8-C-1 In the Year 2020…

The year 2020. I have a Cynical Me and an Idealist Me. Knowing that the web and global technology will always flat out leave classroom instruction and technology in the dust, the cynical me says that the next four years will bring little significant change in education. The reality is that nothing in education moves quickly, and compared to web and technological advances, education is a slow, January drip of molasses: my district still touts educators as “amazing” and “excellent” whom I regularly would observe “lecturing” from behind their desks, asking and answering their own questions, with students sitting pseudo-attentively in nice little rows.

But, as I said, I also have an Idealist Me.

“We are living in a world that is increasingly interdependent. Local and global affairs are deeply intertwined, and technology has transformed the ways in which most people interact, access knowledge, work, and participate civically…If we are to help students develop the capacity to make their communities and societies more inclusive and sustainable, school and district leaders must provide the conditions, empowerment, and support for teachers to integrate global education curriculum in the classroom. In doing so, schools can help replace fear of difference with understanding (Reimers 2016).” 

Whatever else one may or may not believe about Donald Trump’s candidacy for president of the United States, I believe we must truly hear the beliefs and concerns of the many people he has been able to attract and who vehemently support and defend him. We need to hear the desire that they express, whether overtly or covertly, for “strongman leader who [will] preserve a status quo they feel is under threat and impose order on a world they perceive as increasingly alien (Taub 2016).”

Those who are among Trump’s most radical followers are not the only Americans who are shaken now. My husband and I have been talking about it for months, and, if I may be so audacious as to speak for the American people, we are all uncertain to varying degrees about the times that we live in. Even if we are comfortable with the dramatic social change that our nation has been undergoing: legalization of gay marriage, legalization of marijuana,  overt questioning of white privilege, growing diversity, to name only a few; most of us are unnerved by the physical violence that has been so prevalent: Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Nice, unfortunately, to name only a few.

What do I want to see in 2020?

That the promise of the Read/Write Web to give each of us a place to share our ideas and our fears and our thoughts and our beliefs will be fully realized in every classroom as a way to begin to connect throughout our nation and world. That the ability of the Read/Write Web to let us engage with the ideas and fears and thoughts and beliefs of others different than we will be fully realized. That classroom instruction will include, even focus on, guiding students in how to take part in civil discourse: respectfully agreeing and disagreeing; confirming and discarding after thoughtful analysis, evidence review, and reflective consideration. Technology will engage students not only with their classroom peers but with other students in the nation or across the globe to learn about one another, to collaborate on solutions for problems facing our world, to make strong, positive connections across the globe.

I believe that the classroom–a single classroom-can be a powerful place of story and connection. And the Read/Write Web has the tools to allow our students to share their stories, hear other’s stories, and to connect. And perhaps this is idealism taken to the extreme, but I also believe that the intersection of sharing story, hearing story and connecting–is healing. I believe that when each of us is given a voice and each of us is truly heard, hate and violence and fear dissolve. We could use that. We could use that today.

My greatest hope for learning in 2020 is that the tools and the skills that can create connections of positivity across the street and across the globe are taught to our children so that they will have a very different future than the present that we have today.

Works Cited

Reimers, F. (2016, July 29). Turning Students Into Global Citizens. Retrieved August 04, 2016, from
Taub, A. (2016, March 01). The rise of American authoritarianism. Retrieved August 04, 2016, from

8-A-1 Classroom Collaboration in OneNote

Our school district has made both student and teacher online collaboration very easy. The district has purchased the entire Microsoft Office 365 suite for everyone in the district to use. Making individual and collaborative work even easier is the additional purchase of our own private business area in the cybersphere…

One of the applications in the Office 365 Suite that I plan to use with my students is Class OneNote. The best way to understand Class OneNote is to compare it to a notebook, an online notebook. Within Class OneNote, students working in a group can create a collaborative area which they all have access to and can work in. It also has a area that can be designated for individual work: each student will have his or her own tab and will be able to work in the area privately. Only the teacher and the specific student will be able to see the material or work that the student has put in there. Finally, the Class OneNote has an area for resources and library materials.

Within each of these areas, the teacher or the students, depending upon their access, can upload a wide variety of media and documents or can create. This really can hold it all.

This year, I plan to use this Class OneNote for small group work on projects. During the seventh grade year, one major instructional focus is research. This application would be the perfect online place for students to do their own individual research, take notes and add resources for sharing. Then in the collaboration area the students can use what they learned from their own research and the sharing of others to create a project that demonstrates their learning. Even if the project is created on another tool: PowerPoint, Sway, a screencast or video; the collaboration area can be used for planning, discussion, organization, and check back. When the project is complete, it can also be uploaded into the collaboration space for display and sharing.

During a fantasy/science fiction unit, I plan to have a “creature” come into my classroom regularly and leave clues as to what has been visiting us at night. This will be an opportunity for students to be able to research and discover as detectives what the creature may be and then put together a presentation of what they believe the creature is and how it should be caught. It begins with the principal coming in and asking the students to be on the look out because over the weekend when workers were in the building they left the large garage doors open and unattended. Evidence points to the fact that some kind of creature got in and is loose in the school.

Class OneNote would help the students to successfully keep in touch, collect their ideas, and create a presentation together for this magical activity.


7-B-1: Balance

“The goal of this course is to test the limits, and see how we can bring together both the traditional learning and the online elements available in higher education. This is the wave of the future in the classroom—not substituting one for the other, but bringing together both (Beshkin 2000).”

It always comes down to balance. In teaching, nothing has ever been nor will it ever be the “whole enchilada,” the “one panacea,” the “be all and end all.” Finding the point of equilibrium, the fulcrum position that allows all systems to work together for learning synergy is the key. Such is the case with online learning vs what Beshkin is referring to as “traditional learning.”

CCO Public Domain:

Because balance is the key, I realize that I don’t want a “paperless classroom.” At this time in my career, I am still teaching in a face-to-face classroom. Why would I want to forego the opportunity for my students to take their own photographs, learn and apply a new art technique to the picture, and then display the artwork with a poem of their own creation in a building-wide gallery during parent-teacher conferences? Why would I forego the opportunity to have students discuss in face-to-face small groups and create a mind map on a huge Post-It Note for display and discussion on the classroom walls? If I am afforded the luxury of the best of both worlds–the blended classroom–why would I even try to push all of the student production into one or the other category? So in this hybrid of balance…what are my roles?

Researcher and Practitioner:

I must learn about and use online platforms, tools, and websites that will give my students an “online classroom” in which to learn, collaborate, create and share. I must stay abreast of both online/technological and “traditional” tools, strategies, and pedagogies that will support engaged, rigorous, authentic, and student-centered learning experiences and products. I must stay current on how to ensure the safety of my students and the integrity of their digital footprint while they are in my classroom. I must, myself,  be an active, digital citizen.

Critical Dissector and Assembler:

I must critically analyze the purposes for and the goals of each lesson, assignment and assessment.  Then, I must carefully determine when those purposes or goals can best be met by an online experience or product, or a face-to-face experience or concrete product, or a mixture of both.


A maestro is intimately knowledgeable about the entire musical composition and creates an environment in which each musician can perform to the best of his or her ability and contribute successfully to the whole of the musical experience. I must be deeply knowledgeable about the whole learning experience that I want my students to participate in: the platform, strategies, tools, websites, discussions, activities, content, all aspects. I then need to make certain that each student understands and can participate successfully in his or her learning experiences independently and collaboratively. I then need to ensure that whether students are working independently or collaboratively, the whole of learning environment and experience operates smoothly and well in order to allow everyone successful completion of their learning goals.


A museum curator is in charge of creating an environment for display and safe-keeping of many different types of artifacts. The curator ensures that patrons understand the purpose of meaning of an artifact through its position in a display or by placing descriptions or explanations by the artifact. A museum needs a storage place, a work area of restoration of artifacts, a display area and a research area. I need to provide and take care of the same types of places for my students. Both my brick and mortar classroom (BMC) and my online classroom (OC) will need to supply an individual work space, a collaborative work space, and a space for collecting and curating the work that has been completed. The display area of the OC would need to be able to handle many different types of student work artifacts: audio, video, text, images, and formats that I’m certain that I have never heard of before. So too will the display area of the BMC.


Beshkin, A. (2000, November 20). School of General Studies Offers University’s First Paperless Undergraduate Class. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from

7-A-1 The Future Was Yesterday


“So, the classroom of the Read/Write Web is one of the seamless transfer of information; of collaborative, individualized learning; and of active participation by all members of the class. It is marked by the continuous process of creating and sharing content with wide audiences. In many ways, these technologies are demanding that we reexamine the way we think about content and curriculum, and they are nurturing new, important shifts in how best to teach students (Richardson 2010 149-150).”

As a literacy teacher, I, perhaps more easily than others, had moved into this mode of teaching within my classroom by using pedagogy that supports constructivism. Because the content of a literacy classroom is process-based rather than information-based, having students practice discussion skills was easy–the Iowa Core Standards have an entire set of standards for discussion. Focusing on the writing process and assisting each individual student to improve his/her writing based on their ability level when the joined my classroom was simply status-quo teaching for me. Unlike classes such as science or social studies that have very specific pieces of information as well as skills and processes to teach, my course is the process of reading, writing, researching, argumentation, and all for a specific audience and purpose.

The biggest shifts in my classroom will therefore be around two major shifts from those identified by Willard Richardson:

  1. Big Shift 5: Know “Where” Learning: How will I develop lessons that will instruct students on how to find, how to evaluate for reliability and validity, and how to manage,share, and create new learning from this information. 

  2. Big Shift 7: The Web as Notebook (or Portfolio): What is the best repository for students’ to curate these sources and their  reflection, sharing and creation?

These two shifts and these two questions are my “Aha! Moment.” They are the distillation of this class, Building Online Collaborative Environments, to the essence of the focus of change in my classroom. I need to learn more about these myself, create lessons and structures around these in my classroom, and help my students to engage in these through my classroom instruction.

I don’t have the answers to these questions today, but I am glad that I have identified, succinctly, the questions that will guide my classroom pedagogy for this coming year. I have a focus; I have a place to begin; I have a North Star by course-correct when the crazy of the school year begins, and I inevitably wander off track.

Now I need to seek the answers by becoming a connector, content creator, collaborator, coach, and change agent (Richardson 2010 154-155). Wow, a tall, but invigorating order.


Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts: And Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

6-A-3 Connectivism: Nothing New in the Classroom

So George Siemens and Stephen Downes believe that they have conceived of a new learning theory: connectivism. To be certain, our present state of connectivity, Web 2.0, and the coming complexity of Web 3.0 will call upon educators to add to their repertoire of sources of information and methods of managing and vetting them. However, none of this identifies a new way of learning. To manage the complexification of “knowledge” that is the foundation of connectivism, our students will continue to use the same process of learning and we teachers will continue to instruct with the intention of developing student’s collaboration skills, information selection and management skills, critical and creative thinking skills, and communication skills. The only new aspect–more places and people to connect to and to be able to receive information from.

Colleagues of mine have summarized the “many benefits for the students, teacher[s], the overall learning environment, and for the world (Fake 2016).” However, for each of the benefits listed (generally sourced from George Siemens articles/blogs) the practices that are ascribed as new to connectivism are actually “old” pedagogy. Still valid to be sure, but nothing new either as far as understanding how students learn or how teachers will need to teach.


“In Favor of Connectivism”

Known Learning Process/

Present Instructional Pedagogy

Connectivism makes students responsible for their own learning (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013). Gradual Release of Responsibility (Pearson and Gallagher, 1983)
It allows students to look for knowledge in the world, rather than absorbing it from their teacher (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013). Facilitative Teaching (Rogers 1980’s)
Students have to evaluate to find valid information as they acquire new information (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013). Personal experience of Lorilee Hamel as Literacy Teacher since 1987. Checking the validity and reliability of a source of information is a basic literacy and research skill.
It allows students to make connections between old and new information (Siemens, 2004). Development of Schemas (Piaget 1968)
Knowledge flow from both teachers and students, allowing students to take more ownership over their learning (Siemens, 2004). Facilitative Teaching (Rogers 1980’s)
It encourages collaboration, group work, and sharing knowledge with others (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013). Cooperative Learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1974)
It promotes 21st century skills and technological literacy (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013). “21st Century Skills and Technological Literacy” are “educational buzz phrases.” They are neither theory nor pedagogy in and of themselves, but are the cumulative effect of the instructional practices and strategies that a student engages in in a given classroom.
Students are encouraged to become lifetime learners because information is always evolving over time. (Siemens, 2004).


“Life-long learners” has been a “mission statement catch phrase” as long as I have been teaching. This is neither a theory nor an instructional model, but is the cumulative effect of the instructional practices and strategies that a student engages in in a given classroom.

Interesting to note, these theories, pedagogies, strategies have been around for years, some since 1967. These are not new, nor is the Theory of Connectivism. What Siemens and Downes HAVE brought to our attention and what IS vital for educators to attend to is the complexification of information. We must use these “old” practices and theories to use helping students to develop independence as learners in an ever expanding world of information. For those educators still trapped in traditional instructional practices, it is time to transform for our students’ sakes. We educators MUST help students to be smart, savvy, and creative consumers of today’s information market.


Fake, K., Lee, G., & Rogers, C. (2016, July 23). In Favor of Connectivism. Retrieved July 25, 2016, from A 6-A-1

6-C-2 Sky’s the Limit with Skype

I was speaking “face-to-face” with Grace Lee…in China…on a Friday morning while sitting at my desk in my home office in Dubuque, Iowa. We were discussing Grace’s use of Skype to connect her students in Pennsylvania with a class of students in an English class at a sister school in China. AND IT WAS FREE!

It took no more than an account and the push of a green telephone icon button, and the entire world opened up to me and, potentially, my students. The only, tiny, concern for Grace and I was what time we would connect. In China, Grace is 12 hours ahead of my Central Standard Time here in Iowa. 9 am worked for me and 9 pm worked for Grace. And so 9 it was.

For my own professional growth, I think that Skyping would be incredibly helpful. I would love to travel to Finland or New Zealand where some significant educational/instructional strides are being made, but let’s face it, I have a job, and I’m not made of money. Skype could connect me internationally with other teachers and programs and pedagogy that I could bring back to my professional practice.

It is no longer impossible for me to investigate personally one of the 13 Most Innovative Schools in the World. I could even see as well as speak to the National Teacher of the Year for 2010 from Iowa, Sarah Brown Wessling.

For my students the list of possibilities is both excitingly endless and overwhelming:

  • Connect with and interview an author we are studying
  • Speaking with newspaper, blog, magazine, e-zine…writers about their craft and their advice
  • Sharing learning with distant and new audiences–soldiers, engineers, doctors…so many more
  • Research by speaking to people who were there, experts in the field, etc.
  • “Book clubs” with students in another state or another country

My idea bank is filling rapidly with all of these possibilities and all of the ways to enrich my student’s and my own learning.

And the only issue of concern that I’ve encountered so far is–what timeS shall we meet?



5-A-1–Flickr in the Classroom: Let me tell you a story…

5319357887_7841323e7b_bTiidmaa, E. (n.d.). Mystical [Photograph found in Flickr]. In Mystical. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from photographed 2010, September 17)

Flickr is ripe with creative opportunities for the writer. In his article, A Thousand Words: Writing from Photographs, Casey N. Cep discusses that his phone camera has to a great extent replaced his writer’s notebook. He uses the images that he captures to remind him of research that he wants to do, essay ideas that he plans to write, and inspiration for ideas that he hadn’t previously had; it is an archive of his day-to-day life and fodder for his career as a writer.

This is how I plan to use Flickr in my classroom with my students:a reservoir for inspired ideas, an archive of their own writing ideas, and an agglomeration to share with and stimulate their peers’ writing.

Photographs like the one above would be thought-provoking and inspiring images to begin to build a storyline around. This photograph could be the beginning of a lesson about how starting in the middle of the action of a story can immediately draw a reader in. Such a lesson could get the students considering: What is happening now? what happened to get the individuals to this place? What will happen next?

Using a Flickr account the student could take pictures with their own device and upload to their camera roll. These pictures could be pictures of ideas for stories, poems, research, essays, and could also help students to think metaphorically or analytically.

On the Weebly site, pictures are joined with writing prompts. Students could use their camera roll and a photo editing program or app to create and share their own writing prompt ideas.

A rich source that my students and I can definitely use as a writing tool in my classroom: Flickr.

Cep, C. N. (2014, February 26). A Thousand Words: Writing from Photographs. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from

Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

In 1970, no movie was bigger than Love Story. The theme song from Love Story was likewise a smash hit contributing to the composer’s, Francis Lai, Oscar win in 1970 for Best Music, Original Score. But, it also sums up my problem.

I am in love with all of the technology that I am learning about. I want to keep my students on the cutting edge of literacy and technology, on the edge of the Read/Write Web. After all, what could be a more natural connection than literacy instruction: reading and writing; that is supported by and teaches students to confidently and appropriately communicate using the Read/Write Web?

But my problem is actually, also the first line and actual title of the Theme from Love Story: “Where DO I Begin?”  What is most important for my students to experience as I am just beginning to implement significant use of technology in my classroom?

I have been watching the growth of technology as a tool for education over my 30 years in education. In fact, the year that I did my professional semester, one mini-section of just one of my education courses was a tiny overview of computers. The instructor walked us into the “computer lab” and sat us in front of a bank of Apple IIc computers.

apple IIc

She required us to write one brief paragraph on Bank Street Writer (a first-generation word processing program) and had us print it (yep, dot matrix), and hand it in. After the class, she said, “This computer thing is just a fad, but for the next couple of years if you can’t say that you have worked on a computer, you’ll have a hard time getting hired.” Talk about a prophet!

Well, the first time I cut and pasted text without using white out or re-HAND-writing the paper a million times–I was hooked and I knew this was no fad. As much as I was able, I implemented computers in my classroom, but I had limited, very limited access to computers, and when I left the classroom five years ago, Web 1.0 was still the norm.

I am returning to teaching this year, and my classroom IS a computer lab. With a computer for each student. Do I start with a wiki? Blogging? Casting? Do I implement a year-long use or just incorporate it in one unit? Do I use the computer or other technology to keep parents abreast of the happenings in class? Peers of mine have professional Twitter accounts and classroom Facebook accounts. How do they keep up? I have an idea of creating an online writing lab and ultimately either an online parent newsletter from my class or an online literary magazine. But, well, while my mind is bursting with ideas, my stomach is beginning to ache.

Where DO I begin, indeed?

Wikis in the Classroom 4-C-1

Collaboration. It’s vital for our students to do it well in order to be successful in life and career . It’s also vital for students to do it well both using technology and face-to-face. And in particular, a literacy course must be at the forefront of combining collaboration and technology in the service of learning.

My concern with technology is and will continue to be whether it is the focus of learning or the vehicle for learning.  Are we using technology to make passive and rigor-LESS learning look impressive? Or are we using technology to support active and rigorous learning? Not every app or website or program has the capacity to support active and rigorous learning. Wikis do.

Wikis have the capacity to be a vehicle by which students can learn the skills necessary for successful collaboration: “work appropriately and productively with others, use different perspectives to increase innovation and the quality of work, and use appropriate principals of communication (Iowa 2015).” In order to achieve this successful collaboration and rigorous learning, the first lessons for using the wiki must be, especially in a middle school classroom, how do I work with others, accept and use different perspectives, and communicate well using a wiki?

I have worked with adults in collaborative online spaces. I assumed that teachers/adults would know how to work together well in any environment. I started out by giving little to no support or instruction; as you can imagine, these forays did not successfully result in successful collaboration or deep learning. If adults needs “lessons” to guide them to successfully use an online collaboration space, then clearly students will need that much more instructional support. This set of lessons needs to be the first level of using wikis successfully in the middle school classroom.

A challenge that I am excited to undertake!

Iowa Core K-12 21st Century Skills. (2015). Retrieved July 11, 2016, from