“Teaching and Learning: Online Reading Comprehension”

Since the definition of what it means to be a literate individual has evolved to include digital literacy, it is important that every teacher considers the implications of this within the context of his or her classroom.  As educators, we must help our students to gain the skills necessary to “efficiently and effectively [find] and [evaluate] information as well as quickly [adapt] goals in response to the complexities of the environment” (Lawless and Schrader).

What does this redefinition of literacy mean for the classroom?

1. Need for Direct Instruction

It is not enough to expose students to multimedia sources; they must be taught how to read online.  Kuiper & Volman (2008) maintain that although schools have been using the Internet as an instructional tool, it “was not designed for children nor was it designed to be used in educational settings.”  As such, even though much of it has become intuitive, there is still much to be taught.  Instruction should include discussions about the use of hyperlinks, images, layout, font, style, reliability of sources, targeted audience, motivations, etc. By engaging in these discussions, examinations and practices within the context of each discipline, students then become more equipped to  critically consume information and not become victims to “misinformation” (Kuiper & Volman, 2008).

2. Exposure to Traditional and Multimedia texts


In, Reading Digitally Like a Historian: Using Multimedia Text to Facilitate Disciplinary Learning,” author Michael Manderino (2012), suggests that we must redefine “text” to include multimedia sources.  He, in no way advocates for the replacement of traditional texts; instead, he suggests that we need to expand the “meaning of text’ and acknowledge that “when students create intertextual connections across multiple texts…they are engaging in complex disciplinary practice that is personalized instead of distant and voiceless” Therefore, a careful collection of various types of sources to study a specific text, issue or topic would provide a myriad of voices as well as rich contextual information.

3. Providing a Context

With the vast amount of information available on the Web, it is important to teach students how to search for, and find, information.  Once found, they must have a context within which to use that information (Kuiper & Volman, 2008). In this case, context truly become key because it allows students to sift through what they find and only keep what is relevant to their inquiry purpose.

4. Reading between Visual lines

Since a key feature of the Web is its visual component, students need to practice and develop skills that will allow them to interpret, analyze and construct meaning from visual components.  For example, in a lesson where they are using a blog as a multimedia source, it’s important that they learn how to be attentive to the written text, as well as its visual accompaniments.

5. Navigation Techniques

One of the key literacy skills that teachers must help students develop is navigating the Web. Interestly, research has categorized digital learners as: “knowledge seekers, feature explorers, and apathetic hypertext users” (Lawless and Kulikowich 1996). I think that if students are aware of their habits as navigators, they would be more inclined to consciously search for information and think about how their habits might be impacting their learning.

A Look at my Personal Learning Network via MindMaps

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I am really interested in the idea of educators creating and developing their own Personal Learning Networks (PLN) because through such networks, each individual is able to tailor his or her learning to fit personal needs and interests.  In Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips, Dr. Mark Wagner (2012) suggests that a personal learning network is beneficial because it is “a global network of like-minded professionals.”  Further, he notes that such individuals who create these networks will “broaden their experience and challenge their thinking on an ongoing basis” (2012).  With the increase of technology in our daily lives, it makes sense that educators utilize technology tools to support professional needs.  Wagner (2012) advocates that mediums such as blogs, Twitter  and Google+ can become powerful tools because they allow for limitless connections with other experts in our field.

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Will Richardson, author of Weblogg-ed,  agrees with Wagner on the subject of PLNs and feels that schools and teachers need to create their own PLNs so that they may teach students how to navigate their own.  He claims, and I agree, that today’s students are already participating in their own networks, but no one is really teaching them how to participate in those networks fully and effectively. Therefore, teachers need to be able to practice, and foster in their students, “safe,” “ethical,” and effective” literacy development (2007).

As I consider how I will develop my own Personal Learning Network, I took the opportunity to examine what I currently utilize.  What I found is that I gather and use information mainly from Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and my colleagues. The digital tool that I chose to represent my PLN is MindMaps.  Since this is my first experience working with MindMaps, I had to spend time learning about its affordances and limitations.  After using this tool just once, what I found was that it is actually quite intuitive and easily navigable. I did run into a few roadblocks with formatting, but was able to get through them by viewing the tutorial that is included.  Since I can foresee myself using MindMaps with my students as a brainstorming, organization and even presentation tool, I certainly plan to continue working with it so that I can master it myself before sharing it with my students.

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NLP: Update 2: Tools, Types, Tutorials and Technique

As the title of my post suggests, I have spent the last couple of days extending my knowledge of decorating cakes by focusing on techniques that would help me to be successful when I eventually decorate my first cake. Floral Effect decorating The technique that I will try is one that repeats a circular motion to achieve a floral

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Below is a video that shows this technique.

What I have learned about online learning is that it is important to always keep looking, searching and digging to get to deeper levels of one’s inquiry.  During my first few searches about technique, I came across information that was decent and would have worked, but I took the time to keep looking for more information, oftentimes, refining my searches and clicking on links to suggested sites.  I then came across a tutorial posted on YouTube that offers really great information about technique–from how to properly hold the piping bag to where the decorating tip should be facing.

Although I plan to create the floral design and not the ruffle, I did find that the information in the tutorial was very helpful. Therefore, another aspect of online learning is that it is important to be able (and willing) to synthesize information from various sources to ultimately support one’s personal learning.

At this point, I believe that I have done enough research to begin my actual decorating experience. Therefore, I will work on a creating a plan, which will include a date, materials needed and procedures to follow.

Cooking with TPACK

In my Cooking with TPACK video, I was charged with the task of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with three tools:  a small bowl, dinner plate and a fork.  Typically, the tools required to make the task successful and straightforward are a plate and a butter knife.  However, since I did not have a knife, I had to repurpose the fork to scoop and spread both the peanut butter and jelly, as well as to trim off the crust and cut the sandwich into two pieces.  As I was working with the fork, I found that I used the back of it to scoop, but turned it to use the front for trimming and slicing.  While I was successful with the task, I did run into some difficulty with the presentation aspect of my sandwich.  In short, it was yummy, but not pretty.


“Extending My Search to Include Online Collaborative Inquiry”

 Image source: http://mnli12.wikispaces.com/online+collaborative+inquiry

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Since educators continue to seek ways to help students develop and master literacy skills, it is important to acknowledge that those skills need to be extended to include online collaborative inquiry.  According to Castek, Zawilinski, McVerry, O’Byrne, and Leu (2011), students must gain “new literacies” in order to develop their online comprehension skills. The skills include:

  1. Constructing useful questions
  2. Locating information
  3. Critically evaluating that information
  4. Synthesizing information
  5. Communicating to a variety of audiences (Castek, et al, 2011).

One way to help develop these skills is with the implementation of blogs in the classroom.  As Judy Artz articulates in “Online Collaborative Inquiry: Classroom Blog Inventions and Multiple Literacies,” when a teacher introduces a new technology tool into a learning experience, “it is not the technology that accounts for success.  It is how the technology is implemented and integrated that accounts for student achievement (2012).  Therefore, it is important that the teacher is careful to provide necessary instruction and scaffolding before the blogging experience. Some examples might include:

1. Discussions about common language associated with blogging:  Related links: http://www.wpbeginner.com/glossary/ and http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6063/Glossary-39-Blogging-Terms-to-Know.aspx

2. Practicing on paper:  This strategy would allow for necessary conversations about what a blog should look like–it’s essentially a continuation of a the conversation about how form supports content.

3. Investigating/viewing sample blogs:  By seeing what’s out there, a class can make decisions about their  identity and how it should be reflected in their blog.

4. Conversations and decisions about respect and etiquette:  These would reinforce ideas about a supportive community, professional tone and presentation to a wide range of audiences.

Image Source: http://sprouseautumnedm310.blogspot.com/

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I am really excited about beginning a blog with my students.  Since it will be my first experience with managing a classroom blog, I may start with my juniors because, as future college students, they would benefit from building their digital identities.  I have begun my research of various sites, including Kidblog and Edublogs.

As I consider this new endeavor, and about implementing technology in general, I have to go back to what truly motivates human beings to do their best work.  At the heart of these motivators, according to author, Dan Pink, are the concepts of engagement, self-direction and the innate desire to achieve mastery. Therefore, it is essential to create a classroom environment that: allows my students to connect with their peers and other experts in multiple ways; includes learning experiences that are grounded in choice; and offers students opportunities to continually work on something until they feel as if they have mastered it.

NLP: Update 1 (Tools, Types, Tutorials)

For my network learning project, I decided that I would learn how to decorate a cake. In my first post, I said that I would begin by conducting research on the tools necessary for cake decorating. Since then, I have read quite a bit about the essentials that one must have in order to be successful.


I must admit that at first, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information that was available. It seemed like everybody had an opinion on which tools are best and how a novice should go about her first endeavor. After combing through quite a bit and even cross-referencing between different sources, I settled on one source that I think is pretty comprehensive.

cake decorating tools

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I then turned my attention to the different  types of decorating materials and again, learned that there is quite a variety, so my research went in the direction of learning a bit about each and figure out which I would like to try.  One of my great finds was, “The Science of Cake Baking:  Buttercream vs. Fondant”, which defines each type, it’s advantages and disadvantages.  It even added information about icing.  As I read through the information, I found that I was equally intrigued by, and learned a lot from, the comments posted to the blog.  buttercream vs fondant

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So, based on the information that I have gathered so far, I have decided to use buttercream as my icing choice for my first decorating experience. Although I really love the look of fondant, it sounds like it can be pretty unforgiving, so I have opted to wait a bit before experimenting with it.

Where do I go next?

I have decided to turned my attention now to watching tutorials made by expert decorators.  I have already found a few great videos and I intend to collect a bit more.

My goal is to decide which expert I would like to follow when I decorate my own cake.

“Time & Choice= Intrinsic Motivation & Passion”


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As an educator who is always looking for ways to help students develop the necessary skills to become self-directed learners, I fully agree with organizational studies researcher, John Seely Brown, that true learning becomes inevitable once the student develops a passion for learning.

Often times, at the high school level, teachers try to find ways to motivate and engage students. The problem with many of those attempts at motivation however, is that they are external, like grades and warnings about what colleges want to see, and they do not truly allow the student to become interested in learning. Consequently, they do not last and often, if not always, the student’s interest and engagement fizzles out again.

So how does a teacher help students to develop an intrinsic motivation for learning?  As J. Gregory McVerry, Lisa Zawilinski and W. Ian O’Byrne (2009) discuss in “Navigating the Cs of Change,” when students have the tools to truly direct their own lear ning, they will thrive. At the core of this inquiry-based learning through internet reciprocal teaching are 5Cs: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Critical thinking, and Comprehension.

I was most interested in the phases of the project outlined in the article and I believe that it can translate to successful projects and learning in other contexts. Initially, teachers equip students with the basic skills that they will need to be successful. This may include the teacher demonstrating appropriate ways to search for information.


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After this equipment phase, students begin to collaborate to locate information. This is where they learn how to be contributors and community members because everyone in the classroom is responsible for sharing strategies that are useful. They also work together to examine potential topics and learn about information gathering and evaluation of information. During the final phase of the project, true and dynamic learning takes place because students have the skills necessary and the support of their learning community. They engage in critical thinking about their process and about the information they find and extend their comprehension as they dive deeper into the topic and make decisions about ways to creatively present their findings to their audience.

In some regard, projects have been summative assessments where students demonstrate knowledge of only the content of the unit. When thinking about project-based inquiries that are build on the 5 Cs, the project becomes an integral part of the learning experience. Therefore, students gain much more than an opportunity to demonstrate what they know about a text or topic–they learn how to collaborate, question, communicate and think in various ways and those are the skills that translate into every other facet of who they are as learners. As I think about redesigning some projects for my own students, I will consider the specific skills that I may need to teach, time frames, ways to assess throughout and offer feedback on process as well as product because with experiences that are built around inquiry, the structure needs to support the fluidity of learning.

The link below provides additional information about Internet Reciprocal Teaching and considerations for creating/implementing lessons:



What is TPACK?

In this entry, you will find: a general definition of TPACK, a brief discussion of the three main categories, a brief YouTube video that reiterates TPACK and some initial thoughts about TPACK within the context of a secondary-level English class.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK  is a framework that deals with the need for, and interdependence of, 3 facets of educator knowledge:

  1. Content knowledge: refers to the educator’s knowledge of accepted, established, and or prevailing  ideas and concepts within the discipline.  It also speaks to established practices and approaches toward developing such knowledge (M.J. Koehler & P. Mishra, 2008).
  2. Pedagogical knowledge: refers to practices and strategies utilized by the educator in order to teach the content knowledge (M.J. Koehler & P. Mishra, 2008).
  3. Technological knowledge: is defined as the educator’s broad knowledge of technology that enables him or her to select appropriate technology to support student learning.  Further, a necessary component of technological knowledge is that the educator is able to reimagine or repurpose tools so that they may function in ways that are different from their primary or identified uses (M.J. Koehler & P. Mishra, 2008).

A key component of  this framework is that the three categories are interrelated, creating subcategories themselves: Technological Pedagogical Knowledge, Technological Content Knowledge and Pedagogical Content Knowledge.


Image: Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

Click to view a 3-minute video that reiterates the definition of TPACK.

TPACK in a high school English classroom:

In an 11th grade American English class, the educator’s content knowledge includes the role that language plays in a society and the ways in which American authors have targeted particular audiences and achieved their intended purposes by using literary and rhetorical strategies.

In order to get students to the desired learning outcomes, the educator designs experiences that utilize various formats to allows students to examine an author’s work and investigate the relationship between audience, purpose and language. Some strategies may include small and large group discussions, reading aloud and annotating, re-reading, as well as questioning strategies.Through the course of these experiences, the teacher utilizes various forms of formative assessments to assess students’ understanding of the content and depending on the results, the teacher makes adjustments on individual and/or group levels.

Throughout the entire experience, the educator integrates technology seamlessly to help students engage in analysis, research, synthesis, collaboration and writing.  They may research the life and times of the author as well as global writers of the time to help juxtapose the different voices.  They may also access and listen to audio versions of texts.  When collaborating on writing tasks or working on developing an idea, the teacher is knowledgeable about which tools would support their process  and depending on the students, context and learning goals, the teacher makes suggestions to aid in their communication and collaboration.