The 9 C's of Digital Literacy

March 1, 2015

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Today, at my keynote for the California League of Schools Annual Conference North, I will be discussing what I perceive to be the 9 C's of Digital Literacy and how to integrate these skills in a Common Core classroom.

We all know that our digital natives are very at ease with technology. In fact, they’re in love with technology, but does that automatically make them digital proficient?

When I originally pondered this question, I began to realize that the 5 C's often discussed in education today - communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and citizenship - needed to be expanded to include these other areas as well: curation, copyright, character and connectedness. I believe that these digital literacy skills are essential for success in today's modern world. It’s more important than ever for educators to teach students how to become digitally literate so that they are career and college ready.

Beyond the Textbook: Virtual Field Trips for Science & Social Studies

January 2015

Have you ever wanted to take your students on a field trip around the world? What if they could visit the deserts and grasslands of Africa for free? Would you jump at the opportunity? On February 5, 2015 at 12pm Eastern Time, this opportunity will become a reality for your students.

Join +The Nature Conservancy's Charles Oluchina and science teacher Tyler DeWitt as they host this wonderful learning opportunity for students using Google’s Hangouts on Air. This 40 minute live broadcast, "Take a Virtual Field Trip to the Deserts and Grasslands of Africa," will transport your students to Burkina Faso to learn how one African farmer solved the challenges of desertifcation before heading to Kenya to learn the benefits of ecotourism and how grasslands are vital to the sustainability of the earth. Then, teachers will be able to extend the learning for their students through a first peek at +PBS LearningMedia's fabulous online collection of videos, interactive games, and lesson plans from the new PBS series EARTH A New Wild.

To sign up for this unique event, register at the Nature Works Everywhere website by clicking here.

Classes can watch the live virtual field trip or the archived copy by visiting The Nature Conservancy’s YouTube channel. This virtual field trip is the first in a series of future broadcasts that will examine the interconnectedness of people and nature. This program is designed for students in the third through eighth grades.

Through this program, students will gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the following key concepts:

  • Working with nature so nature works with us
  • People and Conservation
  • Desertification
  • Smart Development
  • Ecotourism
  • Habitat
  • Grasslands
  • Reforestation
  • Land preservation

+Nature Works Everywhere also have fabulous lesson resources for science, geography, and social studies classes. Some examples of what you can find on the Nature Works Everywhere website are listed below:

The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving the beauty of our natural world. That is why they created Nature Works Everywhere “to help students learn the science behind how nature works for us -- and how we can help keep it running strong.”

The partnership between us and nature has never been as important as it is now. Do your students understand where we belong in this fragile relationship? Let’s bring this lesson to life for them and help them become our future changemakers!

This blog post is sponsored by We Are Teachers.

Teach Your Students How to Dumpster Dive

October 2014

"Teach Your Students How to Dumpster Dive" was the name of my presentation at the San Gabriel Valley CUE Tech Fair on October 18. My session was on how to teach students to be expert researchers and great content creators. I also focused on the concepts of copyright, fair use, free to reuse, and public domain since most students (and even many teachers) don't understand that the Internet is not a free buffet where you eat without paying the bill. The goal is to teach students how to sift through the trash to find the treasure.

Incidentally, while searching for a good (free to reuse) image for my presentation, I discovered that dumpster diving is considered a recreational activity for some and a philosophical way of living for others. The latter group are known as freegans, people who adhere to an anti-consumerist lifestyle. But I digress....

In addition to explaining how to use Google Advanced Search, I also wanted to build a list of credible websites that teachers and students could use.

Below is the list I'm developing. I plan to add to it if I come across anything new.

Nope. is not on the list by mistake. In my class, my students learn about disabilities while reading Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon," and that's where they go to find articles about the different disabilities that people have. I like the fact that it's medical information written in language that kids can understand. Plus, all articles are reviewed by doctors so I take that as an opportunity to discuss with my students the importance of discerning true medical facts from myths written by people outside of the profession.

I hope this list is helpful. If you have a great website to share, please add it as a comment.

Amplify the Learning with PBS LearningMedia

Why PBS Digital Innovators love teaching
July 2014

Everyone loves summer - students and teachers alike. We can easily guess what students like to do with their summer, but what about teachers?  I, like many other teachers I know, actually spend a part of my summer planning for the next school year and working on professional development.

This past June I had an unique opportunity to take my learning to a new level when I was chosen as a Lead PBS Digital Innovator.  Earlier this year, PBS selected 100 educators from across the country to join their LearningMedia Digital Innovators program.  From this group, they then choose the top 16 educators to attend the PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Summit in Washington, D.C.  We were also accompanied by our local PBS station representatives for two-days of professional development in our nation’s capitol.

While at the Digital Innovators Summit, I learned a wealth of information and connected with some of the most amazing educators in the country.  I discovered that PBS LearningMedia weaves all forms of media - texts, images, videos, and interactive games - into a dynamic learning experience for all students.  Some great resources shared were PBS NewsHour Extra, a site created to teach current events in the classroom with accompanying lesson plans for teachers to use.  Another was a self-paced lesson on the The Powers of the Government where students can work independently at the speed that is customizable to them.  For hands-on learning, I was impressed with the Nova Elements interactive which allows students to build their own atoms to reinforce their learning.  There are also adventure games like Mission U.S. where a student can role-play to learn about an important historical event.  Lastly, what English teacher wouldn’t appreciate having a go-to place when teaching Shakespeare?

Not only has PBS LearningMedia created and curated great resources for teachers to use in the classroom, they also provide professional development collections like Professional Development for the Common Core, a rich resource for teachers who want to learn how to adapt their lessons to these new standards.  For those who want to create a 21st Century classroom, they need to visit the Digital Tools webpage to enhance their curriculum with technology.  PBS LearningMedia is also constantly evolving and many great additions like Interactive Quiz and PuzzleMaker tools will be added this fall.

PBS LearningMedia is a treasure trove of primary sources, interactive content, and lesson ideas.  Teachers, if you haven’t delved into this online resource yet, you need to start today.  My brain has been churning with all that I learned from the Digital Innovators Summit, and I can’t wait to try them all out when school starts again for me in August.

If you already use PBS LearningMedia in your classroom, please share your favorite PBS resources below.

This post originally appeared on the PBS SoCal Education Blog on July 24, 2014.

Oh, The Places We Will Go with Google’s Connected Classrooms!

June 2014
What if you could take your students on unlimited field trips?  What if your class could visit Antarctica or speak with a NASA astronaut? With Google’s Connected Classrooms, this is now absolutely possible.
In recent years, Google has taken their video calling service, known as Hangouts, to a whole new level by introducing the ability to broadcast a live recording of it. These Hangouts on Air allowed anyone to create broadcasts on the Internet for free. Then, Google stepped up their game by launching a new educational outreach program called Connected Classrooms, in which students around the world can participate in virtual field trips via Hangouts on Air.
During every Connected Classrooms event, a few classes are invited into a special Hangout on Air where students can ask questions and interact directly with experts and distinguished guests. Other classrooms can follow along by viewing the live broadcast, submitting questions in the Q & A feature of Hangouts, or by accessing an archived recording at their leisure.
By partnering up with educational institutions, non-profit organizations, businesses, and famous individuals, Google has created a fantastic program that will bring the world into your classroom. Below are some places where students have ‘been:’
  • Seattle Aquarium – Classrooms everywhere were treated to a free field trip to the Seattle Aquarium’s Window on Washington Waters exhibit where a scuba diver in the tank took live questions from the audience and broadcasted this interchange to the world.
  • Above the Arctic Circle – This hangout started above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and ended in Berkeley Lab in California. Students learned “how and why scientists study permafrost to better understand the vulnerable Arctic ecosystem — and what may happen to it as the climate changes.”
  • Dogsledding Through Google Glass – Dave Freeman, a wilderness explorer and dogsled guide from the Northern tundra of Minnesota, took students on a “ride” on his dogsled. Students were able to experience this unique trip through the wilderness from his Google Glass perspective.
Those adventures sound amazing, don’t they? After learning about Connected Classrooms, I couldn’t wait for my class to participate. When when our turn came, I couldn’t have been more ecstatic.
To commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Connected Classrooms partnered up with Peace Jam, and they invited three classes to speak with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee. My students and I couldn’t believe our luck. Then, a couple of weeks later, we received another special invitation. The White House, in partnership with Connected Classrooms, was looking for one middle school class to speak with Education Secretary Duncan. I am proud to say that my students conducted themselves with poise and maturity as they presented their questions to these distinguished guests.
Connected Classrooms Hangout 1
Google+ Hangout with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
All my students were absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity to participate in these two wonderful Connected Classrooms events. Not only did they learn from the wisdom of our special speakers, they also learned how to conduct themselves professionally in front of a live camera. The students who presented their questions practiced their public speaking skills in an authentic environment. They also became the superstars at our school that day and were the subject of their classmates’ envy. What student doesn’t want that?
To participate in a Connected Classrooms event, you will need to join the Connected Classrooms Community on Google+. By joining this community, you are also tapping into a global network of educators which was never possible before. Are you teaching Spanish and want your class to chat with other classrooms in Spanish-speaking countries? Are you teaching social studies and want your students to actually talk to their peers who live in the country you are studying?  Connected Classrooms is the place to find these contacts. Feel free to reach out to the other educators in this community. Everyone is very welcoming and quick to respond, and I’ve witnessed many fantastic connections formed through this community.
Join the Google+ Connected Classrooms Community if you haven’t already. I look forward to interacting with you there!
This post originally appeared on the CUE Blog on June 10, 2014.