Developing an Online Course, Part 3

Dear Teachers,

This week in my online class about creating online classes (very meta!) we learned about the importance of having plenty of active learning opportunities for course participants, and about the need for scaffolding. The suggestion was also made to take a step back and to view the course as a learner would, without assuming prior knowledge of the subject matter. I’ve been a little concerned that I’m trying to cram too much information into my first week’s topic, “Digital Literacy and Technology Integration,” and that each of those topics could probably be a full week on its own. I don’t want to extend the course (six weeks will be plenty to manage in the summer), and I also can’t decide which of those other weeks to give up. My passion is Digital Citizenship, which probably accounts for the fact that I’ve devoted two weeks to it, but I think I may have to consolidate those two weeks in favor of spending more time on appropriate technology integration.

Creating an online course, like face-to-face teaching, is an iterative process. I was reminded again of iteration today when I spoke to three consecutive AVID classes. I really didn’t get into the groove until the third class; it was like the first two were just practice. I suppose that’s where I am in the creation process on this class, too – and if I offer it again, I bet I will continue to tweak things.

I’m off to go make some adjustments to my class. It’s coming along nicely, I think, and so far I believe it’s a class that people would actually want to take. I’ll find out this summer when we make it available to teachers!



Developing an Online Course, Part 2

Dear Teachers,

This week I identified all the resources I’ll be using for my plot to take over the world professional learning course on Digital Literacy. I also determined the learning activities I’ll be using in the course, focusing on making them meaningful and relevant to each participant’s particular situation. I want to make the learning enjoyable – after all, the participants will be taking the course during the summer! – and meaningful, keeping in mind both Learning Forward’s standards for professional learning and ISTE’s new standards for educators.  It is a daunting task to pull together in a fairly short period of time all the resources  that will be used over a six-week period, and to organize them all in a way that will achieve my Understanding by Design goals. I definitely have a new respect for online teachers and how much work goes in to designing a course!

I’m excited about how things are shaping up for my course, and I hope that if you’re in my district you might consider signing up! I’ll post another update on my progress next week about this time.




Developing an Online Course, Part 1

Dear Teachers,

Round 8 in the Master’s program I’m enrolled in is a class titled “Instructional Design in Online Learning,” and I feel very fortunate to taking such a class. More and more, it seems people are participating in online classes, so learning to design them well will be a great skill to add to my repertoire – especially since I have ZERO prior experience! Everything in this degree program provides opportunities to apply our new knowledge to authentic tasks and our personal interests, so it’s probably no surprise to you that my first online course will be all about – what else? – digital literacy.

The first week of all my graduate courses has always left me with a feeling of complete information overload, and this class is no exception. We’ve already looked at Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, INACOL’s Standards for Quality Online Courses, Tony Bates’ Teaching in a Digital Age, and Learning Forward’s Professional Learning Standards. And all of that is in addition to reviewing Learning Theories, Understanding by Design principles, growth mindset, and a host of other constructs that I was aware of in only the vaguest of ways just a year ago. There’s a lot of synthesis going on here. (It’s almost like they planned it that way.) 😉

I’m imagining that the audience for my course will be teachers and librarians in my district who have “technology” as part of their T-TESS goals and/or have a personal interest in digital literacy, and who are seeking credit towards their required professional learning flex hours. There are currently six modules for the course:

  • What Does it Mean to be “Digitally Literate”?
  • Digital Citizenship Part 1
  • Digital Citizenship Part 2
  • Information and Media Literacy
  • Digital Equity
  • Applying What You’ve Learned

There’s a lot of information to cover in the first five modules, and an educator could spend quite a bit of time on any one of them. I’m not sure this early in the game if the information will be necessarily sequential, or if educators could jump in to any of the first five modules and just complete the one they are most interested in, along with the final module on application. For example, it’s possible that someone with a strong interest in Digital Equity might choose to work on only that module. I think it might be a bit overwhelming if teachers felt that they had to complete every module; it feels a bit more like a graduate level course at this point than something a teacher would willingly do for a couple of PD hours.

I’m pretty much a believer in constructivist learning theory when working with adult learners; I trust teachers to determine what their particular learning needs are and build the knowledge they need to be successful, so I think the “choose your own adventure” approach could work with this class. As I go through the process of the course that *I’m* taking right now, I’m guessing I will learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of the different ways I might set up my continuing plot to take over the world course on digital literacy.

I am an ardent (some would say obsessive) (and they would probably not be wrong) collector of information pertaining to digital literacy, so I already have what I think is a pretty good list of resources for the course. Some of the main ones include Futurelab’s excellent Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum, JISC’s Developing Digital Literacies, Media Smarts’ Digital Literacy Fundamentals, and CoSN’s Digital Equity Action Toolkit, among many other resources that I have found helpful. I’ve also been on the hunt for additional videos and other multimedia content that will be helpful to go along with the many web links I’ll be supplying.

When I get closer to the end of my grad class, I’ll post the access code to my Schoology course here so you can take a peek and see what you think. Right now it’s still in progress, so I’ll be leaving you in suspense for now.




Getting Sneaky About Digital Citizenship

Dear Teachers,

I met with a librarian friend of mine today to brainstorm ways to get digital citizenship embedded in lots of different areas of her school. She confided to me that she wanted to INFILTRATE her school with her digital citizenship efforts. Isn’t that a great word? I mean, seriously: unless you are leading a secret double life as a spy, how many times have you gotten to use that word lately? And how often have you been able to DO it? My librarian friend gave the example of when you add something to your email signature line, people just sort of absorb it over time until it becomes known as a part of who you are, sort of the way a sponge gradually soaks things up.  Think of all the potential sponges in your organization that could be soaking up your drops of digital citizenship wisdom over the course of a school year!

This talk of infiltration and subversion for getting our digital citizenship point across reminded me of Kristin Ziemke‘s blog about sneaky reading – getting in extra reading minutes whenever and wherever. Did you do that when you were a kid? So many adult readers I know confess to having been sneaky readers as kids: reading while walking, reading with a flashlight under the covers, reading when we finished our class work. That is really what we digital citizenship fanatics want to see happen for our cause, too: conversations about digital citizenship happening naturally and frequently, and not as a separate event, an add-on, or the dreaded “one more thing to do” (which, frankly, ain’t nobody got time for). And not only conversations about digital citizenship, but digital citizenship in action, in sneaky ways, all around us, all the time.

I love the idea about being insidious [see also: stealthy, surreptitious, sly] about working digital citizenship into what is already happening in your library or classroom. A casual conversation, a brief mention, a note on the top of the borrowed stacks of books, a well-timed tweet, a picture of #digcit in action, or -yes- a new phrase at the bottom of an email signature. These are the kinds of natural (devious?) things that a committed librarian or teacher could do to advance the cause of better digital citizenship for everyone. The librarian I met with today, though, had some other ideas that I’m also excited to share here – with her permission, of course.

She told me that she really had four pillars of her library that were important to her, and that these were the things she plans to focus on next school year. The four things most important to her are: ensuring that the library continues to be a welcoming place; putting students in touch with the right book; digital citizenship; and the overlapping concepts/skills of digital literacy and information literacy.

Here’s what I thought was pretty cool about our brainstorming session. Those four goals or areas of interest are HERS. She owns them. This simple exercise could work for ANY teacher or ANY librarian: ask yourself, what are the non-negotiables of what I want my students to get from me? Maybe those include the standards you’re required to teach, but more than that, I bet most of you would admit  to wanting your students to see that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, or maybe that they can trust adults to do what they say they’re going to, or that they will start to look at math or science or history in a new way. Decide what your goals or core values are. Then take those three or four core goals or trademarks and start thinking about how you can be absolutely insidious about getting some digital citizenship lessons in there.

We also talked today about how crucial it is to get students to have a true voice in the digital citizenship conversation. I’ve quoted Jason Ohler before, but it certainly bears repeating: students who have a hand in framing the system are much less likely to try gaming the system. If we know and truly believe that students have a huge role to play in promoting digital citizenship, we would certainly want them to be just as insidious as we are in driving decisions, coming up with new and innovative ideas, and ultimately holding their teachers and librarians accountable to what they say their digital citizenship goals are. And they would probably really enjoy the subversive angle too!

Ziemke suggests posting pictures of sneaky reading; you could also post pictures of sneaky digital citizenship! Maybe that’s a student-created bulletin board or website showing images of positive tweets or blog posts or examples of fact-checking news stories. Maybe it’s just calling attention to a photo credit on an Instagram post, like this one we saw this morning (hat tip to the student who not only asked the owner of this image for permission to repost it on her own Instagram but also gave credit on the image to “Connor’s mom”):

connor-w-photo-creditIt’s exciting to me to think about getting students to help with my subversive goals for digital citizenship! With the students’ help and ideas, I know we would come up with many more ways to use social media for social good. The kids then become co-conspirators in my plot to take over the world, gently nudging other teachers to change their own behavior through the positive things they see the students doing. When teachers begin to see more examples of positive student participation online, they are more likely to start being better digital citizens themselves… possibly without even realizing it! In your stealthy scheming plans, you actually help all your stakeholders to understand how to claim not only the rights of digital citizenship, but also the responsibilities and the amazing power they have in evolving into truly active participants and leaders in digital culture.

What do you think? Could a sneaky approach to digital citizenship work in your situation? If so, share how you might subversively, treacherously, slyly, or craftily sneak in a small dose of digital citizenship every day. These lessons need to be taught and experienced in these sneaky little bites so that your sponge-y stakeholders have the chance to soak them up over time. What will happen if lots and lots of people at your school start getting sneaky about digital citizenship is that sooner or later, using social media for social good won’t be a subversive thing at all. It will just be the normal thing.



Digital Literacy and the “Fake News” Epidemic

Dear Teachers,

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “fake news” phenomenon. Maybe it’s because I’m a [former] librarian; maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed with the whole digital literacy thing, but I don’t think it’s only because fake news is in the headlines a lot lately. A friend recently told me she thought the term “fake news” was completely inane, as what that really means is simply “lies.”  Digital literacy – and its fairly large subset, media literacy – is a crucial set of skills and attitudes that are necessary now more than ever before to impart to today’s learners. And it takes a huge amount of pretty sophisticated critical thinking, digital skills, and an understanding of our online behavior to even start to understand how complex the action of website evaluation is.


Take for example the recent news story that went viral about the Santa who claimed that a young cancer patient died in his arms. Totally heartwarming, tear-jerking, and – as it turned out – probably patently false. That the story was picked up so quickly and easily by multiple news stories, apparently without any independent fact-checking, is remarkable, and highlights how widespread the proliferation of fake news really is.

Another friend, an academic who I refer to as a “professional smart person,” and I were discussing this issue yesterday, and we agreed that for us, as people with multiple advanced degrees, it’s often hard to recognize fake news, or to think to fact-check a widely published feel-good story about a Santa in a children’s hospital. How much harder, then, would it be for a 10-year-old, or even a 17-year-old high school senior, to identify whether or not a website is credible or factually accurate? Where can teachers, who may not feel confident themselves in the art of website evaluation, go to learn the skills they might need to help their students understand the kind of complex critical thinking needed to be successful Internet users?

If your district has Atomic Learning, as mine does, you might take a look at the course titled Evaluating Web Resources. In just a couple of hours, you can get some good background information on things to consider when determining whether or not a website is worth your time. This course provides information that will need to be provided to students many times over their schooling careers; there is no way that a one-time lesson on web evaluation would be sufficient for the complex information landscape in which we all find ourselves today. But the course would give teachers (and perhaps some older high school students – there is a LOT of ground covered) some good background information, perhaps in collaboration with their school librarian, to use with their students.

The Atomic Learning course provides a “Web Resource Credibility Checklist” that is pretty extensive and addresses questions to ask  about and tips for determining a website’s author, purpose, accuracy, and more. Similar to the CRAAP Test but more extensive in scope, this list is a good starting point for things to think about when encountering a new website or embarking on a search for information. In a meta-evaluation of the information (based on the suggested checkpoints), I was pleased that the course provided current information (with screenshots of web searches indicating the year 2016) and somewhat disappointed to find no biographical information about the author of the course.

Another of the checkpoints listed was the appearance of a site. Back in 2000, when I first started my librarian career and the Internet was still young, it was much easier to draw distinctions between a site that was probably credible because “it looked good” and one that wasn’t because it didn’t; I’m not sure with all of the website creation tools available today that that is still a valid criterion for judgment, since it’s so easy to create a beautiful site with potentially horrendously inaccurate information. Although the course touched on fact vs. opinion, I would love to have seen a bit more emphasis on helping students to distinguish among sites like blogs, other social media posts, journalistic op-ed pieces, and editorials, as the lines between facts, analysis, and opinion are often blurred. I also wish that the course had included references to fact-checking sites like, and Politifact, and perhaps a mini-lesson on tips students could use to become power searchers.

But there is only so much time that one can devote to a course, so perhaps the topics noted above could be included in a “Website Evaluation Round 2” type of course. Maybe I’ll even offer to put one together! I’m proud to be a burgeoning Atomic Learning Ambassador, so perhaps creating content for them is in my future. The ability to distinguish the wheat from the chaff when it comes to reliable information on the Internet is definitely a HUUUUUGE component of one’s overall digital literacy, so you know I’m on board to help others understand the complexities of website evaluation in whatever small way I can.

If you really want to focus specifically on combating “fake news” (aka lies), here are some additional resources specifically addressing the fake news phenomenon:

Check Before you Wreck (video)

East Indiana University’s LibGuide on Fake News

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources

Fighting Fake News: How Libraries Can Lead the Way on Media Literacy

How to Choose Your News (TED-Ed video)

How to Self-Check the News and Get the Facts

The Lamp

Mind Over Media: Analyzing Contemporary Propaganda

Real or Fiction? (**The information at the top of this page is somewhat outdated and is probably no longer that helpful for confronting the kind of nuanced evaluation that is necessary to evaluate many of today’s news sites. However, the pairs of websites they provide for comparison are excellent. You will probably need the key at the bottom of the page.)

Teaching Information Literacy Now

Truth, Truthiness, and Triangulation: A News Literacy Toolkit for a “Post-Truth” World

Why Media Literacy Education Matters in the Era of Fake News

I sincerely hope that you are resting and recharging this week and are not spending an undue amount of time thinking about fake news or about your students. But I know you probably can’t help but think about and worry about those kids, despite your best efforts. It’s just who you are.



Action Research: Measuring the Plan

Dear Teachers,

Yes, here it is again: another update in my plan to take over the world improve digital literacy in as many places as I can. The most recent class in my grad program has been about designing a plan for measuring the results of our respective innovation plans. For this leg of the journey, I’ve been focusing more on teacher professional development plans than on the website of student-created content. (But in your spare time, hop on over and take a look at how CLICK is developing – and I’ve recently received 17 additional student-made videos that I’ll be posting in the next few days!)

In creating this action research plan for a digital literacy course for teachers, I also taught myself the NEW Google Sites – sooo cool and user friendly! Click the image to see the plan!


Expanding on the Grand Plan for Digital Literacy

Media literacy. Website evaluation. Digital vocabulary. Reputation management. Digital self-control. Basic troubleshooting strategies. These are all important skills and concepts- along with many others – that students need to know in order to be successful in today’s digital world. Some students may learn these skills through trial and error, or because they have parents or teachers who are good digital coaches and role models, but often these skills slip through the cracks.

In order for teachers to feel more comfortable about helping their students understand digital fluency and digital citizenship, I’ve been working on developing a course that will be offered in my district. This course will help teachers think about the reasons for teaching digital skills, the critical thinking skills that are required of students in an online environment, and how teachers can successfully weave these skills into what they already teach without feeling like they now have “one more thing to do.”

Although I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, I’ll be completely honest here and say that I’m not a big “data person.” I recognize that that confession perhaps puts me in an unpopular minority. I do understand that data is important; I know I need to pay attention to data; I get that measurement shows us where we need to improve; etc., etc. But we are in a profession that is focused on other human beings, and I hope NEVER to forget that kids (and teachers) are so much more than a bunch of discrete data points.

However, my current grad class is all about assessing digital learning initiatives, and I’m definitely happy to be pushed out of my comfort zone to consider measuring the impact of my crazy schemes to take over the world improve digital literacy. Click the image or the link below to see an outline of what that might look like for the Digital Literacy course I’m cooking up: