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A Timeline: Tool Set – Skill Set – Mind Set

In my previous post titled Enhancement-Automating-Transforming-Informating, I described the fusion (in my mind) of the SAMR model with Alan November’s concept of Automating vs. Informating to transform teaching and learning.

Since then, my colleague Andrea Hernandez and I have set down to create a visual using the above model to include concrete examples from our school to illustrate to our teachers what tasks are considered in the substitution/augmentation/modification/redefinition stages. We want to be transparent in showing our expectations of basic tasks being led autonomously by the classroom teachers to teach and support students without the necessity of tech support to be present. At the same time, we wanted to emphasize the progression and show what transformational teaching and learning looks like.

As we were populating the chart, it became clear to me that the stages were part of a time line, a process that an individual and an entire school cultures had to go through in order to transform and leap from “preparing students for 1970s, 1980′s 1990′s to preparing them for 2020′s and beyond” (Heidi Hayes Jacobs). Once I saw the imaginary time line, I also felt that that the stages coincided with how (21st century) teaching and learning was seen. We used to see it as a:

Tools Set:

  • we taught keyboarding classes
  • we had classes that taught a specific version of a office program (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • we emphasized file management
  • we supported teachers when they did not know which button to click for printing
  • we gave instructions, such as “click in the upper left corner for the drop down menu and save”, we gave new instructions when the software package, platform or version changed
  • we gave tech support to upload, download and resize images

Then we started to understand that it was never about the tools, but about the skills teachers and students would acquire when using these tools.

Skill Set:

  • we blog to teach and learn about writing, communication, networking, presentation, publishing, commenting, reflection, organization and collaboration skills. Blogging is about Digital Citizenship, Media Literacy, Information Literacy and Global Awareness.
  • we use wikis to understand about copyright, evaluation and analysis of Information, collective knowledge and new writing genres.
  • we skype in order to expose and connect teachers and students locally and globally to peers, experts, eye witnesses. We become more fluent in networking and and information literacies, speaking, listening and presentation skills are honed.
  • we teach bookmarking skills to help teachers and students cope with the exponentially increasing information available. Finding, evaluating, analyzing, tagging, categorizing, organizing, connecting and remixing of information are just some of the skills necessary for that
  • we podcast (audio and video)  to allow students to express themselves and their knowledge in more than the written form. We incorporate storytelling in order to give students multimedia skills as well as expose them to visual literacy and information literacy.

Now, it seems that teaching and learning will not necessarily move from the “enhancement” to the “transformation” stage with a tool set and the necessary skills alone. In order for teaching and learning to become transformative there also needs to be a

Mind Set:

  • Our world has flattened and is interconnected
  • Information is just going to continue to grow exponentially
  • Students of today and tomorrow learn differently than we did
  • We are life long learners
  • We are self-directed learners
  • “How we connect with each other is how learning occurs” (Stephen Wilmarth)
  • “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but the ones who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” (Alvin Toffler)
  • “Collaboration and sharing knowledge are highly prized skills” (Alan November)

Take a look at the following graphic and keep a time line in mind, as well as the stages mentioned above to move from substitution to redefinition. Does this make sense to you? What would you add?

Building your Personal Learning Network

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a group of people you count on to:

  • guide you in your learning
  • be your source of advice and resources
  • make you aware of learning opportunities
  • share their best practices
  • point you to answers and support

This concept of a PLN  has been around for many years. What has changed in recent years though is the reach, the size and the availability of that network.

The look of a PLN has changed.


  • your colleagues in the building you work in
  • a cherished personal mentor
  • professional development opportunities offered sporadically throughout the year
  • conferences
  • college credit classes taken for re-certification


  • Blogs
  • RSS Readers
  • Twitter
  • Nings
  • Skype
  • Podcasts
  • Wikis

Your PLN is no longer tied to your zip code and you no longer work in isolation. It is literally available 24/7, since the “other side of the world” is asleep at different times than you. You are able to connect to educators from around the world who are ready and willing to teach beyond the walls of their own classroom.

Your PLN is customized as:

  • it filters the vast information available and pushes what interests you
  • you choose who is part of your network
  • you decide when and how to access and use it

Learning how to build your own PLN is:

  • a 21st century skill
  • learning about tools that enable your to make these connections
  • being in charge of your own professional development
  • connecting to educators who will contribute to your learning
  • extending your learning
  • receiving “just in time” learning and help
  • becoming globally aware
  • sharing your own best practices and receiving feedback from peers
  • experiencing the power of 21st century learning for yourself
  • filtering through “too much” information available
Take a look at the following slideshow, I created for a presentation I gave recently in Canada.

Guest Blogger- Heather Durnin On New Forms of School and Learning

Heather Durning who blogs on Mrs. D’s Flight Plan has graciously allowed me to cross post her latest post here on Langwitches.

I believe her blog post is invaluable as it fulfills the need to document, summarize and assess learning outcomes when leading your students with new forms of teaching and learning. The blog post titled “Holocaust Education via @Langwitches and Group Skype” is such a post. We need to start sharing new forms of schools, classrooms, teaching and learning.

As Kevin Jarett tweeted:

If you dig further in Heather’s blog, which carries the tagline: “Teaching with technology in a Gr. 7/8 classroom means sometimes you fly by the seat of your pants“, you can read more about the collaboration between her class in Ontario and Clarence Fisher’s class in Manitoba, Canada.  I was honored when she contacted me to be part of that collaboration. During the Skype call I realized that I was part of a NEW FORM of teaching and really a new form a school and learning. I got goose bumps reading the students’ comments Heather shared with me after their reflection of the Skype experience. I can start seeing that new form of what learning can be/is crystallize itself in the fog ahead.

Read Heather’s description and her students’ comments below, then head over to her blog to follow along her journey of creating new forms of learning and teaching opportunities.

Skype Call Perspective from my End

Holocaust Education via @langwitches and Group Skype

This week, the Idea Hive experienced a significant “first”:  a shared read aloud of The Book Thief using Skype, backchannel chat, and Linoit, a virtual bulletin board.   In previous posts, Clarence shared the beauty of this story, and the pre-reading activities leading up to the book, designed to develop students’ knowledge of Germany in WW II.  In the Hive Thinking classroom, students collaborated to produce research summaries of various topics including Hitler Youth, Jesse Owens, Hitler, Kristallnacht, and the Holocaust.

Following this step, students viewed a video created by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, Kristallnacht- Night of the Broken Glass.  While viewing images, including many of her Jewish grandparents in Germany, Silvia narrates her family’s story surrounding that horrific night on November 9, 1938, when Hitler showed the world his plans for the Jewish community. Please take the 9 min. needed to view her story.  I assure you it will be worth it.

The next day, the Idea Hive students met via Skype to share questions they planned to ask Silvia in a follow-up group video call, a new Skype feature.  During that group video call, it was incredible to watch students in Ontario and Manitoba listen and interact with Silvia as she spoke to us all from Florida.  This call allowed our students to experience together, the emotions shared by Silvia, as she answered their questions.  Silvia helped students learn how similar behaviours are mirrored today in social media sites such as Facebook.  Students connected, as they learned together in an authentic environment.  One of my student’s parents shared the impact this experience had on her daughter.  “When she came home, she talked and talked about the Holocaust.  She cried.”

After the call, I asked my students to share their thoughts on how Skype affects their learning.

When we Skyped with Silvia, what happens years ago, makes more sense. She told us way more than I’d read in a textbook. She made me put myself in Germany during the night of broken glass.

When you’re talking to someone on a Skype call, with people around the world telling their story, you realize how really brave they are, like Silvia. They inspire us to share more of our experiences.  Brad P.

Skyping helps us learn. When our class Skyped with Silvia Rosenthal, she told us more information about the holocaust and WWII than a textbook would have told us. This makes it exciting for us because we can see her expressions and it makes it more real.  We can feel her emotion.

In order for this to work, there must be preparation involved so you have a reason to Skype. Preparing for a Skype call is just as important as studying for a test or practicing a speech for your History project. We prepare because it helps us present the information the way we want it to sound. We also prepare so there is a serious conversation, and so we don’t stumble over words as we are speaking to our audience. Ethan J.

During the Skype call, the students are very quiet and involved.  We are very interested with the call because we are not just reading a boring old textbook.  We are hearing somebody’s story. When we had a Skype call with Silvia on Monday, we got into it, asking questions that we’d previously planned.  And we all know you cannot ask a textbook questions!  If you have access to this technology, why not use it?!  Alyssa H.

The group Skype feature enables our students to share powerful, emotional learning experiences together.  It’s another step in our year-long goal of creating a community of learners in the Idea Hive.

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