Category Archives: Ed Tech

Teaching Digital Natives with Marc Prensky

Ok, I’m glad this post is juxtaposed with my last post on digital natives.

Just because I dislike the term “digital native” does not mean that I dislike Marc Prensky or his message.  In Marc Prensky’s workshop, he didn’t really talk about digital natives, and we didn’t even spend that much time talking about technology.  He focused on making learning relevant to the world in which students are living…  moving beyond test scores and grades and toward building portfolios or resumes in which real world problems are solved. He talked about using student passions to fuel learning. Now this is a message I can get behind.

In his book Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning, Prensky does a great job of emphasizing the “verb” of the learning and allowing the tech tool to be simply a tool.  Again, preaching to the choir here.  I’m 100% behind this message.

My dislike of the term ‘digital native’ stems from teachers saying things like “these kids either all know how to do [insert random technology assignment here] or “they all know how to figure it out on their own” without taking the time to learn it themselves or providing any support in the classroom to ensure student success.  This makes no sense to me.  Why do we assume that because students were born into a world full of technology that they just “get it”?  They were also born into a world in which spoken and written English is everywhere, and they don’t all naturally write and speak English correctly.  Most aren’t born appreciating the beauty and power of language.

For example, my 9th grade students studied teen stress and stress management strategies.  In collaborative groups, students shared their research, infographics, videos, photography, and animations on websites.  Our main goal was to encourage our student body to think carefully about their schedule registrations and about how they will juggle their academics, extracurricular activities, and social life.  We wanted to spread the #challengesuccess gospel using valid medical research to support our claims and to make that information as accessible as possible to our student body by taking advantage of different forms of multimedia.  Our other goals included applying the CRAAP test to information that we found online, using the C-D-C format in our writing, and applying MLA-style attribution.

I didn’t just say, “Hey, make a website.  It’s due in a week.  Peace out.”

We talked about information hierarchy, graphic design, copywriting for the web, and copyright.  They made practice websites one day individually to make sure that everyone knew how to make a website on Wix.  We didn’t even code this website from scratch; we used a page builder.  Sure, half of the class could have figured out Wix, but the other half the class would have probably taken a zero without the scaffolded support.  All of the websites were better because we talked about the “science” behind the things we were doing.

My main gripe with the term “digital native” is that it too often provides teachers with an excuse to be lazy.

In the workshop, Prensky validated much of what I, too, wish for education.  I hope that more teachers in our school system buy-in to his message.  Overall, a worthwhile PD.

If I have any constructive critique of the workshop, it mostly came from the student panel in which I feel like the overarching message was lost.  I’m not saying that the student panel wasn’t informative; it just went off on a tangent for a little too long.  I would also like to see specific examples of teachers/students who are implementing this message successfully because Prensky relied a little too much on “super special” scenarios as evidence.  Maybe he could film short interviews with a few teachers and students so that his audience would be more likely to accept that this mindset can work in normal classrooms with normal teachers and students.

I’m a believer that this can work, but he doesn’t have to convince me.








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Digital Native… *cringe*

Some people dislike the word “moist.”  I cringe when I hear the term “digital native.”  Like nails across a chalkboard, like teeth on a metal fork cringe…

Maybe it’s not that bad… Actually, I approach that term in the same manner that I approach terms like the Lochness Monster and Bigfoot.  I love both of these entities; I would love for them to exist.  But for now, they have to be relegated to the realms of myth.

I feel that students are comfortable with technology as long as they are CONSUMERS of technology.  When it comes time to be a CREATOR… not so much.  When it comes time to be a CREATOR with a purpose, well, even less.

Today, my freshman comp class focused on sending an appropriate email– appropriate in format, message, and tone.  You may say, “Email is soooo outdated.”  Well, most universities and jobs still use email on the regular.  I just completed another round of grad school, and yeah… my professors and I EMAILED each other.  I teach online classes, and yeah… I EMAIL my students.  My husband teaches online classes, and yeah… they EMAIL each other.  The local engineering sector?  Yeah, they EMAIL each other.

We covered the in’s and out’s of emailing, and I asked my students to email me.  I can’t describe the level of discomfort.  It was as if they hadn’t had a bowel movement in days.

By the end class, my students sent me emails that wouldn’t be a terrible embarrassment.  I returned their emails.  We’ll see where it goes.

But you know where it’s not going?  To Shangri-la.  To El Dorado.  To Atlantis.  Because they’re mythical places, in case anyone’s confused.

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Embracing Tech Change

Our district PD included a visit from Eric Sheninger.  He shared his school’s tech revolution and how they kept it standards driven.

I agree with his message, but it did feel a little canned and a little dated.  To me, anyway.  But honestly… It was a message that some of our teachers needed to hear.

In our school district, we have one section of teachers who embrace technology and seamlessly integrate it into their lessons.  We have a second section of teachers who agree with the concept but who don’t put into it practice as often as they should.  We have a third section of teachers who just aren’t going to change, unless they’re held accountable, anyway.

For example, I think filming and editing a video is such a basic skill that I think all teachers should be doing this regularly.  I think blended learning should be the norm.  Social media… I am reduced to guttural noises on this topic.  I could generate quite the list on this topic, but I’ll spare you.  I appreciate our district’s patience with change and their respect for teacher autonomy, but I’ve gotta say… they have more patience than I do.

I wish I could say that Eric Sheninger provided the motivation that Sections #2 and Section #3 needed.  At best, it reaffirmed Section #1’s efforts, and I suppose that’s better than nothing.



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This summer, I attended the Certiport conference in Orlando.  It was Certiport’s first annual Certified conference, and it felt like it.

The conference workshops were limited to one track of workshops spread out over two days, and there was even repetition of “workshops” by the second day.  That was disappointing.  The workshops led by Certiport employees and marketing peeps were, well, not good.  For example, in the training for how to test students, we never actually saw the “guts” side of things… just text-based slides– not even screenshots– describing it.  I know no more about how to set up by classes or the tests than I did before I left.

The workshops led by actual teachers were much better.  It would have also been nice to be organized by our certification areas.  There were many Microsoft certification teachers, but I found a whole table of Adobe certification teachers the second day by accident.  There wasn’t much back-channeling on Twitter at this conference.

I would like to see more student stories.  The videos they shared of particular classrooms (Brooklyn Technical High School, I believe) were inspiring.  I would also like more industry evidence and more practical classroom experiences.

The keynotes were solid.  I loved the insight provided by a global law firm and why the firm encourages MOS certifications as a part of its professional development.  To see evidence of increased efficiency within the workplace was inspiring.  I also enjoyed learning about Florida’s certification numbers and the role of certification in general education from Florida’s Rod Duckworth.  The concluding keynote was Ron Clark, and his universal message of enthusiasm and high standards loosely applied to certification but certainly applied to the field of teaching.

I learned that GMetrix seems to be the standard test prep software for the actual Certiport exam and nothing else really comes close.

We ate like kings and queens, and I did learn to appreciate certification more.  We could definitely do more with certification in Madison City, but the teachers have to be trained and certified themselves before this can work on a bigger scale.  We need to network with local industry and figure out the certifications that would most benefit students’ employability.

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Google Classroom AND…

At this point, Google Classroom can’t stand on its own.  My school system seems to be a fan, and I’m a team player.

One day, in a galaxy far, far away, Google Classroom might be able to stand on its own.  Until then…

How shall we supplement it?

First of all, as I’ve mentioned I hate that scrolling news feed.  My courses don’t have textbooks.  Or digital textbooks.  It’s all me and a thousand other voices on the internet.

What’s a girl to do?

I’m not certain, but I think I’m going with Versal.  It seems to provide a wonderful static space for the delivery of content.  I can still customize its integration into each course with Google Classroom.  I can even incorporate Google features with Versal.

Even within the “static” content, I can incorporate some sense of real interaction between the content and the learner or with interactions between me and my students.

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What’s Your LMS Personality? Take THIS quiz!

There’s no quiz.  It would be great if you could take a quiz, which would then point you to an LMS that fits your subject area and teaching style.  If we’re dreaming big, we might as well wish that it would also fit your students’ individual learning styles.

Our school system has a long, storied history with learning management systems (LMS).

It began with Desire2Learn, which was the platform adopted by A.C.C.E.S.S., which is Alabama’s online learning program.  I don’t recall its exact inception, but I feel like I’ve been teaching online courses forever (realistically, probably 7-8 years).

The Madison City School System then introduced Moodle, though they didn’t dedicate enough server space for it to operate smoothly.  We used it until we gave up.  I liked Moodle, and once I separated its glitches associated with its lack of server space from its functionality, I believe I still like Moodle.  Those who hated it, well, they probably knew nothing about customization.

Then came Edmodo.  We were so happy that its mobile app worked and that it had plug-ins.  It was “prettier” than Moodle, but I never liked that scrolling newsfeed.  Folders or no, there’s something to be said for customization.

Then Schoology.  I had an all-to-brief rendezvous with Schoology.  I won’t claim to be an expert here.  Probably due to time constraints, I jumped shipped and returned to Edmodo.

And now Google Classroom.

I do not dislike Google Classroom.  As a matter of fact, I love when something integrates apps I already use.  It isn’t terribly complicated– if you’ve use any of the above, you should transition smoothly.

But if you’ve used any of the above, you might also be a little disappointed.

Maybe I’m a fickle LMS personality.  I see, in my mind’s eye, what needs to be in my LMS.  I wish I had it all– a static page to hold folders for each unit that I could easily transfer from course to course, a scrolling news feed for immediacy, a discussion forum, an assignment area, a quiz area, enriched multimedia and gamification, social media integration, a mobile app, and the moon.

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Curation: Making Sense of Information Overload

Most of my students don’t know how to curate information… even one of the brightest students I’ve ever had seemed amazed by Diigo and the Diigolet tool.  This is no fault of our media specialist who has been preaching the curation/bookmarking sermon for several years now.  It just hasn’t trickled down into many classrooms yet. If you want to know more about curation and bookmarking, I recommend swinging by this site.

I’ve incorporated Diigo into my classes during the research phase.  Why?  Because I had to do it in a grad school class recently and I’m guessing some of my seniors may be asked to curate information in the near future. Also, it was helping me research, find key quotes, summarize, and organize the information into Lists.

Diigo has recently changed its wonderful Lists to Outliners.  I’m in limbo over how I feel about the change.  I liked the Lists.  I guess I need more time to experiment with the Outliners.

In the whole scheme of content curation, Diigo is small potatoes, but it has enough functionality to be useful during research for high school research papers and presentations.  It’s useful to both the students and the teacher.

I’ve also used Symbaloo to help me prepare for this year’s lit mag theme.  As I’ve collected information, I moved the tiles around in a way that makes sense to me.

And that’s what it’s all about… making sense of all that information out there.  Before your students get too overwhelmed by it all, introduce them to a tool to help them manage it.

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Yesterday, I attended #edcamponline for the second year in a row.  It’s a testament to the power of technology to connect people, and it’s just a great place to share ideas and seek advice.  It’s organized through Edcamp and the MIT Media Lab.  How did I find out about it?  Twitter, of course.  Kristen Swanson (@kristenswanson) is the Edcamp founder, and you can see her in the screenshot below.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 11.35.48 AM

This is basically the launch pad. It’s the online equivalent to meeting in a cafeteria or auditorium prior to dispersing to individual sessions in a traditional #edcamp experience. Welcomes, introductions, technology overviews, and… the session sign-up board, for which Edcamps are known, occur during this time.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 9.30.24 AM

This is the actual session sign-up board where suggestions can be made and voted on. People can also volunteer to be facilitators. It can be accessed through a separate link found on the launch pad.

Once Google Hangouts are built for the Top Vote getters (and this happens in the blink of an eye), attendees can click and join the session that most intrigues them.  It’s a Google Hangout, which means audio/video are necessary to participate actively.  You can mute the audio/video, but you’re there to discuss ideas and ask questions.  No one cares if you’re in your pajamas or if your children are running wild in the background.  They’re all teachers; they understand.  This is where you spend most of your time.


I took a screenshot as soon as I entered the GoogleHangout. This poor lady was an innocent victim of my trigger finger.

Each session is limited to 10 people, and you can pop into other sessions if the conversation lags or several topics catch your eye.

I attended a session on digital portfolios.  I was impressed to learn that one sharer’s school has kindergarteners create portfolios and then maintain those portfolios through 3rd grade.  They use Book Creator because they’re a 1-to-1 iPad school.  I’ve had my students keep writing portfolios for years, but our school is thinking about incorporating portfolios for all students in all courses.  It was a great place to ask for advice.

Several important questions and considerations came up during the session, and I tweeted those questions and takeaways during the session using the #edcamponline hashtag.  It’s important to share what you’re learning during an Edcamp.  Some people even took notes in Google Docs and then shared their notes using the #edcamponline hashtag.  If you weren’t able to attend all the sessions (and no one could), you at least have a peak into what was shared and learned in other sessions.  Even now, if you went to Twitter and searched the #edcamponline hashtag, you could have access to these same notes, questions, and takeaways.

If you get a chance to attend next year… and you could because anyone can… you will be impressed with how it all comes together.

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Credentialing and Certifications

There’s a big push to credential students in Career Tech using nationally recognized certification tests.  In my area, we use the Adobe Certified Associate test.  If you teach student publications, multimedia design, photography, art, or something else involving Adobe software, you may want to consider preparing students for the test.  Maybe they take the test, maybe they don’t…  At least they’ll be prepared if they decide it’s something they want to do.  It’s about giving students options.

There’s even an ACA World Championship.


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Twitter and Live Storytelling…

I am obsessed with this video:

So much potential…

My students got a taste of this during our #twitterfiction festival, but I am inspired by its practical uses as well.  I can’t wait to see how this will manifest itself in my classroom this year.

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