Why More Schools Aren’t Teaching Web Literacy—and How They Can Start

Why More Schools Aren’t Teaching Web Literacy—and How They Can Start

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Fourteen years after writing Teaching Zack to Think, there is still no Internet skill more critical than Web literacy. However, simply teaching students to be able to search for and validate information is not enough. The ever-growing amount of information on the Web and the immediate access to experts and peers from around the world create great opportunities for thoughtfully organizing and expanding upon learning.

Alan November and Brian Mull have recently written an article titled Why More Schools Aren’t Teaching Web Literacy—and How They Can Startwhich now appears on the eSchool News site and discusses a three-part framework for making sure students are Internet savvy.

You are invited to read this article and share your thoughts and questions here.

Flipped Learning: A Response to Five Common Criticisms

Flipped Learning: A Response to Five Common Criticisms

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Alan November and Brian Mull have recently written an article titled Flipped Learning: A Response to Five Common Criticisms which now appears on the  eSchool News site. Within the article, they explain how to deepen student learning using the Flipped Learning method, and they also address criticisms this method has received.

You are invited to read this article and share your thoughts and questions here.

The Pro-D Flip

The Pro-D Flip

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"The Pro-D Flip by David Truss"

Since writing my 3 Keys to a Flipped Classroom blog post, I have been reading many great contributions to the discussion around flipping classrooms. Last week I was commenting on Lisa Nielsen’s thoughtful post Five Reasons I’m Not Flipping Over The Flipped Classroom and something occurred to me…

I have flipped my Professional Development!

I’ve done this with my blog and with Twitter.

Professional Development for me used to be about going to sessions on specific days and then trying to ‘bring back’ what I’ve learned and incorporate it into my daily practice. Sometimes this was very challenging, I would get inundated with new information and find it very hard to apply what I learned into what I did on a day-to-day basis. Often my notes would be filed away, not to be seen again.

The Old Way

Sign up -> Go to session -> Take (paper) notes -> File notes away (with intentions to go back to them) -> Repeat.

Now Pro-D seems to be different for me. The key thing is that I don’t ever wait for Professional Development Days or conferences to initiate learning opportunities. In fact, my Pro-D choices stem from what I’m already learning about on Twitter, and sharing in other learning spaces like my blog, Diigo, and Scoop.it.

The New Way

Follow links on Twitter -> Dig deeper then blog my ideas -> Seek related Pro-D opportunities -> Connect to other participants -> Share as I learn -> Consolidate ideas and blog again -> Follow links on Twitter…


Now, Professional Development needs to change to accommodate a new kind of learning journey that participants are on:

1. Share resources, and make connecting easy, ahead of time.

2. Make sessions about action not information.

3. Use the skills of the participants (have them not just participate, but also lead).



1. Share resources/connecting ahead of time

2. Action, not information
  • Learning in Louisiana – I joined a team from November Learning to present to groups of teachers on the topics of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting, PLN’s and other Web2.0 tools. Most of the event was hands-on with teachers having a lot of time to try the tools out.
  • Flat Classroom Conference – Beijing 2011 – We broke into teams and developed our own flat projects. I haven’t followed up with our ‘Reportizens‘ project yet, but I do think this is something I would like to pursue!
3. Use participants skills
  • EduBloggerCon events which include a ‘Smackdown‘ where participants share tools they like in rapid succession.
  • Edcamp – “…an unconference devoted to K-12 Education issues and ideas. A new kind of professional development dedicated to giving educators a voice.”
Putting these three pieces together isn’t easy. If you pre-load too much before hand, not everyone will come prepared. If you are all about action and not information, then why do people need to come to your sessions? If you empower participants to lead, some will thrive on it, while others will wonder why they paid if they had to help run a session.
You can please some people some times, but you can’t please all the people all the time! 🙂
It is hard for a one-hour session or even a conference to meet the needs of every participant. That said, I do think there has been a shift in expectations as more educators have become connected learners. For me and for many others, the Pro-D session of old can no longer meet our learning needs. We have flipped our professional development and now we want, we expect, to be active participants in our learning before, during, and after a professional development session.

[Cross-posted on the David Truss :: Pair-a-Dimes for Your Thoughts blog]

BLC11 Keynote: Dr. Eric Mazur

BLC11 Keynote: Dr. Eric Mazur

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Today, we are officially relaunching our opening keynote from BLC11 with Dr. Eric Mazur. Dr. Mazur is the Area Dean of Applied Physics and  Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

In his keynote, Dr. Mazur shares his vast research on teaching and learning. Students in Dr. Mazur’s class are moving far away from the traditional stand and deliver lectures given in many k-12 and university classrooms around the world, and they are gaining a much deeper understanding of the material being taught in the process.

As you watch this video, we invite you to take some time and respond to one or more of the following questions.

  • Where does the balance lie in providing students with answers and having them discuss and apply reason to get to their own answers?
  • Would you agree that the more a teacher is an expert in his/her content, the more difficulty this teacher has in understanding how a first time learner in this subject struggles? Explain your thinking.
  • How practical is it for any teacher to apply a flipped learning model, like the one Dr. Mazur shares, where students guide themselves through content on their own at home and then send their questions to a teacher before coming to a class where this material is then applied at a deeper level? If it’s not practical, what are the barriers.

2 Simple Ways to Measure the Success of Your School Technology Program

2 Simple Ways to Measure the Success of Your School Technology Program

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The pencil was, in its day, a disruptive technology. When the little pink eraser on the end was introduced it had educators throwing up their hands. Now, they said, no one will think before they write. The pencil is also an incredibly sophisticated tool. It took more than a century to perfect–Thoreau’s family was a player in the pencil wars of the early 19th century.

Yet, no one notices pencils anymore. They are a great example of the successful integration of technology in education. (By the way, no one I know considers correlating pencils to test scores as they did in this misplaced critique in the New York Times.) The marks of this success are ubiquity and invisibility.

A quick check on theses two scales let’s me easily gauge the success of any school’s technology program, however sophisticated the devices or applications they roll out.

cross-posted from my blog, A Stick in the Sand

BLC11 Big Take-Away? Problem-finding is the Next Big Thing

BLC11 Big Take-Away? Problem-finding is the Next Big Thing

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One of the threads to emerge out of a number of terrific presentations at November Learning’s Building Learning Communities 2011 conference in Boston was the idea that we are shifting to a new pedagogy.

We might describe the old model of teaching–let’s call it “education 1.0”–as a problem-solving pedagogy. In it, students are asked to solve hundreds of trivial problems in textbooks and worksheets. Page-tall columns of algebra equations come to mind immediately, but we find equally dull work in other subjects, too: book reports in language arts classes, listing provinces and their capitals in Social Studies classes, for example. I realize I’m being a bit hasty here. There is a good argument for drilling in order to build skills. There is also great value in just knowing things. However, it’s not hard to see that if this is all we do we are in danger of creating a classroom of highly skilled but not very imaginative or creative students. This is the lament of China’s education leaders.

Education 1.0 was replaced by a problem-based learning model–let’s call this education 2.0. Here, curricula and student work are driven by relatively complex problems meant to give purpose to the sort of drilling that went on in vacuo before. In order to solve a problem, students–it’s believed–will naturally search for and hone the skills they need to solve it. The critique heard at BLC 11, quite loudly from Ewan McIntosh, is that these problems are artificial. The answers are already known by the teachers or some other authority so the problem is not in fact a problem to be solved at all. More importantly, as Dr. Eric Mazur and Dr. Steven Wolfram pointed out in their keynotes, this sort of contrivance does little to prepare students to be the life-long learners schools universally claim they are creating. Again, I’m aware I’m taking some liberties. It is indeed well worth the effort to walk through some old problems just to see how others went about solving them, to study their methods, as we say. This is what Newton meant when he said he stood on the shoulders of giants. He did not mean, however, that the purpose of that study was to add another hammer in the problem-solving toolbox. He meant the purpose of that study was to find where old methods were insufficient for cracking open knew knowledge.

So here at BLC 11, the buzz is about giving education 2.0 another turn turn to create a problem-finding pedagogy. Let’s call this education 3.0. Here we want students to engage with problems to which even the teachers do not know the answers, to engage with the “unknown unknowns” as Ewan McIntosh says.


It’s there in the terra icognita of knowledge that learning gets exciting. Discoveries in this area have genuine value not just to the student, but to everyone. I’ve heard many teachers express chagrin at the way students toss out their notebooks at year-end. But if those notes aren’t much more than a record of drills–the equivalent of a record of the pushups one has done all year–I can hardly fault the students. Indeed, I think we have a serious moral problem if we are compelling students to attend classes and don’t help them produce something of intrinsic worth.

Something else exciting happens when we pass the edge of the knowns, too, I think. Students are encouraged to work at a very high level of thinking when they are asked to analyze a collection of data, judge it’s worth, synthesize it and draw out a question for further study. (I wonder if structure of education itself inhibits, even excludes, higher-order thinking. That would make the efforts of teachers to encourage students to think more deeply and richly largely misplaced. If we want to change behaviour, we have to make sure the environment supports the new behaviour. It’s a study I’d like to pursue.)

Wolfram created his fabulous apps to relieve the students of the burden of trivial calculations so that they can apply there mental energy to finding the new problem in set of data. Marco Torres looks at apps like Thumbjam and Hex OSC Full  the same way, as tools that let the non-piano player get on with making a soundtrack for a video, for example. (Hans Rosling, not at the conference, created his Gapminder software for the same reason.) I am proposing a model workflow for a problem-finding school that could employ these tools and get on with finding new problems:

This is a sketch. I need to spend some time thinking about what this looks like in practice, especially across all the grades. But I’m suggesting that as the students consider the questions in the diamonds, they must do some hard thinking. They would also have to think carefully–critically–about where to get help. I can see links to building social networks and teaching social search here.

I am especially interested in the final question–“is it worth keeping?” That question, essentially, replaces the final exam. (There’s probably another loop in here that asks if we ran another iteration of the problem would we find a better answer.)

Students also have to consider how they will store that data for later use. I favour a bucket to hold huge piles of unstructured data that users can can reorder as they need, hence my note to tag rather than file. It seems the semantic web, which would be ideal here, is still a ways off, but there are ways to set up unstructured data collections even primary students could use. We had a custom-built prototype bucket at my previous school and I am pretty sure one can build a good workarounds using a combination of off-the-shelf tools. (More on that later.)

I’ll spend the next few weeks of summer tinkering with this plan and have it ready to run with my students when school starts in the fall. In the meantime, I’d appreciate any thoughts.

 Cross-posted in my own blog, A Stick in the Sand.



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