Marginal Syllabus Conversation – February 22, 2017 at 6:00 PM EST

Image by Hans from Pixabay
Image by Hans from Pixabay

Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 6:00 PM EST, join my colleague and co-author, Dawn Reed, and me as we participate in an “Annotation Flash Mob” on the preface for our book, Research Writing Rewired. We’ve been invited to participate in this opportunity through Dawn’s collaborations with the Marginal Syllabus Project.

The Marginal Syllabus team is part of the larger Hypothes.is Syllabi Project, which “leverages web annotation to collect primary source documents by theme and organize communal conversation of those documents.”

Here is a bit more from the Marginal Syllabus’s “About” page:

The Marginal Syllabus seeks to advance educator professional development about education in/equity through the use of participatory learning technologies. We are a dynamic, multi-stakeholder collaboration among:

Hypothesis, a non-profit organization building an open platform for discussion on the web

Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, CO, and in particular educators and administrators associated with the LEADing Techquity research-practice partnership

Researchers and teacher educators from the University of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development in Denver, CO

While this group will work together for one hour tomorrow night, I am looking forward to seeing how the conversations Dawn and I had while writing will come alive with the Hypothes.is annotations of other educators.

All educators are welcome to participate, and we recommend that you sign up for Hypothes.is ahead of time, and install the Google Chrome browser extension.

From their blog, it also seems that the conversations might keep going on, and I am interested in seeing how that unfolds over the days and weeks to come.


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Changing the Field, One Teacher at a Time

This past week, two thoughtful teachers shared their insight on some of the work I have done with my colleague Kristen Turner. Knowing that what we have written is making a difference in the lives of teachers is, quite simply, amazing. So, I offer my thanks to these two edubloggers here.

Inforgraphic created by Cris Turple based on my co-authored article, “No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait”

First, thanks to Cris Turple who shared this infographic based on my English Journal article with Kristen: No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait. In her blog post, Turple concludes that

“Digital literacy is a crucial component in modern literacy instruction and is necessary for today’s students to be productive members of a digital world. Teachers should focus on the skills related to digital literacy, not specific tools which will soon be obsolete in the ever changing world of technology.”

No surprise here: I agree with Turple completely on the idea that we focus on skills, not tools. Check out the rest of her website for a variety of resources related to TPACK, SAMR, Google Apps for Ed, and more.

Second, Jianna Taylor from the Oakland Writing Project (MI) offered a thoughtful review of our book, Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World — as well as a number of additional ideas and resources that she uses in her own classroom. I very much appreciate the way that Taylor read the book and jumped right in with connected reading practices in her classroom, primarily through the use of Notable PDF. She discusses how this tool is “one of my favorite and most used Chrome extensions both personally and professionally” and the ways that she will use it again this fall. Knowing that teachers like Taylor are willing to jump in and make these changes, turning on a dime, encourages me; often we get caught up in the educational bureaucracy, but she found an idea, tried it, and will refine it to make it better. If, as I often say, “education is the business of hope,” then Taylor makes me very hopeful indeed.

So, as I think about the ways in which my work with Kristen continues to circulate, I often reflect on a goal that she and I share when we are writing. As we collaborate, we always have goals in mind. Yes, we write because we enjoy it and because it leads to tenure and promotion within the university. However, there are other more important reasons.

We write about digital literacy so we can better coach our own children as readers and writers.

We write to help teachers understand the ways that technology affects literacy practices, and what that means for their students.

In short, we write everything with the goal of “changing the field.”

This week, it feels like the field changed just a little bit more. Thanks, Cris and Jianna for letting us know just how that happened for each of you.


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Updates from Recent Collegial Conversations

Over the past few months, I’ve continue to have wonderful opportunities to speak at conferences and workshops, publish my work, and then share in conversations with fellow teachers. Two conversations in particular stand out as we had for the end of the calendar year.

First, Kristen Turner and I were contacted earlier this fall by Brian Newman, a high school teacher from Joliet, Illinois. He had read our English Journal piece, “No longer a luxury: Digital literacy can’t wait,” and wanted to ask us our opinions about blogging and how to engage students as writers. After recommending Youth Voices as a tremendous resource, I offered some specific advice about having students respond to one another:

Over time, as they post — and respond — I would encourage you to pursue some self-evaluation strategies. Ask them to go back and review their best blog post, and why they think it is so. Ask them, too, to review the best blog post from someone else that they have read. Then compare those posts. In that process of writing and responding, talk with them about the power of peer response and specific praise and constructive criticism.

Recently, Brian wrote us back and told us about the work that he and Sean Hackney has shared on their blog, Ancient Geeks. In this post, he discusses the end of semester writing conferences that he had with his student bloggers.  He outlines 13 steps to take in order to become a better blogger and teacher of blogging:

  1. Make the posts occur regularly.
  2. Give them choices.
  3. Use the blogs as formative writing practice for summative writing assignments.
  4. Check in with them regularly.
  5. Get testimonials from previous students about the positives and drawbacks of the various blog platforms.
  6. Make them read each others’ blogs.
  7. Use technorati.com, the blog search engine, to get them reading blogs.
  8. Conference with them.
  9. Grade them with care, because they care about being assessed on how they feel.
  10. Identify your tech wizards in class and empower them to help others.
  11. Create opportunities for kids to teach each other how to do make posts more interesting.
  12. Help them expand the audience: email the links to parents, other teachers, or other classes.
  13. Oh yeah, and write along with them. That’s what got Hackney and I writing this blog in the first place.

I appreciate the work that Brian and Sean are doing with their high school writers, and hope that they continue to find success in the new year.

Image courtesy of Katharine Hale (http://teachitivity.wordpress.com/)
Image courtesy of Katharine Hale (http://teachitivity.wordpress.com/)

The second teacher with whom I’ve been communicating this semester is Katharine Hale, a fifth-grade teacher from Arlington, Virginia, who is working diligently to integrate digital writing into her traditional writing workshop. She blogs at Teachitivity and in her recent post, “A Fresh Approach to Fostering Digital Writers,” Katharine describes the multiple goals that she had for integrating technology and making her classroom workshop time more efficient.

The entire post is worth reading, as she has numerous lesson ideas and examples. She concludes that:

As I said in the beginning, this was my first attempt at truly integrating technology, specifically the iPad, into the writing experience. It was incredible to finish the unit ON TIME with not one, but two published texts. I especially loved the interactive flipped lesson. I felt I had gained a whole class period of instruction because I did not need to use class time to assess students and determine small groups. If you read their digital literary essays, you may even notice that many of my students’ conclusion paragraphs are the strongest part of their essay!

Katharine worked critically and creatively to both integrate the use of WordFoto and Thinglink, allowing her students the opportunity to go from brainstorming to publication on both a traditional essay and multiple pieces of digital writing. As with Brian and Sean, I wish Katharine luck in the new year as well.

Thanks to all of my colleagues who have shared their work — and their students’ work — with me over this past year. There are more books, blog posts, chapters, presentations, workshops, and other pieces of writing on their way in the new year. I will try to blog some more over the holidays, but if I don’t get to it then I thank you now for another year of reading my work and invite you to stay in touch.


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Digital Mentor Text #4: “Size Matters Not”

Here we are, midweek, in our series on mentor texts in the digital writing workshop, and I’m feeling just a bit left out in the sense that I’ve chosen to focus on professional mentor texts in that I am not commenting on student work like BillKatieKevinTony and Franki are. The thinking on these topics so far has been awesome, and it will take me quite a while to actually go back and digest everything they’ve shared from the writing to watching the videos and viewing the projects that they and their students have done.  In particular, Tony’s post today about how his students use visual literacy to revise a slide —  as well as showing the relevant screen captures from that revision process — are wonderful!

But, I digress, and I must return to a much more important topic: Star Wars.

Yes, Star Wars.

For many of my generation, there are very important decisions to be made about how we introduce Star Wars to our students and especially to our own children.  Studying the hero’s journey, and helping them realize that the main protagonist in the Star Wars saga is not Luke Skywalker, but instead Anakin Skywalker, is not just an exercise in pop culture literacy, as the Wikipedia entry on Darth Vader demonstrates.  Even though my own children have seen all six episodes of the saga, and can recite the lyrics to the Weird Al song that came out with episode one, it really has been quite interesting to watch the saga with them again. And, despite the quite humorous nature of the public service announcement from the link above, it really has been an interesting discussion with kids to help them think about how characters are portrayed as well as their motivations as we watch the Blu-Ray versions together (a hearty post-Christmas thanks to my wife for the discs, and my dad for the new player!).  And, yes, for the record, we did start with episode four.

Anyway, I digress again, because the real point of this digital mentor text exploration is about the use of kinetic type. If you’re not familiar with the phrase “kinetic type” or “kinetic typography,” then you are certainly familiar with the concept, defined succinctly here from Wikipedia: “an animation technique mixing motion and text to express ideas using video animation.” You’ve likely seen kinetic type in the series of Ford commercials narrated by Denis Leary, and even politicians (or, at the very least, their PR people) are getting into the kinetic type game. My colleague and mentor Danielle DeVoss introduced me to the concepts of kinetic type quite some time ago, and has captured a great collection of resources in the NWP Digital Is website. Inspired by that collection, Kevin created his own resource, too, that outlines the process he used to create a kinetic type-style poem.

So, this fourth mentor text is a favorite of mine, and given that we are right in the middle of The Empire Strikes Back, perfect timing.

The force is strong in that example… 🙂

There are a few points from the video that, as a digital mentor text, encourage me to think about how we can ask students to connect and represent characters, dialogue, setting, plot, and other narrative elements through the use of kinetic type. Rather than try to plot out every possible question that this one segment of dialogue from Yoda — and this kinetic interpretation of it — could raise for us as readers/viewers of both Empire and the entire saga, I will just make some points here about the way the this digital text has been constructed. For each, you could simply ask “why did the digital writer make this choice,” and how that could lead to further discussion:

  • As the video begins, notice the choice of font, color, and background. How do these choices situate this remixed text within the larger discourse of Star Wars?
  • At about the :04 second mark, “judge” as a verb appears in a much larger font and is then eclipsed by the even-larger “Hmmm?” followed by the disappearing question mark. What does that say about Yoda’s beliefs?
  • At about the :12 second mark, notice how the word “for” appears and then changes to “force.” How is that symbolic of the ways in which the Force is described?
  • From the :13 to :15 frames, notice how the word “ally” is used and the scope of the camera angle on the original text changes. What does this say about the role of the Force and Yoda’s larger purpose for this speech to Luke?
  • From :20 to :24, pat attention to the period and it’s relation to the word “us.” How might that be used as a way to discuss Yoda’s grammar?
  • From :27 to :29, notice how the “S” connects the words “binds,” “us,” and “luminous.” Along with the lighting effect on the word “luminous,” why else might the digital writer have used the “s” as a connection point?
  • How does the rotation of the text from :26 to :31, as well as the tone in Yoda’s voice, affect you as a viewer?
  • At :51, how does the text change to indicate a conclusion?

My hope is that you could look for similar types of moves that digital writers make in other kinetic typography, and use those as mentor texts, too. There are plenty out there, although not all are appropriate for school.

Last, yet certainly not least, I want to point you to another resource created by a teacher, Jillian Johnson, from earlier this summer when I taught in France for MSU. In her efforts to “hit the sweet spot” of TPACK, she made this instructional screencast about hacking PPT to create kinetic type, using Kevin’s resource on Digital Is, as well as his poem, as a text to build from.

More tomorrow…

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Revision note (1/13/12): Reading Tony’s post that referenced this one of mine, I realized that I didn’t go back to do a really good proofreading of my writing. I had used MacSpeech Dictate to get much of the text from my head onto the screen, and totally overlooked “genetic typography.” Whoops! I changed it to the correct term, “kinetic typography.”

Designing PD Experiences: Can You RELATe?

This afternoon, second year students in MSU’s Master of Arts in Educational Technology presented a conference – in person and virtually – for their teaching colleagues: RELATe (Rouen Educational Leadership and Technology Conference, #relate11). This conference comes in the middle of the 4 week summer program, and is one of the main projects for Year 2 students. As one of the instructors for the course, and a mentor to them during the planning process, I have asked them to reflect on the process of creating this conference, so I also want to add a few thoughts to the conversation about technology, leadership, inquiry, and learning.

  • Planning – I have coordinated about half a dozen conferences, numerous summer institutes, countless workshops, and more than a few online events. Given that the focus of this event was for the teachers themselves to plan the event, it was difficult to step back from the planning in many ways, yet I still offered my informed opinion and helped scaffold a discussion about the conference by having them talk about effective PD, analyze past conference schedules (and lack of materials online), think about back-channeling and  archiving, and the overall presentation/hands-on balance within the conference. For the most part, I think that they did a good job planning an effective day, although I do wonder if the kiosk/hands-on times worked in the way they thought (as a combination passing time and opportunity to work one-to-one with presenters). It seemed like most of the sessions either ran over into that kiosk time, or people left because they weren’t quite sure what to do during the kiosk time.
  • Thematic, not technological, approaches to organizing sessions – rather than highlighting specific technologies in session titles and descriptions, as had been done in years past, the group took a more thematic approach to designing the sessions. I think that this worked well, as it really helped them focus on the content and pedagogy aspects of TPACK (not that technology was excluded by any means, but it certainly was not the star of the show). I hope that this thematic approach guides the MAET students as they approach PD plans in their own schools.
  • Social media – there was a team for social media (as well as for other aspects of the planning) and they did a great job producing a series of viral videos, sharing the hashtag, and tweeting/back-channeling during the conference. This has helped me really think about how we can, conscientiously, work with conference planners and attendees before, during, and after conferences to enhance their experience. As one MAET teacher mentioned to me — I’ve been to conferences before, but I never realized how much work goes into planning and promoting it. This is amplified even more in an age of social media. Given that many of the professionals we target for writing project and other literacy PD are still on the fringes of heavy social media use — and it was still tough to get everyone from our very techie group involved today — I wonder how we can more effectively employ social media for groups like MRA, NWP, and NCTE.
  • Web streaming – I was genuinely surprised when, a week ago, I asked if anyone in the group had been a part of a webinar before and found out that no one had. Leigh did a great job setting up the Adobe Breeze rooms, and most of the actual connections worked well during the conference. One link from the Weebly site had an extra two spaces at the end and, in turn, directed people to the wrong “room” on the MSU server. Once we figured out that the spaces needed to be deleted, we were back in business. Also, we realized quickly that presenters were not advancing slides in the Connect rooms, so the virtual visitors were not on the same slide. Also, one presenter used Prezi, and the Flash interface wouldn’t play in Breeze. Then, it was tough to monitor the in-room and Twitter backchannels both at once.
  • Virtual keynotes – fortunately, we had the keynoters record their sessions before hand and just join in for a Q/A session. The first one went fine, but we lost the Breeze connection on the closing keynote. So, being sure to have a back-up plan for that is important, too.

All in all, I feel that the RELATe conference was a success, both for the participants and, more importantly, for the Year 2 students who led it. I look forward to reviewing and discussing the evaluation data with them, as well as thinking about how they can transfer what they have learned about technology, inquiry, and leadership back into their own teaching contexts.


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Notes from Two TPACK Sessions at SITE 2010

Testing a TPACK-Based Technology Integration Assessment Rubric

Judi Harris, Neal Grandgenett, and Mark Hofer
  • Looking at the work of TPACK over the past five years
    • Much exploration of the construct — what does it look like?
    • About two years ago, more work about how to help teachers develop TPACK
    • Now we are interested in finding out more about assessing TPACK, both for pre-service and in-service teachers
  • Testing instruments for reliability and validity
    • Most of the instruments have been self-reporting instruments
      • This is important as their sense of their own knowledge is crucial
      • Yet, we need to triangulate their own assessments with external measures
        • Observation
        • Interview
        • Artifacts
        • Self-report
      • We still strongly believe that we need to do some or all of these in order to have the optimal approach to measuring TPACK, but we know that is not always possible
    • Wanted to create an instrument that would help external reporting of TPACK
  • Search
    • We did find one external assessment of teachers’ lesson plans, but it didn’t quite work well for a larger picture
    • Adapted the Technology Integration Assessment Instrument (Britten and Cassady, 2005)
  • Design
    • Informal feedback from experienced teachers
    • Formal feedback from TPACK researchers
    • Revised rubric based on that feedback
  • Technology Integration Assessment Rubric — licensed under CC AT-NC-ND
    • Construct validity from 6 expert reviewers
    • Face validity from 14 experienced teachers
    • Reliability Analyses with interrater reliability, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability
    • We can recommend it to be used with pre-service teachers’ lesson plans, and we would like to test it with experienced teacher’s lesson plans
      • Also, by using interviews with experienced teachers
      • Develop an observation instrument
Aspiring to Reach 21st Century Ideals: Teacher Educators’ Experiences in Developing Their TPACK
Mia Kim Williams, Keith Wetzel, and Teresa Folger
  • Teacher educators prepare their students for the future of education, yet the world keeps changing
    • Need to include technology, develop processes for teacher to learn skills and transfer to their practice, and change the way we teach
    • Wanted to develop projects that would help teachers transfer ideas about technology use, 21st century tools, and project-based learning to their classroom
  • Professional development model
    • Working in a face-to-face setting while learning web 2.0 tools
    • Revise a unit that they taught in their pre-service courses
  • Research questions
    • What innovative characteristics exist among faculty?
    • How did faculty build technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge through the workshop experience?
  • Findings
    • Thinking about technology promoted pedagogical change, but no change in content knowledge
    • TPACK increased through the curriculum development process, but there is still a long way to go
    • Some did take on new strategies with a changed approach; did appreciate the collaborative approach
    • Are the pre-service teachers actually improving their TPACK?


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Reflections on Transformative Technology Integration

An NWP colleague, Natalie Bernasconi from the Central California Writing Project, recently sent an email with some questions:

I’m interested in how infusing technology into the classroom as exemplified by Youth Voices and other initiatives changes the way teachers see their own role and their own identity.

I’m also interested in examining the relationship between teachers’ sense of identity and their pedagogical philosophy (and how technology can cause that to shift). There are the cliched metaphors: sage on the stage, guide on the side. If you were to select a metaphor for how you see your own role as a teacher, what would you pick?

And, here is my response…

Looking at the idea of transformative technology integration and how teachers see their own role and identity, I think that the biggest shift for me comes when teachers stop looking at it as “integration” of technology and just see it as a part of their teaching.

At risk of being glib, I will characterize the shift that I see as this… most teachers that I encounter, when beginning a class or a professional development initiative claim to be “not very techie,” even if, in fact, they are. I think that this stems from two causes. One, they simply don’t feel confident in the technology that they do know, even though they may know a great deal about it; they don’t want to risk looking like they don’t know something in front of students. Second, they see barriers to technology use (filters, software, hardware), and, for a variety of reasons, choose not to advocate on their own behalf for getting access to that technology for them and their students. Again, I don’t mean to generalize and criticize, it’s just this is the pattern that I generally see.

To that end, when teachers finally gain some confidence, then also take the risk and invite students to work with technology (even if they do now know it well themselves). Once they experience some successes, they begin to just think about what they are teaching and the technology becomes a part of that conversation, not just as an after-thought or as an add-on. At that point, it is not so much about the technology, but about the literacy practices that the technologies enable.

Looking at the idea of a teacher’s sense of identity and their pedagogical philosophy, I suppose that I would talk most about the work that I did with seven Red Cedar Writing Project teachers for my dissertation project. In that project, they created digital portfolios that represented their teacher research through digital portfolios. Once they took that intentional focus to represent their own identity through a website, it became clear that they had to think not only about design, colors, and fonts, they also had to ask pedagogical and ethical questions that then showed up in their work. We wrote two articles about this process, on for English Journal and one for the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Also, you will want to look at some of the work on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).

My metaphor. Oh boy… I suppose that those models of guide on the side and other ones like that are overused. So, the one that I keep coming back to when I work with teachers is that we are all on a ladder, learning more and more about technology and literacy each day. Typically, what happens is that I find myself on one rung of the ladder, usually just a few steps (or less) ahead of the teachers with whom I am working. Then, they begin climbing as we go through a PD experience and, eventually, they ask me a question that I don’t know the answer too, a rung or two above where I am at. So, I reach, and I learn, and I come back and teach them more. Then they climb. Then they ask. Then I climb, and so on. So, we keep climbing the ladder, sometimes pulling and sometimes pushing, but most of the time simply climbing in tandem. I hope that makes sense.

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