the general trend across the world. As educators in this digital age, we think about how to integrate social media effectively into the classroom. Facebook, wikis, blogs and twitter have made their way into many classrooms; however, Instagram is rarely used. I found this very cool infographic for educators and the use of Instagram in the classroom.

All of the below suggestions can be used in K-12 classrooms. Some can be used in higher ed. Contexts.

***Note: Before using Instagram in the classroom:

  • I think educators should have separate Instagram accounts if they are also using it for personal purposes.
  • Also, as a class you should establish a hashtag. So, if your students want to hashtag a relevant picture it gets included in the class hashtag.