Category Archives: Learners


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



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.


Formative assessment ensures students are learning successfully, as we constantly review data regarding students’ learning performance and our implementation and modification of instructional strategies to improve student achievement.

What does good assessment practices look like? Cale Birk argues that schools need to be places where students are inspired to try instead of where students spend their time cowering in fear of failure. Bill Ferriter claims that we need to create buildings that take a mastery — instead of performance — orientation to learning outcomes. Mindshift also tackles this issue by stating the difference between mastery and performance orientiations to learning, is the difference between the kind of learning that students experience in summer camps and the kind of learning in today’s high-stakes classrooms. According to Mindshift, in summer camps, students learn for the sake of learning.  Every day is an opportunity to explore, to think, and to experiment without  worrying if you are correct or will experience failure. 

In the words of Rick Stiggins, hitting targets is not half as important
as being willing to continue shooting in mastery-driven learning environments.

Dean Shareski has uploaded several videos about assessment to help teachers develop a positive learning culture.

  • Assessment Success Stories – Dean interviews people who detail effective assessment experiences in their professional lives.
  • Student Involved Assessment – This 2004 video is still relevant as educators delve into providing effective formative assessment. The video features various students and teachers talking about assessment for learning.
  • Rethinking Assessment  – Jill Tressel looks at ways teachers are using student involvement and assessment for learning as a new approach to helping students.

Critical Reasons Students Need a Clean Online Presence

A digital footprint is a trail left by your interactions in the digital environment; including usage of  mobile phone, Internet and  mobile web and other devices and sensors. How much of your information from your daily life gets recorded by big business and Big Brother? Play Discovery Channel’s simple scenario game  to determine the digital footprint you are imprinting and leaving behind.

How do we help our students to have a positive digital footprint – to think about behaviors, expectations and skills needed when interacting with others in digital spaces? The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project  conducted a research project entitled Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites, aimed at understanding teenagers’ behaviour online.  The report examined teens’ pro-social and anti-social behaviours, ranging from the creation of support groups to cyber bullying and cyber harassment in online spaces.

As the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that fully 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites, maintaining a positive digital footprint is imperative. The post, 12 Most Critical Reasons Students Need a Clean Online Presence, examines the tools students use to communicate, and then places the use of those tools in the broader context of how these tools creating an impression of themselves.

As many employers search potential employee’s digital footprint, ensure that you and your students always put the best foot forward.

Dr. Danah Boyd – Networked Publics

Dr. Boyd’s lecture focuses on how the social media environment is changing the concept of privacy. Over the 40-minute lecture, Dr boyd presented her theories on how young people use social media to define themselves, their friendship circles, the idea of privacy and how the online environment and the technologies used to access it can be better utilised for communicating.

According to Dr. Boyd, young social media user’s concept of privacy revolves around the idea of sharing with those they trust. When private information is shared in a public forum, the theme of the new privacy comes through with the idea “Just because something is publicly accessible public, it doesn’t mean it was meant for you”. Dr. Boyd presents the idea that young people “navigate their private feelings in plain sight” using “social steganography” to communicate private ideas and feelings in a public forum to a select audience of friends.

Technology: The 21st Century #2 Pencil

Douglas B. Reeves, Ph.D. encourages educators to think of technology as analogous of the #2 pencil. Instead of thinking of technology in quantitative terms (number of computers, etc.), we need to rethink technology as direct support for instruction.

For many schools, technology remains in the operation side. It is used for managerial tasks such as submitting administrative required paperwork or processing payroll. Technology must be subordinate to, rather than master of, learning. Reeves outlines ways to interweave technology and instruction effectively:

  • Technology must be subordinate to human relationships. As technology has the potential to be socially isolating, educators must take steps to nurture appropriate social interactions and foster relationships.
  • Technology use must encourage critical thinking.  Students must be explicitly taught to be selective of information to determine its relevance, reliability, and currency. Information must be triangulated – all claims, beliefs, and arguments must be supported by several sources.
  • Technology use must involve explicit teaching of how to synthesize and evaluate information. In order to be respectful producers of information, students must be knowledgeable of digital citizenship and be asked to create new, rather than appropriated, knowledge.

Predicting Searcher Frustration

Abstract: When search engine users have trouble finding information, they may become frustrated, possibly resulting in a bad experience (even if they are ultimately successful). In a user study in which participants were given difficult information seeking tasks, half of all queries submitted resulted in some degree of self-reported frustration. A third of all successful tasks involved at least one instance of frustration. By mod- eling searcher frustration, search engines can predict the cur- rent state of user frustration and decide when to intervene with alternative search strategies to prevent the user from becoming more frustrated, giving up, or switching to another search engine. We present several models to predict frustration using features extracted from query logs and physical sensors. We are able to predict frustration with a mean average precision of 66% from the physical sensors, and 87% from the query log features.

Networked Privacy

Danah Boyd discusses how we are connected – through communications, data, and interactions. How can we share, but maintain a level of privacy in today’s networked environment?

Notes On Whatever

Michael Wesch discusses how the most remarkable knowledge-collaboration-distraction machine on the planet is changing the way humans get along … or not.