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Using Digital Is to Explore Writing Instruction with Pre-Service Teachers: A Love Story

A few weeks ago, Cindy O’Donnell-Allen and Antero Garcia, both professors in the English department at Colorado State University and fellow NWP colleagues, shared with me via e-mail that students in their pre-service teaching courses would be taking a closer look at a resource I developed earlier this year on Digital Is, offering me full warning that my inbox would be full of notification e-mails as students initiated and responded to message threads.  Happy that the work found its way into another classroom, and excited to connect across spaces, I responded by offering to video chat with Cindy's class one evening if the students wished to continue the conversation. 

From here, a kind of "dialogic ecosystem" grew that pushed me to think about how important spaces like Digital is are/can be, especially when we are attempting to make sense of loaded terms and concepts that can be challenging to dissect, deconstruct, and apply in practice. Most recently, Cindy has been exploring concepts like power, positionality, and culturally responsive teaching with her students, and has used a variety of texts and resources to color the conversation- including Digital Is.  This led me to ask if we are using, as a field, places like Digital is to their fullest potential. How might we build powerful relationships through engaging in the site, and how might our writing pedaogies be stretched and flexed through such interactions?

I offer this narrative because I thought it was an excellent testament to the kinds of collaboration and connected learning spaces that can grow out of the site, the benefits of which I am only beginning to fully comprehend. For instance, because of Cindy's invitation to participate with her brilliant students, I have new insights about my own teaching practice, and have now created a different set of questions to ask students in my own class of pre-service English Teachers here at Teachers College. And according to Cindy, the students in her class found the work equally useful, one student noting after our Google Hangout session, "she's made all this real because she's really done it". As I mentioned above, a "dialogic ecosystem" took root in this exchange; Digital is permitted us to participate in a dialogue that was reciprocal and expansive, and an interdependent set of relationships with people, space, texts, and terms took effect.  

Inquiry via Discussion Threads

Engaging in conversations, both through discussion threads and a Google Hangout session, every individual walked away with more questions and curiosities, including myself.  The dialogue was rich with inquiry, and affirming.  Some of the discussion threads below revealed what young teachers were thinking about as they read through my reflections on attempting to use technology in intentional, humanizing, and generative ways in an eleventh-grade urban English classroom: 

Image originally uploaded on 2013-02-23 19:26

One of the posts focused on student voice, and a rich dialogue ensued; teachers in Cindy's class began exploring the impact of technology on motivation, technology's role in addressing "possible" achievement gaps, and what kinds of unique opportunities media affords students as authors of their own stories: 

Image originally uploaded on 2013-02-21 06:47

 When I wrote up my experiences, I did not anticipate all of the many layered nuances of what I was offering to my audience.  Teaching is such a complex task, and after nearly ten years in the classroom, there are so many practices that I "do" that come almost second nature. Comments like the ones above brought me to pause and reflect on what my set of practices actually "say" to my students.  I noticed that Cindy's students were especially interested in the classroom climate and culture, and how the physical space itself spoke to that.  Many of their questions also pointed back to considering what the purpose of education was, but considering such given the introduction of a new set of tools.  

Budding Relationships and Google Hangout

After the Digital Is transactions, we participated in a Google Hangout during the last half-hour of Cindy's class, thanks to the recording skills of Antero, who recorded it live. 

Students put me on the hot seat with some honest, straightforward questions that I found myself still contemplating afterward.  What I was most impressed with was their level of consciousness and empathetic sensibility- these students seemed to really be able to put themselves in the shoes of students when thinking about constructing a classroom space and were well aware of their power and positionaility as teachers.  One student asked, knowing that I am a white woman who has spent her career in urban education settings, " If you consider yourself an outsider to your students’ community (in terms of race, etc.), what’s the best way to be effective in that community? Wow. As I began to explore the beginnings of an answer to share, I realized that this was a question that I needed to be more intentional about exploring with my own student-teachers.  I had to give that question to them, and probably needed to return back to my own articulation of a response.  I shared with the class that their questions were ones that I did not hear often during my pre-teaching experience over a decade ago, and that I was deeply moved and inspired by their thought and consideration as they began constructing their own teaching pedagogies. It was humbling.

Image originally uploaded on 2013-02-21 08:51

More Questions and Dialogue

After the question-and-answer session, Cindy mentioned exploring some questions she had together with Antero and I, and wrote up a reflection on her blog, ending her entry with these wonderings: 

"WHAT I’M WONDERING NOW: I want to know more about that practice of “writing yourself into being” because it seems hugely important for us to think about in E402. I also want to ask Danielle some more pointed questions about the complexity of teaching in a diverse setting as a white teacher. In class discussion last week, one of my students said that she would hate to think that she couldn’t teach in a diverse, urban context just because she was white (and middle-class, too, though I’m not sure she said that). What if you haven’t struggled in the way your students have? How can you teach with empathy without unintentionally communicating condescension? More than once, Danielle also mentioned activism and teaching with an agenda. I want to hear more about her experiences in that area, too, because I know from personal experience that teaching in ways that challenge your students’ (and their families’) world views entails risk."

In turn, I asked students in my Teaching of English Course if they might be interested in talking with Cindy and Antero's classes so that we could continue the dialogue and maybe initiate some kind of professional learning community. Receiving a positive response, I then had some questions and wonderings of my own:

  • How can we use places like Digital Is to build stronger relationships between teachers in organic ways?
  • What kinds of new, inter-generational relationships can digital media tools help foster in teacher learning communities/classrooms?
  • Do/can digital media tools help new teachers (or veteran, for that matter) engage in conversations that might have traditionally been too risky or uncomfortable?
  • What kinds of questions would Cindy's students ask my former high school students if they had the opportunity?  Could Digital Is be a place where K-12 students might be able to participate in discussion threads?  If so, what might resources that bring in youth voice look like?  
  • How might pre-service students use a space like Digital Is and its content to collaborate, question, share, explore with other pre-service students?  

Final Thoughts

As Cindy mentioned on her blog, one of my statements during our conversation was, "this work isn't easy; teaching isn't easy, though it may look that way on Digital Is." This, for me, is why dialogue is so important and necessary.  Teaching is a messy, but utterly beautiful process- and we have to re-visit our practices and pedagogy constantly. In my case, I was able to do so with new teachers who have different questions then I had when I first entered the field.  They prompted me to re-think what it means to be an English teacher and further- to be a teacher of English teachers. Their questions also pushed me to consider why I placed such a strong emphasis in my classroom on youth cultural production via the use of digital tools, and I have been sketching & writing on this since. This exchange fed me, in many ways at a most unexpected time- prompted by little more then an e-mail.  

Roland Barthes said that "Narrative is determined not by a desire to narrate but by a desire to exchange", and it is in this spirit that I end this piece and extend an invitation to teachers and Digital Is colleagues. What can we do with the work we have generated so far to connect to each other and build relationships?  Why do we share in these spaces and what do we hope our audience will hear? 

Let's connect.

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Discussions About This Resource

bjeagan's picture

 Danielle, your final question echoes.  "Why do we share in these spaces and what do we hope our audience will hear?" I've often wondered this on a big level.  The education system and going to school have become such expected activities.  The government mandates school attendance.  Advanced jobs require degrees earned through schooling.  It is assumed that people should go to school.  We assume classrooms should have desks and chairs.  So much habit.  Sometimes taking a step back and looking at the whole thing is perfectly appropriate.
I'll repeat your question: "Why do we share in these spaces and what do we hope our audience will hear?"  What do we really hope that school - or more specifically, an English classroom - will do for us?  I hope that it will accomplish something that matters beyond the classroom.  I hope that school will offer something that transforms me as an individual.  I hope that an English class will show me how to delight in the art of written and spoken words.  At our core, what do we hope for from education?
I don't really have big answers, only big questions.  And it has been refreshing to me to get a big view.

cindyoa's picture

I hope that school will offer something that transforms me as an individual.


I believe that all students, deep-down, share your hope. How will you help your students realize them? How can writing be a part of that?

- Cindy

tylerarko's picture

The one thing that I really enjoyed about the conversation that we participated in was that you were so willing and eager to not only speak with us, but also help us, learn from us and learn from yourself. The fact that an established teacher would take the time to chat with a group of future teachers really emphisizes the importance that collaboration and communication have on education. NO ONE can do this job on their own. Teachers must offer help, must ask for help, and must help other teachers in order to acheive the highest level of success. Your unwillinginess to settle for "good enough" in your teaching and the ability that you have to always imporve as you look back at your own teaching is really enlightening to me. It showed me that there are teachers out there who care about what they do and care about getting better, instead of doing the same thing over and over every year regardless of its sucess (I know this happens for I have experienced it in my own schooling). I just mostly want to thank you for opening my eyes to the true profession, never settling and always striving to get better and help others get better. 

joshkm's picture

Since Tyler brought up teachers helping other teachers, I figured I wouldn't start a new thread. This comment is in regard to Danielle's question:  What kinds of new, inter-generational relationships can digital media tools help foster in teacher learning communities/classrooms?

As far as teacher learning communities, I have been participating with veteran teachers, new teachers, and pre-service teachers on Reddit's forum titled "R/Teachers," which you may access here:


All you need to do is quickly sign up for an account and you can be in contact with education professionals from all around the world. You might be surprised to find that when you pose a question, 30-40 teachers respond with their answers based on personal teaching experience. I have found valuable information from advice on job interviews to strategies for ELL students to heartwarming stories.

Many times, a question or comment on R/Teachers will spring a long, intense discussion--the same thing we have seen happen here on Digital Is. I highly suggest signing up for an account! You don't really need to ever ask any questions, as you can view posts from others and the multitude of responses. Also, there is an iPhone/Andriod app for Reddit called "iReddit," and I find myself browsing R/Teachers in-between classes often. 

Does anyone else have any other online communities they can share for teachers-helping-teachers?

cindyoa's picture

Josh and Tyler,

You might like participating in this Ning set up by Jim Burke, a high school English teacher and prolific author who wrote The English Teacher's Companion.

The Ning is called English Companion: Where English Teachers Go to Help Each Another. Catchy, huh?

Also, if you want to connect with teachers more locally, you might like CLAS Talk, a Ning for the Colorado Language Arts Society.

- Cindy

StevenG's picture

I find the idea of a “dialogic ecosystem” fascinating. Until fairly recently I always used to try to keep the frenzy of modern day technology at arms-length. The roots of my resistance stem from various sources, but after immersing myself in the world of education I quickly realized that technology is a requisite tool for effective teaching in today’s classrooms and during the past few years I have worked hard to reverse my thinking about technology. Overindulgence and exploitation of social media still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I have forced myself to begin seeing technology as a tool rather than a series of trends. That is why the “dialogic ecosystem” concept seems so important and necessary for me. It gives a name to something that I always realized was there, which is an absolutely endless network of outlets and resources for everyone at every level of education, and that makes it easier to approach technology for education in a much more purposeful way.
There is no question that technology benefits teachers and students in the classroom, but it does not have to end there.  My classmate, Bethany, in her thread titled “The View” expresses her hope that what we (teachers) do in the classroom will turn into something meaningful outside of the classroom and I think now, as we reach across miles to connect with one another, we are accomplishing just that. The dialogue that has developed here is living proof that organic, constructive relationships— despite geographic distance and differences in background, lifestyle, and experience—can open what seems like an infinite number of doors, especially for people like me who have struggled to see past some of the more superficial aspects of technology. I now feel privileged and invigorated to be part of a conversation about teaching that has grown and evolved into something that has become a powerful and far-reaching network of pedagogical thought. I will remain hopeful that “dialogic ecosystems” like this one become more common and that more people will begin tapping into the potential to connect with others in meaningful ways.

alcott73's picture

Just like Steven, I, too, was fascinated by this idea of “dialogic ecosystems.” After spending a moment wondering how you came up with this term, I recognized the value and potential of such an ecosystem, made possible through technology. It excites me to think that teachers from region to region, continent to continent can share, support, encourage. And I, too, wonder how students can access this wealth. It would be interesting to join classrooms comprised of “other” (cultures, experiences, interests, etc.) and work together on inquiry-based projects. What about mentoring, perhaps having an older group of students mentoring a young group? What about accessing people we teach about in our textbooks, or authors, or experts, and inviting them “into” our classrooms, such as Cindy did with you? Suddenly, we are no longer isolated in our teaching and classrooms, but brought into an expansive community of individuals who support, encourage, and share teaching/education. Thank you, again, Danielle, for “visiting” us!

cindyoa's picture

...a service-learning project with students at an alternative high school to try out culturally responsive curriculum that also integrates technology. Oh, wait... :)

- Cindy

Sam Yarabek's picture

Technology can be utterly superficial in the sense that adults and especially kids, who didn't grow up before they had the internet in their pocket, spend more and more time online and less and less time among real, living, breathing people. But as you've expressed here Steven, technology also provides the opportuntiy to connect--even if only through a two dimensional screen--with people across time and space. From a constructivist perspective we can begin to look at the internet, not as a distraction but rather as a space of possibility. So, how can we utilize this possibility for interconnectedness for the purposes of enlivening our classroom, making it more relevant, incorporating tech-literacy into our curriculum, teaching students? Here's a couple of ideas:
Have online diologic communities where students in one part of the country can interact and co-construct conversations with students in an entirely different part of the country. Maybe even in another country all together. It's quite possible, I for example, that students in NYC might want to reach out to students in California or Colorado. To get the conversation started, teachers might co-construct, with teachers from other classrooms around the country or world, a number of relevant discussion threads.  The topics could range from "is you're neighborhood diverse?" to "share a story about how your group of friends play basketball."
Another possibility for this type of interconnected community is aggragating mentor texts and having students from around the country look through, comment on, peer encourage, each other's work.  I'm imagining a class on "Effective Narrative Writing" where students could go online and read each others work, and identify different effective lit devices in peer texts.
Students could share videologs with students from other school around the country.  They could have state to state diologic rap battles or spoken word exchanges. 
The great part about all of this is we're using virtual interconnectedness for good.  Reclaiming the digital space. Students could organize initiatives. It could be a space for student led initiatives.  It could be a space where students get together to challenge school practices.
Thank you for your comment.  I love thinking about the possibilities for a diologic ecosystem on the web.

alcott73's picture

Sam, what wonderful examples you give for how these diologic ecosystems could work. It seems that to do these things would bring a vibrancy to the classroom and to learning. How, then, do we get them started??

nickbonnet's picture

It's amazing to me that you wrote the orginal piece we responded on quite some time before our class discovered it, and how it was found by Cindy in our E402 class. The significance here is the role collaberation, ideas, and technology play in the teaching profession. In essence, you took an orignal thought and preserved it through a sort of digital time capsule (the title makes sense now!) for future generations to appreciate and consider. I think it would be safe to say that students in education now are more interested in issues of power and culturally responsive teaching in the present more then they were when you were writing this. By using technology to reach to new audiences, you are collaberating not only with people in your field, but with educators who are yet to be. That's a powerful form of communication and it's seldom recognized as such a tool. It was interesting to be able to utilize this digital resource to its full extent as we discussed education with you back and forth. From video chats, to discussion boards, to image sharing and online articles, we were effectively able to share resources and ideas, and come together to answer and raise questions on subjects that require group decodification (another made-up word?). And I think this is signifcant as I move forward into the education career myself. Realizing that these collaberative resources are here to use at my disposal, and in turn utilizing them is something I should participate in as often as I can. For you shared an original thought which later blossomed into something more profound as more voices got involved. That's what education is all about. 

cindyoa's picture

Stealing it. Really useful concepts, Nick.

- Cindy

Anna Haschke's picture

I enjoyed Danielle Filipiak’s follow-up article just as much as her first one!  It made me realize that by reading her article, we were not reading some magical text that was going to give us all the answers, answer all our questions, and send us on our way.  Instead, it was her article that sparked a whole new realm of discovery.  Reading about her experiences in an urban teaching setting as a white middle-class teacher had me examining my own situation.  Hearing her very true story made everything more real for me, and it was only then that these questions even entered my mind.  Getting to talk with Danielle on Google Hangout was an amazing and incredibly beneficial experience.  Our class was able to ask questions that had occurred to us after posting online or ones we just wanted to go more into depth with.  Digital Is is a great space for engaging with other educators, asking questions, answering questions, and posting thoughts, but sometimes nothing can beat a good ol’ fashioned conversation (even if it is via webcam across many miles and time zones!)  Having never really used anything like Digital Is before E402, it has become clear to me that great resources like this are not being advertised as much as they should.  This kind of communication should be going on in every classroom and between every teacher across state lines, economic lines, race and social lines, and even international lines.  I feel that every teacher has a question or two and somewhere in the world, there is another teacher who has some kind of answer.  Why do professional learning groups have to be confined to one’s school district or even one’s very own school?  Why these professional learning groups can prove very helpful as well, I believe there are probably some questions that NEED to be answered by someone from outside that immediate community.  I guarantee that any teacher from the Fort Collins community would have answered the questions we asked Danielle quite differently.  While a Fort Collins teacher’s answers would not be unhelpful, I do see a strong benefit in receiving information from sources I might not have initially considered.  I think it should be our goal as the next generation of teachers to re-imagine the professional learning community.  I want my professional learning community to extend across oceans and borders.  I want advice from teachers in classrooms in places I’ve never even been to.  My PLC won’t just meet in a conference room; it will meet through email and Google Hangout, and sites like Digital Is.  Let’s break down the barriers of geography because technology these days makes that so easy!  Like Danielle said, “let’s connect.”  Danielle’s article did not end the discussion; it started it.  Now let’s continue it.

ethomas4's picture

After reading your comments and Danielle's post, I feel invigorated. I have been wary of using social media in the classroom up until this point, but now I see just how beneficial it can be. Anna is right, teachers should have outlets to ask their questions, and they shouldn't be limited, because just like Danielle wrote, "Teaching is a messy, but utterly beautiful process- and we have to re-visit our practices and pedagogy constantly." This is one of the treasures of entering the education field, but the need to constantly shift can be daunting, especially if there is a lack of helpful resources. But as our conversation with Danielle shows, social media is an outlet to prevent the plethora of questions from having easily accesible answers. This "dialogic ecosystem" is an opportunity to grow from others learning, and hopefully cause them to learn in return. It activates reflection and connection, two crucial aspects to teaching well. It also brings us back to the core of why we chose all of this, for despite state lines, different students and different backgrounds, we are all here for the same reasons. That is what makes this experience so special. It is immeasurable rewarding to know that we are never alone, and that help is just a few clicks away if needed. We have the opportunity to continue our growth together, and that inspires me.

cindyoa's picture

"This "dialogic ecosystem" is an opportunity to grow from others learning, and hopefully cause them to learn in return. It activates reflection and connection, two crucial aspects to teaching well. It also brings us back to the core of why we chose all of this, for despite state lines, different students and different backgrounds, we are all here for the same reasons. That is what makes this experience so special. It is immeasurable rewarding to know that we are never alone, and that help is just a few clicks away if needed. We have the opportunity to continue our growth together, and that inspires me."

Good thinking and so well-said, Emily!

- Cindy

jmcgough's picture

Like Anna, I also want to be able to connect my classroom across borders. As a future teacher, I want resources like Digital Is to connect me with teachers from other parts of the world, not just other parts of America, even though that is important. I want to stretch my students to see beyond their American perspectives all the time, and look at the world as it exists as an ever more connected online community. Digital Is, as of right now, doesn’t seem like the place where people of other countries would/could enter into because its audience is mainly American teachers who have wide access to online media. I feel it could become a place where International English Educators could collect resources for developing the kinds of media that are available to their students in other parts of the world, just in the same way it is helping support different forms of media here in the states. I would hope that Digital Is could be a place where English speakers from around the world could gather to share different ideas.

lindalynee's picture

I really enjoyed talking with you a few weeks ago. I mentioned when speaking to you, it was as if I was talking to a "celebrity", and in my eyes, I was. I really admire and look up to teachers who put their work, experiences and practices out there for pre-service and current teachers to look at. It allows us the ability to process your information and transform and integrate your ideas and solutions into our own classrooms. Something Antero was explaining today in class was that we cannot simply take the words off of a page and apply them exactly how they are explained in a book, or on a blog, to a students needs. It has been interesting to hear your points of view on Tr@nspace and how you allow kids to open up about very controversial topics. I am excited to use some of your practices in my own classroom, but I am also aware that I am going to have to altar them a lot in order to fit the needs of the students in my classroom. I really enjoy reading your work on Digital Is because you see the student as an individual, not the student simply as part of a classroom. Focusing on Tr@nspace and allowing our students to feel safe and confortable to discuss, collaborate and write about controversial topics is extremely important. Thanks to you, I am now aware of that and will always have you to thank for that when I use some of your ideas in my own future classroom. 

aambron's picture

As Linda mentions above, I really admire and greatly appreciate, when teachers are willing to share what techniques and concepts work well in their classrooms.  As a pre-service teacher it isn’t always easy to see how broader topics actually play out away from academic articles and are carried out in real classrooms.  For me it relieves a lot of worry I have about my first few years teaching and simple knowing what am I going to do when I am standing in front of a room full of kids.   Like Linda said we wont be able to do the exact same things in our class that we read about, but at least we can have a jumping off point, and frankly I feel like in your first few years of teaching that can be half the battle.

            In regards to what Danielle was wondering about the usefulness and importance of communication mediums such as Digital is, for pre and in service teachers I think the narrative Danielle tells in her new post shows exactly why these mediums are so important.  All because one blog post our class at Colorado State University was able to connect with a teacher across the country and have thirty minutes of authentic, honest conversation that in my opinion could never be replicated by a chapter in a textbook.  Sites like  these encourage teachers of all levels to reflect upon themselves, and become smarter, more aware educators.    

cindyoa's picture

Something Antero was explaining today in class was that we cannot simply take the words off of a page and apply them exactly how they are explained in a book, or on a blog, to a students needs.



Antero's right. I think this is what can be frustrating in your preservice teaching. Before you have a classroom of your own, everything's so speculative. I'm glad you found value in hearing Danielle's admission that teaching isn't always easy, but it's still important to do the hard, scary work that is the hallmark of meaningful learning.

- Cindy

mhuntzinger's picture

I just really wanted to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to give us some guidance and help. I think that as undergraduate students learning to be teachers, it is really difficult for us to imagine how everything we have learned will work out in a real classroom. We are give all these hypothetical scenarios and asked to handle them based off of our ... knowledge. Personally, I am a little scared of applying all of this information to a real classroom; I don’t know how it will all work out in reality. It was really helpful to me to see how you handle situations we’ve talked about theoretically in a real classroom. I really appreciate how you took the time to give us context for our knowledge and see that we can successfully apply things we are learning in school to our classroom. I think that the collaboration we formed was extremely beneficial to us, as future teachers, and it was something that I found invaluable and would like to see happen more often.

slrobert's picture

Though I was unable to attend this session, reading about it, hearing about it, and watching the video makes me wish that I had been a part of the discussion. Like Marie, I worry about putting into practice all of this information that we learn, and how to change the traditional classroom. Being able to collaborate with other teachers, and teachers located all over, is an imporant step for any pre-service teacher.

cindyoa's picture

Shelby and Marie,

I really appreciate your honesty about the trepidation you feel to put into practice some of the principles and techniques we've been talking about in class. One of the tough and really exhilirating things aobut being a new teacher is that everything is so, well, new! I'm not gonna lie; I was a little terrified my first day (especially because I got stopped on my way to my own classroom by another teacher and asked, "Young lady, where is your hall pass?!"). But then came the moment where I explained to them what free-writing was, directed them to the prompt I'd written on the board, and asked them to write. And they did! Like magic!

You'll experience it, too, just you wait :)

- Cindy

Abrase's picture

Share, collaborate, publish, participate, write. These are the words that one can see flashing at the top of the screen when on the Digital Is website. This gets me to thinking. In relation to what Danielle was saying about using resources to their fullest extent and how those resources might be used, Digital Is not only helps teachers collaborate, but all kinds of aspects are present. Resources are great- especially when it includes advice from fellow teachers. As Tyler said in another post, no one can do this alone. This is a career in which everyone must be open in the lines of communication. This is a team effort. If we truly want to help our students, we must learn how to take sharing, collaborating, publishing, participating, and writing into our everyday lives and especially into our careers whether we are pre-service or veterans. Danielle's questions are valid and it is awesome to think that our class had a part in that. It goes to show how everyone can push each other and how resources must be used to their fullest extents. Thank you, Danielle for being so willing to be a part of this and for pushing our thinking yet again. 

mlefler's picture

Towards the end of your article you ask how resources such as DigitalIs can open up the teaching community and allow for a higher level of communication between teachers (both new and veteran) nationwide. I believe that the 'hangout' between our class and yourself showed the power that such resources can have. Not only were we, as a class, provided with helpful readings about where, why, and how you taught your English class, but we were also exposed to the thoughts of others in the class and, most importantly, your own thoughts about what you intended to convey through the article. All of this was facilitated by the DigitalIs resource (with a little help from Google for the hangout). My question is how can we make resources like this more popular and well known so that others can experience the heightened thought and learning that occurs through long distance collaboration like we were able to in our 'hangout' and discussions?

cindyoa's picture


I'm also wondering, do you think that you would use tools like a website or hangout that allowed students to connect with others beyond the classroom in your own teaching?

- Cindy

rushing44's picture

Unfortunately, I was not present during the hangout because I was sick, but the whole discussion was very beneficial to listen to and watch. You said it felt good to have your work noticed and I feel like you have given much notice to a lot of what our class had to say about the article we initially read on Digital Is. In my Teaching Grammar class that I took in the Fall Semester (that several of my classmates were in), we had a very similar chat with Chantel, a teacher who graduated from CSU with her teacher licensure and is now teaching abroad in Mexico. The chat did not go nearly as smooth as the one we had in E 402 because of technical issues with Skype, but it was still beneficial. The Skype chat topics consisted of teaching job fairs that help students get into a teaching job abroad and her experience in private school that is mostly funded by the student’s parents. Both the class chats worked in similar ways. The whole awkwardness of being on a giant screen hundreds and thousands of miles away and the way we would ask questions and you would answer them were similar. The most significant benefit that I see in these chats, is acquiring knowledge from teachers who are actually in the middle of educating students in secondary schools. It’s not only hearing what you have to say, but valuing the visual aspects of the chat as well. The expressions that you have when a certain subject is brought up is beneficial to see how you truly feel towards a certain concept in teaching and it gives me this sense of seeing a human being facing the challenges and reacting to the challenges that you face when teaching students. What I mean is that teaching is more or less difficult, and it takes a certain set of skills to be able to handle the pressures of this career. It is just nice to see (as a future teacher) someone handling it well. The visual aspect of these chats really prepares me for what is to come when I begin teaching, and they are beneficial for anyone who wants to choose teaching as a career path. Thanks for participating with our class! 

dneisler's picture

Being able to participate in this type of exchange is exciting on many levels, but it is particularly cool to have a back-and-fort with other teachers, active and pre-service, to be able to give one another the benefit of our successes and failures. The education of educators…One of the gifts that all of us probably hope to bestow upon our students is the benefit of our mistakes so that they can avoid struggling unnecessarily. This is equally important to sharing with them the keys to our courses of action that have ended successfully. I am grateful to be able to participate in this type of exchange, both to hear of classroom projects that met with success, but also to be able to hear about pitfalls to avoid—such as the question someone had about traps to avoid as a white teacher in a diverse classroom or community.

shelbyjayy's picture

I guess after reading this post, I thought about a few things. One of them being the question posed of how can students use Digital Is? This question sparked a thought; if we can get students to feel comfortable enough to post on the web (a professional space such as this, not Facbook or myspace ect.), we could open a whole new world of teaching. Students probably will say things on the web in a much more honest voice then they would in the classroom. Sometimes I feel like teachers change the way they teach because students have been studied and watched, not because the students themselves are asked, "what would be the best way to teach this to you all?" If we can help students to see the power of their voice, we could help them to see that their education could be what they want it to be. We talk so much about falling forward, but sometimes i feel like we fall forward when the ground is moving backwards (hopefully that makes sense), causing us to really not go anywhere. Maybe teachers do ask students what works for them, but I have yet to see it in my education history. 
The next thing I started to think about was the enviornment in the classroom. We talk all the time about teaching in a diverse inner-city school where a white female teacher "won't relate to her students", but what about when we teach in a private school in the middle of Cherry Creek? Where our students are convinced they are above us, not because i'm of a different color, but a lower class. Moving backwards to meet students seems to be much easier for me, but moving forward to try and catch up to my stduents, seem's like a 200K in sprint mode... it's just not going to happen. I've talked about this in my classes before but can't seem to find the answer I'm looking for. 
I liked this article, I feel like in order for me to be an effective teacher, I HAVE to rely on other teachers. I need help; i haven't a clue as to what I am doing. I think Digital IS is wonderful, it's thoughts, ideas, advice, and practices are in the raw; I love things in the raw, especially when it's coming from someones heart or mind. I think places like Digital Is is essential for teachers right now. Especially considering the fact that this generation is changing so much, and you really can't predict what will be in your classroom like you could in the past. Now you just have to wing it and hope you don't strike out. 

karim's picture

I totally agree with you Shelby. Indeed students feel more free , comfortable and self-responsible for their learning when they use for instance the net. Websites such us Uclass gives them access to acquaint with other students around the world like themselves and allow them to share information about a given topic. So here the net is both a social and cognitive tool that brushes up the students' social and cognitive skill. Let's take another expressive and relevant example. According to my teaching experience I witnesses that most of students have difficulty in the reading skill. Yet according to the teaching practice theory, a successful teacher should be creative. So I started brainnstorming for a tool to improve the reading speed of students. I departed from the theory of NEW PARADIGM. I took the technique of karoke applied in the musical field then adapt it to the reading skilled and it worked wonderfully. Students become more interested to reading and the speed and quality of their reading improved noticebaly.