Mrs. Ryan's Class

A Digital Learning Hub for students and parents

Where do we go from here?

This week, I have been asked to think about the future role of technology in our teaching and learning. What path should we take now? What should we be studying? What should we be doing?  

I am currently in the Public Library/Post Office/Town Hall Building of a very small town in the Adirondack Mountains, the only place for me to get internet access. Adirondacks_in_May_2008As I read entries from The American Educational Research Association  I can’t help but glance around this tiny library and notice  evidence of the change discussed in the articles. This relatively remote location still retains a small town/old fashioned feel (the primary reason my family vacations here.) Yet aside from me, there are six other people here: another woman on a laptop, a teenager on an iPhone, and a small family of 3 reading children’s books and playing with puzzles. This illustrates the striking role of technology and how it has changed the way people interact, relax, socialize, and learn; even in this small town that is slow to change, technology has taken-on a large role. We need to harness this shift to facilitate a more global, interactive, and connected way of learning.

learn computer

Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes introduce the concept of Web 2.0; a term coined in 2004 describing an internet that is more collaborative, interactive, participatory, and distributed in their commentary titled “Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age: Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should We Take Now?”.

Since our students grow up in a world with Web 2.0, how can we use this vast resource to teach better? There are countless online tools that allow teachers to facilitate collaborative and interactive work such as Google Classroom, wikis, blogs, Edmodo, and many more. We have discussed these new literacies through our study of the ORMS Model: Online Reading Comprehension, Collaborative Inquiry, and Online Content Creation, but do all students really receive this type of education and engage in this type of learning?


This issue of inequity is perhaps what I find to be the most challenging issue to wrestle with in my study of Instructional Technology. Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes write, “What children learn outside of school can shape what they learn in school as they seek out projects based on their interests.” As teachers we find evidence of this every day, but what I find troubling is the impact that inequity of technology resources at home has on school. In “Comments on Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes: Expanding the New Literacies Conversation”, Leu, O’Byrne, Zawilinski, McVerry and Everett-Cacopardo write, “Students in the poorest schools become doubly disadvantaged: They have less access to the Internet at home, and schools do not always prepare them for the new literacies of online reading comprehension at school.”

I believe a possible solution to this issue of inequality is to move away from the “Classroom” use of Web 1.0 and teach educators how to harness aspects of Web 2.0 for classroom and educational use. I hope that the future of education involves extensive professional development and encouragement of how to safely and effectively use technological resources and the opportunities available from Web 2.0 in our classrooms. Kids not only need to be taught how to create academic content, but also need to learn about the intricacies of the open web and how to safely represent themselves online

These articles have highlighted the vast nature and potential of online learning and content creation, but it would be unfair to assume that teachers can utilize these resources without explicit instruction and practical suggestions for use. The Instructional Technology & Digital Media Literacy Program has provided me with a broader understanding of how technology can be used to enhance my teaching, and I hope to learn more practical “down and dirty” ways to enrich my teaching using technology.


In my learning this week I came upon an advocacy group, Education Technology Action Group. I agree with the fundamental belief of the group: The use of digital technology in education is not optional. Competence with digital technology to find information, to create, to critique and share knowledge, is an essential contemporary skill set. It belongs at the heart of education. Learners should receive recognition for their level of mastery; teachers and lecturers should too.”  The primary purpose of education is to prepare our students to be contributing and well educated members of society, and we must not ignore the role that technological literacy plays in the success of students. 

I think the way to move forward and ensure that students do not fall through the cracks due to inequity in resources is to educate all teachers in digital media literacy and provide them practical ways to use technology in the classroom.

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Meet Mrs. Ryan

I was assigned to make a 1 minute commercial to introduce myself as an educator for my class, EDUC 7710: Foundations of Media Literacy. The guidelines were to introduce myself, describe who I am, my expertise, and what I do.

Throughout this program, I have tried to connect each assignment and experience to what I would do in my classroom and my career.  It is so important to make this work connected and meaningful. I hope to use everything we have created in my teaching and professional life.

I decided to design this commercial for a very specific audience. I wanted to create something that I could put on my website to introduce myself to future students, parents, and potential employers. I thought it would be important to share who I am and what I believe about teaching and education with this audience. I tried to be as genuine and honest as possible in my short, 1 minute of time!

I hope you enjoy!


ORMS: Online Content Construction

Every individual is a marvel of unknown and unrealized possibilities” – W.G. Jordon

giftsThis quote is from a fantastic book called “These are the Gifts I’d Like to Give to You: A Sourcebook of Joy and Encouragement.” I read quotes from this book frequently, and the topic of OCC this week reminded me of the section, “The Gift of Understanding What Makes You So Outstanding”

David O’Brien suggests thinking of literacy competency in broader terms, focusing on students’ strengths, not deficits in his article “At-Risk” Adolescents: Redefining Competence Through the Multiliteracies of Intermediality, Visual Arts, and Representation.  I think this is an important viewpoint for educators. The question is, how to we help students access and utilize their strengths in the classroom?

In the entry “Online Content Construction: Students as Informed Readers and Writers of Multimodal Information” from The Connecticut Reading Association Journal • Volume 1 • Issue 1, O’Byrne addresses this question of how to use Online Content Construction (OCC) in the classroom.

The Three Phases of Online Content Construction instructional model (O’Byrne, 2012)

Phase 1: Students engage in Online Reading Comprehension and Online Collaborative Inquiry-critically research a topic, design and plan on paper.

Phase 2: Students construct online content using their plans/mock-ups from phase 1. Content can be delivered in a variety of forms including websites, videos, photos, podcasts, blogs, wikis, etc.

Phase 3: Students compare their work to exemplar material of the same type (provided by the teacher) to reflect and revise their content.

The OCC instruction model ends with collaborative presentations of student work, culminating in a conference/discussion with the teacher about the students’ process and product. This type of learning and representation of knowledge seems so powerful in its capacity for self-directed learning, student engagement, and differentiation. I envision students being highly engaged and having fun while practicing advanced literacy and creative skills.


Photo labeled for reuse from

In the same article, O’Byrne mirrors traditional text based reading skills (encoding and decoding) through an online lens. He writes, “as constructors of online content, students and teachers work to redesign or reinvent online texts by actively encoding and decoding meaning in multimodal texts.” (O’Byrne, 2012).

This brings us to a more complex issue of creating original content. I agree with Kirby Ferguson’s idea of the additive nature of creativity. He reminds us in the video, Embracing the Remix, that musicians like Bob Dylan, Danger Mouse, and Woody Guthrie did not “copy” content, but rather “Remixed” by copying, transforming, and combining to create new creative content. If we teach students how to give credit to sources and inspiration, we can use the same principals of “Remixing” in OCC.

These readings remind me of my former analysis of the 5 Cs. I would argue that the ORMS Model and Online Content Construction addresses each of the 5Cs: creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and comprehension. Students are more likely to achieve each of these objectives through the real world, personally meaningful nature of the work of Online Content Construction.


Multimodal Tutorial: Math IXL

My first attempt at creating a Multimodal Tutorial!

ixl (3)

I chose to focus on Math IXL because it is a resource that we use in my district almost every day. Each year we spend valuable class time teaching students how to use the site, and then always spend additional time to reteach when kids forget. I hope to use this multimodal tutorial with my class to “reteach” the basics of how we use IXL. Since the youtube video is accessible from anywhere, I envision posting this to my class website so students can reference it at home when they need help! I also think this tutorial will be helpful to my colleagues at my school who are new to IXL.

I used Screen-Cast-O-Matic to record my video. There was a bit of a learning curve for me as I have never recorded a screen cast, but I thought this resource was relatively user friendly and I eventually figured it out!

Here is my youtube video that is intended for students:

Here is the full multimodal tutorial intended for educators to learn about IXL:

This project was a brand new challenge, but I am pleased with the final product. I look forward to becoming more proficient in screen-casting to create additional resources for students, parents, and colleagues.


ORMS: Online Reading Comprehension

In the journal entry, Reading Digitally Like a Historian: Using Multimedia Texts to Facilitate Disciplinary Learning from The Connecticut Reading Association Journal • Volume 1 • Issue 1, Michael Manderino writes, “Multimedia sources like audio and video clips, flash animation, and an array of images and pictures found online can expand the number of possible meanings students can create. When teaching with multiple multimedia sources, meaning creation becomes much like the kind of sense making students use in their everyday lives.” This sentiment ties into our previous discussion of the ORMS Model in that using online texts provides students with a greater likelihood of connecting to and creating meaning from the material we are trying to teach as educators. This will create the type of self-directed, intrinsically motivated students that we want (and need) in our classrooms and in our world.

Part of teaching students online reading comprehension is teaching students to become more critical of the resources they are encountering – this will take teaching and practice. We need to teach students how to decipher legitimate sources from those that may not be reliable or accurate. This is a skill that is essential for students to learn to become critical consumers of information, both in print and online.

book google

We have discussed the benefit of having students work together through online collaborative inquiry to discover knowledge and create a representation of their knowledge- but we can use this same collaborative inquiry to encourage students to be critical consumers of online materials. Since the teacher may not be selecting approved/accredited sources when students are reading online, the students need to have the skills to determine the validity of resources on their own. This is a life skill in our increasingly digital world.

In Chapter 9: “The Web as a Source of Information for Students” in K–12 Education from Handbook of Research on New Literacies, Kuiper & Volman write, “Younger children, in particular, tend to take the information found on the Web literally and are not yet able to question the authority of such information (Hirsh, 1999). Children also often lack sufficient research strategies that can help in the process of distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant information.” (p.257) This brings us to perhaps the most important questions to ask when thinking about online reading comprehension; how can we teach students the skills to develop strong online reading comprehension in the ever changing world of the internet?

This question reminds me of how I was trained to teach reading workshop in an elementary classroom. In reading workshop, the emphasis is on teaching an explicit strategy as part of a skill that students can practice in any book. We DO NOT teach “to” specific books, or focus just on one character, though teachers are able to model examples of the strategy using a shared text.  When teaching students to develop online reading comprehension, (just like in reading workshop) we shouldn’t teach a concept that is directly related to one specific online resource or digital tool, but instead teach students a clear strategy to develop an online reading comprehension skill. This specific and explicit way of teaching allows students the opportunity to practice and apply skills across books (or digital resources) and eventually learn that the skills are transferable and applicable. The hope is that students are eventually able to apply these explicit skills to their own reading/learning independently.

Here is one strategy that I brainstormed to teach students how to determine the source of an online resource:

Step 1: Look at the web address. Ask yourself, does this end in “.gov” or “.edu”? These are likely trusted resources.

Step 2: Find the name of the author. Do a quick google search to see what you can find about his/her credentials. Is  he/she from a trusted organization (government agency, publishing company, news source)

Step 3: Look for a reference to an affiliation with a trusted organization in the body of the text, the header, or the footer of the site.

Step 4: Look at the title of the webpage/article. Ask, “Is this an article that is part of a published text?

Step 5: If you are still having trouble locating the source, try to navigate to the “home” page of the website to find more information.

Online reading comprehension, like print reading comprehension, needs to be taught to students explicitly using clear strategies to develop skills. We must teach students transferable skills that can be applied throughout their lives as consumers of online and multi-modal texts.


ORMS: Online Collaborative Inquiry

Online Collaborative Inquiry is an important cornerstone of the Online Research & Media Skills (ORMS) model. We define online collaborative inquiry as students’ ability to locate and extract information online and work with others to research and develop an ongoing representation of their knowledge. A large focus of online collaborative inquiry is the editing, responding, and revision that can be done in groups to deepen student motivation, engagement, and learning. The use of online tools such as blogs, wikis, websites, etc. make this type of collaboration and ongoing learning easily accessible.

In order to create a learning environment where this type of work is possible, I think it is essential for students to understand the purpose for their work. In her article, Online Collaborative Inquiry: Classroom Blogging Ventures and Multiple Literacies, Judy Arzt writes, “It is not the technology that accounts for success. It is how the technology is implemented and integrated into the curriculum that accounts for student achievement” (2012). As teachers, we need to help students understand the intended audience for their online collaborative work to provide a real-world context. For example, if students engage in group blogging, it would be important for them to understand the intended audience, the intended purpose for their blog, criteria for appropriate blogging, and each group member’s blogging responsibilities.

she thought she could so she didIf we provide students with a clear context and audience for their online collaborative work, we can encourage intrinsic motivation. Students will feel motivated to do quality research, writing, and collaboration because they will feel a new sense of accountability and purpose. I believe that we can empower students with internal motivation to succeed.

In his video, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, Dan Pink refers to a study done in the business workplace that illustrates the phenomena that when tasks require conceptual creative thinking, big rewards (like bonuses) are not motivating. These high risk rewards in fact serve as a barrier to creative thinking and motivation. If we think about this research in a school setting, blogging for a specific audience with an intended purpose would empower students to do good work and be collaborative and creative and not rely on more traditional external rewards like teacher feedback and final grades.

Online collaborative inquiry can be used in many subjects in an elementary classroom. I found the table, “Pedagogical Ideas for Blogging Integration” (Arzt 2012) to be helpful because of the practical suggestions offered for an elementary level classroom. In my class I will definitely try group blogging to share student research and synthesis of information from our Social Studies and Science units of study. I can integrate video/news casting into our persuasive writing unit that requires students to present a problem and argue for a solution to the problem. This real-world audience would be a huge motivator for students to write detailed and empowered speeches.

I also envision using more online texts to support my lower readers. In, The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension: New Opportunities and Challenges for Students with Learning Difficulties, authors Castek, Zawilinski, McVerry, O’Byrne, & Leu argue that struggling readers, “make good decisions at crucial points in the online reading-comprehension process and access useful digital features…reading shorter units of text leads to more sustained reading by struggling readers.” (2011) I would love to use a wider variety of online texts to support my low readers and help them feel empowered by their reading success.

Teachers can use various online tools to support student collaboration and inquiry in a meaningful way. Articles like these are critical to provide educators with the practical uses for technology to support student learning and open new doors for discovery and motivation.


Embracing Failure to Address the 5 Cs

This week in my “Foundations of Media Literacy” class, we reviewed texts on the shift in education towards a more digital landscape. In John Seely Brown’s video on Motivating Learners, he discusses the importance of play and experimentation in learning. Brown references gamers, specifically those involved in World of Warcraft, as examples of relentlessly self-motivated learners who consume information about how to advance in their gaming. Brown also uses the example of surfing and reflects on the intense passion, motivation, and courage that young surfers exemplify in their desire to become great.

The article, Navigating the Cs of Change, by McVerry, Zawilinski, and O’Byrne, highlights how the practice of internet reciprocal teaching can help teachers to promote the 5 Cs: creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and comprehension. This practice, which focuses on collaboration and student-centered learning, allows students to learn the skills necessary to independently navigate different types of text and a new platform to access information.

As educators, we need to create a classroom environment that allows all learners to be comfortable approaching the 5 Cs. A commonality between the article and video is the idea that people learn best by trying something new with the risk of failing. In a culture where grades and academic success are so important, we must somehow convey to kids that risk taking and exploration are critical parts of learning. Teachers, too, need to be willing to try and fail when it comes to teaching in new and inventive ways. We need to remember that real learning happens when people have “Aha” moments after failure!

Students are often so dependent on teacher directions and expectations that when given the opportunity to direct their own learning they, are afraid to do the “wrong thing.” I recently learned about a behavior management strategy that I think can address this fear of making mistakes and being wrong. Think of your typical reward system in which the class can earn a token like a marble, or in my class “A Warm Fuzzy”, when engaging in expected/exemplary behavior. When the jar is full, the class chooses a reward. In a recent book study that I participated in on Mindset by Carol Dweck, a colleague thought of the idea of a “Eureka Jar” system that turns the “Warm Fuzzy Jar” on it’s head- students could earn a token after learning from a mistake- when the jar is full, the class can celebrate all of the learning that happened as a result of mistakes. This is one way that teachers could cultivate a learning community where students are comfortable engaging in self-directed learning and taking risks. On the whole, I think we all need to be kinder to ourselves and to each other to allow risk-taking, experimentation, and meaningful learning to happen.