27 October 2015

Fragments within Education - A Case for Digital Literacies


As Autumn lingers in settling in my part of the world, I question the existing fragments within education. Because that is how I feel at this moment in time - Digital technology has been a driving change agent in the last years, but how much has actually changed in practices of learning? What will be the price of a fractured world where so many have access to digital education while so many are left behind? How will one's choice of digital tool/platform affect learning and engagement?

And does it matter?

Only an individual can answer that truthfully. 

For me, it does matter.

Nothing quite compares with the smile a student expresses once he/she realises that they can actually use a digital tool/app to create a digital artifact. It doesn't matter whether it was for the purpose of "learning" - they are now able to use the same tool for their own purposes and hopefully, less afraid of learning how to experiment with other digital tools and apps. 

Digital is their world, where my students find their personal spaces. Where too, quite likely, they will also find themselves as young professionals in some years time, in world of work which is changing faster than education. 

While Audrey Watters calls for the need for students to have their own digital domain, I would be satisfied if students could begin by having their own blog - a blog which would always be theirs and serve as a portfolio of their learning and progress. 

A student's blog is also, in my view, a way of humanising the use of digital technology in learning, for it's not only the ability to read the screen and follow instructions - it is the ability to use that tool to create, to have one's voice heard, to collaborate, to share and yes, learning how to respond within a small network (e.g. learners within a specific group). One learns through connections. Sense making rarely comes out from nothing. 

Teaching with technology at higher education myself, I cannot help but point to Jane Andrews and Mark Jones article, on how in regard to students arriving at higher education, they interact with technology:

"As well as spaces for learning becoming increasingly diverse, students are arriving at university with different levels of ‘digital literacy’ based on prior experiences at school/college. This diversity can also result from habits of using digital devices in social contexts: at home, on an individual basis, with friends and peers; the latter being particularly important as a form of ‘horizontal knowledge’ transfer. Being digitally literate involves different levels of technical, affective and cognitive intelligence. By being technically literate, we mean being able to competently use different applications and work between different digital devices and external hardware. Being affectively literate means the ability to understand how digital media and devices can affect individuals emotionally. Cognitive literacy is the ability to ‘learn’ with devices from different media by curating, consuming, collaborating and creating knowledge. The ability to critically engage with media is a key aspect of digital literacy or what has been called ‘digital media literacy’ (Buckingham, 2007). The term ‘digital competence’ is preferred by Ferrari, (2012) who defines it as

‘the set of knowledge, skills, attitudes …. that are required when using … digital media to perform tasks; solve problems; communicate; manage information; collaborate; create and share content; and build knowledge effectively, efficiently, appropriately, critically, creatively, autonomously, flexibly, ethically, reflectively for work, leisure, participation, learning, socialising, consuming, and empowerment’ (pp. 3–4 )."

In my search to make sense of fragments in education, to find a sense of purpose in a world of chaos, these remain as guidelines for me:

Being digitally literate. 

Being technically literate. 

Being affectively literate. 

Being cognitive literate.

Being engaged in learning.

Being engaged in creating.  

These are not literacies which should be tapped into only at higher education. These are literacies which need to be embedded at all levels of education. Only then will moving from one level of education to another will become more seamless, instead of the jolts of push and pull that is often the case.

In a world where tools, platforms and apps stream forever forward competing for our attention, where change happens yet remains to be effectively implemented, more widely and more humanely implemented, my mind turns towards collaboration.

ScribblePost is yet another space for networking and collaborating. Still open to early subscriptions, it may be worth the time for educators to look into and connect.

Because connections create meanings in a fragmented world. 

Our Fractal Brains from Julius Horsthuis on Vimeo.

References and Further Suggestions:

Another Dimension of Digital Literacies

Analysing Digital Media Literacies

Bridging Fluencies and Footprints

Developing students' digital literacy

22 October 2015

Well Being in the Classroom


I may wish that learning could be a wonder, a joy of discovery. I certainly may wish and continue wishing when often the reality of starting a new course is more like this:


Watching students join a new class and taking a selfie always makes me smile. Yet I wonder...how do they feel about learning and how will they meet the demands of that particular course?

As educators, we already are pulled and stretched out with demands, whether those be professional or /and personal. And yet, we know when a student is not well, when a student is not at their best. What can an educator do? There may be professional support at an institution but not always. That is when an educator may, perhaps, pause the syllabus and open an opportunity for reflection, for self-expression and chances of learning what is closer to students - being well, being happy. 

I am Me from Thought Café on Vimeo.

Thought Cafe offers a selection animations that offer reflection on social justice, critical awareness and self-education. Here you can also find a selection of videos which are provocative and educational to use in class, if only to start off a discussion and introduce further activities related to well being (e.g. students create their own  thought bubbles with the aid of cartoons or other visuals, for instance).

Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Thought Bubble: Kindness from Thought Café on Vimeo.

I need to know why classrooms can't be a place of joy, of reflecting on being well, on being happy.

I need to know why learning opportunities cannot be open and student centred.

Further Suggestions:

Happify: The Science of Emotional Wellbeing in a Mobile App

Learning with Garfield

Creating Comics

Create a Cartoon

Visuals for Storytelling

Storytelling is intricately linked to images and sound - whether in one's mind or visually shared. Images show so much more than words sometimes, capturing feelings, moods, nuances of shade and shadow. As such, it is often when asking students to create a digital artifact or continue writing their blogs, that teachers need to provide them with support with visuals.

Perhaps some may know that I curate images and design here . This post is a brief reminder of some sites which students could use for their digital work.


Life of Pix




Little Visuals (with stunning areal shots of nature)

Super Famous




And for a bit of fun, why not try these out?

Smiley Generator

Deep Dream Generator

Visual Storytelling - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Storytelling - Animated Explainer from Basetwo Media on Vimeo.
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My world.

Open, free, visual and shared.

How do you use visuals in your daily practice?

Further Suggestions:

Blow Me Away with Images

Posters, Images and Metaphors

Elearning Examples  (Multimedia learning)

Visual Literacy - Metalanguage & Learning

10 Free High Quality Stock Photography Websites That All Creatives Should Bookmark


100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip

Pixar's 22 rules to phenomenal storytelling

10 Intriguing Photographs to Teach Close Reading and Visual Thinking Skills

Narratives for Learning

My roads are narratives of discovery and learning, of memories written in sunsets, dreams set in sunrises, entangled webs of paths, images, words. Stories of life, stories of living, stories of being. 

Stories. Where would we be without them?

If students are to be engaged in their learning process, then they need to be engaged in telling their own stories. It is not just the need of autonomous learning - it is in the storytelling, in the narrative, that learning comes alive.  It is in the ownership of learning that narratives become alive. 

Whether using images or video, games, open reflections, structured stories for writing, there are endless choices to inspire students to write. However, it is in the sharing, in the creation of an audience, that a  student 's voice shines in contemporary light. 

Ourboox is free, simple to use and gives learners the opportunity to tell their own stories. 

Narratives are not only the written word, but clips of images, digital artifacts, such as word clouds, videos, cartoons, memes and so many more items that make up our contemporary life. For our contemporary life is spread across the web and whether one actively participates or not, learners today are there, online, creating, sharing and commenting on narratives. Ourboox offers the simplicity of bringing student narrative into the contemporary. 

Once signed up, you only need to click on starting a new project, the interface resembling almost a mini blog: 

Add media, add narrative, save, publish, share. 

As for visual media and writing, why not present learners with  a video, asking them to set into a context or complete the story? Provocation works wonders for writing stories. 

For educators, I'd like to also mention a that November will be a month of writing. Digital Writing Month 2015 
kicks off, is free, open and accessible for any skill level. A month of digital narrative and art, it is definitely a place to narrate and discover stories. 

How will you be  creating and sharing narratives in November?

Further Suggestions:


Writing for Visual Thinkers: Narrative Structures

Empowering Students Through Multimedia Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling in a Digital Age

The Science of Storytelling: How Narrative Cut Through Distraction like Nothing Else

21 October 2015

Adventures in Learning

As I reflect on my teaching experiences, I admit that very often it took me courage to move onwards, to take the next step, to change paths within the many fields that education offers. For teaching is often like a crab-like movement - one doesn't necessarily move up a ladder, but learning and working within different fields of education becomes a symphony of courage , a symphony of risk taking and implement cutting edge educational approaches, even if not standard practice, even if one is not entirely certain but willing enough to experiment and learn. 

For educators are, inherently, life-long learners. This is not a choice or option. It is a way of being. 

Among the most enticing trends today, is gamification and the different levels one may implement it in classrooms. It is simple enough to award badges and introduce games into a classroom - but first, a rewind: is there a difference between gamification and games?

Gamification is the implementation of game mechanics, as Santiago Montero points out:

"Applying game mechanics to learning is an old educational tool, but a natural fit with smartphone and tablet technology has allowed the idea to flourish. Socialization further drives engagement; earning a higher place on the scoreboard than their Facebook friends is an effective motivator for people with a competitive streak. The more cooperative among us might instead appreciate the fact that after each exercise is a chance to read tips and suggestions from other users. Digital badges and golden tracksuits, in addition to linguistic progress, are the rewards in store for those who persevere with the course, "

Two features stand out immediately - the need to increase learner's motivation while at the same time, recognising and rewarding the learner's efforts and achievements. 

Games, (also referred to as serious games ) aim at  challenging the player to plan strategically to move ahead in the game. (here you can find a variety of  suggestions for Games). 

Pranjalee Thanekar  summarises main differences in this chart below:

Learning requires courage. Learning also requires the playfulness to be adventurous. The Adventure Creator for Education is an opportunity for both. 

The Adventure Creator allows learners to create interactive adventures on their iPads, using an intuitive interface which gives them freedom to create worlds and by adding images and objects. 

In my personal case, I have never had the opportunity to learn how to code. Nevertheless, The Adventure Creator  does allow me to learn, to have the courage to implement new ways of learning for students. It also is a way for me to learn how to use technology to transform learning processes - so necessary in classrooms.

It opens engagement, decision making and collaboration to students as well, because games can be shared.

So this is where you may find me over the coming  days, exercising the courage to learn, being adventurous with learning.

How will you unfold your courage to learn?

Further Suggestions:

Understanding Shakespeare Once Again

There are days when I travel back in time, when I travel through time. 

There are days when words recapture me, light transports me, movement and words becoming one with time. 

There are days, words and poets. 

Today is a day to revisit resources on Shakespeare and the first is Understanding Shakespeare 

Select a play, select a line in the play and immediately articles in JSTOR will show up with that quote. 

A free resource for all, the ease of research and learning more about Shakespeare is a gift to all learners, researchers and teachers.

History of Shakespeare from Min Kyung Kang on Vimeo.

So let me travel, let me go back and forth with light and lightness. 

With words of the poet, words and light of mine own, perhaps, just perhaps, a world of lights may transform beyond a stage of words. 

Which play will you be researching first?

Further Suggestions:

The BardBox

Blogging Shakespeare


AKA Shakespeare

Shakespeare for Students

Was Shakespeare Shakespeare? 11 Rules for Critical Thinking

Infographic of the Day: Can Charts Throw Light on Shakespeare?


I'd like to thank Minna Metsäportti for pointing out the image of expressions still said and shared today.

19 October 2015

Brainstorming and Collaborating

Collaboration can often be like misty Autumn mornings. Unclear, hazy, non-defined, no matter how clear collaborating instructions may be. Sometimes, learners transform the task itself - not necessarily a bad thing; quite often, they are left as confused as fog. 

Whether teaching in a F2F context or in distant education, collaboration is an integral part of learning, researching and presenting work. Here are some suggestions, beside Padlet, and Google Docs, which enable a more active flow of ideas for collaborative projects. 

For the iPad - Ideastorm

If you and your students are engaged in PBL,
why not try out the Solution Fluency Activity Planner?

There is respect and recognition in collaboration; there is learning in how to collaborate transparently for the benefit of those in a group.

There is dialogue and with that dialogue and interaction, a learning narrative which evolves and develops.

Isn't a lot of learning a narrative of sorts?

Further Suggestions:

For anyone interested in taking advantage of different features of Google Docs and more, do follow Alice Keeler who generously shares so much on her Teacher Tech blog.

Google for Education


Unless specified, all images are my personal images. 

15 October 2015

Mobile Crosswords

Learning takes on a myriad of forms and can happen anywhere - often, outside classrooms. 

For those who enjoy playing with words, crosswords are always challenging and satisfying.  They are great for language learners as well as other content areas. Here are some suggestions to find crosswords when connected. 

Crossword Labs

Take a Challenge, Accept a Dare

Three Word Games and More Online Publishing

Magazines, Crosswords and More

And since sitting where one is most comfortable, why not then share your crosswords on a mobile site?  

Mobirise creates mobile websites and is downloadable for Windows and MAC. 

Where will you be creating crosswords this Autumn?

13 October 2015

An Ecosystem for Learning

Ecosystems of learning may be as rich and diverse as the wealth of materials and activities an educator cares to introduce in classrooms.  Under pressure to meet testing standards, teachers often have to ignore learning opportunities - a reality which holds true for both language teachers and others from different fields of study.  English language lessons often become the predictable structure of what an observer wishes to see, in order to tick boxes. 

So, dare I ask where is the learning? 

Dare I ask why a learning ecosystem must be so predictable, so routine, so uninspiring (at times)?

Living at a time when students need to be comfortable with a range of literacies, it is misleading to believe that learning is reflected in exam/test scores and endless drills. 

Learners, including language learners, need to explore, to have different worlds introduced into their classroom world. It's not only introducing digital technology into the classroom - it's giving students the opportunity to mix, to blend literacies, to create and in the process, to discover learning - for learning how to learn is also part of what education should be. 

As for discovery, The
National Geographic Learning  has a special section with activities for English Language Teaching which is definitely worth looking into.

There are also guides for educators, should they be required. 

TweenTribune is another rich resource for learners , with a wide range of topics to meet different interests in a classroom. 

Newseum is yet another source where students 
can explore and learn with. There are lesson plans for teachers, interactive tools and a range of learning activities for both educators and learners. 

Ecosystems of learning need to stretch up, stretch outwards and not be constrained by classroom walls and exams - regardless of how relevant feedback and assessment may be.

I dream of crispness and excitement in the air. Of pleasure in discovery.

I dream of jewel coloured ecosystems of learning. 

What will your learning ecosystems look like this Autumn?

Further Suggestions:


I'd like to thank Mark Curcher, programme director of Global Education - TAMK, for reminding me of Pasi Sahlberg recent article above mentioned.

12 October 2015

Games for Learning

How did you learn best? As I play with maps of memories, it is games, fun and pleasures that come to mind. 

Language teachers have always (at least since I have been a teacher), introduced games in lessons, whether for speaking, reading or writing practice and grammar. A quick search in the ELT literature will show up a wide range of publications focusing on language games. 

Today, it is even easier for language teachers and any educator to create their own specific game with freely available tools, or to dip into shared resources and online games.   So why are games so appealing to use in classrooms? Consider:

Source: Why are games good for learning?

Off2Class a library of games, quizzes and learning activities for ESL. Initially free for a 30 day trial, teachers then need to subscribe

However, it seems that teachers may still use game resources

Common Sense is a rich resource for teachers, with an inspiring section,  Lesson Flows. One can find lesson plans for different subjects, adapting them as one sees best for one's context. Zombies and Maps - Surviving a Zombie Outbreak Utilizing Latitude and Longitude Skills, is a great example of what you can find there.

Breakout Edu  games teach critical thinking, teamwork, complex problem solving, and can be used in all content areas.

Here is an example with Science Detectives - Training Room Escape

And an example:

JohnnyApplBeta is where you can play trivia and plant trees as you go along - when a player scores a correct answer, the ad pays a farmer for a tree.

It also includes games for English language learners with different levels:

What other games can you suggest this Autumn?

Further Suggestions:

Financial Responsibility with Learning Games

Game-Based Learning: Resource Roundup

5 Team Building Games That Promote Critical Thinking

10 Team-Building Games That Promote Critical Thinking

Guide to Digital Games and Learning 

References for Gamification