Upgrade & Amplification Exercise and Checklist

The Upgrade and Amplification Exercise slide deck below grew out of the need for companion slides to “21st Century Critical Literacies- Is Traditional Reading and Writing Enough?

Once you know of the NEED and URGENCY of updating your curriculum and instructional repertoire to give the critical literacies of our century justice, take a look at the checklist below to guide you in considerations as you upgrade and amplify.

What does upgrade and amplify even mean?


Raise (something) to a higher standard, in particular improve (equipment or machinery) by adding or replacing components.

improve – better – ameliorate – promote


1.    Increase the volume
2.    Increase the amplitude

expand – enlarge – extend – magnify – aggrandize

Upgrading and amplifying traditionally taught activities, lessons, units or entire classroom learning environments TAKES time and practice. Just as in any sport, if you want to get better at it, you have to put in the time and practice.  Before you become an athlete, who thinks nothing of running a marathon or has the conditioning of swimming 5 hours non stop, one has to have enough attempts of failing and be exhausted by “working out” for only 10 minutes at a time. Only with practice does the couch patatoe become an athlete.

The same holds true with upgrading and amplifying. Most educators are “not in shape”, not conditioned, not in the routine of upgrading their curriculum to embed emerging critical  literacies and amplifying their own and their students’ work. They have to practice, put the time in and “pay their dues” until it becomes easier and second nature.

I am sharing with you my “workout” schedule, my model, my routine and techniques/methods of “getting into shape” to upgrade and amplify.

By upgrading and amplifying, you are not throwing out your instructional goals and objectives. These goals and objectives are just expanded and enlarged. The idea is to align standards with the framework of 21st century learning. The standards, skills and literacies are fused and support each other.

For warm-ups, take good old Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Make sure you touch on more than one learning AND teaching style to address all kinds of learners.

Continue your warm ups  by going through a cycle of Bloom’s Taxonomy of higher order thinking skills. Be aware of the different stages (levels) and  pay special attention to creating.  Shortcuts do not pay off… creating your own material, will allow you to share and amplify the work easier later on.

Once warmed up, you are ready to take a challenge, you might not have been exposed to before. Alan November’s model of the Digital Learning Farm prescribes six roles to empower learners. Don’t overdue it at the beginning of this workout series. There is no need to go through ALL the exercises at once. It will leave you over exhausted. No need to use every role in every activity, but take care to evenly distribute the roles across the school year.

The next workout is outlined by Ruben Puentedura‘s SAMR model to move from substitution over augmentation and modification to a redefinition of a task. The workout consists in starting out with using technology as a direct tool substitution, but no significant task improvement. It is compared to a direct automation of a previously analog task. The second set of the workout is to use technology in a way that allows for some task improvement. Don’t stop now and work through the aches and pains to reach the transformational stage. You will use technology tools to be able to modify the task by allowing a significant redesign of the task to finish off the workout by being able to redefine the task, create new tasks, previously not thought of or possible. Take a look at a chart of sample tasks, moving from the substution stage to the redefinition stage.

Once you worked through the workouts and routines outlined in the “upgrade workout routine”, become fit and conditioned in upgrading, the next level of your exercise routine takes you to the amplification routine. You can prepare yourself for amplification with simple warm up exercises. Instead of your students handing their work into you, have them present work to their classsmates first, then to a larger audience by inviting another class from the building or their parents in.

The first routine of amplification becomes the task of digitizing analog or physical artifacts of students’ work. This simple modification allows you to be able  to share the work online. With this simple act (uploading digital content), amplification is ready to happen. Parents, friends and family living across the country or the world will be able to connect.

By choosing to produce evidence of learning in a variety of media, we allow our online audience to read, look at, watch, or listen to student work. Amplification happens when we go beyond the traditional media in schools (which traditionally and primarily is text) and give students choices to use different media forms, mix and mash up media and/or create new forms.

Amplification means to extend classroom time beyond the traditional school hours. It also means to amplify the pool of people we learn from. Traditionally the “only” teacher in the room was… the teacher. When the teacher steps aside and allows students to share their knowledge and experiences and to open up classroom walls to bring in peers, experts, eye-witnesses from around the world, we amplify who we consider teachers as well as our geographic boundaries.

Traditionally our students have not had a long “reach” beyond the scope of the families, teachers and schools. By “reach”, I mean the amount of people their work could reach (could be read, watched, be looked at). An essay handed in to the teacher to be graded, has a reach of 1. Amplification happens when a blog post, uploaded, cross posted and linked to by others and the link disseminated via Twitter has a potential reach of thousands.  (Disclaimer: Sometimes the single act of uploading content online is not enough to reach further. There also has to be an ACTIVE EFFORT to build a network to be able to disseminate through).

Through social media, our potential connections, collaboration and dissemination paths can reach exponential levels.

The REACH is about the amount of people our work is capable of touching. The reach of our work would be already considered amplified (in a small way).  if we make it available in a password protected environment (only accessible to colleagues, classmates, community members). A larger ripple effect/amplification happens when our work is open to the world and disseminated across the globe though. We move from an audience of one to a global audience through synchronous and asynchronous tools. A global audience brings in different perspectives, points of view and resources, previously not available from a locally confined audience.

Making a difference in the world is possible through the amplified potential reach of a global audience. Even children as young as four or five years old (with the help of their parents or teachers) can find their voice and be heard! Traditional limitations of age, physical handicaps, financial limitations preventing traveling or a  lack of social network connections in the physical world,  don’t have to limit someone’s voice any longer. An amplification  to be heard can happen for anyone with an Internet connections.  It is a powerful realization that we all have something valuable to share with others.

The last tip to getting in shape to upgrade and amplify is: SIMPLY SHARE! The popular saying “A Candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” holds just as true for our purpose. The simple act of sharing online brings automatically larger degrees of upgrade and amplification with it. In order to share (without infringing on copyright or committing plagiarism) one has to create. By not keeping your creation to yourself, you amplify the potential reach your work can generate.

In the slide deck below, you will find examples from the classroom illustrating upgrades and amplifications to traditionally taught lessons and activities. I hope that the examples and the checklist below will help you in practicing and exercising your “upgrade and amplification muscles”. Please share your examples (or links to examples) in the comment section.  You will automatically upgrade your practice (connect, communicate, collaborate, create) and amplify YOUR work (networking, linking, disseminating), by linking them here. 🙂

You can also download the Upgrade & Amplify Checklist as a PDF