Digital Texts & Tools Pioneers

In what ways do you now authentically and effectively use digital texts and tools in your classroom?

Three years ago my school was BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Though a majority students brought a device to school, it was very difficult to use digital texts and tools authentically. Some parents did not allow their students to bring a device, not all students’ devices operated on the same platform, and students often forgot their device at home or brought it to school without a charge. I was only able to integrate the device for supplemental lessons or group projects, counting on at least one member of the group to come prepared.

Fast forward to 2015 and my class is almost completely paperless. I use digital texts and tools every class, all class. After being awarded a state grant to fund a one-2-one initiative, every student has their own Lenovo Chromebook. Each class begins with a Do Now posted on my Smart Board. My students login to their Google Classroom and complete the Do Now “assignment.” I begin the year with a unit on how to research online. I instruct students on how to Google Search using YouTube videos and hands-on practice. Students are assessed with a Google Form quiz and receive immediate feedback with Flubaroo  The research unit culminates in a blog posted to KidBlog. It must include a Works Cited, created on These are some of the digital texts and tools used in the first few weeks of school.  My classes also play Kahoots, make note cards on Quizlet, and watch the CNN Student News broadcast every Friday. We watch Crash Course History and Discovery videos, read online articles, make charts on Google Spreadsheets, and revise writing with add-ons like Pro-Writing; the list is endless.  
There is of course a steep learning curve as my students and I try out these new technologies.  I reinforce the idea that we are pioneers of these new platforms and sometimes our wagon wheels will break or we will run into a mountain we can’t scale. Then we will be forced to turn back and try a new path. Other times we will make it straight to California and hit the jackpot in the Gold Rush. I actually think this is a tremendous benefit to my students. They are not only learning how to use digital texts and tools, but they are alos learning what to do when faced with difficulties or failure. It makes the learning more real. The only problem I have with technology in the classroom is I don’t know all of the amazing options available to me that might benefit my students.  


Words & Voices

Words & Voices are powerful. I have divided my ideas on these two topics onto two platforms.  I spoke my “words” response in a vlog to express the cultural norm that this is just a jumble of thoughts running through my head and not an expert’s opinion.  

I created a podcast of my “voice” response to demonstrate the value of tone, accent and intonation.  After you hear my podcast you will have validation that it does matter if the voice is human or machine.  It matters a lot.


I have included the link to my transcripts because I had difficulty following the podcast and I am the author.  Point taken! And because I really want everyone to have the link to the NPR piece on Upspeak & Vocal Fry.



In the desert with Lawrence of Arabia

Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia

I am sitting on the couch with my family watching Lawrence of Arabia and reflecting on my Digital Learning Hub. The movie reflects my current state of mind exactly. We chose to watch the movie after my husband and I read Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath. Gladwell claims that T.E. Lawrence was an underdog, a successful military commander in spite of his background as a scholar. Lawrence suffers from conflicted loyalties throughout the film. His unconventional ideas are ultimately what make him successful. He attacks Aqaba from land, not sea.

A Digital Learning Hub is outside of my background. I studied sociology, women’s history, and native history in school. I have never taken a computer class in my life. I even use an outdated iphone, a 4s. I need to put aside my conflicted loyalties that scream students should still learn how to write research papers and begin to incorporate unconventional ideas into my classroom, students should be learning how to tweet and blog.  I know that creating this Digital Learning Hub will allow me to create a filing cabinet type space for my new understanding of literacies in the classroom.  

Weebly - Website Creation Made EasyThe initial decision was the platform. I settled upon Weebly. Finding a simple, clean template was easy. I have yet to settle on a background. I want a visual that represents my site and myself, but I have yet to decide exactly what my site is about.Therein, lay the next hardship. How can I write about making a DLH if I don’t know what to put in my hub? I want to offer multimodal tutorials, lesson plans and professional development opportunities on my site. And I know it should reflect my education as a part of the Information Technology & Digital Media Literacy 6th Year. When I entered the program at UNH I believed it would help me incorporate technology into my classroom. I have begun to realize that the program is really teaching us to be “new literacy” coaches. These new literacies need to be taught to staff as well as students. Leu et al. in What is New About the New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension, states that old models of instruction assume the teacher was more literate than the students. Now “intellectual capital that will be increasing distributed around a classroom,” add to the teacher’s value as a social context mediator. Therefore, I should stop worrying about being an expert and start creating a social learning space.
I hope my Digital Learning Hub will reflect this newfound understanding of IT&DML. What can I offer?  Why would staff or students want to add me to their personal learning network?  How can I interact and still remain in control of my site? How much content should I create before I publish and promote my digital learning hub?  How can I attack Aqaba from land not sea? I will take my lead from T.E. Lawrence and be unconventional.

Learning from Grumpy Cat

I started my quest to find a digital learning hub using the suggested links.  I liked the simple design of the APS Digital Instruction Specialist site. Then I began a Google search using combinations of the following search terms; teacher, 7th grade, social studies.  Initial search results revealed school web pages detailing day to day intricacies.  I did garner some good ideas from these sites but I hope to create a hub focused on tutorials and unit plans not class supplies and field trip permission slips.

In an attempt to avoid school controlled sites I added platform names one at a time; Weebly, Wix, Google Sites, etc.  This search produced better results.  One of my favorites was Mr. Johnson’s 7th grade SS class at NGMS because he added pictures of his travels to Africa and Indonesia.  I was drawn into his site or as Ian O’Byrne would say, it was sticky!  Knowing that my last great vacation was to Delaware (not as exciting as Mr. Johnson’s climb up Mount Kilimanjaro) I will have to find another plan to draw readers in.

After a time intensive search I finally smartened up and added the term “digital learning hub” to my Google query.  The results were mostly news worthy articles on the value of DLHs but I did find a single exemplar that may well be my favorite; the Woodhill Digital Learning Commons: The Hub is a clean site with page links at the top for Research & Databases, Student & Teacher Projects, and Readers & Writers.  It meets the credentials for shiny and it contains the content I am looking for. 

I also came across another site that really interested me about a student run digital learning hub called pizziclass.  In my last blog for #ED7720 Filing Cabinet Makeover, I fantasized about having my students create multimodal tutorial in order to reach the highest level of the C3 framework and bring to life the ideas we are learning as a part of the UNH IT&DML program. Pizziclass is doing just this.  Though the site is not well detailed, it does contain contact information and I hope to add this educator to my personal learning network.
As I finalize my platform selection and begin building my digital learning hub this week I want to reflect on how to make my site shiny & sticky. My students are most attracted to bloggers and vloggers that are funny or strange.  Grumpy Cat, Glozelle and Miranda SIngs are some of their favorites.  How can I add this type of draw to my product and still remain a professional?

Plato, Socrates & Curly Hair

This week ‘s ED7718 response is a vlog.  This delivery system allows me to highlight Plato & Socrates’ criticisms of the written word.  Initially, I was worried that I did not talk enough about reading and writing in my vlog but upon further reflection I realized Gee had such an impact on me that my definition of literacy has completely changed.  Reading situations and responding to societal norms is the focus of my school and my vlog.

Note to self: learn how to stop saying “um” so much!  I need to sign up for Toast Masters!

Filing Cabinet Makeover

Open house is next week. My team has decided that we are weary of “speeching” our parents and a new delivery method is in order. A prolonged soap box oration does not demonstrate the type of learning our students experience and we are certain no one is even listening after the first 15 minutes. giphyThis year we will present a 5 slide Google Presentation, each containing a multimodal tutorial on how to help your students navigate middle school.  We will end the evening with a Kahoot reviewing the content of the Presentation. (I do hereby promise to share the Presentation when it is complete.)

The Presentation we have created does not fit in my filing cabinet.  I cannot place it on a shelf in my classroom.  I need to create a Digital Learning Hub to warehouse my new mutlimodal lessons.  In days past my team may have squirreled away our Presentation, hiding it from the other teams in order to protect its value. But the new economy of knowledge as outlined by Lankshear & Knobel in their 2007 article “Researching New Literacies: Web 2.0 Practices and Insider Perspectives”, asserts our value as educators lies in our ability to disperse our know-how. Therefore, we need to offer the presentation up to the other teams and allow them to remix our work into their own by-product.  The more colleagues, students, parents and community members we reach the more valuable we are to our school.  Our teaching tools have ceased to be red pens and have morphed into the interposition of educator and community.

I am excited about building my Digital Learning Hub as it will greatly enhance my value as an educator.  Initially, I plan to focus on multimodal tutorials that run counter to the “digital native,” instead walking students through assumed knowledge, such as how to conduct a Google query. These lessons maintain value across grade level and across the building. I am also considering a  comprehensive unit reflecting the new C3 (College, Career & Civic Life) based Social Studies framework approved by the state last spring.  A compelling question would integrate inquiry standards, discipline strands and C3 dimensions; culminating in students communicating their conclusions and taking informed action.  Ideally, students could create their own digital learning hub as nothing could be more authentic than producing knowledge for peers.  Am I biting more off than I can chew?