My Musings of Literacies in the Digital Age

leaves andygoldsworthyWhere to begin…

This course has opened my eyes to so many different ways of thinking about literacy and technology in the classroom that synthesizing all of my learning is going to be a tough job never mind applying it all in my classroom practice! I suppose I will start with the idea of BYOD that we have discussed on our weekly forums.  I choose to start here because in my classroom everyone has their own device. I do not “manage” their devices for them (I am a high school teacher and do tell them they may have their devices in class as long as they are used appropriately) unless I comment something to the likes of, “I hope you are using it for learning!” This way of tackling technology and our curriculum has led to many challenges and many epiphanies as well. S an English teacher I use the web to help me teach and I see students follow and tag the URL’s that I use in class but I also see some students on Facebook. Overall, I feel that the students do use their devices to guide their learning and this may have to do with the assignments that I give them that involve their devices and the Web, the group work that they undertake, and the final product that they will showcase to the rest of the group.

Today’s world involves a great deal of communication which occurs in digital format, therefore, it makes sense to educate students in the same format. Costa (2013), a proponent of “Bring your own device policy” (BYOD), purports that one-to-one technology access is needed to transform education from teacher-centered to student-centered focus.  He asserts that students need access to the web in order to develop skills like problem solving, critical thinking and researching as all will lead to student empowerment. I like the idea of supporting students in bringing their own devices into the classroom; most of them do it anyway be it in grade school or as adult learners. I myself Tweet when we are in Elluminate or when I am reading the class discussion board. When I find something good and want to share it I do. This leads me to my second understanding of literacy and technology in the classroom- there is a time and a place for everything. We are ALWAYS digitally connected and “hooked-up” these days but when do we need to stop? What is my job as an educator in trailblazing the road to the new ways of education? Well, I feel that I must teach by modelling as a teacher with a technology background. When I stand in front of a classroom and pull out my device to Tweet, I take my mind off of the task at hand (if even briefly) and it says that that is okay, that this is the way to do it, that it is an appropriate way for others that teach as well as for the students in my classroom to manage themselves. I am a big believer in that people know if you are paying attention to them. If I need to Tweet a message to my face-to-face class I will announce to them that I will be doing so once we are all in our groups working or after class so that they will have it to refer to later. By letting my students know that I will not be stopping the flow of the class in order to use my digital device I am showing them that sometimes the choice to use a device in a face-to-face classroom is inappropriate. I also let them know that the sharing of knowledge IS appropriate but that there is a time that is appropriate to do so.

In my school placement I am very fortunate. We do not run into many of the challenges other schools in Alberta run into like not having consistent internet service- many rural schools face this problem. My school is the only school I have worked in (a technology designated school) that has had the ability to provide enough bandwidth in a school to support multiple devices. I do acknowledge that the BYOD concept does pose many other challenges as well.  Not every student has their own device so this cannot be a relied upon school-wide strategy unless a laptop is available for each student that requires one. Not every students has the same device so can work be shared and transfer seamlessly? Does each phone or device meet the minimum software requirements? What will be done about the increased access to websites on students personal mobile devises and does this cause concern for cyberbullying?

Is it difficult to compose an essay or a story on a cellular phone? My answer was…not on the iPhone I have…but then I realized I have so little experience with other phones that I cannot make a large scale assumption.  Technology is a powerful tool for promoting writing skills and story-telling but there are some kinks to work out and some deeper thinking that eeds to be done about how we can best support this in our schools.  Providing one-to-one access to technology worked great with the Emerge One-to-One laptop project but teachers were still struggling to use technology in the best manner it could be used and many were using laptops only for word processing-not to open the walls of the classroom to the world outside. It is my conclusion that no matter how we get devices into the hands of our students or if they provide it themselves we still need to change our teaching practice at a philosophical level. Teachers need more experience with technology and more in-services or classes like this one so that they can see the possibilities that technology holds for teaching and learning and can use the tools in better ways

Top 10 Reasons to Use Technology in Education

My favorite learning has been around digital storytelling. After reading the articles on digital storytelling I see how interwoven many of these literacies truly are and how technology will help us to guide our students through the complex maze of becoming, “… active, successful participants in this 21st century global society” (NCTE,2013). Digital storytelling has really opened my eyes to new possibilities wit technology for my classroom practice. One amazing feature with digital storytelling is that it allows everyone to tell their story despite their skills as a writer. This would be a wonderful experience for my special learning class both in the creation and the sharing of the final products. This form of storytelling is more comprehensive as it involves geography and media, it is motivating for our students (especially those that struggle with traditional pen and paper writing tasks), and would allow students to show their understandings in new and engaging ways. In the past 10 years the town I have lived in has become very multicultural and it has been a shock to some peoples’ system. Digital storytelling is not only about a beginning a middle and an end, it is also about communicating with our community of learners and connecting to deeper meaning making.  “Storytelling is the sharing of ideas through words and actions to communication and make meaning about our lives and the lives of others” (Behmer,2005, p 3).

It is true that many of the schools I have been in have limited computer access and/or that the firewalls will not allow access to some very important and useful web based resources as well. It can be very frustrating as an educator when we embark on these amazing curricular journeys with plans to interweave technology and then we discover barriers once we have begun do to firewalls, or a lack of resources. According to Ohler (2009), “those who do not have access to the digital resources they need to tell their stories are disadvantaged in real and important ways”.


Amplivox, Bob. (2011). 10 Reasons to Use Technology in Education. Retrieved June18, 2013 from

(2005). Digital storytelling: Examining the process with middle school students. Retrieved from

Costa, J. (2013). Digital learning for all, now.  Education Digest 4 p.4-9.

Ohler, J. ( 2009) Storytelling and new media narrative. Retrieved from

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An Ecological Change


In her blog, Brenda illuminated the purpose of technology when she stated that, “Many teachers have an uncanny ability to turn emerging technologies into thinking tools for students.” Brenda referred Annette Moser-Wellman’s idea of teachers becoming Alchemists-people who join seemingly unconnected ideas to create new ideas and unique ways of doing things. In this course we have learned the importance of using technology to do better teaching and not to teach the same way. Larry Cuban, in his article, referred to the fact that we’re not using technology to its full potential. This led me to ponder the metaphor of technology integration into the classroom needing to be more of an ecological change; like introducing a new species to an ecosystem. I love this metaphor which was the theme of my work with Alberta’s Emerge One-to-One laptop project. Powerful teaching and learning devices are being used in a limited way and therefore classrooms aren’t really changing. It appears that while there is much hardware and software in classrooms, how teachers teach and students learn have remained remarkably the stable over the decades. Adding new technology to the classroom (like a laptop) isn’t additive to the learning and classroom environment, it needs to be more of an ecological change (similar to introducing a new species into an ecosystem). Using digital place-based storytelling to teach geographical thinking is an amazing way of using technology in a powerful way. I am so excited by this idea and plan to use it in my English classes from now on.

Technology challenges our traditional teaching practice and challenges the way we teach concepts to our students.  The Emerge project is one that I have some experience with and one that will highlight this metaphor of “ecological change”. New ways of teaching that were formally implausible are now non-negotiable if we are going to make strides in teaching and keep the classroom, not only alive, but full of life! From my research, the most interesting material that I found when looking more closely at the successes and challenges of the use of laptops in the classroom had to do with the concept of TPACK.  Well, what is TPACK ? TPACK stands for Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge.  What TPACK does is attempts to identify, “… the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge”  The diagram below is a wonderful visual explanation of the TPACK concept and was free to use from

The core of the TPACK framework is the three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK). See Figure above. As must be clear, the TPACK framework builds on Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Shulman, (drawing upon the work of John Dewey) introduced the concept of pedagogical content knowledge.  Shulman introduced it as a hypothesis as president of the American Educational Research science education, physical education, and more recently in the domain of technological pedagogical content knowledge.

As teachers and we have the ability to experiment with technology and learning and we can take risks- it unlike many professions. When it comes to digital storytelling, like any learning experience, it is the teacher that has the ability to use technology as a tool to change the learning experience dramatically not only to teach the same material in the same way. I wonder how common digital story writing and telling is in The Calgary Board of Education? Is this common practice or is is something that needs to be taken to the leadership to set some standards for the classroom? Are students familiar with this with all of their online experience with blogs and Facebook? These are questions that I plan to address at my school and possibly with system leaders as well. An ecological change needs to occur in the classroom so that teaching changes through the effective use of the technology available (whatever that technology happens to be). The idea of place-based storytelling, a form of digital storytelling that combines digital mapping tools with the power of the narrative is very enticing and I immediately wonder what technologies will best enhance this experience and how these technologies would most effectively be used in the classroom. I have looked at the following resources that Brenda provided and plan to use them in my practice from this point forward, therefore, keeping the movement for an ecological change in the classroom going strong. The tips I will pursue include but are not limited to:

Google Lit Trips

-Digital mapping tools like Google Maps, Community Walk, and Wayfaring.

-Community Walk Web site

Herrington & Moran (2012) claim that specific core skills and attitudes must be taught including research skills, open-mindedness, and respect, all of which can be synthesized by having our students create a geographical digital story of their own.  Students can practice these skills and values while writing with a purpose for an authentic audience.  Herrington & Moran cite student contributions to blogs, Voice threads, interactive video conferences like Skype a great way to motivate writers.


Cuban, L. (2012). The technology mistake: Confusing access to information with being educated. Retrieved from

Dyck, B. (2005) Using place-based storytelling to teach geographical thinking. Retrieved from

Herrington, A., Moran, C. (2012). Social deliberation and social action.  Retrieved from

TPACK. Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge. Dr Matthew J. Koehler site.; Retrieved June 12, 2013.

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Hello world!


Welcome to my blog! This is my first post and only my second blog ever…the first one was definitely a learning experience and has been taken down now. 🙂 I look forward to our discussions and seeing everyone’s blogs because I learn so much from seeing what other’s can do.

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What Technologies Will Lead Us Into The Future?

Life is so much easier to keep up with when technology is easily available. Can you imagine feeling like you are one of 1000 students in a village with ONE computer. This is true for many students and teachers around the world.  As this course began, I read the course outline and I Googled some of the keywords and topics that will be relevant to our discussions throughout this course and found a couple of interesting and informative videos. The question that I was looking to find some answers and information about related to the question, “How important is it that we have access to the technological tools that allow us to experience new literacies?” After watching Charles Leadbeater’s: Education innovation in the slums, the idea of how important and life-changing technology in society really is, sprouted up in full form. Looking for radical new forms of education, Charles Leadbeater went to the slums of Rio and Kibera and found them. This is where some of the world’s poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn. Read more about Charles Leadbeater here.

How fortunate is this blogger that I am able to raise my son and continue studying at the same time? It is amazing to me. I live with my mother and don’t even have to live alone in student housing to struggle through my degree! I can keep in touch with family and friends all over the world through Skype and share my life with them. It is so nice to (usually) have my own personal laptop and iPhone and iPad etc. to use at my leisure. As students and teachers here in Canada, we need to be very grateful for our luck of just being born on this side of the equator. The Leadbeater video reminded me of how fortunate I am as a woman, a student, a mother, a teacher, and a learner.

As I sit here and blog I wonder whether or not if what I blog really matters in the blogospere. How does our participation in social contexts relate to our experiences with literacies in the information age? After reading the piece by Douglas A.J. Belshaw, I began to think more deeply about literacy as a personal/social context; our digital lifestyle and practices. On page 47 of his paper, Belshaw wrote, “We feel the need to decipher and communicate oft-repeated experiences and sensations, allowing other minds to share the same (or similar) conceptual space to our own.” Thus, I began thinking about my own experiences with literacy in a personal/social context.

I just bought the IPhone4 and I’m STILL behind in the newest technologies! Hum. This is fiscally, emotionally and even physically draining and I haven’t even done anything yet.  I love the iPhone but other than that I work on a PC. I recently had a learning experience and an epiphany as well! I made a phone call the other day to inquire how, having used and IPhone for over 5 years will help me navigate an Apple computer if I decide to change platforms. I thought it would be quite simple but the recommendation that I was given was to find an Apple store and spend an entire day playing around to see if it would be a good and workable fit for me. Exhausting.   I decided to take him up on his challenge and I discovered that learning how to effectively work on a new system was very awkward and uncomfortable. How must our students feel in the classroom? How do we feel when we are presented with new technologies? I was surprized by my experience and felt a little less secure in my knowledge of what I thought I new. In fact, I realized that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. 🙂  As an educator who has experienced the challenges of learning how to best use new technologies I have come to realize how important it is to maintain a healthy sense of humour. What the heck is next with the iPhone 5- invisibility? This video is a MUST WATCH.

The newest Technology known to mankind

A new experience for me that relates to this weeks reading is gaming. As guides, learners, and teachers we have seen how useful games can be to the learning experience. In their article Rowsell and Walsh quote Gee:

“Gee’s research (2003) on video gaming suggests that the procedures involved offer cognitive advantages with intricate literacy and learning opportunities.”

I have recently downloaded a few games to my iPhone even though I rarely game myself. Gamers make me laugh a little as they get so intense. I’ve thought about dressing up as a gamer for Halloween one year but decided it wouldn’t be very nice as it may involve not answering the door to give out candy!

The learning built into gaming is more complex than I had imagined. What is more important was the high engagement of those that participant in gaming. I am now able, after this weeks exploration and learning about gaming, to see its viability in the classroom. My epiphany!

Thanks for reading,



Belshaw, D. (2011). What is ‘digital literacy’? A pragmatic investigation. Retrieved from

Rowsell, J. (2011). Rethinking literacy education in new times: Multimodality, multiliteracies, & new literacies. Retrieved from

Thomas, D. & Brown, J.S. (2011). A New Culture Of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Seattle, WA: Create Space.

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