Connect, Collaborate, Communicate: Learning and Knowing in a Digital Age

This past year I have taken on a new role as teacher librarian at Sacred Heart Community School. I felt like I needed a change from being a classroom teacher. As a classroom teacher I was able to encourage my students to become networked students, but I felt like I was in a rut and was not engaging as I had in previous years as a networked teacher. I was looking to connect with others within the school and take on the role as an educational leader. I thought the role of teacher librarian would be a perfect fit.

As a Teacher-Librarian I have the unique opportunity to:

  • manage library services while working closely with students in a variety of capacities
  • implement technologies in our learning areas and be proficient in those technologies in an instructional environment
  • plan collaboratively to enable students to explore and answer questions, connect with each other and the world (create instead of consume)
  • encourage a love of reading and support the development of reading literacy skills
  • become an instructional leader

The role of the TL supports the and is evolving to embody the ideas explored this week in the course readings about the pedagogy of abundance, the theory of connectivism, rhizomatic learning, and the evolution of 21st-century social media literacies.

Networked Teacher by Alec Couros

A Pedagogy of Abundance

As I am new in this role and open to change as a person, I think the pedagogy of abundance is a very positive shift in our education system; however, I know many TLs are finding this shift very challenging and troublesome. The pedagogy of abundance breaks down the four walls of the classroom AND the library. The library is evolving from a place where you go only to consume information to a place where you can also create information. TLs are no longer the keepers of information, but rather engage with teachers and students in resource based learning, problem based learning, and inquiry projects. While engaging in learning, students are encouraged to develop and modeled information processing abilities while sifting through excessive abundance of information. The ultimate goal is for students to 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.

Theory of Connectivism and Rhizomatic Learning

As students are engaging in learning through an abundance of information, they should also be making connections and collaborating. This is important because not only do we learn inside ourselves, but also outside ourselves. Allowing students to participate in rhizomatic learning and personal learning networks, such as we are in this course creates an authentic experience that is adaptable to personal contexts. Connections and learning takes place in a variety of communities both online and offline, such as blogs, cooperative learning groups, Twitter, conferences, etc. One of the most important things to remember when thinking about connectivism is the tools themselves are not as important as the connections made possible by them. By collaborating, creating, and sharing, we are allowing our students to be successful as a 21st century learner.

“Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.” Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens

21st-Century Social Media Literacies

As I stated above, the 21st century learner, teacher, and school is more than tools and technologies. Essentially, we are modelling and teaching students digital skills and multiple literacies. Howard Rheingold describes the social media literacies as attention, precipitation, collaboration, network awareness, and critical consumption. These five literacies are interconnected and when fluent in the literacies, students and teachers, are able to interact with the abundance of information and be connected in their learning communities.

I am so glad I took a step out of my comfort zone this year and became a teacher librarian. Although the role has been challenging and demanding at times, I believe it is a key proponent in transforming education to meet the needs of the 21st century learner.

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!


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.

The wheels are starting to turn

This week has been a huge progress week for me as I tackled some “big idea” questions for my final project. I was fortunate to attend two very relevant PD sessions this week within our school division which have helped guide the way I would like my final project to go.

Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools
The Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship via Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools

The first session was on Digital Citizenship and the Balanced Approach to Learning. We looked at the role of digital

technologies in education, the essential skills for 21st century learning, and the digital citizenship continuum. We then had a chance to create a lesson that integrated 21st century essential skills and digital citizenship concepts and skills. As I was looking through the digital citizenship continuum, I thought this would be a perfect place for me to start with my lessons for my final project as I could integrate the 9 elements of digital citizenship with my transliteracy lessons. With permission from Jennifer Stewart-Mitchell and Genna Rodriguez, I am able to use the lesson plan format they created to create the lessons for my Transliterate Librarians Website (which is still very much a work in progress… Stay tuned for a draft publication!).

I am very excited about this breakthrough because I believe by collaborating with other professionals in our school division, we will create resources that will have a purpose and be used and shared with others within the school division. The lesson I created (Boutilier – Digital Citizenship Lesson Planning Framework / Animal Research Report), ties in directly with the inquiry and research section of my website. It is an expository writing lesson (for grade 2) which uses online databases to research an animal and write a report.

RCSD 21st Century Skills
RCSD 21st Century Skills via RCSD Digital Consultants

The second session was our TL EdCamp. This was my first year participating in the TL EdCamp, but I came out of the sessions feeling renewed and refreshed! It is so great learning from your peers and being able to participate in a conference in a non-traditional way. I went to a session on Genius Hour/ Maker Space where we focused on the book Invent to Learn.  The next session was on a new resource from National Geographic Learning, which focused on 21st century reading: creative thinking and reading with TED Talks. We looked through this resource and connected it to the Saskatchewan curriculum. I am really looking forward to working with teachers and this resource. The next session was Social Media in the Library. This session had some heated debate on digital citizenship and whether using social media in the library and in schools was ok or not. We also talked about the media release form and how perhaps it needed to be updated to reflect social media. The last session was about using tools such as Kahoot and Quizizz to engage students in review.

This week has helped me kick start my final project… I am excited to see how it progresses over the next month.

“Digital Citizenship is more than just a teaching tool, it is a way to prepare students for a society full of technology.”

– Dr. Mike Ribble

Enhancing vs. Transforming

I have been doing a lot of thinking about integrating technology into the classroom and how important it is to ensure that it is authentic and purposeful. When thinking of the constructivist theory, technology can greatly impact students learning and can transform learning when used in the proper way. The SAMR model describes how technology can enhance or transform teaching and learning based on its integration. The two lowest levels of the model are substitution and augmentation. When in the lowest levels of the model, you are enhancing learning. When using substitution, technology is merely a substitute and has no functional change on the outcome. Augmentation enhances learning and teaching through using tools to perform tasks. The two highest level of the model, include modification and redefinition. In these two levels, you are transforming teaching and learning and in essence, there is a functional change in the classroom. Students may be asked to create a documentary which will then be played in front of an authentic audience or work cooperatively to achieve a task which cannot be done without technology.

Dr. Tim Clark has created an excellent graphic showing the different between the two levels as digital vs. digitized learning.

Photo Credit: Dr. Tim Clark via BYOT Network
Photo Credit: Dr. Tim Clark via BYOT Network

Although I try to use “digital assignments” the majority of the time when I am integrating technology, sometimes there is a need for a “digitized assignment”.

Sun Associates (2013) describes technology integration best practice as “matching the most effective tool with the most effective pedagogy to achieve the learning goals of a particular lesson.” This is extremely important when integrating technology in the classroom. It is important to actively think of the instructional theories and pedagogy first, then select technology as a tool to enhance learning.

SIDE NOTE: As I was searching for images on the SAMR model, I came across the image below, which added a category of equitable participation. I was very excited when I found this image because I think the idea of including social justice through technology is a big part of teaching digital citizenship and media literacy… I have talked about this in a few of my previous posts. EC&I832 has reminded me of the importance of sourcing images and when I went to source this image, I was surprised it was created by none other than the Katia Hildebrandt!

Photo Credit: katiahildebrandt via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: katiahildebrandt via Compfight cc

“Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions — as accessible as all other classroom tools.”


Integrating technology effectively and efficiently into the classroom allows you to teach to the 21st century learner. When thinking of teaching to the 21st century learner and integrating technology, it is about facilitating multiple literacies, cultural competence, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and innovated thinkers.

A final thought… even if you are new to using technology in the classroom, start with the lower levels of integration and build up your comfort zone, you are still enhancing teaching and learning, then take baby steps to use technology to transform teaching and learning. But more importantly, keep strong pedagogy at the forefront.