School Libraries and The Digital Backpack

School librarians are uniquely positioned to collaborate with teachers to infuse technology to support learning, assessment and curriculum within a collaborative learning environment. Teacher-librarians are connected to current research and can assist with best-practice in effective technology implementation.

The Saskatoon Public Schools’ Elementary LibGuide provides an “Insight” into aligning the role of the teacher-librarian with the needs of today’s student. Each Insight is based on ISTE’s NETS for Students (NETS•S); the standards for evaluating the skills and knowledge students need to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly global and digital world.

Research and Information Fluency
Communication and Collaboration
Critical Thinking
Creativity and Innovation

Digital Skills and Literacies

How can we meet the needs of students in the 21st century? How can we use technologies to align with curricula in order for our students to be digital fluent – to communicate, collaborate, connect and critically think?

Saskatchewan’s educational system will foster the comprehensive and systematic development of knowledge, skills, dispositions, and judgements essential for DIGITAL FLUENCY in educators and students.

– Technology in Education Framework

Saskatoon Public Schools’ Vision for Technology Use

Students will use technologies in transformational and inquiry-based learning environments with teachers who use a variety of technologies to create the conditions for deep learning. We attend to the educational use of technology through the lens of Saskatoon Public Schools’ vision, our learning priorities and the Continuous Improvement Framework.


Digital Backpack

To assist in the attainment of the outlined vision, Saskatoon Public Schools has created a digital backpack of literacies students require to be adept, appropriate and critical in their uses and understanding of technology. Each document in the digital backpack outlines the detailed hardware, software, and instructional support materials to provide for project-based learning experiences in various formal and informal environments.

Technologies to enhance digital literacies emerge and evolve, including apps for iOS and Android devices. The Saskatoon Public Schools’ Elementary LibGuide details technologies which could be used in addition to the supports outlined in the digital backpack.

Digital Fluency

Digital Fluency – Collaboration
Digital Fluency – Creativity
Digital Fluency – Global Digital Citizen
Digital Fluency – Media Fluency
Digital Fluency – Solution Fluency


Throughout the session, we looked at different ways to determine to gather and provide feedback in order to check for understanding, respond to questions, and to determine next instructional steps. As educators, we should gather formative assessments frequently, and while or after a new idea, concept, or process is introduced.

It is imperative to look and to listen. Observing the actions, behaviours, and words of students provides valuable data and serves as a formative assessment (Edutopia). Technology can also assist with the provision of formative assessment data. The following technologies were used to monitor and gauge the session’s progress:

The participants were asked to respond to the question as a blog comment:

How will you develop digital fluent students?



MentorMob allows users to collect, collate and share information or student samples. These collections of information, called playlists, can be publically accessed. The playlists can contain static web pages, videos, images, and text to help showcase a concept or examples of student learning. Each item in the playlist is called a step.

Viewers click “Next” in order to proceed to the next item in the playlist. The playlists can also be enhanced by quizzes and comprehension exercises to determine students’ understanding.

The curated playlist features a polished look that is easy to navigate. Users can save and even collaborate on other playlists. Educator accounts can also make playlists public or private, ideal for a school setting.

MentorMob playlists can be easily shared and even embedded on various platforms, including classroom blogs or LibGuides.

Educational Uses:

    1. Explain multi-step assignments to students
    2. Showcase student learning
    3. Curate information to help build students’ background knowledge of a concept or content.

The following MentorMob showcases grade one students’ writing of informational texts about community workers



Recordium – App Review

Recordium is a new iPad and iPhone app for creating audio recordings. Like other audio recording apps, Recordium can be used to quickly create a spoken note or to record a student’s reading. It also features editing tools that many other apps share, including:

    • Trim/cut any unnecessary parts of the recording
    • Snip any part of a track and create a new file
    • Delete any part, even from the middle of a track

Its Recordium’s ability to let the user highlight important parts of the track while recording or during playback that makes this app particularly useful to the learning evironment.

The user can annotate recordings to leave tracks of their thinking. The user can add multiple notes to various parts of the track, tag different parts of the recording, and add pictures to any part of the track from the camera or device gallery. Annotation can be previewed through a single tap, or easily moved, edited or deleted. The ability to annotate a lengthy recording facilitate quick searching to important and highlighted parts of tracks.

Students can provide their reflections, questions, and synthesis of a provided recording. Recordium can also be used as formative feedback of students’ work. The feedback can be conducted by the teacher, peers, or invited experts. The comments provide valuable fodder for students to edit, revise and improve their work.

Recordium’s intuitive user interface, smooth playback, and multiple options for annotating are among the features that make this app a valuable tool for students.


Inquiry Webinar

Teacher-librarians Constructing Understanding through Inquiry is a strategic partnership between the Saskatchewan School Library Association (SSLA), a special subject council of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, and the Ministry of Education. The intent is to develop supports for instruction to be used by educators, particularly teacher-librarians, as they strive to understand and actualize their role in an inquiry-based learning environment.

The partnership invited educators to participate in the live webinar series for Inquiry. I was honoured to share ways inquiry can be enriched through the use of technology, such as developing questions, information seeking, reflecting, documenting, assessing, and presenting learning.

An archive of the webinar can be found on the SSLA web site or through the direct link.

Workflow and Productivity

Educators are discovering powerful apps that allow for student creation. Apps, such as Educreations and Popplet, foster the demonstration and synthesis of their learning.

With the multitude of digital files, attention must be directed to workflow and organizational management. How do students submit digital work products? And… How do teachers then provide feedback ?

In a paperless world, teachers and students can easily find themselves just as disorganized and unstructured with digital artifacts housed on different computers and the cloud. Productivity apps offer promising solutions to workflow issues. Workflow, as defined by, is the sequence of processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion. The productivity apps increase students’ workflow by leveraging the power of the cloud, allowing students to  create, collaborate, and receive feedback anywhere and anytime.


The presentation outlines apps that enhance students’ workflow within a shared environment.



Apps For Student Workflow from Carlene Walter

The Power of Apps

In a recent article in Edutopia  entitled ”How the iPad Can Transform Classrooms”, Ben Johnson raises awareness of the difference between using mobile devices as a way to teach students versus the mobile device as a tool to learn for students.

The lesson planning questions I hope my teachers will learn to ask will change from “How can I teach this content?” to, “How can I get students to learn this content?” I hope they will answer this question with open-ended learning activities rather than saying, “I have an app for that.”

Johnson calls for the paradigm shift in seeing mobile devices as a TOOL TO THINK WITH:

Sure there may be some useful apps that help the student gain the skills, knowledge or insight into the subject, and a teacher might want the class to do it together, but focusing solely on the apps, or student control, limits the true potential of the iPad — “a tool to think with.”

Tolisano, in her Langwitches blog, states the level of disconnect between the teacher and curricular outcomes and the pedagogical relationship that needs to be in place for an app to be a match to use in a classroom or with an individual learner.

A disconnect often reveals itself through requests for app recommendations, such as questions such like:

  • “What app could I use to help my students practice their mathematics facts?”
  • “What app would you recommend to help my students read?”
  • “I want to use iPads in my Science class. What app is good for that?”

The power of mobile devices is not its entertainment value or to be a replacement for quality instruction. Mobile devices do not teach students, not do the devices help students acquire understanding of a concept or skill. To be blunt, the app will not help students understand a concept they are already having difficulty mastering. Tolisano encourages eductors to look at the difference of using an app to automate and substitute a task versus informate and transform in her post Enhancement-Automating-Transforming-Informating ).

The questions, therefore, should focus on:

  • The value an app can bring to a learner (and being able to articulate the value). It is not a direct replacement of a task traditionally accomplished without the mobile device
  • The connection from the app to curriculum content (and being able to demonstrate the depth of that connection)
  • The possibilities the app can bring to create, communicate, critically think, and collaborate
  • The flexibility of the app to personalize and differentiate to meet students’ individual needs, and
  • The ability of the app to be used as evidence of learning

As school-embedded literacy support, I wanted to incorporate technology into reading. The apps chosen foster a deepening of practiced skills and concepts.

2013 Tech Trends

Happy New Year!

What is the forecast for 2013 in regards to technology and education? Changes to the way education is approached are peppered throughout the various innovations and advances. The following lists my top five predictions, based on the readings of the industry’s top gurus, of which technology trends will be the most interesting or influential this year.

1. Using the Network To Connect and Produce
Today, there are more things connected to the Internet than there are people in the world. In 2013, teaching and learning will be increasingly connected, integrated and flexible. Students will be empowered by the network; they will be able to quickly and easily access needed content pertient to their inquiry and connect with global experts to further their knowledge and view diverse perspectives. Not only will students be able to access and connect with needed information and resources, the network will also foster the individual design of their learning experiences.View TechyTeacher for more ideas!

2. Cloud Computing
Cloud computing technologies support networking. The cloud provides students with access to resources, including data and applications, without the restrictions of a single location or computer. It also allows the opportunity for students to contribute to, and sychronize work, on any device with an Internet connection, whether it be a laptop, desktop computer, smartphone or tablet device. Cloud computing facilitates ease of collaboration. Some services allow several users to be created, and students can then choose to allow other users, or even the general public, to access some or all of their files, with read or edit rights as desired from anywhere and from nearly any device. Services such as Dropbox and Windows Live SkyDrive offer users a fast and easy way to transport documents and files between a user’s individual and the school network, potentially eliminating the need for lost USB sticks and other portable storage options. The continuity among devices provides a continuous experience for users. View TechyTeacher’s Online Research Containers for ideas!

In 2012, “bring your own device” model took root. Many classes allow for the seamless use and integration of students’ personal devices for educational purposes and facilitate connections to school networks. Education is realizing people live in, and thrive in, a multi-device mobile world, where students are increasingly relying on their iPad and smartphones for just about everything. Bring Your Own Device has transformed the classroom by creating new opportunities for learning, such as the use of different media to differentiate learning needs, the control of, and personalization of learning, and interactive learning using specialized apps. In SPS, two elementary and one collegiate are piloting a BYOD initiative.

4. Connecting Using SMS
SMS allows eductors to connect with their students using the networking and communication channels of students’ choice. SMS can be used to update students of pending deadlines, schedule changes, and other newsworthy information. Communication is instantaneous and can be accessed on any Internet connected device. View TechyTeacher’s Shifting The Classroom for more ideas!

5. Using Social Networks
Friending on Facebook, to photo and video sharing on Instagram and Vimeo, to creating playlists on Spotify and Songza, 2013 will bring more custom networks that gateway to smaller, more focused social networks. Students can customize their learning to suit their evolving needs. Visit TechyTeacher’s Personal Learning Network for more ideas.

What tech trends do you anticipate seeing in 2013? What would you like to see?



Digital Writing

According to a recent Pew Internet and American Life survey, 86 percent of teenagers believe that writing well is important. However, the teens do not view their writing as authentic. Yet, ironically, it is the writing in which they find the most pleasurable, that they do most eagerly and, arguably, that they do most successfully.

The “Digital” in Digital Writing

What distinguishes “digital” writing from traditional writing? Digital technologies facilitate “writing” in new ways. Computer applications and digital publishing spaces allow students to construct and weave multiple media (e.g., images, voice and other sounds, music, video, print, graphics), layered together across space and time to produce interactive, hyperlinked artifacts.  The artifact can then be easily shared, and connected, with a global audience.

However, the use of technologies is only part of digital writing. Digital writing is not teaching writing with technology, but rather teaching writing in spaces that allow students to write with technologies. This involves a powerful pedagogical shift, and all powerful changes are cultural. Writing has been radically changed by the collaborative and conversational affordances of networked technologies. Technologies allow writers with access to an online network to become not only publishers and distributors of their writing,but collaborators and communicators. Therefore, audiences and writers are related to each other more interactively in time and space.

Digital writing is not only networked, but involves new modes and media. Writers can easily integrate the work of others into new meanings via new media and rescripting of existing media—text, image, sound, and video.The depth and breadth of this type of collaboration—both implicit (“borrowing” from others) and complicit (communities of writers)—may be one of the most significant impacts of technologies on the contexts and practices of writing (WIDE Media Network). This context presses up against larger issues of intellectual property, plagiarism, access, credibility of sources, and dissemination of information (DeVoss, 2001; DeVoss &  Rosati, 2002).

Making “the Digital” Work for Teaching and Learning

In most classrooms,  “writing” entails composing words on paper, prose in sentences and paragraphs. And from this perspective, technologies are incidental to writing, simply a means of producing, it but not actually part of the art or process of writing.  Digital writing, in fact all writing,   is more than style, syntax, coherence, and organization—meaning at the level of the sentence and the paragraph.

Embracing a digital writing environment involves a shift in pedagogy based on these principles:

  1. Situated in contexts of rich affordances for writing. Affords basic infrastructural and semiotic wrtiting choices for students
  2. Linked to a thoughtful, critical consciousness of technology. Facilitates a thoughtful, critical selection among tools for performing writing tasks and preparing compositions among many options
  3. Anchored by multimodal approaches to writing. Juxatposing, scripting, and layering multiple media, including photographs, charts, video, images, audio, diagrams, hyperlinks, and more to create sophisticated messages

Source: WIDE Media Network

Digital writing means starting and sustaining discussions about approaches to integrating different technologies for different tasks and goals. Fostering a digital writing environment means students having the technology and skills they need to progress their writing at their immediate disposal.  The list of technologies to help students in terms of production (process) and distribution (delivery) are numerous; however this blog’s sister site,TechyTeacher has categorized substantial process and delivery technologies.

Ready to Embrace the Digital Writing Perspective?

Try the WIDE Network’s “Do you take digital rhetoric seriously? ” quiz! Each of the examples is grounded in one of the canonical categories and includes one or more ancient rhetorical principle. Each also reflects a very common writing practice in the real world.

Digital Fluency

In the information age, it is becoming increasingly important that students have the literacy skills to effectively and efficiently locate, analyze, and use information that is current, reliable, and relevant. Information literate students understand how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to remix information in such a way that others can learn from them.

This month, The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released  How Teens Do Research in the Digital World.The study renders mixed verdicts about students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies. According to their survey of teachers, the Internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up. The teachers believed that digital search tools have a mostly positive impact on student research, they had serious concerns about student distraction, their use of a narrower range of resources, their expectations of quick answers, and their difficulty finding credible sources.

Despite viewing the overall impact of today’s digital environment on students’ research habits as “mostly positive,” the teachers rated the research skills of their students as modest. A focus on digital literacy was identified as a pressing need for today’s students.

ISTE’s National Education Technology Standards- NETS for Students 2007

  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
    • a. plan strategies to guide inquiry.
    • b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
    • c. evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
    • d. process data and report results.

But what does this look like in the classroom?

Perhaps it needs to start with a critical look at curricular practice – an examination of pertinent practice, purposeful practice, and the essentials for our learners. Stephen Wilmarth (2009) states that technology is altering the very nature of pedagogy. As educators, we cannot expect to “think the same” about teaching when the act of teaching is shifting dramatically as a result of technology and access to information. Tim Tyson (2009) concurs by stating that effort needs to shift the culture to one that “makes learning irresistible”.

If we want students to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies, we need to transform our schools into learning organizations based on pursuits that are worthy, relevant, and student-led.

TechyTeacher, our sister blog, provides digital tools and ideas for rethinking and reinventing learning opportunities.