13 November 2013

Information Literacy: Process Model Evaluation

Information Literacy

Researching information literacy to provide a coherent step-by-step process to support learners is something of an ongoing process.

Today's learners, whilst able to 'use' the Internet for a variety of social purposes, are not actually as media-savvy as we assume. Whilst this notion seems incongruous initially, anyone involved with teens and tweens in the digital world knows that in reality, they are often not making great choices - even in social realms. Being able to use technology and being able to operate in the digital world successfully can be mutually exclusive; in matter of fact, "new technology challenges our understanding of what it means to be literate" (Consadine, Horton and Moorman).

Consadine, Horton and Moorman believe that the "extensive use of ICT often creates a false sense of competency"; the paradox is that this generation "have access to more information, than any generation in history" (Foehr, 2006; Lenhart, Arafeh, Smith, & Macgill, 2008; Lenhart & Madden, 2005; Lenhart, Madden, & Hitlin, 2005; Rideout, Roberts, & Foehr, 2005). 

Educators today have a duty to provide the skill-set that will allow learners to make the right choices - this is part of digital citizenship and of being able to operate safely in an online environment. Being able to make these choices however, requires a huge set of new literacy skills.

Searching has become synonymous with "Google" to a generation who do not look beyond the first few hits the ubiquitous search engine returns. Even more, they seem lacking in media literacy skills that would allow then to analyse and 'read' the constructs of the variety of texts they are presented with on a daily basis. Add to this a culture of 'cut and paste' and we have a recipe for an ill-equipped generation unable to think critically about the information overload they experience daily.

Information literacy concerns the need to be able to search, evaluate, synthesise and cite accurately and effectively. There are several processes involved and many process models are designed to address the steps involved. Six process models are compared in the table below. More can be found in greater detail HERE.

Considine, D., Horton. J., Moorman, J. Teaching and Reading the Millennial Generation Through Media Literacy

09 November 2013

Digital Citizenship through Paper Blogging

As mentioned in my recent post, Common Sense Educator: Digital Citizenship Certified, I believe all educators today must address information literacy and teach learners how to operate safely and effectively online.

Literacy today is more than reading and writing; as educators we need to teach netiquette, cybersafety and digital citizenship. I set up Blogs with my learners to showcase their writing and provide authentic audiences. My emphasis is on the need to create a positive online persona, and the Unit leading up to the creation of our blogs, asks learners to think about how they want to present themselves to the world.

The 'Snapshots' unit is a comprehensive unit that I teach to Year 7 (Grade 6) learners on entry into secondary school (middle school). The 'big question' underpinning the unit is

How do I present who I am to the world?

and the final outcome is a reflective learning blog that they use throughout their time in school. 

Example on learning site
The unit begins with Stage 1: Who Am I? and asks them to create an acrostic poem of their name; they must try to choose words that express who they are rather than just fit the letters. They create posters of their finished poems which must feature a photograph of themselves, which are hung across the classroom. At the end of the school year, the poems are returned to them and we examine how much they have changed - not just physically from the photo but also academically and emotionally from the choices of their words.

Next they use a writing frame to write a biographical poem. We learn about present tense and first person, as they construct a poem that states, I wonder, I feel, I dream, I hope etc. They are then challenged to present this in an honest way to the rest of the class in a medium that is NOT a poster. They are given the link to the page on my site that lists a variety of different tools and are free to choose technology or traditional methods of presentation. We negotiate a time frame and they focus on the writing first, get it checked and then create and present their work.

Next comes Stage 2: Paper Blogging Project. We learn what blogging is and how it can help our learning. Learners are then asked to write about a favourite food or drink. I give them some ideas about what to include in the style of a blog post:
How to write first blog post

I then get them moving around the room according to whether their food is hot or cold to demonstrate tagging or labels. It is really important that they use tags so they can document their work effectively and find it again when they need to.

I ask them to then 'publish' their work by creating a 'post' out of paper to be stuck outside the classroom. This will give them a sense of having an audience.

Once their 'posts' are done, they bring them to the front and lay them all on the floor. Then we talk about comments and how this is an integral part of a blog when it comes to learning, as it is like peer assessment. We go over how comments work using sticky notes, and talk about how to be helpful critical friends who offer ways to improve not mean or nasty comments. Learners are then asked to take away a blog post, read it carefully and then write a comment on a post it note and stick it to the bottom. They are to write something positive as well as a suggestion for improvement. They are to then return it to the front and take another.

Whilst this is going on, I whisper to a few learners. I ask them to write something mean, unpleasant and unhelpful about the work.

After each blog post has at least two comments/sticky notes on, we all gather together at the front where learners collect and read the comments. Almost immediately some indignant and upset learners will storm up to me pointing at the deliberately mean comment. I ask them to read it aloud, and then ask the class is this helpful?
Deliberately mean comments can be removed
This leads into a discussion about trolls and how to deal with them. It also leads to a discussion about ownership of the blog. I ask the learner if they want to keep the comment, to which they always answer no. I tell them to take it off, rip it up and put it in the bin. I reinforce the idea of ownership by saying that they have control of their blogs at all times and can remove any comments that are unkind or deliberately mean.

They finish by checking their work against the rubric, editing and finishing as needed and then 'publishing' by sticking up on the outside of the classroom. Sticky notes will be left outside and the school will be informed so that comments from the whole community can be made. Learners are encouraged to check their posts regularly and remove unwanted comments.

Finally, they write a reflection on their learning from the paper blogging project, and a set of guidelines then goes home, which learners read and sign with parents/carers. Only once this is returned can they set up a live blog.

07 November 2013

Personal Learning Networks: A brief review

As part of my current MEd Unit, I had to join and review a Personal Learning Network (PLN). I chose to join and review The Educator’s PLN (Thomas Whitby, 2013), as I am already a member and dedicated user of both Edmodo and Twitter. I wanted to try new possibilities, which were The Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0, and, after reading the article, ‘Professional learning networks designed for teacher learning’ (Trust, 2012) I decided to try The Educator’s PLN.

I wanted to learn if it would be a good place to connect and learn from educators – are they willing to answer queries and provide links for me when I am researching? Are there constant and consistent learning conversations and sharing? If we are to use PLNS to their best, which can be to provide us with transformative and powerful experiences that are teacher-driven, we need to be able to connect and contribute (Being Connected, 2013).

I believe that the point of a PLN is to grow as an educator, learn from others, and contribute to a community (Trust, 2012, p. 37). I chose to explore edupln.ning.com, as Trust’s article suggested that it is more member-centred than Classroom 2.0, which advocates its own material more than that of educators ( (Trust, 2012, p. 36). I prefer to learn from my peers - as suggested in the video Being Connected, (U.S. Department of Education, Sept. 2013) - as this allows us to learn consistently, when and where it suits us. I think edupln.ning.com advocates this collaborative and creative content well – I like how members can post blogs and even set up their own group if there is not yet one to cater to their particular needs.

What I liked about edupln.ning.com is that when you sign up, you can add in your Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ details etc., which shows me this place is one that recognises the power of connection. Having accounts linked together is really helpful when managing a PLN – because, as suggested in Trust’s article, managing a PLN (particularly at first) can be tricky, confusing and time-consuming.

Each member gets a page to personalize, which shows their activity on the site. There are easy links to blogs, groups, Twitter etc. making it easy to cross-post and connect. Membership has to be authorized however, so I was not able to create my page at first, which was a little frustrating as time is precious. I want to be able to use something immediately and often forget what I have signed up for if I don’t get started. You are able to access most of the content though not the ‘Tutorials’ whilst membership is pending. However, membership was approved within three days and an email was sent to notify me. I was then able to create my own page, as shown below.
My edupln.ning.com Page
Members were global, which is great for creating flat classroom experiences and gaining expertise from educators around the world. A great deal did seem to hail from Australia and many groups seemed to centre around Australian education. A majority seemed to come from the USA, whilst I struggled to find any from the UK. As a connected educator, this seems to be symptomatic of UK teachers (and I trained there). Australian and American teachers are my ‘go-tos’; they seem to be more open, more willing and more focused on continual life-ling learning. They appear to embrace change more readily and are at the forefront of educational innovation. UK teachers are very traditional and staid – one of the reasons I left.

Becoming a member gives you access to a digital badge to endorse your membership with a ‘badge’ – I embedded mine into my blog to encourage others to get involved. The badge links directly to the site making it easy for other educators to get onboard – which is what PLN is all about. Whilst membership is pending, it looks like this:

Digital Badge
This can be customised to your own colours - as you can see, I use my 'brand' pink and green - which is great for keeping colours in sync with your own sites.

I have posted about Twitter previously and strongly advocate all educators create an account. As suggested in the video Being Connected, (U.S. Department of Education, Sept. 2013); your PLN will grow organically as you become familiar with the way that things work, though even after a couple of weeks, I am not sure this is the case with edupln.ning.com. I learn a great deal from Twitter and wondered if edupln.ning.com could rival this? After a couple of weeks though, I am afraid to say that I do not believe I will be going to continue using edupln.ning.com. If my Twitter rates at 5, I would rate edupln.ning.com as 1-2 because it is just not active enough, quick enough or efficient as a user.

Twitter, by its very nature, is short and snappy. I can spend two minutes scrolling through and be guaranteed to find a couple of blogs or resources I want to check out. This is every time I check, which is daily. The use of hashtags means I can also search easily for topics AND post about certain topics. This means I get responses quickly from lots of people. On edupln.ning.com I joined the groups “Global Read Aloud Project”, “Google Tools for Teachers” and “Middle School Book Club” to try to mirror hashtags and target similar and specific areas.

I posted the same question on edupln.ning.com and on Twitter:

What is everyone's opinion on the use of e-readers to engage and motivate our net-generation?

This is related to my proposal paper about Kindles and re-engaging learners as readers, as this is something I want to continue to explore. Here is my post on Twitter:

Here is my post on edupln.ning.com.

I received about ten responses on Twitter and started a conversation advocating Kindles over iPads. I received one response on edupln.ning.com.

I do not think I will continue with edupln.ning.com; it is not useful to me as a PLN as it is too ‘big’. I need something that is quick and efficient, and that is Twitter. I am sure other tools will emerge that will rival Twitter and of course, I will keep on exploring. For me, a PLN as to be accessible, global and fit into my busy schedule.

The US Department for Education. (2013). Being Connected. Retrieved from


Thomas Whitby. (2013). Retrieved from The Educator's PLN: http://edupln.ning.com/

Trust, T. (2012). Professional learning networks designed for teacher learning. Journal of

Digital Learning in Teacher Education , 28 (4), 34-38.

Twitter, Inc. (2013). Retrieved from Twitter: Twitter.com

06 November 2013

Common Sense Educator: Digital Citizenship Certified!

As a school who launched the 1:1 programme this year, we feel it important to incorporate the teaching of digital citizenship into our work with all our learners.
Common Sense Educator Badge

With all the benefits the 1:1 programme brings, there comes also the need to address responsibility in the digital realm. Literacy today is more than reading and writing; as educators we need to teach netiquette, cybersafety and digital citizenship.

Common Sense Media is an organisation who makes this easy. I have been using their lesson ideas for over a year, and our school is  now using their work for our Personal, Social, and Health Education (PSHE) lessons.

As an English teacher, I set up Blogs with my learners to showcase their writing and provide authentic audiences. My emphasis is on the need to create a positive online persona, and the Unit leading up to the creation of our blogs, asks learners to think about how they want to present themselves to the world.

Recently, due to our Digital Citizenship work in PSHE lessons, our school encouraged us all to work toward applying to become Common Sense Educators. Today, I received confirmation and approval of my application.

"Congratulations! We are happy to let you know that we approved your application to become a Common Sense Educator. We are truly inspired by your devotion to teaching young people how to be safe, responsible digital citizens.

Again, we appreciate the commitment to teaching digital citizenship to students. It's only common sense for us to work together, and we applaud your participation."

An email was also sent to the principal:

"Students today must learn how to navigate issues like cyber-bullying, privacy and safety ­ and many of your students are learning these new skills thanks to the leadership of Holly. Holly also reached out to students' families, engaging them in this important discussion.

Holly's devotion to teaching digital citizenship inspires us. We are truly grateful for her help in achieving our vision of ensuring that every student in this country knows how to make safe, responsible, and respectful choices to harness the learning potential of digital media in a 24/7 connected world."

I received digital badges to use on my sites, and will also get some goodies through the post.
Common Sense Educator Badge
My learning and educating doesn't stop here though. I am currently planning a Unit for Year 8 based on the novel 'Ties That Bind. Ties That Break'. Learners will research customs and traditions from around the world, and create an exhibition of their findings. As part of this, we will cover information literacy - how to find sources, how to evaluate them, how to synthesize them and how to cite them.

I encourage anyone interested in helping learners become literate in today's digital world to try out Common Sense Media's lessons.