Before I enrolled in #ccourses (if one can enroll in a community of those who share your philosophy) I strived to bring much of what I have learned from lurking around Connected Learning spaces and  our efforts to develop the Web Literacy Map into my new class EDU 106 (yes the 106 is a h/t to #DS106).

The class fulfills a university requirement for tech fluency but for me the class represents an opportunity to stress a teaching philosophy beyond the state and federal mandates of testing and curriculum.

The class revolves around my “Why.”

Make. Hack. Play. Learn.

I want this philosophy permeating the class. I want students exploring, building and connecting. I want them to understand and utilize both the values and design principles of connected learning.

The class meets as a hybrid. We have a face to face session every Monday and then meet online the rest of the week. I was supposed to have access to a mobile computing cart. Instead we make due with the cadre of computers, tablets, and phones studends drag with them. Not ideal, but atleast it is device agnostic.

To incorporate the my “Why?” of Make. Hack. Play. Learn I added a twenty minute feature each week called Maker Mondays. The student walk in. I provide minimal instruction and I watch and interact as they create and redesign meaning on their world.

Maker Monday Challenge One:

The first challenge was relatively tough. I wanted to create a safe zone for failing. I wanted students to realize learning is often rooted in struggle, but failing is fun when we have a common goal. I also wanted to have a high ceiling to judge students “tech fluency.”

The students had to remix danah boyd article, “Why Youth Heart Social Media.” by using memes only. Basically they had to find a blank meme, edit the picture and insert into a class website using an anchor link.

Mission Accomplished. No group could finish the task. This let us have a frank discussion about the rule of failing in learing and more explicitly the role of failure in making.

In terms of judging tech fluency I also got a clear (but bleak) picture. Only two groups could make a meme. One group could add the pic to the class website. No group could link to the website. In fact when asked no one could explain in anyway what the letters, “href” meant.

Maker Monday Challenge Two:

In the next challenge I wanted to stress that making and connected learning do not take technology. The groups had to remix, boyd’s ideas of community without using technology. We saw Venn diagrams and even a few skits. The students really latched onto an idea that a summary in many ways is just a remix of words.

Make Monday Challenge Three:

The next week I began to focus on the Mozilla Web Literacy Map and the tools. I asked them the students to use Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker in order to create a class remix of our theme: Make. Hack. Play. Learn.

Maker Monday Challenge Four:

We have spent the last week or so discussing online collaborative inquiry. I have stressed that I do not believe learning or the brain has changed due to technology, but that the practices favored in a networked society have evolved. This conversation has centered around Jenkins’s idea of competencies for participatory learning.

This week we will continue to explore literacy in a participatory culture by socially annotating a reading from #ccourses:

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Never Open but Always Moving

I am amazed at the brainpower involved in the creating and running of connected courses. When I look at the people page I see the faces of so many colleagues that have taught me and friends I enjoy, but all folks I have never met.

This idea of open has really been bouncing around for me. Especially when the Connected Learning Alliance ran activities in parallel with the #ReclaimOpen movement.

I always asked the question, “Why does it have to be reclaimed? When was it lost?”

That was the wrong question.

Open and connected is a vision that predates the internet. The internet, however, with our stewardship makes that vision more possible each day.

I wonder if I could live totally open on the web. Give up Chrome, gmail, calendar, and Google Now and not feel if I gave up my liberation.  Could I stay off publicly traded social networks?

No. And that’s the point. I probably will be never truly 100% open, but I hope to be moving in that direction.

Rethinking Instructional Design

In fact let’s throw out the term. What I have learned in the connected learning community is we need community builders and not instructional designers. Sure a community can have strong knowledge engineers but we need a shared purpose and will knitted distributed place first.

I Stink at Moocs

I often joke that I love MOOCs. I can now say I have dropped out of every Ivy league school across the country. Part of this is due to my own teaching schedule, but part is by design.

I didn’t need one more place to check. Even if its already on Facebook, or Google+. Twitter worked (when using TAGs), but it was more site to log into. One more forum to watch. An open course approach that is organized by RSS makes more sense.

I think, however, that completion may be the wrong metric. I may never finish, but I alway learn a ton.

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Feedly Has Just Announced the Release of Shared Collections

Click Here to Apply for Early Access

I have long advocated teaching and learning across open and distributed networks. Much of this work has centered around individual blogs aggregated through RSS.

Like everyone I used Google Reader, and I shuttered at its demise. Long before the death of Reader, however,  I had transitioned to feedly.

The only reason I stuck with Google Reader were bundles.  Bundles were public blogrolls that you could share. The only thing I missed with feedly were bundles.

Feedly to the Rescue

Feedly (detailed in their post here) has just released an invite only beta test of the public collections. This invite will first be open to 60-90 users, then be open to Pro users (feed your local developer) , and by 2015 to all users.

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I love the developers at Feedly. They are very responsive to users and I have had the privilege to beta test many of their features with my teaching cap on. After playing with the features for about a week. I am very impressed and see many applications for the classroom.

How to Use Public Collections

The collections are based off of your normal feeds. You just get the option of making some public while keeping others private. The ease of use will make the service an asset to any classroom that relies on blogs.

Set up a Profile

  1. First you set up a profile.
  2. You choose a username (this is permanent and how people will find your collections)
  3. Choose a display name
  4. Then you click on the pencil to add images
  5. Feedly does not host any images. You must choose images from your blog, Flickr, by using the image url.
  6. Add a quick biography.

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Choose your Public Collections

  1. Click on Shared Collections
  2. Then you make a collection shared (public) by clicking on the lock button
  3. You will see all your collections but people who see your profile will only get the shared collections.

Screenshot 10:3:14 3:01 PM


Here is the public view. You can visit mine by clicking here

Screenshot 10:3:14 3:05 PM


If they are not members of feedly visitors will be prompted to join but can continue on to your shared collections without joining feedly.


Screenshot 10:3:14 3:07 PM

Follow the Shared Collections

  1. You are given many option when you visit someone’s shared collections
  2. You can add individual sites
  3. Add the entire collection to your feedly account
  4. Or you can share the feed through the usual social media channels.

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Screenshot 10:3:14 3:09 PM
Share Card from a Shared Collection

My Pedagogical Workflow

I have missed bundles in my teaching and I am ecstatic to replace them with my  shared collections on feedly.

I wanted to detail  my workflow and describe how I plan to use shared collections

Building a Class Public Collection

  1. I first make a collection of the rss feeds for each student in my classes.
  2. These are arranged by separate collections
  3. These collections will be public so my students can follow or add the feeds to their chosen rss aggregator.

Build a Comment Private Collection

  1. I then make a separate collection of each sites comment feed.
  2. Commenting is important so I want to track this among students.
  3. I do not make these collections public

Use Tags for Classroom Management

This is an idea I stole from Laura Gibbs, and it has quickly become steadfast practice.

  1. I make a series of tags (currently Commented, feedback, recommend…and one unused spelling mistake).
  2. I then tag posts as I read them.
  3. The tags help me ensure I provide feedback where needed, and spread my comments around to all students.

I can add tags anytime

Screenshot 10:3:14 3:10 PM

They then appear when I read an individual post.Screenshot 10:3:14 3:12 PMI can then search by Tags in Feedly when I need to track progress in my gradebook.

Screenshot 10:3:14 3:16 PM

Possible Future Pedagogical Uses

Use Tags for Mentor Texts

Recently I have noticed that many of my students need scaffolds in learning the unique affordances of blogging platforms. They may not also grasp common practices n article or literary analysis. I want to use tags to track posts that can serve as mentor texts. I imagine tags such as:

  • Quote-analysis posts that draw on a specific quote
  • Reflection posts that connect a text to a personal narrative
  • Metaphor-Quotes that use an image as a metaphor
  • Synthesis-Posts that bring together many sources
  • Tutorials-Posts that teach.

Overtime I will be able to collect and share these posts with my students. More importantly I will have them tagged in Feedly so I can use the texts to make videos of text structure analysis or simply to share wonderful mentor texts.

Turn SSR into RSS

The idea of students curating content that meets their needs through an RSS feed most excites me about shared collections. The Common Core State Standards, and more importantly common sense, state that we need to increase the amount of non-fiction reading.

The use of feedly, through shared collections, will allow students to design their own reading materials. More importantly it takes the silence out of reading. These are interactive and shareable texts.


I tried to embed a shared collection on my blog using an iframe but that did not work. I don’t know if that is a lack of my knowledge or a yet to be released feature. I am sure embedding will be rolled out.

I also know I have to really spend my time curating collections. I want smaller, more meaningful collections, and not the regurgitated press releases found all over the net. I also know that I need to learn more about categories and RSS in general to make the process more seamless for students (look to #ccourses for more information).

An RSS feed will always be my primary content curation tool. I find the news I want to share. I never liked Twitter or any social media for an rss reader. My news isn’t stackable. I want it anchored and waiting, not floating by in some stream.  I have tried lists and circles with authors I like but then you have to wade through comments and sometime vitriol.

RSS is a great tool, and if teachers want to utilize blogs outside of a closed system they are a  must. If you are a teacher and you are looking for a method to organize 100’s of student blogs, you need shared collections. I have already been a long time supporter of feedly. My one reservation since leaving Google Reader– no sharing of feeds, has now been resolved. It now makes the short list of RSS readers I recommend for classrom use.

I herby issue the following webmaker challenge:  Can you make a gif, infographic, comic, stick figure animation,  or any silly cat meme about how to do a burpee?

I am helping my family start a fundraising campaign for my 8 month year old nephew who has a rare neurological disease leukodystrophy.

They have created an idea around . An exercise challenge. Obviously we want the idea to go global. 


We really need quick spreadable content—margarine like stuff to clog the arteries of the Interwebs.

 Can you make a gif,  stick figure animation on how to do a burpee?,Or as added challenge an infographic, comic strip, or silly cate or any silly cat meme about hating burpees but doing them for those you love?

How to complete the challenge:

  1. Create cool content.
  2. Share cool content.

Just include the hashtag #BurpeesForBobby and I  ( and hopefully an ever growing audience) will find your work.

Terry Elliot asked me to explain how I try and bring the principles and core values of connected learning into my classroom. This dialogue came about after I posted an ignite talk defining,  or rather poaching, the meaning of connected learning. I use transmedia teaching.

What is transmedia?

Transmedia storytelling involves an unfolding narrative across many digital new platforms. This is different than cross-platform (like a comic book, novel, and movie edition). Transmedia requires the unique content that authors and makers newtowrk together into one larger narrative.

What is transmedia teaching?

My emerging definition of transmedia teaching evolves from the principles and values of connected learning and the work of Gee’s embodied literacies. Gee argues that when we discuss digital technologies for learning we need to always begin with the purpose and and not the tool.

Once we have a pedagogical goal we then “network the tools” (Gee, 4:53). It is in this networking of unique content across multiple tools that defines transmedia teaching.

Every classroom has a space for learning, and this space consists of content (Gee, 2004). I give my students mutliple portals to interact with this content across many different media platforms. Sure we have our main portal (a class website hosted on Google Sites and class network as a Google+ community) but I encourage my students to network to otehr content and tools through this main portal.

As of now I have been more modeling transmedia teaching but hope to see greater diversity in the portals students are using to enter our learning space.

My Transmedia Teaching

I am going to once again refer back to Gee and use portals to define the networks and technologies we use as part of our transmedia teaching. Portals act as generators in that they lead to new content for our learning space (Gee, 2004). These are often digital texts and tools.

The Printed Word

The first technology we use is probably the most efficient tool I know for deep learning. The printed word. We use both a book and research articles (though these are both in electronic form). Our common texts include:

boyd, d. (2007). Social network sites: Public, private, or what? The Knowledge Tree, 13. Available:

Downes, S. (2005). An introduction to connective knowledge. Stephen’s Web. Available:

Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. Macmillan.

McVerry, J. G. (2012). TPACK and the new literacies of online reading comprehension. In S. Kadjer & C. Young (Eds.), Research in ELA and technology: An edited collection. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

O’Byrne, W. I. (2013). Online content construction: Empowering students as readers and writers of online information. In K. Pytash & R. Ferdig (Eds). Exploring Technology in Writing and Writing Instruction.

Richardson, W. (2008). Footprints in the Digital Age. Educational Leadership. Available:

Ruffini, M. (2012). Screencasting to engage learning. Educase Review: Available:

Students are also encouraged to share texts from outside our common reads. These pour in from YouTube, Pinterest,  and RSS feeds.

We then interact with this content across different tools and networks and this interaction then changes the content in our space. For example we still use discussion questions and have academically focused discourse around the readings.

Yet I also encourage students to make the reading social. As I read I annotate and share my thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #edu522.

To date no student has joined me. I learned this lesson early on. I do not force students through portals (except the primary portal). Instead I try to model the potential during my normal every day use. So I see Twitter as a tool I am using for instruction that cuts across different networks nodes. It is unique content


We began the class by creating 6 word mainfestos on digital teaching and learning. To accomplish this task we used one of Mozilla’s webmaker tools Popcorn.

Synchronous Video Chat

We also use Hangouts on Air as a tool for both synchronous and asynchronus video chat. This allows us to personalize the class and rely on expression to gauge each other’s learning.

 Screencasts and Online Video

In our current module we are focusing on building online spaces for learning using video. We have been creating a variety of screencasts or videos. The students began by teaching us something that they are passionate about (hopefully non-educational). They then had to choose a pedagogical goal and make a video for that goal.

I tried to model and teach this practice across many different tools. I have used scribing, animations, and screencasts.

I also shared other great content instead of building what is already done. Such as Michael Kennedy’s video on Mayer’s principle of multimedia learning.

Finally I screencast all of my feedback to students at the completion of each model. Due to the personal nature of these videos I do not share them here but I find it to be one of the best tools in my transmedia teaching toolbox.

Each of the videos I share are create are designed to introduce or reinforce new content while also modeling how a digital text and tool can be used.

Dispersed Media

We also have content joining our space from areas outside of the classroom. The video I shared on connected learning was uploaded by someone else to Vialogues.  I then reshared this with the class. Another Vialogue was then posted as a response to my video on  affinity spaces. This unique media made its way into the space we use to learn.


Transmedia teaching builds on the values and principles of connected learning. By having content networked toggether across many different digital texts and tools we strive to reach our shared pedagogical goal.

I am not there yet. I haven’t got the civic engagement component totally built into the classroom yet. We do, those of in the class, have a shared purpose united around a pedagogical goal of improving our instruction with digital texts and tools.


As an e-editor for the Literacy Research Association I am part of an amazing collaborative of folks trying to connect our work to classroom practice. In order to move towards this goal we have started a series of monthly focused netcasts. Each month we highlight a current issue in literacy research.  This month we are focusing on academic vocabulary.

Twitter Introductory Chat

We begin each month by framing the issue using the #literacies hashtag. The preshow Twitter chat is held the first Thursday of the month. Four questions guided the chat

  • What is the role of direct vocabulary instruction vs. learning language through use in context?
  • What is the balance between “academic” vocabulary & technical or discipline specific vocabulary?
  • How does technology impact vocabulary acquisition?
  • What implications in instructional practices and principles should we consider?

Hangout on Air NetCast

We then hold a netcast featuring some of the most important minds in the field of literacy research. The show on Academic Vocabulary will be tonight (5/6) at 8:00 pm es.t Join Freddy HiebertJim Burke, Bridget Dalton, Thomas DeVere Wolsey, and Michael Manderino for the LRA Learning Research to Practice show.

The show is available via Google Hangouts-on-Air. This broadcasts the show live, which means you can watch the show live while it is happening…and ask questions. To get involved in the show, you can view (and ask questions) here. You can also watch it on YouTube after the show has completed, and share with teachers, students, and other educational partners that you believe would be interested in the topics, or the series.

The purpose of the Research to Practice series is to connect current research and “best principles” to what is happening in the classroom.

Twitter Follow Up Chat

Then on the third Thursday of the moth we have a follow up chat once again using the #literacies hashtag. This will be on 5/15 at 8:00 pm.

Come Join Us

The monthly series that the Literacy Research Association have developed can be very rewarding for practicing and pre-service teachers. We encourage you to watch past episodes. Most importantly please join us tonight (5/6) and use the twitter hashtag #literacies during the show.

As a teacher educator I have incorporated these monthly topics into my classroom. I know of school districts that now use the monthly series as part of personalized professional development. Whatever your purpose and goals I hope to see you there,

To get involved in the show, you can view (and ask questions) here:

Last Saturday I attended the 2nd annual Print to Pixel unconference. I helped found and organize the original unconference but had to take on a smaller role this year as a presenter. I love this conference because we draw so many K-12 students. In fact this year more sessions were student run than teacher lead.

I had two roles this spin around: help with our Hangouts on Air sessions and to present and attend the sessions.All of the sessions presented  revolved around being a better blogger.

Many of the students and teachers wanted guidance in how to effectively use blogging in their personal and professional learning. Thus I scrapped my idea of focusing on stop motion animation and pulled together two ideas: Flipping SSR into RSS and Exploring New Mediums for Publishing (I also did an impromptu lunch session on using Pixlr when students asked if anyone could teach Photoshop).

Flipping SSR into RSS

I have a rule for unconferences: no slide decks (unless explicitly required such as an ignite session) so I cannot share my slides. I did try to stream my RSS session live on Hangouts on Air (I did not have a webcam so you are often looking into space)

In this session I detailed how I used Feedly to track student blogs and use Feedly for students to create interest driven text focused on personalized learning.

 Tracking Student Blogs

I use my RSS feed, specifically Feedly, to create a classroom list of student blogs. Many teachers who use blogs in the classroom not connected to an LMS system (like Edublogs or kidsblogs) need a method to track and connect with their young writers. I demonstrated in this session how I create class lists, link to the websites in order to comment, and add tags of common themes I find.

What I love most about using RSS feeds with student writers is the ability to access their texts anytime. I have Feedly on my laptop, desktop, tablets, and my phone. I am always just a click away from student writing.

Creating Personalized Learning

In terms of flipping SSR into RSS I have encouraged my students to use Feedly to make individualized texts. Throughout the semester I ask them to document their learning about something not related to class. They have to build an RSS Feed, follow their topic, respond to posts, and blog about their learning.

I went through and helped the audience build their first roll in Feedly. They all wanted to know how to add Feedly to the RSS button in Chrome. Here are some easy to follow steps (like most of my tech tips from Martin Hawksey).

There was some great audience ideas around using curating tools such as Storify in combination with RSS to support learning. In the past I had students reflect on their learning in their blog posts. The audience felt a tool like Feedly would allow them to bring in resources from sites that do not have Feeds. I agree. It will be an avenue I explore.

Exploring a New Medium for Publishing

The next session I presented (though no HoA as I saw how poorly the last one turned out) focused on the use of Medium. The session was attended by some of the most prominent educational bloggers in the state and a few K-12 students. Those of us who blog regularly agreed that something about Medium drove us to try and be better writers.

We could not nail it down. We thought it might be the mix of paid and amateur writers. The beautiful typography might draw us in. The rethinking of social commenting versus stackable comments is also attractive. All of these elements draw us to Medium.

For those who do not know Medium is a blogging platform where articles, posts, and essays are curated into collections. You can follow specific authors but the real learning occurs by following collections.

What I found most rewarding  was introducing the site to a middle school student. He said he had a love for physics. Not your textbook variety physics, but the find God in the particle or in one of the eleven dimensions types of physics. We spent time searching the collections. We quickly found essays that immediately peaked his interest.

Want to start a fight in the open badges community? Bring up rigor. Challenge the point of participation badges or say something like, “I got the I blinked while breathing badge.”

I admit I am guilty of questioning badges for low hanging fruit. During the Connected Educator Month last October you could get a badge for attending almost any event. I wondered, often out loud on Twitter, if this approach made sense.

Christina Cantrill of the National Writing Project often pushed backed. Christina made the argument that the evidence for the participatory bags is just that, evidence. She explained to me that different badges have different value and you could even have leveling up badges. As Christina explained it, rigor means nothing, it is relevance of the badge to the community that matters most.

As I have become more and more swayed towards Open Badges (due to the evangelizing efforts of Ian O’Byrne and Doug Belshaw) I keep returning back to this question: What do we get when badging for participation versus badging for competencies?

VIF International

I found my answer yesterday during the The Badge Alliance Teacher Badges open call. Mark Otter and Julie Keane shared their learning platform that they use as part of their efforts in teacher preparation and global education.


The call was great. Seeing badges in the wild, specifically connected to teacher preparation and professional development, really helped to formulate my thinking. To date VIF International has awarded 592 badges to teachers in their community.

Behaviors versurs Competencies

I am sure this debate has played out int eh badging research community for quite some time. Like I said, I am a recent convert so I am stumbling into  many of the lessons others have already  learned.

Mark and Julie make a distinction between competencies and the behaviors that they would like to see in their community.Teachers can earn badges when they share evidence that demonstrates competencies.  This often includes  lesson plans.

To recognize behaviors that help support online communities and professional development Mark and Julie created a point system that translates into stars. So you can earn points for things such as logging in, posting to a forum, and commenting on another post. These are not behaviors  that provide evidence of growth. Yet these behaviors are crucial to building critical mass in online learning spaces.

I think as I start to develop badges, specifically for summer Gear Up Programs I help run, I will try to bake in a similar approach. Lets keep badges for competencies and use other metrics to reinforce behavior.


Update: I submitted my badge application and recieved feedback from Doug.

This “just for fun” badge actually documents the successful work flow of a badge. Doug created the badge, explained the competencies being addressed, described the evidence needed. I then submitted my material. Doug reviewed it and left me this feedback:



I then went back and revised my original post. If you want to track my edits look at my source code I left the old version in html comment form.

Doug Belshaw issued a challenge. As part of the Mozilla Web Literacy Map roll out he encouraged folks to submit artifacts that would demonstrate competencies on three areas of the map,

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 13.57.10


I am submitting my badge under the working title of Wisdom, Virtue, Sincerity, Valor, and Austerity in Online Spaces.



  • Accessing the web using the common features of web browsers– I try to teach students how to to explore the web by creating and remixing videos and think alouds of online data: I created videos of students reading online that I allow others to use
  • Using hyperlinks to access a range of resources on the web- I try to find and share links to open education resources such as this one. I was looking for OER sources on the web, and put out a call on Twitter. This link came back to me.
  • Reading, evaluating, and manipulating URLs I wrote a dissertation on differences in searching and evaluating online sources.
  • Recognizing the visual cues in everyday web services- I make online minilessons to teach students how to search the internet and research ways to teach credibility.


  • Using keywords, search operators, and keyboard shortcuts to make web searches more efficient –My  dissertation research focused on improving search results.
  • Finding real-time or time-sensitive information using a range of search techniques- I write about the need to teach and read socially complex texts.


  • Researching authorship and ownership of websites and their content- I create online materials to teach students to focus on authorship.


  • I use my brain as my virus and phishing detector.


Composing for the web

  • Inserting hyperlinks into a web page-  This post
  • Embedding multimedia content into a web page-I can embed multimedia into posts.
  • Creating web resources in ways appropriate to the medium/genre- I write in a variety of places using the norms of thos sites such as Medium.
  • Identifying and using HTML tags- I used the comment tags so people could track the revision history on this post.


  • Identifying and using openly-licensed work- The image I remixed for the header on this post used two openly licensed images.
  • Combining multimedia resources and Creating something new on the web using existing resources- I make remixes using popcorn.

Design and Accessibility

  • Iterating on a design after feedback from a target audience– I got feedback from Doug and then revised this post. This website is the rough draft of my life
  • Improving the accessibility of a web page by modifying its color scheme and markup- I try hard to choose color schemes that allow those with red/green color blindness to differentiate.
  • Demonstrating the difference between inline, embedded and external CSS- I spent this semester trying to use Thimble to teach myself CSS. I have created my first page that no longer uses HTML tables but relies on CSS containers. The actual page isn’t live yet (Department website but containers work

Coding and Scripting

  • Composing working loops and arrays and Using a script framework- I dabbled in javascript when creating a simulated web environment. I do not know java but if I can stare at code long enough I see patterns, kind of like poetry, and can then edit the code. I made changes to the timing and feedback loops.



  • Tracking changes made to co-created web resources– This is the first collaborative story I wrote in Gdocs with my 6th graders.
  • Co-creating web resources- Ian and I edit the digital texts and tools page. Please join us and add your stuff.
  • Configuring notifications to keep up to date with community spaces and interactions– Much to my wife’s chagrin as things chirp and beep all day long.
  • Using synchronous and asynchronous tools to communicate with web communities, networks and groups– I use asychnronous and synchronous chat in my teaching.


  • Encouraging participation in web communities– I encourage folks to be digital residences.

Community Participation

  • Using constructive criticism in a group or community setting -I use online communities on Google+ for Feedback.
  • Defining different terminology used within online communities- I use the discourse of specific affinity spaces and use these spaces for learning.


  • Identifying rights retained and removed through user agreements– I added the Creative Commons plug in to this site.


  • Distinguishing between open and closed licensing- I use only open lecensed images on this site.

As we live online we navigate a sea of myriad rivers merging. Those who use the web literacy map can guide multiple streams of information.

As educators we need to draw a map (of the territory such as the Web Literacy Map) using creativity and all means available to you. To [further] illustrate this point, when even the roads are unknown, enter the online spaces, and familiarize yourself with the languages and practices. Determine which areas have steep learning curves, which areas are wide open, and measure the width of roads to understanding.


Last week I had the honor of accepting the Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship Award. The award, is designed to support faculty with nine credits of release time for a research project. I plan on using the time to develop an idea I have dreamed up over the last few years.

My Plan

Over the long term I want to create an online environment to support the teaching of sourcing skills and argumentative writing. My thinking is we decontextualize the inherent bias and perspectives found in the act of reading and writing texts. I want to teach sourcing as a mindset and not a skill set.

Building off of the work of Rick Beach and the lessons I learned studying under Don Leu I want to use role play and bias thinkalouds to contextualize sourcing skills within Internet Inquiry.

Basically students would interact in this online simulation. They would have to visit different buildings in the town. Each building would have its own purpose. Users would encounter an avatar on each side of a contemporary issue. They would also visit a librarian with a more neutral stance. Finally there would be a store where students would have the option to visit. There they could unlock features to customize their avatars by completing learning events centered on sourcing Finally there would be “field work.” Here students would have to conduct online research and collect and analyze data.

Second Life NSF Model

The long term version of my idea is to develop learning activities that can bolster adolescent students’ abilities to use online sources in their argumentative writing. Using the Fellowship I hope to create the biased think aloud videos.

It would be the first step in massive instructional design process. Hopefully I can use the materials I develop and the results I find to successfully seek out external funding.

Why Formative Design

For this work I will draw heavily on Reinking and Bradley’s(2010) work on formative and design experiments. As a Neag Fellow with the New Literacies Research Lab I worked closely with Dr. Reinking on formative design and hope to bring the learning to bear on the project. Reinking and Bradley suggest:

  • Formative and design experiments are grounded in developing understanding by seeking to accomplish practical and useful educational goals.

  • They are focused on less-controlled, authentic environments instead of the tightly controlled laboratory-like settings.

  • They use and develop theory in the context of trying to engineer successful instructional interventions.  Thus, they dwell in the realm of engineering science rather than social science.

  • They entail innovative and speculative experimentation.

  • They are interdisciplinary employing multiple theoretical and methodological perspectives and orientations.

  • They seek understandings that accommodate many complex, interacting variables in diverse contexts.

  • They seek generalizations from multiple exemplars rather than from random samples and controlled experimentation.

Basically formative and design experiments are meant for real classroom research. I cannot develop my entire vision as part of this project I hope to just focus on the biased think aloud. It is an intervention, rooted in theory  that addresses my pedagogical goal ( a more developed post explaining this connection is forthcoming).

My Pedagogical Goal

I will use pre-recorded interactive read alouds that contextualize the bias and perspectives inherent in websites about science topics. In other words students will be given a video of a website that is read and annotated by a narrator with a specific bias. The perspective included in the read alouds will help to contextualize the sourcing skills required for argumentative writing. This lack of contextualization of sourcing skills has long plagued studies designed to improve argumentative writing in science (Guzetti, Snyder, Glass, & Gamas, 1993; Abell, 2007) and the critical evaluation of websites (Goldman et al, 2012).

Distributed Design

One of the greatest take aways I carry with me from my time under Dr. Leu is that issues we face today in educational research are too complex for the broken single research model. If I was to fully envision the role playing I want to create I would need to be part of a team of theorists, programmers, ethnographers, instructional designers, statistician, and multimedia specialists. Ohh and funding. Funding would help.

Until then (and the project will begin full force next spring) I want to invite folks on board. If you are an educational researcher and you are committed to working endlessly for no monetary reward on the hopes of improving connected classrooms I welcome you. The most critical needs of the project would be someone with a background in multimedia, science education, and someone knowledgeable in item response theory. Though enthusiasm for the project and an ability to learn in the open is all this team (currently me) requires.