Tag Archives: digital literacy

Technology in the Classroom

A short video clip that demonstrates how technology is being used in a local high school. Interestingly the purpose for the use of technology is connected with well being and class participation.

I (Yiola) am currently preparing a “technology day” conference that will emphasize and highlight the use of technology is classrooms for our student teachers. I like the examples shared in the clip. I will be sure to share the experiences of technology day that will take place next term.


Using Video Games for Assessments

There has been a movement towards using gaming for educational purposes. Incorporating gaming into lessons for the purposes of engagement has been the most popular use thus far. However, now a case is being made for using games for assessments. Kamenetz (2014) writes an interesting blog explaining the benefits of this non-traditional type of assessment.

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An excerpt from the article:

Imagine you’re playing a computer game that asks you to design a poster for the school fair. You’re fiddling with fonts, changing background colors and deciding what activity to feature: Will a basketball toss appeal to more people than a pie bake-off?

Then, animal characters — maybe a panda or an ostrich — offer feedback on your design. You can choose whether to hear a compliment or a complaint: “The words are overlapping too much,” or, “I like that you put in the dates.”

You can use their critiques as guides to help you revise your poster. Finally, you get to see how many tickets your poster sold.

This little Web-based game isn’t just a game. It’s a test, too.

The article also touches on Schwartz’s theory of assessment which focuses on choice. Schwartz argues that “the ultimate goal of education is to create independent thinkers who make good decisions. And so we need assessments that test how students think, not what they happen to know at a given moment.” I wonder how this form of assessment may change a student’s relationship with test-taking. I’m curious to follow this trend and find out.

Read entire blog here:


The Interactive Resume

I have never seen something like this before, so I thought I would share it! If any of you are familiar with the Mario Brothers games, this interactive resume will seem very familiar to you. I had so much fun “reading” this resume! 



Travel is an Education

When I (Cathy) was a grade school teacher, there were times when parents took their children out of school for a family trip. Often, a parent would ask if they could borrow a math or language text book to bring along so the child could “keep up”. I begged them not to. “Please,” I would say, “have them keep a journal. Draw what they see. Describe the people they meet. Take pictures and keep a record of them. Videotape a special event. Make a scrap book. Record the weather. Calculate the distance you travel every day. Follow the map. Plan an excursion.” In other words, I would ask the parent to use the trip as a resource.  I would also suggest the child prepare to share some of their experiences with the class when they retuned, so we could all learn from the trip.map


I was alarmed to think they would imprison their child in a hotel room or trailer to keep up with what we were doing in the classroom sometimes hundreds of miles away. There was so much to see and learn from the incredible world around them!child videotaping

Now, the affordances available for a child to investigate, record and share a trip are so much more interesting! A colleague of mine asked a grade one student of hers, who was going to the Olympics, to Skype the class every Tuesday morning from wherever she was and share her experiences. Her class loved it. They felt like they were there with her. After the Skype meeting the class would research the people and places she talked about. That one student’s trip became a class project.

This past summer, I travelled through Greece with my husband. I was delighted to see so many children capturing the sites we visited on an tablets and smartphones. I wondered if they would share any of it with classmates. I would still encourage a parent to not use a text book on a trip. The real world is just too interesting and there are so many creative ways to explore it. It’s all learning.tablets

Replacing Textbooks with Flipboard

flipboardOne of my(Pooja) favourite, and most used, apps on my smartphone is Flipboard. If you don’t have it, download it now! It’s free, it’s fun, and Jeff Utecht (educator, blogger, and author) believes it could revolutionize the textbook. Utecht calls Flipboard’s magazine a “game changer” in the classroom because the students can easily help contribute to content:

I want students to have the ability to add content to their “textbook” as well. Content that we can discuss in the classroom, that can spark conversation…the real reason we come together…to be social. What if we could have all the students in a class adding to the “textbook” have them find things that interest them on a given topic and allow them to “flip” that into our “textbook” as well. Flipboard allows that too…where you can invite others to add to your Flipboard magazine.

 Utecht also explained how when using Flipboard along with social media a real time “class magazine” could be created:

…The class magazine (aka textbook) becomes part of that but so does other things that interest them. Also…..because you can search a twitter hashtag and add that to your Flipboard. A class hashtag now becomes part of the conversation. Where kids can tweet something, hashtag it with something like #engp1ju (English Period 1 Jeff Utecht) and have all that content in their new “textbook” as well.

 I think this a wonderful way to re-imagine the textbook. I will attempt to co-create a Flipboard magazine with my class and report back! Happy “flipping!”

Read more here:



Assessing Multimodal Projects

You may remember, in a former post on Mar. 21, 2014, I (Cathy) shared some of my pre-service students’ multimodal projects.  The dilemma facing me after these wonderful creations were submitted, was how to assess them.  As these were only part of a larger assignment, I already had a rubric in place for whole project, but after seeing the brilliance of the multimodal aspect, I felt these alone warranted more thought and introspection on my part.  Having a background in the arts, I was used to assessing creative process and final product, but this was different.  Although artistic and expressive, this wasn’t “art”.  Hence, I looked up a number of sources on assessing multimodal work and discovered a few different opinions.

Kalantzis, Cope & Harvey (2003) argued that a multimodal assessment needs to measure the creative process and the collaborative skills demonstrated.   Jacobs(2013) suggested it wasn’t about the final product, but “watching and noticing what students are doing and then using that information to guide the students toward new skills and knowledge”.  In the end I sought out the opinion of Gunther Kress, the founder of the Multimodalities Theory.  Kress (2003) explained that representation and communication were an affective/cognitive semiotic process and this must be taken into account in the assessment. He suggested that I, as the teacher [educator] should not ask “How does this project match what I wanted or expected?”, but instead should ask, “How does this project give me insight into the interests and motivations of my learner?”  I found this question quite insightful. In the end, I used Kress’ question to guide my feedback, which will hopefully guide the students toward new insights and knowledge.  The required ‘grade’ was based on a combination of the learners’ expressed interests from within the context of the whole project (which was on diversity), the creative process and the collaborative nature of the work.

Through this process I discovered that assessing in the new age of multimodality demands mindfulness, insight and the ability to make many connections.  To be effective, it also requires that the teacher educator, or teacher, know his/her students well.  This type of assessment takes time, but it is much more meaningful. I have to admit, as much as the students loved doing these multimodal projects, I loved assessing them in this “new” way.  We all got more out of the process.  Below is a link to one more student project expressed as POW TOON digital creation.  How would you assess it?



Multimodal Literacy

My (Cathy) pre-service students were assigned a multimodal aspect to a major assignment this year.  If you are not familiar with the Theory of Multimodality, it is Gunther Kress’ alternative to Linguistic Theory (which only privileges reading and writing as the main modes of communication in a school curriculum).  The Multimodal Theory contests that in our new age of multiple literacies, students need to be communicating, responding and expressing through many different modes of communication (e.g. speaking, music, moving, gesturing, image, and digital technology).

When I first introduced the multimodal assignment to my students, there was some trepidation and even some anger.  It was suggested I did not have the right to be marking them on their artistry or on creativity.  Hence, I had to teach the concepts behind Multimodality Theory so they could better understand what we need to be offering students of the 21st century.  They needed to see that it would allow them the freedom to express in modes of their own choosing; that it was not graded as art but as a production of design; and, that the work could be symbolic or interpretive depending on the meaning they were portraying.  The multimodal projects would also be shared in class so all could learn from them.  This project was not just them regurgitating information for me, it was them designing and producing personally meaningful projects that express what they learned and what they deemed significant.

This week we finished viewing the projects.  They were amazing, and the student response to these projects was encouraging.  My students (concurrent students just finishing a five year educational degree) had never been given this kind of an assignment before.  They loved the element of choice; working together; taking a risk; pushing their boundaries; feeling creative; and, doing something they were interested in.  The modes they selected  to express themselves though were sometimes more traditional (dancing, rapping, singing,  writing and reciting  poetry, creating 3D sculptures, puppetry, multi-sensory art installation pieces); sometimes digital (iMovies, pod-casts, prezis, Pow Toons, popplets, infographics);  and, were often a combination of both.

Collectively, we were all blown away by the results.  We were moved.  We were inspired.  My students all said they would definitely use multimodality now as teachers.  Below are a few images of my students presenting their projects:

role play poemfish bowlRAPguitarpuppet photo (13)

Now, I have to assess these designs… but that, dear reader, is for another blog.

A Model Blog: Nick Burbules


   Nick BurbulesMy (Clive) recent experiences writing blogs and discussing them with my ITE class have made me think more about blogging as a writing and communication form. This in turn has led me to look more closely at the blogs posted at Progressive Blog Digest by my friend Nick Burbules, who I know through the Philosophy of Education Society. http://pbd.blogspot.ca/2014_02_01_archive.html
So far as I know, Nick established this site – and maintains it – on his own. (I’ll try to entice him to give us some back story.) It must take up a great deal of his time: it appears almost every day and is extraordinarily informative. It focuses mainly on US politics, taking a “progressive” approach to issues, while not avoiding all criticism of Democratic icons such as President Obama. The tone reminds me of Rachel Madow of MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show
What is distinctive and so valuable about the site is that while Nick obviously has strong views, he doesn’t use it as a soap-box. His one-liners (often one-worders) are clever, funny and pointed. But they are followed by anywhere from one to half-a-dozen links that give followers immediate access to relevant information, examples and articles. I can imagine people spending a lot of time at this site, loving it, and learning a great deal. Which presumably is just what Nick wants.

Teaching in a Digital Age

Facebook Logo As an instructor of literacy methods courses in preservice teacher education, one of the challenges is remaining current. I feel that I must have current knowledge of research on literacy and literacy development, current knowledge of curriculum resources and government initiatives, and be current with ever-changing social media trends. The last point is one that is often overlooked but equally important. To prepare my student teachers to be effective literacy teachers, I need to know them and this entails knowing the social media they are using. If I do not have some working knowledge of their communication patterns they might view me as a dinosaur which in turn can create a barrier to me understanding where they are coming from. Also, both student teachers and I need to know what pupils are using if we want to connect home and school literacy practices. Not having a teenager makes it difficult to stay current – many adolescents are far more in tune than me. So what to do? I found this website http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/blog which is helpful. I am not sure who sponsors it but there is a treasure trove of info for those of us trying to figure out what adolescents and young adults are using. One page that was very useful lists11 sites that kids go to after Facebook http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/blog/11-sites-and-apps-kids-are-heading-to-after-facebook . I liked the thumbnail sketches of each site and the pros and cons of each site.
Another page identified top digital citizenship bloggers.
These bloggers identify issues that are often invisible to me.
Knowing popular culture I feel is essential to being a literacy professor. Clare