Monday, October 28, 2013

Digital Learning Environment Reflection

“Given a rich environment, learning becomes like the air. It is IN and AROUND us.”
~Sandra Dodd

Seven weeks ago, we invited you to learn in a new way with us.  Through this professional learning challenge, we have begun crafting a new digital learning environment for you.  During this first piece of our challenge, you have chosen activities, some virtual, some face to face, that we hope have helped you to expand your understanding of how to craft your own digital learning environments for your learners.

Now that you have had a chance to participate for the past few weeks in the activities that you have chosen within our DLE, take a moment to reflect.  How has your perspective changed? Are there things that you were already doing that you didn’t realize were part of a digital learning environment?  What have you been inspired to do?

In the comments section, use the sentence stem below to reflect on your understanding of digital learning environments.

  • I used to think….  now I know…

We are coming to a close in celebrating a digital learning environment, but fret not…  we will not leave you without blogposts.  Next week we will be starting a module on assessment.  Join us for our awesome and inspiring weekly blogposts.  Also gear up for another Twitter chat, webinar, and a couple more face-to-face sessions.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Curation as Creation

Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.   ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

This week's post has been written by a guest author.  Thank you to Mrs. Melanie Ringman for her time and willingness to share.


In a time where we are struggling to meet all of our learners’ needs, we need to find ways to work smarter. Teachers need to step away from thinking that they have to create or find everything for the classroom. Education is no longer a one way path; embracing education as a learner/educator model and realizing that our students are wanting ‘buy-in’ to the process and have much to bring to the table is a paradigm shift that is happening and should happen in schools.

The question remains --  how do we make that shift? The teacher should spark inspiration that drives students to explore and locate the resources, to critically think about how those resources can contribute to the assignment, both personally and shared with classmates. In this process, the students learn how to find answers to their own questions. I employed this method in a recent unit over Mood and Tone where I was trying to create student buy-in and engagement. I wanted to find engaging texts and then transition my students to challenging pieces to analyze. In the past, I brought in song lyrics to start the lesson, but it was music that I loved. When they looked at me, they did not see my music choices as relevant to their lives. I finally asked myself; why couldn’t they bring in their own music and videos that we could analyze? So I tasked them with finding a music video that they felt conveyed a strong mood and tone. They were to find and curate (organize, save, and use) something that was personally meaningful to them.

When they came to class, ALL of my students (yes, I said ALL) were eager to share what they found. The groups then viewed the videos and voted on the best one to share out as a class. I can not tell you how many authentic teaching moments I had with my kids as they discussed and evaluated the validity of what they brought. They were using text evidence to argue their point and having (take a deep breath and wait for it) an academic discussion.  And let me tell you, Taylor Swift is brilliant at teaching mood and tone because she is an angry woman with a broken love life  -- and the kids got it. The students wanted to write about the tone and mood they found in the music, and the transition to the pieces that I wanted them to read and analyze was a much easier one because the foundation was in place.

It made my job easier!!! And we all know there are not a lot of things that are making our jobs easier these days.  The students want to be a part of the process of education. We have to make it authentic and give them a voice in what they are learning. If all the knowledge can be googled, why do we not let them search for their own questions or even set their own questions to guide their learning? Our task is then to teach validity, problem solving and critical thinking with students that are engaged in real world material.

In class we ventured into expository reading and writing. This type of writing is so important for them to master because it is a life skill. For the most part, whatever career they choose will have some form of expository writing, but it is the most boring (to the kids) type of writing to do.  I wanted them to see what the world had to offer in Expository writing. I had them curate and bring authentic expository pieces about topics that they wanted to read. Instead of spending my time finding the pieces, they were building their cache of authentic real world pieces that we still refer to, even though we have moved on from that unit.  Anytime we are writing, we will pull pieces that they have included now as mentor text in their writing territories.  It is not just about finding authentic engaging pieces but using them as a resource over time.

Learn more:  Click here for a great article about the value of learners curating.

Have you ever had your learners curate for you?  Share your experiences.

Is this a new idea?  If so, how could you include curation of resources (online games, videos, photos) into your learning experiences?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Organizing The Digital Learning Environment

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.”
--A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

With instant access to so much information online, organizing your digital learning environment can be quite a challenge!  As we explore creating digital learning environments for our learners, we need to keep organization in mind as well. There are tons of online productivity tools to help keep you, your learners, and digital information organized.  Evernote, Google Drive, Edmodo, Symbaloo, and Diigo are among some of the most popular ways to organize and save digital information.  

Diigo (Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff) is one of our very favorite tools. It is a web tool that allows you to save, annotate, and share any information from the internet.  

Watch this video to see how the iTeam is using Diigo to organize our digital learning environment!

Top 3 reasons we love Diigo:
  • Collaboration - Each iTeam member is part of the iTeam Resources group, so we can all add content any time.
  • Tagging - Any resource we add to the group can have multiple tags, so we don’t have to decide on a single way to organize.
  • Access - We can access Diigo from any internet enabled device any time, so when we find a great resource to share we can add it to the resource list instantly! This makes it easy for us to add resources to our list and share them with you.

Ideas for using Diigo with learners:
  • Guided Research - Choose a tag for an upcoming research project.  Collect resources in your Diigo account for the project and tag them with the tag you chose. Visit your Diigo library and click the tag for the project.  Share this website address with your learners via your website or QR code.
  • Classroom Resource List - Save sites you would like learners to visit.  Organize your list with tags your learners will understand.  Link your resource list to your website.
  • Keep Track of Project Resources - Learners with Diigo accounts can keep track of all of the resources they use for a project.  
  • Offer Product Choices - Create a list of sites for learner to use to create products.

You can learn more about Diigo here:

You can visit the iTeam Diigo Resource list here

What is your favorite tool to organize your own digital learning?  Why?  

What is your favorite tool to organize digital learning environments for your learners? Why?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Flipped Experiences as part of a Digital Learning Environment

“Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st century.”  ~Alfred Edward Perlman (born 1902); Civil Engineer, Businessman

“Flipped”  is a buzzword in education right now.  It is certainly a buzzword in our district.  So the question is - is it worth it? The simple answer is “yes”.  But, of course, there is so much more to it than that.  This simple learning strategy happens when content that is normally presented and worked on in class is reviewed during the time traditionally used for "homework." This allows for class time to be used for application of knowledge, collaboration and interaction with the content.

What have you heard about Flipped Learning?  Does it sound like an entire methodology for teaching that you haven’t had time to explore?  Have you ever considered flipping one lesson or even a one unit?  

The best thing about flipping is that it can be a tool in your toolbelt.  You don’t have to do it every day.  And you shouldn’t flip a lesson to check a box that you have done it.  With intentional and thought-out design, a flipped strategy - used at the right time - can be one of the most powerful.  

Listen to these educators and learners describe their recent experiences with a flipped lesson.

Click here to view the video if you cannot see it above.

Notice that each educator cited different reasons for using a flipped strategy.  Can you think of other reasons that you might want to try a flipped lesson?

What is your biggest obstacle to flipping a lesson?  Share your ideas with each other and if you have any solutions to others’ obstacles, by all means share those too!