The 21st Century Digital Learner


Developing an authentic audience

Update 9/21/19 Just found these awesome quotes from Kathleen Morris’ blog:

Parent Engagement

Unlike traditional forms of written work, blogs offer an authentic audience. Your most obvious audience for a class blog is parents and families. We can’t waste the opportunity to get this ready-made authentic audience on board.

The impact of an authentic audience is summed up well by Clive Thompson who noted that,

…studies have found that particularly when it comes to analytic or critical thought, the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to think more precisely, make deeper connections, and learn more.

Alan November also has some strong advice for educators:

“Stop saying hand it in, start saying publish it.” This paradigm shift from an audience of one to an audience of the world will inspire more students to achieve up to their potential, while instilling a life-long passion for genuine learning.

Parents and family members have the potential to be engaged, active and regular readers of your class blog. We need to bring this potential to life. Parents must be educated about blogging and encouraged to participate in different ways throughout the school year.

Parent participation cannot be left to chance.

~ I spent this past summer deeply entrenched in professional learning… from attending the AVID Summer Institute in Sacramento on Digital Teaching and Learning, the ALPS endorsed conference on Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity, to a course at San Diego State University entitled “Reading and Writing in the Digital Age”. I have indeed grown professionally. There’s but ONE HUGE problem! I have too many ideas rolling around in my head.

Following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote for SDU which is very much aligned to my philosophy as a Language Arts educator in today’s society. I feel a deep sense of responsibility that comes with the privilege of being an integral part of my student’s daily lives during this academically, physically, and social-emotionally challenging period.. MIDDLE SCHOOL!

And on the bright side:

In contrast to these ‘negative’ effects of digital/multi-media on the traditional sense of literacy, Transforming English Language Arts in a Web 2.0 World From “Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts states that in addition to digital media helping students construct knowledge their identities by engaging with and between others, it is also changing the way students interact with text. It is widely agreed that Web 2.0 technologies, and related literate, semiotic, and social practices, have transformative potential for communication, identity formation, and knowledge construction in our global world. Another thing to consider is brought up by an excerpt of  Marc Prensky’s The 21st-Century Digital Learner: How tech-obsessed iKids would improve our schools who makes the very real and valid point that overwhelmingly students are completely bored in school and feel it pointless and a waste of time. A New York Times article by Motoko Rich, “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” included both pros and cons of digital reading. An interesting statement was included made by Donna E. Alvermann, a professor of language and literacy education at the University of Georgia. “Books aren’t out of the picture, but they’re only one way of experiencing information in the world today.” This article also discussed the positive impact reading digital media has on students with disabilities. Additionally, Justin Ellis’ article on, “Howard Rheingold on how the five web literacies are becoming essential survival skills”  shares Rheingold’s emphasis on metacognition is what sets him apart from others. Rheingold’s book Net Smart has five new important literacies as, “attention, participation, collaboration, crap detections, and network smarts. Lastly, From the “Three Rs to the Four Cs Radically Redesigning K-12 Education” by William Crossman comments about the students of today. Every minute that Jessica and her friends spend getting information and communicating using video games, iPods, cell phones, and other nontext ITs, they’re developing new cognitive skills. Their new listening, speaking, visual, tactile, memory, interactive, multitasking, multimodal skills allow them to access information and communicate faster and more efficiently than ever before.”

As in all things, there are positives and negatives. Digital media and the technological world are not going away. Being ‘plugged in’ and connected are ALREADY a way of life which will only adapt and grow. The question is, what are we as educators going to do about it?

Module 10: Basic Podcasting

Podcasting/Audio Files

I have to share first off that the Online Voice Recorder has had an update since Jennifer recorded her lesson for us! It literally saved my audio files immediately! This fact had an impact as I believe my students would be more likely to enjoy and use this site if it didn’t take too long.

My principal just retweeted some research into teacher feedback. (see below). I’ve always been an advocate and proponent of giving immediate, constructive, and specific feedback as it’s had a direct impact on my students’ learning every year.  I think using this voice recording MP3 tool would be an effective and efficient use of my time while I am grading. Since the online voice recorder update, I can also see how easy it will be for students to attach a short audio recording in our management system dropbox and/or Google Classroom as a way for both formative and summative assessment.

Aside from 6th grade English language arts and social studies, I’ll also have one section of his year I will be teaching one section of English Language Development. The potential power of using this voice recording as a tool seems limitless with language learners! I can demonstrate pronunciation of vocabulary words, and students can listen as many times as needed. I also think students will be more likely to use this tool for assessment purposes since they will be able to practice, record and submit a final audio file for me. They can do all of this privately and I see this as being a huge benefit, and a way to overcome being so shy when it comes to practicing speaking!

First.. and foremost!




Struggles & Growth


My Favorite Module


Module 9: QR Codes

The Best Use of QR Codes in My 6th Grade Class

I love the idea of using QR codes to keep student engagement in a digital classroom. Currently, I use rotation stations each Thursday and Friday. As the students rotate, QR codes could be used either to a set of directions, or links needed.. or both!

Welcome Back to School! A walk around our room:

I created a fun way to get the kids up and moving to introduce the physical room, as well as some basic procedures. In the past, this information was given lecture style. I’ll divide the class up into 4 groups and send them each to a poster around the room. At each location, they will find a poster (see below) with a QR code. One student per team will have permission to use their phones for this activity. (Our school policy is off at 8:00 – on at 3:00 or confiscated and taken to the office)

In order to encourage reading ALL the directions, I’ve included a little fact about me in two of the stations. At the end of the activity, I’ll do a fun quick check about what they learned. There will be a special reward for those students who can answer each little fact about me. Every once in a while, I like to throw Smartie’s AT the students who are being “Smartie Pants’ ” (I have my TA unwrap Smarties so I have a coffee mug full of tiny individual candies, not a whole roll!)

STUDENT CENTER: I’m always flabbergasted when a student in MARCH asks to borrow some scotch tape from me for an activity… WHEN THERE HAS BEEN TAPE ALL YEAR IN THE STUDENT CENTER! ARGH!!!!! So I am really excited about this one. Student directions will pop up once the students scan the QR code that ask them to point to each resource! OMG! Brilliant! This will be a wonderful way to prevent these type of questions from being asked after the first few weeks of school. Well, actually… there will always be that ONE who will keep life interesting and ask anyway! he ehhehehe

CLASS RULES: I will still spend time reviewing our poster of class rules with them; however, using this QR code will be a great way to make sure they have access to our rules at all times. At some point, they will each be asked to scan and then save our class rules. I refer back to this poster constantly, and it will make a fun homework assignment early in August to ask specific questions about our rules.

CLASS NORMS: This QR code links to YouTube where I’ve created a video using MySimpleShow about our class norms which go deeper than a list of rules. I created it a few years ago and have had great feedback, although I can’t stand the audio! A homework assignment early in the year will be to show their parents this video! I always plan to show it at Back to School night, and never have time!

CLASS LIBRARY: I created an introduction to our class library check in/out management system, Booksource Classroom, using Screencastify, and then posting on YouTube. I love this resource so much, I purchased the PRO version. This is a very simple introduction, but I think will be just enough for a snapshot as well as a great resource for me when I get a new student!

QR Codes – A Tour Around Our Class:



Module 8: HyperDocs

Using HyperDocs

This HyperDoc is the beginning of a larger unit on all aspects of the Google Suite for Education. Our students are coming up to middle school from 5th grade, and while some students from one feeder school are familiar with computer use, the majority of our students do not have access to a device.  We are very lucky that each student is checked out a Chromebook with all of their textbooks for the year.

It was agreed upon as a school that one of the responsibilities of the 6th grade team (13 of us) would be to have all students master all apps that we use daily as a 21st Century school. This HyperDoc slideshow will be used at the beginning of the year as a way to introduce students to Google basics.

HyperDocs in general will continue be a mainstay in our blended classrooms. Two days a week we have rotation stations where HyperDocs are used as a method to preteach/introduce topics, practice skills previously taught, and assess skills they’ve mastered. Using HyperDocs with these stations enables us the ‘freedom’ to run a small group for differentiation, or pull individual students for support or directions for challenging next steps.

Google Classroom and Docs HyperDoc:

The HyperDoc pictured and linked below will be used the second week of school when students receive their devices. It’s chuck full of the basic introduction of different apps in the Google Suite for Education.

Slide 1 is an introductory title page

Slide 2 includes clear directions for using the Slides presentation

Slides 1,2, and 3 will be demonstrated and introduced as a whole group. Slide 3 includes a link to Google Chrome which is the web browser used at school. I will have assistance in the room to help students after explanations are made.

Slide 4 includes directions for making their first ‘copy’ of a document, as well as how to label the title appropriately. It includes a link to a private log-in cheat sheet if you will. The students will fill in their new e-mail and passwords that they will need to use until they are memorized.

Slide 5 includes 2 short videos made by Google as a promotional tool. I chose them as they were professionally made, visual, short, and engaging. It also has a link to an outside website with an excellent article explaining Google Classroom and it’s features. I like this resource as it is a perfect blend of textual information, colorful graphics, Frequently Asked Questions, and more tutorial videos. This slide also offers student choice of learning materials, as well as self-pacing, and permission to skip the slide entirely if not needed.

Slide 6 has a close-up picture of what’s being discussed, and a Screencastify tutorial I created to walk them through the process of getting apps organized and opening Google Classroom. In the tutorial, students are asked to pause the video, open a new tab and begin organizing and enrolling in their own Classrooms. Finally it includes all of the codes needed to enroll in their prospective Classrooms.

Slides 7 and 10 are opportunities to begin building the learning community in our class. It includes directions to offer help to their neighbor, then anyone within their seated team of 4 students. As a way to differentiate, when all students are enrolled and/or don’t need any help they can show one another what they’ve accomplished, and download the Google Classroom and Drive apps on their phones if appropriate.

Slide 8 again has 2 short professionally made videos I again chose as they were professionally made, visual, short, and engaging. The last video is a little longer and a complete tour through Google Drive. **Google Drive Basics: 3-Course Bundle was purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s created from one of my favorite teacher teachers, Jennifer Gonzales at Cult of Pedagogy. (not just a plug.. but I really do love her.. hence taking this class!)

**NOTE** A formal request has been submitted to our Parent Faculty Club for additional licenses to use Google Drive Basics with our grade-level. If this proposal is not approved, an alternate video will replace this one.

Slide 9 includes another Screencastify demonstration on how to create and color code their folders, as is a color code system used by our entire school. Finally it has a second step for students to actively engage and begin creating their own files.

Lastly.. Slide 10 includes a Google Forms quiz of basic skills and information I needed to emphasize and assess their individual learning. The directions say, “Immediately after the quiz, you will see how many you got correct.If you got any wrong, come back to this slideshow and review anything that you need to. Next, go back to the quiz and make corrections until you earn 100%. I made sure the settings included an immediate release of scores as well as a link to turn in another form.


HyperDoc Link

Module 7: Digital Assessment


I created the following formative assessment as a means to check understanding for the class novel we were reading. What the students didn’t know is that the plot of the book returns back to the foundational settings and characters from these first few chapters. It is imperative that they have a surface meaning of these chapters so they have the deeper level understanding at the end of the book. This fact makes an excellent way to also teach denouement! (which can be tricky!)

During this time, I have taught the students about the plot diagram and I use the information from these first few chapters as a way to have them discuss each plot element. At this point in the novel, we are talking about characters, settings, and the tools an author uses to make these elements come alive.


 Alternate Uses of thisAssessment

Another way that I’ve used Google Forms is by having students create their own quizzes. My students create their own summative quizzes for a unit on Egypt. This process is very challenging as they must create a multiple choice test with the correct answer, a silly choice, a wrong choice, and a tricky choice. Their favorite part of the process is having their best friend/partner take their tests! It provides for POWERFUL learning!!!

Other Assessment Tools to Try

I just created an account for Go Formative and found an already made quick quiz on ‘Theme’. I made a folder for READING, and filed this quiz within it.  I’m interested in first using this tool with my next class as an Exit Ticket. There are so many create ways that teachers use Exit Tickets; however, this is the first digital option I’ve seen that’s quick to create, share, and analyze the results immediately! I’m excited!

I’m also interested in Gradecam or Plickers. I’d like to find some teacher created tutorials on YouTube for each tool, and then decide which of the two would work best for me.

One of my FAVORITE forms of assessment is Quizizz. My students prefer this to Kahoot because they can work at their own pace. They can still ‘compete’ with one another; however, there isn’t a stress about a timer looming over them. One warning! Sometimes when they move their mouse/curser over the answers as they read them, the program inadvertently selects an answer they didn’t click. I’ve taught my students to keep their curser on the upper half of the page until they are ready to select their answer choice.


Module 6: Flipped Learning

Theme: Flipped

The objective of this lesson will be to introduce students to understanding theme, which is often confused with topic.  I will assign this article during my unit on PLOT at the beginning of the year. The introduction to theme is a perfect lesson to be flipped, as the concept should be fairly familiar from elementary school. The concept of theme is also very engaging as it can be applied to narrative text and movies alike.

First Exposure

  • Tile 1 is a set of directions for the flipped lesson.
  • Tile 2 includes an introductory video.
  • Tile 3 has text on the definition of theme.
  • Tile 4 includes a practice lesson where students find the theme from 3 video shorts. (PIXAR, Disney etc)
  • Tile 5 is a resource with a list of theme TOPICS. After looking over this thorough list, students will then go back to their Tile 4 practice lesson and make revisions if deemed necessary.

Lesson Completion: Accountability

Tile 6 is a video quiz from EdPuzzle and will be due before the start of class. Before class begins, I will go to the progress page on EdPuzzle and view at a glance which students mastered the introduction and will need a challenge, which will need further support, and which students didn’t complete the assignment on time.

Post Flip: Higher-Level Lesson

Surface, deep, and transfer are the goals of every lesson.  (Thank you Michael McDowell!) After this ‘Surface’ flipped lesson, students will engage in a small group discussion about the multiple themes in our literary book, Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen. After discussion and agreement, they will create a mini-poster with their theme, specific examples from the text, and a graphic representation.

Groups will then switch posters with one another and give specific, encouraging, and constructive feedback using specific examples.

For the transfer lesson, students will then define the theme of their personal reading books, giving evidence from the text why they believe it is so.

Theme on TES Teach

Awesome resource: 15 Ideas to Motivate Students Using Blendspace

Module 5: Screencasting

Student Assignment:

Ideally, keeping a podcast short and sweet will produce the best results. Hey, I can’t throw stones at my students who have short attention spans and want to multitask, can you? My sample lesson had some extenuating circumstances and the students enjoyed the assignment so I got away with a long one.. this time!

I recently began attempting to teach via Station Rotations as a way to differentiate for my students.

  • Day 1: disaster.
  • Day 2: Woah, tons of prep.. is this REALLY worth it?
  • Day 3: OMG! It’s working! 100% actively engaged students, and I was able to conference 1:1 with many students to preteach, reteach, or discuss personal goals.

We’ve had a bout with a nasty flu bug, and when I began these picture notes, 1/3 of my class was absent! We’ve been taking Cornell Notes as a way to comprehend non-fiction/expository text; however, this was my second lesson on taking picture notes for students like myself who are visual learners.

This ScreenCastify lesson was a brilliant way for absent students to make up what they had missed, to complete notes they hadn’t finished, and to review notes for an upcoming quiz. They loved it. My second language learners paused and rewound more often, focusing on the vocabulary. My accelerated students drew their own notes as I ‘lectured’. I had a student who left early for Spring Break to visit family in Mexico, and when he comes back and has internet access, he will be able to find the assignment and catch up. Student all the effort. Me? Zero effort. NICE!


I’m excited about using Screencasting as a way to work with my colleagues on lesson planning for next year. We’ve taken on the goal of creating a beginning of the year unit which combines basic language arts skill lessons, classroom procedures, and the basics of all the technology they will be expected to use during their transition year from elementary to middle school. We are excited that all the front-loading of planning such a unit will save us from countless teach/reteach situations not on content; rather, students learning HOW to use the tools available to them. For the skill lessons, we can divide and conquer, each of us doing a screencast to share with the grade level. For the classroom procedures, we will record individually to match the community of our own classes. I’m really excited about this new tool to use, and eventually teach my students!

Picture Notes – Ancient Greece, The Rise of Democracy

Module 4: Curation

Rotation Station 5

In my 6th grade class, we’ve been studying eleven contributions from Ancient Greece on the modern era. Throughout the project, students study the contributions by researching and taking Cornell Notes from each informational text. On the left margin, they create test questions for themselves to study.

One of the greatest challenges of teaching researching skills to students, is how to critically assess the resources they find on the internet. For this assignment, each student will create a 3 resource e-link for the contribution of their choice. Each resource; however, must meet the required criteria for a reliable source. Once the sources are collected, they must then rank them from one to three, and then explain in detail why they selected their #1 choice as the best. Next, students will write 3 test questions from their #1 source.

The next step of the project will require them to use one another’s e-links to learn about a different contribution, and find the answers to the questions that were created.  The culminating project will be for each team to create a board game using all of the questions from their learning about Ancient Greece. We will have the games set up during our Open House in April, so parents and siblings can play the games as well!

Here is an example using e-link as required by this project; however, since my students are not yet of age to use the application, they will be using Thinglink to accomplish the same goals.

Curation Application

There were so many incredible ideas to use curation as both a student and an educator. I would like to teach my colleagues about e-Link and ThingLink as a way to collaborate and collect resources for our Inquiry Based Learning Projects. We are already planning for next year and this would allow us to work together, as well as keep all of our resources in one place!

e-Link: Contributions of Ancient Greece



Module 3: Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping in the Classroom

The obvious use for digital mind mapping in the classroom is for the prewrite of the Writing Process. The use of a graphic organizer to help students pull together their thoughts into a cohesive and logical outline for their writing is a powerful strategy. This would work for both narrative and expository writing.

Student created mind maps could also be used as a visual way to summarize and organize expository text. Each sub-topic could include a link with more detailed information.

Research projects could be organized visually using a mind map, with the research sources linked to the topics.

Mind mapping could also be an excellent way to study information for assessments. Students could then demonstrate their learning, by sharing their map and explaining their graphic as well as their decision making process. This Sketchboard could be used as a presentation tool to help reinforce the idea that simple icons and texts are used to focus the audience’s attention, but the information should be shared and not written down. No one likes a presentation with paragraphs of tiny-tiny text!


The Legacy of Greece Mind Map

In sixth grade we have a unit on Ancient Greece that includes 11 different ways that Greece has contributed to our modern day life. There is a great deal of information, and helping students stay organized and attack the text in smaller ‘chunks’ is one of our constant goals.

The mind map below would be a great way to learn each contribution one at a time, and added to the map as they go. After each addition, a review of all the previous topics of information would reinforce the learning, and not just the memorizing information.

Students would be required to create links from each topic, which demonstrate their understanding. Our culminating project has always been to create a board game to teach others about the many contributions of Ancient Greece. This colorful mind map could then be used as a cover.. or inside theme of the game board!


Click here or on the map to see it live on Sketchboard!

Module 2: Online Collaboration

Slack: How Was It?

I enjoyed learning about the online collaboration tool, SLACK. Of course, Jennifer is a great instructor and the lesson in Module 2 was pretty easy to follow. I appreciate especially how her lessons are not only broken up into small steps/chunks, but also how each video includes a timeline.

I’m working on a MacBook Air, and while using Slack it prompted me to a SLACK app for MAC at the iTunes store. This platform worked well and was somewhat more seamless until I asked a “help” question and could NOT get back to the main workspace. I’m pretty savvy and it took quite a while to find a link at the VERY bottom of the page “back to home”. NOT user friendly.

I was able to link my Google Drive for ease of attachments; however, I inadvertantly gave SLACK permission to notify me of Google Drive activity. So when my daughter shared a file with me to read, I got a desktop notification from Google AND SLACK! Argh.

Other than these few things, I was able to easily create/post/mention etc. as the interface for the most part was pretty straightforward and had a familiar feel to it. I enjoyed the module and can imagine a few ways to apply SLACK in my class.

Slack: Classroom/Educational Application

I recently attended a PD training from Katlin Tucker on her Blended Learning model of Station Rotations. She was an engaging speaker and the ideas she shared were logical and enticing. Having groups rotate through stations essentially ‘frees up’ the instructor to work more closely with student’s specific needs, or differentiate for each learner.

Her management of such stations is where I got stuck. She works both at the elementary and high school level. Try as I may.. I can’t quite get ANYONE (other than crazy people like myself) to relate to just how different middle school student are. They are unique, hormonal beasts, my 11-year-olds. Enter stage left: SLACK.

THIS could be the way for me to manage my myriad of groupings, as well as monitor their work, all while they collaborate with one another. I LOVE the idea that there is accountability for EACH member of the group to contribute! This is nearly impossible to monitor/enforce/grade.

We are just beginning a unit on the Contributions of Ancient Egypt, and the students will be creating a board game as a way to share the information/research they’ve acquired. I’m going to hop OFF this blog, and hop back IN to SLACK and see if I can create some groups for tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Discussion Screenshot


Direct Message Thread