Edmodo: supporting digital literacy and collaborative learning


I’ve just been to an amazing demonstration at Randwick Girls High School on the uses of the Interactive Smart Board in the classroom, and I’m blown away. In particular,I was impressed with the integration of the educational social network Edmodo with ISB. Edmodo is a highly versatile digital platform, designed specifically for the classroom.  It allows teachers to post messages, discuss classroom topics, assign and grade classwork, share content and materials, and network and exchange ideas with their peers. This means that students’ learning environment reflects the multi-modal digital world that they interact with in their leisure time. For students needing supported literacy, Edmodo will enable them to engage with their learning and communicate their needs in a digital mode that is familiar and non-threatening. The multi-modal element of the program supports differentiation, with its emphasis on peer interaction and collaborative learning . As a pre-service teacher, using Edmodo in the classroom will able me to move away from a teacher-centric model of teaching, and toward a learner-centred model. The platform supports the constructivist ideal of the teacher as collaborator and facilitator. Students are empowered to take ownership of their learning, and become more autonomous, self-directed learners.

Poetry Top 10


I just read and reviewed a brilliant article on strategies for teaching poetry. The article focuses on the American third grade in elementary school, but the techniques recommended here could be easily applied to secondary school: in fact, I think they’re universal. It’s called Poetry Top 10: A Foolproof Formula for Teaching Poetry, and its by Mara Linaberger. I put a link to it at the bottom of the post.

In this article, Mara Linaberger writes with passion about teaching poetry in schools, exploring some of the resistance teachers experience toward poetry. She outlines some practical pedagogical approaches to resolving resistance and encouraging creativity in the English classroom.

Linaberger approaches the issues surrounding teacher resistance by examining her own resistance, articulating some of the common causes: she rejects the notion that poetry has to be difficult, has to follow a particular metre or pattern, or has to rhyme. She also challenges the idea that student’s exposure to poetry should be limited to the occasional reading from ‘large and ominous -looking anthologies of long-dead poets’ (Linaberger, 2004, p.366)

Linaberger’s central thesis is that by attempting to write poetry ourselves, and by gaining confidence through this practice, we are equipping ourselves with invaluable tools that we can take into the classroom. She discusses three influential books by American poet and author Kenneth Koch: Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry (1999); Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? Teaching Great Poetry to Children (1990); and Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry (1998). Koch recommendations are simple: select and read great poetry to students, discuss the poetry, and then allow your students to attempt to write. The rationale is that children are naturally great poets. If we inspire them, and allow some creative freedom, then they will produce impressive results. The process of imitation enables students to absorb the basic building blocks of writing poetry:

In Koch’s (1998) words, “A transfer takes place: by reading, a young poet can possess what has taken hundreds of years to develop” (Linaberger, 2004, p. 368)

The aspect of the article that most grabbed my attention as a technique I could take with me into the classroom, was Linaberger’s discussion of the ‘Questioning the Author’ technique. This technique involves pre-reading and marking a student text to determine points for discussion, and creating a two tiered series of questions: the first, initiating queries, the second tier, more specifically linked to language and text. Linaberger describes the process of reading William Carlos Williams’ This Is Just to Say, including the calibre of the discussion, and examples of ‘apology’ poems her students had subsequently written. This immediately sparked my interest, not least because I love this particular poem. Linaberger provides clear outline of a teaching strategy, and then demonstrates how it looks in the classroom, which is invaluable to a pre-service teacher.

Linaberger , Mara (2004) Poetry Top 10: A Foolproof Formula for Teaching Poetry. The Reading Teacher. Vol. 58, No.4, December 2004/January 2005, 366-372. doi:10.1598/RT.58.4.6


This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which

Mrs. Carlos Williams is not amused…

you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
William Carlos Williams

2B? Nt2B?


I came across this article while searching for information on Shakespeare and texting, and it raises a couple of good points. I am intrigued by the pedagogical possibilities, but at the same time wary of getting side-tracked by gimics.       2b? Nt2b? Shakespeare GetsTexting Treatment

Would getting students to translate lines of Shakepeare into text language be a good way of helping them demystify and decode the sometimes complicated Elizabethan language he used, and to get them to relate the universal themes to their own lives? I intend to find out. Watch this space…

One argument for incorporating  texting into a lesson on Shakespeare might be that it is a way of supporting literacy. Educationalist James Britton, who coined the phrase ‘write to learn, learn to write”  argued that for students to be able to process abstract concepts and acquire new skills, they need to be able to practice this understanding by writing in their everyday, ‘expressive’ language. The use of more formal, academic language can be approached after they have ‘practiced’ the concept in this way. (see ref below for more information on Britton).  I think texting, and also tweeting fall into this category 0f expressive language. Although these languages are codified, they also reflect the everyday mode students use to communicate with each other. I think you could incorporate texting into the field building part of a unit on Shakespeare, so that students are able to experience the language of Shakespeare ‘translated into their expressive language. Comprehension would also be aided. In an exercise requiring students to text or tweet lines of speech in character (say, the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet), they must first be able to understand the core meaning of the lines, in order to translate accurately: the process of writing is therefore supporting interpretation.

Britton, J., Burgess, T., Martin, N., McLeod, A. & Rosen, H. (1975) The Development of Writing Abilities (11-18) London: Macmillan




Just when you think technology is your friend, the whole ’embedding’ thing refuses to play ball! Luckily, the TED link works. I tried, I really did. Be warned: keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Here’s what it looks like as html (that’s not hotmail, people.)

<object width=”526″ height=”374″>
<param name=”movie” value=”http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf”></param&gt;
<param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” />
<param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”/>
<param name=”wmode” value=”transparent”></param>
<param name=”bgColor” value=”#ffffff”></param>
<param name=”flashvars” value=”vu=http://video.ted.com/talk/stream/2010/Blank/SirKenRobinson_2010-320k.mp4&su=http://images.ted.com/images/ted/tedindex/embed-posters/SirKenRobinson-2010.embed_thumbnail.jpg&vw=512&vh=288&ap=0&ti=865&lang=&introDuration=15330&adDuration=4000&postAdDuration=830&adKeys=talk=sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution;year=2010;theme=how_the_mind_works;theme=whipsmart_comedy;theme=master_storytellers;theme=the_rise_of_collaboration;theme=the_creative_spark;theme=how_we_learn;event=TED2010;tag=children;tag=creativity;tag=education;tag=invention;&preAdTag=tconf.ted/embed;tile=1;sz=512×288;” />


I think of it as a kind of Boolean poetry. Haiku, be damned.


Ernest Hemingway on Fakebook

I love this concept. Teachers and students can create “fake” facebook pages for famous people, fictional characters etc, and then are able to comment, debate and interact in a safe forum that mimics social networking sites. Videos, audio, text and images may all be embedded in the page, like the real Facebook, and a list of friends may be created. Teachers are able to monitor posts and make comments. Brilliant. I can see this having a lot of application in class, particularly for the younger year levels, 4 and 5.

This tool provides broad scope for addressing particular outcomes, such as 1 (a student responds to and composes texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis and pleasure), with reference to 1.2 & 1.4 (Students learn to manipulate, combine and challenge different text types in order to compose new texts that address specific purposes, audiences and contexts) and 1.16 (learn about… conventions associated with generic definitions of literary, film, television and other multimedia, information, everyday and workplace texts), and also 7 ( a student thinks critically and interpretively about information ideas and arguments to respond to and compose texts), with reference to 7.1 (students learn to locate, assess, select, synthesise and use information, ideas and arguments from texts) and 7.15 (students learn about ways of organising information, ideas and arguments textually or visually…)

Here’s one I made for Ernest Hemingway:


Bring on the Revolution


I just watched an amazing TED lecture by English educator Sir Ken Robinson, which really highlighted for me the importance of mastering ict in the classroom. If we want to engage kids in the wonder of learning, we have to be ready and willing to engage in modes of teaching that speak to a 21st century student cohort. If we mediate learning through the multifarious media forms now available to us, we have a much better chance of doing this. Plus we look so much cooler. As Robinson points out, there are many different intelligences, and simply lecturing from the front of the classroom no longer cuts the mustard. Technology is central to engaging these diverse intelligences.

‘as our case is new, so must we think anew…’   Abraham Lincoln

TED Ken Robinson ‘Bring On The Revolution’

Mea Culpa


To begin with, a confession. I am the person who translated html as ‘hotmail’, who didn’t think to move around with my laptop, who calls tech support and has to ask the meaning of terms such as ‘browser’ and i.p., who thought the webcam had to be plugged in to be connected to the internet, who wasn’t sure if I had wi-fi or dial-up… I could go on (no, really: I could), but I might have to crawl into a hole and hide.