Laura Brown

Professional Learning Portfolio

Category: Teachers

Creating is Learning

“Preparing students to create digital content is more important than ever, as technology becomes more prevalent in schools and the need to prepare students for the 21st century workplace is more pressing.” Sanfilippo, 2015

The quote above comes from the article Preparing Students To Produce Digital Content by Joseph Sanfilippo. Although it was written in 2015, I find the 6 points to consider when preparing your students to create digital content still very much relevant. When students create content they become owners of the learning, yet in a world where they are surrounded by digital content and rich media, it may be more engaging and motivating for them to create projects that are digital where the possibilities are endless.   The digital make up of the content means that it can be shared to a global and more authentic audience. Content becomes meaningful and purposeful. Students can seek and receive feedback from a significantly wider audience, peers, teachers, parents and even experts in the field.

 When students are creating content, they are forced to higher order thinking. Dr. Ruben Puentedura, defines the levels of technology integration as Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition or as many of you know it, the SAMR ladder. Content creation using technology will rarely fall under Substitution. An analysis of multiple credible studies looking the use of technology by students and the associated impact on learning when referenced against the SAMR ladder can be seen below.

It is fascinating to see the magnitude of the effect, in favour of learning, when tasks assigned to students involved modification and redefinition. Even when tasks are at the augmentation level, there is no negative impact on student learning. Only when the task is at the substitution level is there an opportunity for that task to have an overall negative effect on student learning. Essentially, this is suggesting that when we are concerned about the use of technology and the associated distractions, we need to ask ourselves – where does this task sit on the SAMR ladder? It is a known fact that when students are engaged, they learn better and develop a deeper and more meaningful understanding. If we consider the SAMR model, I would imagine we would also see a direct correlation between engagement and the associated position on the SAMR ladder the particular task holds. Substitution, less engaged, more distracted. Modification and redefinition, more engaged, less distracted.

Dr. Puentedura provides a table listing the practices associated with the fundamental domains of human activity; social, mobility, visualisation, story telling, and gaming. The ideal is to incorporate between 2 and 4 of these practices into any one learning task.

Social: To encourage collaboration, communication and sharing, think blogging, online discussions, microblogging with apps like Twitter, wikis and RSS feeds.

Mobility: Anytime, anywhere learning and creation is facilitated by so many facets of technology integration. Consider the use of mobile tools such as sensors, cameras, cloud resources not to mention the numerous apps referred to in this post!

Visualisation: Make abstract concepts tangible using apps like Comic Life for graphic story telling, Inspiration and Popplet for graphic organisers, Google Earth, VR Expeditions, Word Collage and 3D Timeline are excellent for this purpose.

Storytelling: There are so many options here. Comic Life and Book Creator for sequential art and narrative transitions, iMovie, Apple Clips, Explain Everything Video Scribe and Adobe Spark for moving images and Prezi and ThinkLink for interactive media.

Gaming: Feedback loops and formative assessment can be facilitated through the use of apps like Stick Around, Kahoot, Socrative, and Mind Craft.

The use of blogs in the classroom enables a variety of tasks to reach both modification and redefinition on the SAMR ladder. It also supports associated practices: Social, Mobility and Storytelling.

Let’s get creating!



Online Discussions & Blended Learning

Online classroom discussion, when done well, should encourage student participation and interaction. With minimal effort on the teacher’s part it is possible to engage students even with little to no face-to-face contact. By adjusting the way the question is posed, or by asking students to answer questions collaboratively, can make for a much more meaningful learning experience.

Many of us are now looking to engage the use of Dragons’ Exchange (DX) as a powerful blended learning tool, with online discussions, playing a significant role. So how can we use online discussions, like those in DX, to promote sustained engagement and participation?

Convergent Thinking 

The “how” or “why” questions, although they essentially promote convergent thinking, certainly have a place in online discussion. Post an article, Podcast or video and ask a question of this nature. Rather than invite students to piggy back on the response prior to their own own, hide comments for the time being and once all students have responded, unlock for all to see. Students can now engage in discussion by responding to one another. These types of discussion questions can often lead to sustained debate, particularly once differing options are revealed.

Divergent Thinking 

Questions that get students to think about the outcome or consequences associated with certain events have the potential to sustain ongoing interest since it empowers students to take a more creative approach in responding to the question. For example: Pose a scenario related to the ethical concerns of genetic testing. What are the implications of the choices made in this situation? Posing the question as a scenario encourages students to connect with the situation and engage more meaningfully with the discussion.

Evaluative Thinking 

Why not try a collaborative online debate to promote evaluative thinking? Pose a debate topic and separate the class into two groups – those for and those against. Any online response to the topic of conversation must be either for or against. You could even look to create a third group, those that can pose questions to either argument. This type of online discussion can promote healthy competition while maintaining ongoing dialogue.

Online class discussions have the ability to:

  • Build communities
  • Encourage reflection
  • Promote critical thinking
  • Demonstrate knowledge of key concepts
  • Promote consensus building

Online discussions complement and improve the interactions that occur in your classroom by providing students with the opportunity to thoughtfully engage with ideas and with each other. Blending these discussion opportunities into your instruction can also be a powerful alternative to traditional homework.

Blending online discussion opportunities into your face-to-face instruction is an excellent alternative to traditional homework, also complementing and improving face-to-face discussions. It gives all students the opportunity to thoughtfully engage with ideas, and with each other. For further information on the benefits to students and their learning, see Eric Brunsell’s article Blended Learning: Adding Asynchronous Discussions to Your F2F Classrooms

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