Is Khan for Kids?

This week I decided to do a review on a 1st Grade Math Unit from Khan Academy on Place Value. Since my major project is for a grade one classroom, I thought I would explore a digital unit for a primary grade. I was interested in seeing how Khan Academy set up their unit for such young learners and I wanted to see if a grade one could really do this unit independently and “learn” online.

The slogan for Khan Academy is:

You can learn anything. For Free. For everyone. Forever. 

When I first landed on the website I thought the slogan was very catchy and I was very excited because this is an amazing concept and I truly believe in open education sources. I was hoping I would be able to find an English Language Arts unit for primary grades on Khan Academy, but it seemed to be more Math and Science focused.


I decided to do the module on Place Value for the first grade. I was able to get through the modules fairly quickly (as you would hope!), but I tried to look at the modules critically, specifically I looked at the following aspects:

  • production values
  • perceived difficulty of creation of the module
  • potential impact on student learning
  • whether the format adds value to or impedes the facilitation of the content

Here is my review…

Production values: I found the actual module itself fairly basic. The lesson was a basic screen cast with narration and the quiz was a simple picture with a box to enter your answer. To be honest, I was underwhelmed with the aesthetics of the whole production. This is a free resource, so I understand why it is so basic, but I can’t imagine a grade 1 student being engaged or excited about this lesson.

Perceived difficulty of creation of the module: I feel like this module would be fairly basic to put together. I could see myself using Khan Academy in the future to create and find modules for my students as an added dimension to their learning. Although I think this would be a fairly easy way to create an online course, I don’t think it would be my first choice for the primary grades.

Potential impact on student learning: This course was very, very basic. I don’t think there would be much impact on student learning. I could see accessing this module with parent help at home, but this wouldn’t be my first choice. I feel like there are many other options out there that are more engaging, such as YouTube videos,  IXL Math, or open source interactive sites.

Whether the format adds value to or impedes the facilitation of the content: Unfortunately, I don’t think the format of Khan Academy adds value to teaching place value to the first grade. I think it is a good resource to have as an “add-on” for parents who need help understanding, but I really don’t see this course being used in a grade one classroom.

I did try out the app Khan Academy Kids  as well and did find that it has more potential than the online modules for the primary grades, but still needs some development to reach its full potential. Something I will keep in mind when I begin making my course is the accessibility of it for grade one students. I found this course wasn’t super easy to navigate and wasn’t super appealing to a grade one student.



Anxious, yet Eager.

It is really hard to believe that this is my fifth course with Dr. Alec Couros. It all started over 13 years ago in ECMP 355 (Intro to Computers in Class), in the Fall of 2006. Around 20 of us huddled in the computer lab working on desktops building websites using code and exploring this fairly new site called YouTube. Fast forward three years to the Winter of 2009 and I was back again with Dr. Couros in ECMP 455 (Classroom Computers Advanced). A LOT had changed in those three years. Twitter was a new and emerging tool and people were beginning to grow their Personal Learning Network (PLN). The concept of 21st century learning and bringing learning outside the 4 walls of the classroom was also beginning to get some traction. ECMP 455 was truly a game changer for me and has helped me become the educator that I am today. To be honest, Dr. Couros is the reason I decided to pursue a masters in education. His commitment to innovative approaches that promote student-centered teaching and learning is something I aspire to.

I began my Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in the Winter of 2015. This is class 7 out of 10! I have taken EC&I 832 (Emerging Media Literacies) and EC&I 831 (Social Media and Open Education) with Alec, but this is my first class on a maternity leave and I am really hoping I can keep things straight! I have two beautiful girls. Isla is 2.5 years old and Scarlett is 7 months old. Needless to say, they keep me busy and there is never a dull moment.

2 4x6

I am really excited to be taking this course, but I am also feeling rather anxious. As a mother of two (both who aren’t the best sleepers), I am struggling with keeping things straight in my head. It is my hope that I don’t miss anything!

coffee smartphone twitter application
Photo by on

I appreciate you all helping to keep my focused and on task through Twitter and our online course community. When I am not full-time ‘momming’, I am a Teacher-Librarian with Regina Catholic Schools. I love this position as it allows me to combine a few of my passions in teaching: literacy, technology, and innovative teaching and learning.

In Regina Catholic Schools, the school library and the teacher-librarian are integral in strengthening student learning.

​Our school libraries are home to dynamic instructional programs that connect with the educational programs of the schools.  Through collaborative partnerships, teacher-librarians and classroom teachers design and implement inquiry-based learning opportunities that support curriculum learning outcomes.

Literacy development is the cornerstone of our school libraries.  They promote the enjoyment of reading, viewing, and listening. ​Our libraries prepare students for the future by developing the abilities and skills necessary to become information literate.​

Taken from RCSD Information and Library Services

My number one goal for this course is to get through it without missing a deadline and being able to produce the quality of work I am used to producing! Three other goals I have are:

  1. To develop an understanding of the pedagogical issues (e.g., learning strategies, developing content, delivery/facilitation formats/options, developing presence, cultivating community, etc.) of blended and online learning. As an elementary school teacher, I see very few instances of blended and online learning (although we do have some excellent examples of it happening right within our school division by extraordinary teachers, such as Matthew Bresciani) and I would like to explore how we can help close that gap.
  2. To examine and evaluate blended and online course content, pedagogical practices, and tools for implementation.  To be completely honest, I don’t know what is really out there (other than YouTube and MOOCs) for designing online and blended learning. I would like to explore, evaluate, and examine the various tools used to deliver the course and the pedagogical practices that need to be in place in order for them the be successful.
  3. To create something that is useful and can be used again. This is one of my favourite aspects of Alec’s courses — everything that we do is purposeful and has true meaning and the ability to impact teaching and learning.

… but in all honesty my number one goal is to not miss anything!

Fear not.

I am feeling some of the same feelings I had last semester. I left EC&I 832 feeling digitally literate and confident with my ability to teach digital citizenship, but this week I was thrown a curve ball! I was introduced to many new social media sites and tools. I had heard about a few of these sites, but never really knew what they were, nor had the curiosity to check out.

Photo Credit: filipinooutsourcers via Compfight cc

Many of these sites, such as YikYak and 4chan, allow users to comment and participate anonymously. Nima Naimi says the anonymity offered by the app may lead to a lack of empathy and users saying things that they wouldn’t normally say in person. Participants in these communities can say and do almost anything they want without being accountable. So we should ban them and rid the internet of these sites, right?

Young people are also turning to the internet and social media to cyber self-harm. Students are inflicting psychological self-harm on sites such as Reddit, Ask FM, and Tumblr. They do this by creating fake online identities to attack themselves and inviting strangers to do the same. They may be doing it to finally open the conversation so they can get the help and support they need, they may be experiencing a mental health disorder and this is the most suiting outlet for them, maybe it is low self-esteem or depression. Needless to say, this is a growing issue and is impacting more and more teens and youth. So we should ban them and rid the internet of these sites, right?

Teens and students are also being exposed to porn and explicit images at younger ages. All you need is one kid in the playground going looking for the bad stuff and every kid sees it. Students are seeing stuff on the internet that they are unable to process and are confused about. Furthermore, one student can expose many others to these online searches. For example, just this past week at school we found in the search history on one of our shared tablets “porn” and some other explicative searches. Unfortunately, since this is a shared tablet and doesn’t require a log-in we were unable to find out who (out of the 3 classrooms using the tablet) was performing this search. So we should ban them and build restrictive firewalls of these sites, right?

The answer to all the above questions is NO. Of course we have to be aware of the complicated and sometimes complex issues that may come from these sites, but at the same time there is a bigger picture. How do we teach our students to be empathetic in online spaces? How do we combat issues such as cyber self-harm and cyber-bullying? How do we help kids cope with a digital deluge of inappropriate images?

The answer is not by shoving it under the rug and pretending it is not an issue. The answer is also not by banning students from using the internet and restricting all access. The answer is by teaching and modeling digital citizenship. If we don’t explicitly teach, keep the conversations open, and talk about the issues, we are leaving students to figure out these complicated and complex issues on their own. Something they may not be capable of doing at this point in time.

To be honest, I was quite shocked to hear of some of the popular sites and things available on the internet (even though I consider myself as quite tech savvy). I am thankful for this course and my learning project as it has given me a purpose to:

“Download it, try it, poke around, see how it works, see the kinds of things that are being posted,” he suggested. “And that’s just going to help you have a better understanding and open up a dialogue with kids.” – Dan Misener via CBC News



Write On: Improving Student Writing

“Remember what writing is for: to share what we see, think and believe, and invite response.” – Blogging in the classroom: why your students should write online

Over my career, I have noticed a common trend in my students when they enter into my classroom. They DISLIKE writing. Sadly, they often come into my classroom with a negative view of writing and when asked to complete the beginning of the year writing assessment, the room is filled with moans and groans. (I hate to admit it, but I was one of those kids too). Just like Elizabeth, writing has never come easy to me and I often struggle with writer’s block, so I can relate with my students when they come into my classroom. Usually by the end of the year my students leave the classroom with a new outlook on writing.

Some of the common trends I see in the classroom that spur on this hatred of writing are:

  • Too much focus on conventions or as Heather says, the writing process. Teachers love their red pen and LOVE marking every error on students writing; however, this is such a small part of the process of writing. In fact, it is on small part of the 6 traits of writing. In my opinion, ideas, organization, voice, and word choice are WAY more important than if you are forgetting a period.
  • Students are told what to write and their only audience is the teacher.
  • Authentic and real-time feedback is often limited.
  • Often the pre-writing process is not authentic and has too much teacher input. This causes students to get stuck on what to write about because they are trying to write what they think the teacher wants.
  • There is a disconnect between reading and writing.
  • When students are allowed to use digital tools to publish their writing it is limited to word processing.

Improving student writing has been a priority within our school division the past few years. At the same time our division has implemented a variety of new technology tools to help enhance and transform the way we teach and learn. One of the ways to leverage student engagement in writing is through collaborative writing tools that help build writing communities. Who are our students writing for? Who makes up the audience? How do they make the audience care?

“It’s not just 21st century skills but 21st century connections and how to make them.”  – Vicki Davis, Reinventing Writing

By reinventing writing and using collaborative digital tools within the digital writing workshop along with traditional methods, we are fostering community, allowing students to explore various perspectives, and with that acquire and synthesize new information. Using digital tools in the classroom doesn’t mean that you can sit back, relax, and let the tool do all the teaching. The teacher must be an active participant by facilitating learning, intervening when necessary, and providing relevant feedback.

It is also important not to get caught up in the bells and whistles of the digital tool. Some key questions to think of when integrating digital tools are:

  • How will this tool further student-centered learning?
  • What outcomes will this tool help to leverage?
  • How is this tool connecting students and creating collaborative learning?
  • Did I sent out information about the tool to parents?
  • How easy is it for me to set up this tool?
  • How easy is it for the students to use it or navigate the platform?
  • How will I monitor student work and passwords?
  • What is the terms of use of the tool?

(Questions from: Writing Assessment & Digital Tools Workshop by Regina Catholic Schools)

When we use digital tools and engage in authentic writing experiences, we are redefining the author’s chair. In my experience a great way to provide purpose for writing and an authentic environment for writing is through a blog. Blogging provides a place for students to develop their voice, make meaningful reflections, connect and collaborate with peers, curate content, and develop transliteracy and digital citizenship. By building your PLN on Twitter and using hashtags, such as #comments4kids, you will be able to connect your classroom with other classrooms around the world to make this process even more exciting, authentic, and engaging.

A summary of my learning, but the beginning of my journey

I came into this course feeling confident in my ability to teach and model digital citizenship; however, as the weeks went on, I realized there was a lot for me to learn! During the past few months in this course we have explored a large number of topics related to digital citizenship and the complex nature of how our digital world impacts identity. We explored the interconnectedness of media literacy, online identity, and how to be responsible citizens in our global networks and society.

During Module 1, we were introduced to media literacy, looking at the foundational theories in media education and the implications of our views of media literacy and digital citizenship in education. In the past there was this idea that we had two separate identities, one in the online world and one in the offline world. However, as our participation in digital culture and media has evolved, we are moving away from the term digital dualism to the term augmented reality as a way to describe how our digital world shapes everything from our relationships to the way we view the world.  The idea that we never fully log off impacts our responsibility as educators to teach and model digital citizenship in schools and how we can challenge students to become digital citizens and leaders.

Module 2 explored identity and citizenship in a mediated culture. We looked at what it means to be a (digital) citizen. The reason I have digital in brackets is because as we live in an augmented reality and our online identity directly impacts our offline identity and vice-versa. Even though we may portray an edited version of our self online, it is still impacting us socially, emotionally, and  psychologically. We looked at stories such as, One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life, Split Image, and The Sextortion of Amanda Todd which identified the challenges of identity in a mediated world.  We need to be aware of our identity in both online and offline spaces. We are living in a world where everything we do is immortalized on the web, and what may be a silly mistake is no longer forgotten. danah boyd notes that our participation in mediated publics affects us in unique ways such four properties:

  1. Persistence : what you say sticks around.
  2. Searchability: what we do and where we go can be searched.
  3. Replicability: content is copyable, so it is difficult to determine if it has been doctored.
  4. Scalability: Our potential audience is grand.

Our mediated publics are also impacted by three dynamics:

  1. Invisible audiences: not all audiences are visible when a person is contributing online, nor are they necessarily co-present
  2. Collapsed contexts: The lack of spatial, social, and temporal boundaries makes it difficult to maintain distinct social contexts.
  3. The blurring of public and private: without control over context, the idea of public and private become lost too.

As the context of our online identity is open to interpretation by others and is everlasting, it is extremely important to portray yourself the way you want to be remembered. With that being said, it is also important to model empathy and encourage our students, parents, administrators, and society to be empathetic to mistakes made online. Key ways to model and teach citizenship were explored though Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship and Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Continuum.

Module 3 pulled the prior knowledge we gained from module 1 and 2 together looking at media and our students. We looked at the new and emerging literacies and their impact on future work skills and how we should be teaching to the 21st century learner. Additionally, we looked at the social learning theory and participatory culture in literacy. This course has pushed me to publish my thoughts and ideas and to contribute to a learning community, which was sometimes uncomfortable. However, this push has challenged me to be a more critical thinker, produce better products in my reflections, and both learn and contribute to my PLN (something I had been slacking at prior to this course). I have gained more from this course and being connected with others than I have in prior courses in my graduate classes and I think this due to me creating and sharing with others and learning from others in the course. One of the best learning tools in this course, was my reflections on my blog. It was nice to have guidance on key topics, but also the freedom to dig deeper into topics of interest.

In addition to the modules, reflections, and connections made in my PLN, I was able to create a website for Teacher Librarians for my major project.  The role of the Teacher Librarian is changing. TLs are no longer the keepers of information, but rather media specialists and educational leaders. TLs collaborate with other teachers to implement engaging and innovative technologies, engage students in inquiry based learning, and to teach students how to use technology as responsible digital citizens. The purpose of the website is to provide a comprehensive resource for TLs and teachers that includes lessons and resources on the four domains of what TLs teach according to Joyce Valenza and Gwyenth Jones.  The website includes teacher resources on inquiry and research, evaluating resources, creating and sharing, and digital citizenship. My major project follows the lesson plan format from our Educational Technology team in RCSD. It is my hope that this project will continue to grow and develop with input from other TLs within our school division.

As I said earlier, I came into the course feeling confident in my ability to teach and model digital citizenship. However I leave this course feeling renewed and refreshed in my commitment to being a digital leader in my school and society. Teachers need to shift their view from the “I should…” to the “How can I?” thinking critically about how we can incorporate digital citizenship and leadership into our daily teachings. I am excited to continue to grow as a digital leader in my school, my PLN, and family. My impact may be small to start, but hopefully by modeling my own leadership, I can motivate someone teacher, student, family member to make a change and become a digital leader as well.

Thank you Alec and Katia and fellow EC&I 832 students for making this term a valuable one! I look forward to continued learning and growth with you in my PLN!


The move from digital citizens to digital leaders

During the past few months in this course we have explored a large number of topics related to digital citizenship the complex nature of how our digital world impacts identity. In the past there was this idea that we had two separate identities, one in the online world and one in the offline worlds. However, as our participation in digital culture and media has evolved, the idea of digital dualism or an augmented reality is a better way to describe how our digital world shapes everything from our relationships the way we view the world.  This idea that we never fully log off impacts our responsibility as educators to teach and model digital citizenship in schools. Is the term “digital citizenship” becoming dated as well? Should our responsibility be to teach and model citizenship in general? Should we stop there or should we push and challenge students to move from digital citizens to digital leaders?

What is the difference between a digital citizen and a digital leader? A good digital leader can be a digital citizen, but a digital citizen isn’t necessarily a digital leader.

Couros defines digital leadership as:

“Using the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others.” (From, Digital Leadership Defined)

Jennifer Casa-Todd interprets digital leadership as encouraging student to use technology and social media to make a difference in our world by empowering others who have no voice, addressing societal inequality, promoting important causes, learning and sharing, and being a more positive influence in the lives of others. By being a digital leader students from apathy to action becoming enlightened, empowered, empathetic, ethical, and engaged citizens.

Conceptual Foundations
Understanding the Conceptual Framework from Renewed Saskatchewan Curricula

Digital citizenship and leadership is embedded across all renewed Saskatchewan curricula through cross-curricular competencies and broad areas of learning. Just as citizenship and leadership is taught and modeled through the curriculum and broad areas of learning, Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship are intertwined and intermingled. Citizenship and leadership cannot be a one and done type of lesson. It must be embedded into your daily conversations, tasks, inquiries, and teachings.  This transformation from digital citizenship to digital leaders allows for critical thinking, collaboration, initiative, adaptability, communication, synthesis, curiosity, and imagination, which are essential skills in the Saskatchewan curriculum. Additionally, it achieves the goal of multiple literacies allowing students to construct knowledge, explore and interpret the world, express understandings, and communicate new meanings.

I must admit, I was feeling a lot like Claire, coming into the class feeling confident in my ability to teach and model digital citizenship, but as the weeks went on, I realized I had much to learn and many ares needing growth. I am now feeling renewed and refreshed my commitment to being a digital leader in my school. Teachers need to shift their view from the “I should…” to the “How can I?” thinking critically about how we can incorporate digital citizenship and leadership into our daily teachings. This past year I took on a new role as Teacher Librarian and part of the reason I did was so that I could take on more of a leadership role within the school. I am excited that the role of the Teacher Librarian is changing. TLs are no longer the keepers of information, but rather media specialists and educational leaders. TLs collaborate with other teachers to implement engaging and innovative technologies to improve student learning, engage students in inquiry based learning to help develop multiple literacies, and teach students how to use technology to find information and with the information the ability extract and synthesize it to formulate new meaning. Through my role as a TL I am able to be a leader in helping teachers model and teach the Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Continuum from K-12, Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship, and RCSD’s Essential Skills of 21st Century Learning.

As an educator and future parent, I need to model digital citizenship and leadership in my own online identity. We are living in a world where everything we do is immortalized on the web, therefore what may be a silly mistake is no longer forgotten. Although I try to model engaged citizenship in unmediated publics as well, our presence in networked publics affects us in unique ways: Four properties—persistence, searchability, replicability, and scalability—and three dynamics—invisible audiences, collapsed contexts, and the blurring of public and private. As the context of our online identity is open to interpretation by others and is everlasting, it is extremely important to portray yourself the way you want to be remembered. With that being said, it is also important to model empathy and encourage our students, parents, administrators, and society to be empathetic to mistakes made online.

Parents of our students need guidance and reminders that although their children have grown up around technology, they are not automatically positive digital citizens. They still need to be taught how to be positive members of society both online and offline, they need constant reminders and conversations, and they need to be empathetic.

I will continue to be a digital leader in my school, my PLN, and family. My impact may be small to start, but hopefully by modeling my own leadership, I can make a difference and motivate a teacher, student, or family member to make a change and become a digital leader as well.

A world that directly impacts your offline identity as much as your online identity.

After viewing the documentary “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd” I was flabbergasted. I had heard of the story of Amanda Todd after her suicide and her YouTube video holding up handwritten notes regarding how one mistake she made online led to severe bullying both at school and online. However, I did not realize the extent of the story and the blackmail and extortion (sextortion) she experienced by online predators, also known as cappers.

Amanda was a young girl who often shy and withdrawn in the offline world and when in groups, but when she was behind a camera, she was extremely confident and outgoing. She enjoyed being behind the camera and gave her a place to shine. Soon after, she began to post videos of herself singing and performing for others to view. This was giving a vulnerable adolescent some attention she wasn’t getting before, which she really enjoyed and continued putting more and more of herself out there, getting more and more attention. So the next step was getting a webcam so she would have better access to her online world. Her dad was open to the idea, gave her a webcam and her life in the online world became very real and important to her spending more and more time online. Further to that, Amanda was becoming transfixed with herself on the webcam.

Her webcam was a window into a whole new world. She began participating in chat groups on sites such as BlogTV. BlogTV gave an audience for girls who wanted to perform. Especially, adolescents who are exploring their sexuality. This seems to be a safe place for that exploration as you are in your own home and you might believe “that no one can find you behind the screen.” You are able to edit yourself and get a different version of yourself. Amanda was becoming very popular this site and was gaining fans, likes, and views.

This popularity was encouraging Amanda to try new things and gave her confidence to do things she might not have done otherwise. With 150 people watching, Amanda made a mistake that would be immortalized on web for everyone to see and impact her whole life. She flashed, someone screen captured her online and sent the picture to all her Facebook friends (including her mother) and posted her image on a porn site.

When Amanda returned to school she was slut shamed both offline and online. She knew she did something wrong, but there is nothing she could do now to change it. We are in the era of not forgetting. She tried changing schools, but she was blackmailed by a capper who wanted her to continue performing. She was trying to make a change, but the blackmailer continued following her and threatening her.

Amanda and her family brought her story to the RCMP, but unfortunately the online world is much harder navigate than the offline world with very sophisticated scammers and the police were unable to help. Cappers and scammers are a new breed of predator, a criminal with a computer.

Two years after the incident, Amanda was still feeling the torment of her mistake. She decided to make a video to show what she was feeling and people began giving her support. Unfortunately it was too late and soon after Amanda committed suicide. Her case finally became a priority to police, but case is still ongoing.

Photo Credit: Amsterdamned! via Compfight cc

This story really had me questioning and reflecting on the moral, ethical, and legal issues in the online world. A world that directly impacts your offline identity as much as your online identity.

  • I knew platforms like BlogTV existed, but I thought they were a thing of the past. Scroll through and you will still see images of adolescents on this site who don’t appear to be giving off the image you would expect of an adolescent. What worries me is if I (someone who is seen as tech leader and schools and appears to be quite “techy”) had limited information on these sites, I wonder what the kids of parents who are naive to digital culture and don’t have conversations with their kids around digital citizenship are doing to educate their children on their digital identity.
  • Should the police have done more to help Amanda Todd? With the digital world changing our way of life so drastically, should there be more of a police presence online? Where is the line between monitoring for safety and the government viewing our personal information?
  • How do sites like Facebook allow scammers to have multiple accounts to perform their scams? Should there be more information required on these sites to help protect peoples identity?
  • Did Amanda and her family take the steps to protect herself online? I believe there were a lot of missing conversations in this case and even though I believe she was a vulnerable person who was preyed upon and her act should have and should be forgiven, her parents needed to play a more active role in guided her through the confusing time of being an adolescent.
  • Nearly all computers, tablets, handheld devices, etc. come with webcams now. How do we protect our children, yet at the same time allow them to use the internet to connect with others?
  • We are in a decade of technology that doesn’t go away. How do we build a culture of empathy for adolescents who make mistakes which become immortalized?


Cooperative Learning & The 21st Century

The readings last week really got me thinking if the instructional methods I choose were the most effective way to meet the needs of 21st century learners. Illich’s idea of education reform, written in 1971, suggests we “dismantle the system altogether and build learning webs, peer-matching systems, skill exchanges, and other resources for liberated learning and free inquiry.” However, over 40 years later and we are still not there yet. Thankfully the idea of 21st century education is being talked about allowing learners to develop skills such as creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, media literacy, and problem solving.

The course readings also explored the idea of connectivism. The idea that learning is a process and by thinking critically about what are learning, we will alter, change, or add on to what we know. In addition, interdependence on others to foster learning. Connectivism relates to the idea of rhizomatic learning where learning is continuous network and is acquired in collaboration. My question is can connectvisim fit in with other learning theories? I believe it can, and one way to integrate those theories is through cooperative learning groups.

Although technology and media is not the focus of cooperative learning groups. I believe that starting young and implementing something such as cooperative learning groups allows students to engage with the material, collaborate with others, and enhances the probability they will remember it.

In my past teaching experiences I had the assumption that students come to school knowing how to work and how to work together (just as I would assume they know how to use technology). I would think to myself they are in grade three, they should know how to do this by now, but they didn’t.

It is important to remember that cooperative learning is group work, but not all group work is cooperative learning. Group work allows students to divide to work, go their separate ways, work on their own, and meet for the final product. Cooperative learning engages students in a task that is difficult enough that members need to talk with each other to figure things out.

Cooperative learning is more than just placing students in a group and having them work together, it is the process of building learning communities. Students are responsible not only for their learning, but for the learning of others. Throughout the process of cooperative learning, students work in small groups to achieve a common goal. Cooperative learning helps to create engaged citizens and allows students to work collaboratively, essentially creating a productive society rather than a group of individuals.


Cooperative learning uses a variety of strategies to educate students to work together. where the teacher is a facilitator. As the students are working together, it is the teacher’s job to study the students, see how they cooperate, and design learning experiences to teach them to work more effectively together.

One of the main jobs of the teacher is to create and maintain a learning environment that is conducive to cooperative learning. It is essential that the teacher deliberately teaches the five basic elements of cooperative group skills, as well as, conferences about individual and group accountability while students are working in groups.

Johnson describes the five basic elements of cooperative group skills as:

  • Positive Interdependence
  • Individual Accountability
  • Group Processing
  • Social Skills
  • Face-to-Face Interaction

The elements of cooperative group skills can be achieved through a variety of mini-lessons, modelling, and direct teaching. If the teacher establishes clear expectations and holds students accountable, there will be success using this instructional strategy.

When cooperative learning is combined with models from other families (information processing, personal, and behavioural), the results are profound. Some of the many benefits to using cooperative learning as an instructional method as per Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) are:

  1. It increases motivation.
  2. It produces positive energy with in the classroom and school.
  3. Students are able to develop a feeling of connectedness with their peers.
  4. Student learn from each other better through cooperation than a structure that generates isolation.
  5. Interacting with one another produces more cognitive and social complexity.
  6. Cooperation increases positive feelings.
  7. Cooperation increases self-esteem.
  8. The more students have the opportunity to work together, the better they get at it.
  9. Students can achieve greater mastery of material.
  10. Off-task and disruptive behaviour diminish substantially.

(Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015, p. 233-234)

Cooperative learning benefits both students with poor academic histories and academically able students as individual effort is still required. Cooperative learning fosters a safe environment of respect, teamwork, self-reflection, and engagement.

Start with small simple tasks within the students’ zone of proximal distal, to ensure success will allow students to acquire and develop additional skill to be used within their cooperative learning groups. During the process of implementing cooperative learning groups and while students are working within their groups, students should have ample opportunities to reflect on their roles within the group and how their group worked.


Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (1989).  Cooperation and competition:  Theory and research. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

What does it mean to be literate?

As Doug Belshaw discusses in his TEDx talk on ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’, we need to move beyond elegant consumption. Students (and teachers) should not only consume information in the digital world, but also engage with it. Belshaw describes this as digital literacies, rather than digital literacy, as it is not a linear concept. We should shift our thinking to a spectrum of literacies, rather than viewing digital literacy as either basic, intermediate, or advanced. There are many different literacies and varying levels. I compare this to the idea of digital immigrants vs. digital residents.

“Digital literacies effect your identity because every time you’re given a new tool, it gives you a different way of impacting upon the world.” – Doug Belshaw

Belshaw states that there are eight elements of digital literacies as shown below. We should look as these literacies as fluid and dynamic and not forget about the remix.

Slide via Doug Belshaw
Slide via Doug Belshaw

How does this shift our view as educators? Rather than looking at students as being digitally literate, we should engage them with digital literacies. Which takes it beyond technological skills, to 21st century learners and thinkers. Amy posted this week about “Seeing the Big Picture.” In her post she talks about technology being an essential tool during the learning process where students use complex skills to find, create, and share their learning.

Ashley brought up many important questions this week in regards to preparing 21st century workers. She also questions herself on if she is creating 21st century learners and if she is preparing her students for a future career. This is something that is important to her as a high school teacher, in that she is preparing students for their next steps in life. She wants to use technology to enhance learning in her classroom and not for the sake of just using it, but she has hit some roadblocks in the past with strict device policies.

Why are we still hitting so many roadblocks? Are they fear based policies? How can we help students along the continuum of digital literacies when it is not authentic? How can we shift this thinking to use technology to not only enhance learning, but also transform learning?

The demands of a 21st century learner are changing the way teachers look at educating. 21st century learners are no longer expected to just be literate in reading and writing, but rather are faced with multiple literacies. Teachers should reflect on the demands of the 21st century learner and a good place to start is the NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment.

How do we meet the demands of the 21st century learner?

I giggles when I saw the Pencil Metaphor on Integrating Technology in schools. I think many of us in this course (and others who are actively thinking about integrating technology) find themselves on various parts of the pencil… even though we don’t want to admit it!

We all want to take the plunge to be a “leader” or a “sharp one,” but on the same level we have some fears. Fears of the unexpected, the troubles, push back, and management. But are we doing our students a disservice by not integrating technology? Technology has impacted education since forever and I am guessing throughout the process, there has been some fear when new and emerging technologies came into the picture. We need to see the challenges and take the plunge aware that some things may not go as planned, but that is part of the process. We are teachers in the 21st century and we need meet the demands of our 21st century learners.

Has your identity changed over the years?

Identity. What is identity? Who defines your identity? Can your identity change or once it is formed does it follow you forever?

Merriam-Webster defines identity as

: who someone is : the name of a person

: the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others

Your online identity is described on Wikipedia as

: Internet identity (also called IID), or internet persona is a social identity that an Internet user establishes in online communities and websites. It can also be considered as an actively constructed presentation of oneself.

In the past, people used to feel shielded behind the screen and viewed their online presence as an anonymous presence, being able to be anyone or thing they wanted to be. However, this is changing as we are becoming digital residents, leaving pieces of ourselves online each time we sign on and giving personal information to websites as digital identifiers.

Photo Credit: Steve Ramsthel via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Steve Ramsthel via Compfight cc

Additionally, even though we may seem anonymous in our presentation online, we are posting putting ourselves out there into a world that never forgets. As we are posting into this vast online world, we are vulnerable to a variety of interpretations. Wesch describes this as a context collapse.

“The images, actions, and words captured by the lens at any moment can be transported to anywhere on the planet and preserved (the performer must assume) for all time.” – Michael Wesch, July 23, 2008.

As well as images, actions, and words being captured and transported anywhere and preserved, they are also open to many different understandings. This is something I have struggled with in this course and posting my reflections online for many to see, keep, and interpret. I don’t consider myself a very skilled writer, so putting my thoughts into words and posting them for others to read is something I struggle with. I also tried my first vlog in this course and it took me many attempts to get the video I thought was “acceptable” to post.

So why do I struggle with putting myself out there in the online world, when I find myself to be quite the people person in the face-to-face setting? Perhaps it is because I am creating an online identity in a world that is less forgiving and doesn’t forget.

Jeffrey Rosen, explains this phenomena in is article on “The Web Means the End of Forgetting.” In his article he gives many examples of people who lost jobs, were denied privileges, and essentially publically shamed because of something that was posted online. Additionally, companies are doing their research on potential employees by conducting online searches of people. Have we lost our ability for a second chance?

When I think back to my adolescence and some of the ridiculous, yet harmless, things my sister and I would do in our spare time and imagine if these were shared online, it makes me cringe. My already hard adolescence years would have been caught for others to judge and share, without the context I shared with my sister. Then to think of the mistakes that were made during my teenage years, which have long been forgotten.

Rosen explains that we are now experiencing a “collective identity crisis.” We used to be able to shape our identity dependent on the different role you were in (at home, at work, at sports, etc); however, the idea of an augmented reality and digital dualism is changing this ability, since all our identities are intertwined.

Photo Credit: smartwayblog via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: smartwayblog via Compfight cc

So how do we defend our online identities? How do we teach youth to be forward thinking and present an acceptable identity for when they “grow up”? How do we create a community of forgiveness and empathy in the online world? How can we stress the importance of “owning” your digital footprint?