Creation Versus Curation: Feeling Good about Remixing

This post was started on Febuary 10, 2017. It’s been sitting in my draft posts since then, but in light of recent readings, I’ve gone back to it, and as I’ve started to understand more about digital literacy, I’ve seen these issues I was considering in February with greater context.  Below is the draft from February, and then my thinking this week.

From February:

When I started my Media Maker class, I had visions of students creating audio and video podcasts, listicles, web pages and all manner of media designed for the web. More specifically, I had visions of them going out and taking their own pictures and videos, using their phones to generate and create their own content. I saw them being creators who were just like me.

As a blogger, I try to generate as much of my own content as I can. Primarily, that’s easy, because for the most part I’m creating text-based media and written blogs. When I want to incorporate images, I typically pull out my iphone and take pictures. For me, part of the pleasure in blogging and designing a blog post, even as simple as they are, comes from the awareness that I’m making all that content myself. As a writer, it’s always been important to me to write my life, to come up with my own stuff. Blogging allows me to make things myself.

As a teacher, I believe it’s important for students to write about their own thinking and to learn how to develop their own ideas. Growing up in public schools and public colleges, the idea of using other people’s material was frowned upon and plagiarism was an ever looming threat. Also, we’re convinced as teachers, that when students are given choice and power to make their own decisions about learning, they are naturally motivated. So, if I let them write about their own interests and passions, my job as a teacher becomes easier, in a sense, because I just have to work on conferring with them about what they are creating and to help them develop to be their best. And, if I give them choice, then wouldn’t they want to create their own content.

That’s not really what I’m finding.

In Media Maker, students are interested in writing about their own ideas and interests, but more often, they are interested in repurposing content they already find on the web. Often, their repurposing and curating material in spite of me. What I’m seeing in their choice of topics, their driving interests has made me reconsider my stance that creating is really always better.  

What brought me here? In a recent project, students were given the choice to focus either on informative or evaluative writing, and that the end goal was to either create web-based texts that might look like Wikipedia style articles, Consumer Reports-based web-pages, Buzzfeed style listicles. One specific direction that I give to students is that they have to generate the content of their projects themselves, or that content that needs to be cited and acknowledged is appropriately attributed to the correct sources.

I got some great projects:

Best New Cars for Teen Drivers

10 Vacations Before You Die

5 Best Conspiracy Theory Photographs

Best Albums of 2016

20 Best New Video Games of 2016

Evolution of the Mario Bros. Franchise

5 Best Boxed, Instant Macaroni and Cheeses

The topics of each of these projects was completely student driven. They did research and used sources to drive the writing, and integrated the research into their own topics, the commentary, discussion or evaluation necessary to develop each of these topics, and for most, used pictures, images, gifs they found on the web already. In only one of these projects, the one of the macaroni and cheese, did the the student actually take pictures and incorporate them into her project. She went and bought five different kinds of mac-n-cheese, cooked them and then took pictures of the bowls of pasta and the boxes. In all the other projects, students found images, cited them, or in revision of a draft of their project went about citing them. Students know that I pull projects from their blogs or that projects will not be marked “At Standard” if they are not cited properly. As part of our mentor text study, I had students examine and identify how professionally generated web-texts acknowledge both text-based sources and non-text based sources.

As students developed their projects, I quickly realized that the idea of generating their own media for these projects was absurd. Of course, the student who was looking at conspiracy theory photographs of the JFK assassination wouldn’t be able to take his own pictures. The kid making a best albums of the year wouldn’t be able to take pictures. What would the kids writing video game reviews take pictures of? These kids were making the kinds of texts that I wanted them to create, and the kinds of authentic texts found on the web.

I also found myself learning about such texts. For example, when studying Buzzfeed alongside of my students, I realized that much of their media is taken from other places on the web and acknowledged with URLs, only.

If anything, I started to see that repurposing content from the web to your own ends is a relevant skills.

The student ISTE standard 1, Creativity and Innovation, states that students “Create original works as a means of personal or group expression,” and standard 3 states that students “select information sources and digital tools appropriate to the task.” While I don’t know if my student consciously made decisions about these tools, and perhaps grabbed and nabbed digital images from the web because it was the easiest thing to do, I’d like to think that they used what came naturally.

And, that’s where I ended in February. Some thoughts from this week:

If you’ve been following the first week of my 30 day sketchnote challenge, you’ll see that early last week, I read Doug Belshaw’s “Essential Elements of Digital Literacy,” and made an early attempt at sketchnoting. One of these elements is creativity, but his definition of creativity is that in being creative, we make something new and of value, but that something is not necessarily original. For Belshaw the remixing of media, and re-purposing of media is an important part of becoming digitally literate. Use this link to see Belshaw’s Tedx talk.

After reading this, I thought of this draft, decided to brush off the metaphorical dust and get it out there. Belshaw gave me some support for my lines of thinking, and as I start to go back into planning Media Maker for the fall, I can know that students remixing and doing re-genre work on their writing and in their blog creations are worthwhile.



Flipgrid Fever, the #SLC2017, & Sketchnoting Trials

The thing about the 30 day sketchnote challenge, I’m finding, is that it’s pushing me to be reading articles and blogs every day to have content to think and to reflect on. Today, I was inspired by Karly Moura’s (@karlymoura) blog on the uses of Flipgrid. Of the 15 uses she provides for this great new tool, I whittled it down to the ones that I could really see myself using.

Our #SLC2017 challenge has many of us at Canandaigua Academy chomping at the bit to use Flipgrid. Moura’s blog gives us some great ways to use this tool across contents and grade-levels.

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In trying to improve my sketchnoting, I’m finding that Pinterest is giving me guidance on icons, borders, frames and layout. Here’s hoping for improvement.

Starting to Pull Citizenship, Leadership, and Literacy Together

I’m spending some time pulling various threads of readings, conversations, and writing together.

Here’s my first effort to think about what it is that high school students need to know and to be able to do:

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But, I’m missing things. In my sketchnote above, I’m really thinking about digital safety. There’s way more that high school students need. Going back to the drawing board, literally.

Watch for my remix tomorrow.

This year we started with our campus-wide adoption of Enterprise Level Schoology. We’ve done a great job at providing our teachers with a wide range of professional development options–both during the school day through department and faculty meetings, as well as after school trainings–to get the basics of how to operate the Schoology platform.

Teachers know how to login, navigate to different pages, create pages, assignments, quizzes, rubrics.

Yet, it feels like in many ways we’re still falling short. Teachers struggle to apply. We hear, “I know how to do it, but I don’t know how to do it in my classroom.” In speaking with my technology-integration colleagues, we know that we have to emphasize how to organize courses.

One of the challenges of using a tool like Schoology is that the approach to use is highly individualized. Users have to consider their teaching styles, a plan for how they’ll use Schoology, their level of technology access (1-to-1, computer-labs and carts, nothing). Working from the answers to these questions, then they can think about how Schoology will best work for them.

Below, I’ve outlined three broad-stroke ways that a teacher might use Schoology, and begin to organize their course content.  After several years of experience, there are three models that I’d suggest for people.

Use the LMS as a replacement for your webpage

Some of the uninitiated into the potentials of learning management systems, such as Schoology, ask “Is this something that I really need to use?” or “How would I make use of this?”

Have you ever had a kid say, ‘I can’t find that assignment?” or ‘Do you have an extra copy of that worksheet?’ Or, have you ever had a parent ask to be kept updated on your course, or ask for copies of materials to be made available? It’s for these reasons that using Schoology makes sense.

In most schools, districts provide platforms for teachers to have a webpage or web-presence. On these pages teachers typically provide copies of files, resources to access, perhaps a calendar of due dates for parents, links to your syllabus. It’s primarily, then, an information driven resource so that the public and those you serve, have materials they need to be successful. Once those materials are put on the web, students and parents have access to them.

In this model, teachers will use Schoology as a home-base for resources. Either by using pages or attaching files, the coursework  is now available to students whenever they have web-access. When students ask for a copy of a misplaced worksheet or parents ask to have access to assignments so that they can help at home, they can be pointed to your Schoology course.

This is a great option for teachers and schools that don’t have 1-to-1 access to technology or some other limited form of technology access. Additionally, teachers who use a lot of direct instruction and maintain a traditional, teacher-centered approach to their classrooms, will still gain a lot of power of the Schoology platform.

Use the LMS to parallel your classes.

For most teachers, this is the way that Schoology will have the most power and value in their instruction.

Let’s say that your classroom looks similar to the following description: You’ve set up routines with your students where they come to class and do some kind of warm-up for the day while you are taking attendance or checking homework, then move into a vocabulary session, and then the lesson for the day.

In this model, use Schoology to follow along with your lesson. Create a warm-up folder that students know to access. Get them in the routine of accessing this folder when they come to class, organize that folder by date or some system. Or, using the tools in Schoology, turn warm-ups on and off as they are needed.

Have a folder for vocabulary or homework check. And then have folders for the units you are teaching. Turn the folder on for access while you are in the unit and off when you’ve finished it.

Use the LMS as a complete blended-learning environment

I don’t work in a 1-to-1 environment, yet. However, I’ve got my units and projects planned so that I know when I’m going to be in need of computers, so I sign-out the computer labs. Each of my projects is broken down into a series of steps. I place these steps as either assignments or pages (a discussion of how and why I do this can happen at another time). All I then have to do with my students is tell them what steps they should be working on during class. I might say, “By Friday, you’ll need to be through step number three,” or “Today you should finish step number 2.” You’ll see from the pictures below, not only am I organizing by step, I’m also explicit in my instructions about what to do and how to proceed through the unit, how they can show completion of the steps.

I have used Schoology’s “Completion Rules” on the folders, and this is a helpful tool to keep track of student progress, as well as keeping students moving through the unit in a way that helps them to consume course content in a manageable and purposeful fashion.

Below, I have an example of the step and its directions. For each step, explicit directions tell students how to complete the step and if any submission is required.

Another example of directions and submission requirements.

You’ll see in the image above, I’ve got each of the steps set as assignments. This way, the assignments show up in the calendar and in the “upcoming” list of to-dos. Also, each assignment acts as a check point or piece of formative assessment.

Regardless of the model you might embrace, here are some standard practices that will make it easier for your students and your parents to navigate your course:

  1. Organize materials into folders, label the folders, and if possible, as it is in Schoology, color-code the folders.
  2. Number the materials inside of the folder.
  3. Meta-teach. Instruct your students on how you’ve organized, and how you want them to use Schoology in your course. The way you do this will change, and that’s not a bad thing, but organic to teaching and learning Schoology. If you change the way that you do it, just tell your students.
  4. Because many of my assignments incorporate choice in both the kinds of products that students can create, as well as the modes of creation–text-based, audio, video, image–I have page of resources that students can access for digital making. Such a page allows students to gain access to tools such as Adobe Spark, Canva, Screencastify as resources for.

I’ll be honest, making the jump to working in Schoology is a commitment. You have to get your stuff there, and then make kids access what you’ve put there. For me, getting to this point has been a multi-year process. Most of what I’ve shared above has come through trial and error, experience, and really listening to my students. 

I full expect that next year, in a 1-to-1 environment, pushing my teaching to further work with blended learning, having students be able to access materials from their Chromebooks all the time, as well as having parents have access will continue to allow my work with Schoology to evolve.

(Re-)Thinking about Digital Literacy

As part of the 2017 Summer Learning Challenge as well as my own efforts to become a better digital leader, and prepare for helping my students next school year become better digital leaders, I’m spending time reading about digital literacies, citizenship and leadership. Jennifer Casa-Todd’s book SocialLeadia references, at several points, Doug Belshaw. I’m working on reading through his white paper on digital literacies, but I found his Tedx Talk.

Doug Belshaw’s Tedx talk on digital literacy. 

Here are my take-aways from this Ted Talk in both a Sketchnote and in list format:

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  1. Digital Literacy (DL) is contextually dependent.
  2. We need to think about digital literacy as progressive rather than linear and sequential.
  3. Digital Literacies are complex and multifaceted rather than singular (Digital Literacy)
  4. DLs are social in nature.
  5. Teach DLs through tapping into student passion and interest.
  6. DLs are best taught through remixing of media.

What if schools operated as if we should all be “learners”? Part 2 #IMOOC week 3

Yesterday, our school played host to a first-ever regional workshop of 4 area schools.

About 800 educators came together to spend the day in workshops, presentations, discussions, sharings, connections all in the service of the theme of the day “Connecting for Kids.”

The premise was simple–we have a lot of education talent in the Finger Lakes region. Let’s put it together, share those resources and knowledge, and our kids can benefit.

Such things do not happen easily. A coordinated effort such as this takes time, and it takes resources. Superintendents trusted that it could come together. Such is the culture of innovation.

The vibe for the day was amazing. Everyone that I spoke with felt like they were learning, and felt like the connection between other teachers and educators inspired and re-filled those March-empty teacher tanks.

Such a day makes room for people to return to something fundamental. It allows us to become learners again. We connected for kids, but we also connected for ourselves and our passions.

Continue reading “What if schools operated as if we should all be “learners”? Part 2 #IMOOC week 3″

What if schools operated as if we should all be “learners”? #IMMOOC week 3


Analogy: “Career” vs. “Passion”; “Teacher” vs. “Learner”

It popped into my Twitter feed earlier today. A question that should be added to the list of questions asked when hiring new teachers: “How do you consider yourself a learner?”

A career in education is a long one. Some teachers may spend 20 years, or perhaps 30 or 35 years working in a classroom. Educators may move from a classroom setting, to some support role as  a department chair or leader, or in many cases, move into an administrative position.

If we see our roles only as a adults there to give knowledge, hold students accountable, assign points, it may come to feel pretty static.

And, when students aren’t interested in the class, they resist by not doing work, adults up the stakes with more rules, systems of accountability, and I’ve seen the burned out of imposing the role of the “teacher.”

Integration question: What are the principles of sustainability in ecology and environmental science and how can they be applied to the field of education

I don’t have your answer.

For me, it’s a drive to do new and different things in different ways in my classroom. To not rest on something that’s worked in the past. This means knowing that I have to learn about new techniques, approaches, methodologies and tools to make the new possible and successful.