The Great Onlining – From Digital Natives to Digital Aliens – Reflections after Week Two!

In this post, Dorian Love provides a useful way to think about three major types of online students, and the different strategies they require.

The DigiTeacher

After two weeks of remote teaching, I have to say that mental exhaustion is starting to set in. I can only imagine how challenging it is for students as well. In last week’s blog I highlighted the problem of reaching students online who might not be able to be reached, or might not want to be reached. Technological problems aside, the very constraints of online platforms may make it more difficult for students to focus, find relevant instructions and resources or manage their time effectively enough to be able to complete much work.

Marc Prensky popularised the idea of the Digital Native, one who appears to have the natural, in-born disposition for digital applications. Prensky defined this as a set of dispositions stemming from age alone. Anyone born after a certain date was somehow imbued with technology in their bloodstream, so to speak. The rest of us, born before this…

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The Great Onlining – Reflections after Day 10

Enjoy these spot on insights and commentary from a teacher with considerable experience online.

The DigiTeacher

At the end of the first full week of teaching online it seems appropriate to pause for a moment and reflect on what has been a whirl-wind ten days or so! About two weeks ago we met as a staff and were told to prepare ourselves for the possibility of teaching online during any possible closure of the schools because of the corona-virus pandemic. Over the weekend it became obvious that schools would in fact be closing, and in the event we had just two days to prepare ourselves. Now I am an IT teacher and was kept very busy trying to help staff learn new skills, very rapidly. My school was using Microsoft Teams, but not all teachers had set up classrooms yet, so that was the first task. My colleague, who teaches IT to Matric bore the brunt of this first onslaught because Teams is her responsibility, but…

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Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing Grading in the Differentiated Classroom

As a 25+ year classroom teacher, I had come to embrace many of the values and practices Wormeli advocates before reading Fair Isn't Always Equal. So I was already "part of the choir." For those who aren't, Wormeli's book may not be so persuasive. (I think his Stenhouse Publishing videos are much more concrete and … Continue reading Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing Grading in the Differentiated Classroom

Students Owning the Assessment Process Through Rubric Creation

This year I’ve begun a “Grand Experiment” in Standards Based Grading. Little did I know that I would come to prefer the term Standards Based LEARNING. As it turns out, SBG – done well – requires a change in teaching and learning. Who knew, right? Katie Budrow’s post on students writing their own rubrics is one great example of SBL. Because as students wrestle with how to assess themselves on a learning target, their dong that metacognition thing: thinking about their learning. Enjoy.

katie budrow

Ah, rubrics.  The favored tool for assessment by teachers.  Loved for their wonderful detail and their range of performance levels, rubrics are a great way to communicate expectations to students.

Just like other teachers, I love a good rubric.  There’s just one problem … I’m really horrible at making them.

I’m so horrible, in fact, that I’ve stopped making them altogether.

Instead, the students create the rubrics.  It is one of the best decisions I ever made as a teacher, allowing the students to take control over this piece of their learning.  The rubrics they create are more detailed, yet easier to understand, than anything I would make for them.  Obviously, I have final approval over anything they create, but for the most part, the end product is way better than I ever could have designed.

I often get a lot of questions about how exactly this works in the classroom.  The process itself is…

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Why STEAM should be SHTEAM!

I share Dorian Love’s concerns about STEAM, so skillfully articulated in one of his recent posts, and reblogged below. True story: I discussed with a couple of colleagues last year my concerns that STEAM (formerly STEM, formerly “We need more Math & Science majors!’) is the most recent iteration of a thoughtful push toward a multidisciplinary teaching approach. And we joked about coining “SHTEAM” as the new goal!


The DigiTeacher

In some quarters Art has rather begrudgingly been added to STEM, and although some definitions include the Humanities, Art is normally conceptualized as the creative arts, visual art, design and possibly music – a catchall for being creative. This leaves disciplines such as History, Philosophy, Language Arts or Literature out in the cold. Again, this depends on those doing the defining, but I would argue that we need to conceptualize STEAM as SHTEAM to make sure that the Humanities are included all the time! I believe this is vital because many begrudge adding even Arts to the equation! Yes, I am being somewhat facetious, because this suggestion, in fact, returns us to where we were before the STEM movement raised its head. SHTEAM is of course nothing but a well-rounded education! And that’s my point!

On my local University campus, you can see the consequences of neglectful thinking. Crossing campus…

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Grading Smarter Not Harder

Dueck, Myron. Grading Smarter Not Harder: Assessment Strategies That Motivate Kids and Help Them Learn. Alexandria: ASCD. 2014. Of all the complaints I myself have and hear from my colleagues, grading is probably the most frequent and most frustrating topic. Low achievers are unmotivated; high achievers care only about "points"; and parents get upset with us … Continue reading Grading Smarter Not Harder

Online Discussions for Deeper Thinking

I recently had an unplanned absence from my classroom for an entire week. Although I was going out of town, I knew there would be down time allowing me to work remotely. Naturally, my biggest professional concern was what to do about my class. My high school seniors would certainly enjoy the unscheduled time, but I didn't want to lose momentum in this sustainable public policy course.

Designed with the User in Mind

John Spencer is a very thoughtful teacher, writer, and thinker, with a penchant for design considerations. Before you click away, (caught you didn't I?), this particular post by Spencer is about user experience design. For those of you who know me well, you can probably guess where I'm going with this one. His simple phrase, … Continue reading Designed with the User in Mind

One App to Explain Everything

This is an excellent overview of an excellent tech teaching tool. Enjoy!

teaching meets technology

One App to ExplainEverything



It is time to rethink your typical classroom presentations… think Explain Everything. This app allows teachers to create by providing an interactive whiteboard and a screencast tool in one place. Using this app, presentation slides can include a variety of media- from websites and drawings to pictures and videos- Explain Everything has it all. Sharing your creations is simple, and screencasts can be shared and exported as videos, PDFs, and Explain Everything project files to programs like Dropbox, Google Drive, and YouTube for viewing on and off of the Internet. Explain Everything offers different presentation formats to meet the needs of all learners. Flexible viewing options also allow the teacher to control how screencasts are viewed. Teachers can provide students with the option to control the pace at which a Presentation is viewed, or it can be viewed and paced at the teacher’s timing.

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