October Social Reading Recap

by Lauren Zucker

This month, the DLC engaged in a social reading of Troy Hicks’ (2018) article from Voices from the Middle, “The Next Decade of Digital Writing.” This activity was perfectly timed for NCTE’s National Day on Writing (Oct 20), and for Troy Hicks’ visit to Drew (Oct 25).

DLC members were invited to read and annotate the article digitally, joining an ongoing conversation of educators thinking together about Hicks’ suggestions for bringing the teaching of digital writing into the next decade. We used Hypothes.is to publically highlight and comment on sections of the article.

After reading and annotating together, DLC members met via Hangout to discuss the annotation experience. We looked together at the article itself, and also reviewed the comments on our article by using the tools Crowdlaaers.

We first reflected on the collaborative annotation experience. For example, several of us suggested that annotated texts (with pre-existing comments and highlighted text) could be distracting for readers, and we appreciated the ability to hide annotations to create a cleaner reading experience. Alex noticed that some annotations received playful replies from other readers, such as humorous gifs and video links. Lauren Z. thought about how social annotation can extend an asynchronous conversation over time; for example, with this article, you could reply in October to a comment posted in July, and the original commenter could receive an email alert to bring them back to the conversation.

As we were discussing the value and constraints of using a tool like Hypothes.is, Lauren K. reminded us that we need to be “tool agnostic,” since tools change. On the article, she wrote, “Technology tools will change. Our responsibility is to ensure our students master skills. . . Trends change, free apps disappear or go behind paywalls, change happens.”

In light of Lauren K’s comment, we developed the following questions about collaborative annotation: 1) What’s the value of social annotation? 2) What’s our goal in using collaborative annotation tools?

We then discussed the nature of public comments. Alex mentioned that he typically thinks of annotations as private and personal, and he tends to write more informally when the comments are for his eyes only. Lauren K. thought about how students might feel, wondering if they would be reluctant to share their annotations, or worried about what other students would think of their choices. Valerie wondered if students would try to cut corners, simply highlighting segments that others students had already selected, or even highlighting random parts of the text. Clemencia responded that she believes technology helps with motivation and engagement; in her experience, students enjoy commenting on each other’s work.

Lauren Z. mentioned that some college professors are requiring their students to collaboratively annotate course readings (for example, see Greg McVerry’s course tag). This could’ve helped her as a student to contribute ideas in a more timely manner; in college, she did a lot of reading an underlining in advance, but often was unable to recall or share her ideas during a fast-paced class discussion. Alex wondered if collaborative annotation would allow students to digest others’ ideas more fully, and encourage participation from students who might not talk during class. Valerie mentioned that discussion boards, another popular option in college courses, allow students’ voices to be heard.

Thinking more broadly about digital writing, Valerie wondered aloud why English Language Arts teachers might still be resistant to replacing traditional forms of writing (e.g., literary analysis essays) with digital forms (e.g., digital stories, podcasts). Incorporating technology involves taking risks, Valerie shared. Lauren Z. pointed out the value of working with a community of like-minded educators (like the DLC), which allows her and others to get feedback from colleagues in a welcoming, supportive space. Clemencia mentioned that from her experience in special education, technology can serve to reinforce knowledge, and can allow students to demonstrate their learning in new ways.

We then briefly turned to discuss the content itself of Hicks’ piece. In the article, Hicks highlights five educators’ approaches to digital writing: critical digital literacies, crafting audio as ethnography, snaps as self-identity, computational thinking, and mapping literacy (pp. 11-13).

Valerie was especially moved by Hicks and Turner’s (2013) reminder that digital literacy is not a luxury. She annotated Hicks’ article with the following comment: “I think I am still coming to terms with this concept–that digital literacy is a priority, not a fun/creative add-on project for students. It needs to be in the mix with other more traditional forms of writing/storytelling/authoring.”

Several of us were interested in exploring Voyant, a data visualization tool used by Tom Liam Lynch (check out his nifty YouTube tutorial). Clemencia is looking forward to trying out Hypothes.is with her students and reporting back to the group. Lauren Z. shared an article by Jeremy Dean about “10 Ways to Annotate with Students.”

Thanks to DLC members Alex, Clemencia, Jade, Jill, Lauren K, and Valerie for participating in this month’s social reading! It’s not too late to join the conversation by reading and annotating with us on Hicks’ article.


Copyright Clarity Twitter Chat

The DLC hosted a Copyright Clarity by Renee Hobbs Twitter chat last night. One of our favorite reasons for using Twitter chats is that our discussion often times includes the author of the piece! Renee never disappoints and was able to add to the conversation later.

Using our hashtag #DrewTEACH teachers discussed their confusions and fears surrounding copyright in the classroom and how this book changed their views. There was even a call to Hobbs to update her classroom copyright bible to address new questions.

This particular conversation included some of our Drew University MAT pre-service teachers! It’s so exciting when our wonderful network of educators expands to include veteran, new, and pre-service teachers from all over. Today’s and Tomorrow’s Edcuators really are Connected Here!


Winter Conference from a Pre-Service Teacher’s Perspective

We loved reading Michelle Morris’ blog post on Professor Brad Currie’s iTeach with Technology.  

It’s always exciting to “see” things from a new teacher’s perspective, and we’re thankful Michelle and Professor Currie gave us that opportunity! We’ve shared Michelle’s post below:


Drew TEACH Digital Literacy Conference

by Michelle Morris

February 04, 2018

I am so honored to be part of the Drew University MAT Program, especially after the amazing and educational day I experienced on Saturday, February 3rd.  I learned so much at the Drew TEACH Digital Literacy Conference, I can go on forever about the knowledge that I obtained in just a few hours. However, out of the three main speakers I saw, I will pick something that stood out to me from each presentation. I cannot wait to try the many different digital tools and sources that I learned about in my future classroom!

Check out the new website:


Foremost, we were lucky enough to hear from Renee Hobbs. I even purchased one of her books and had the opportunity to have her sign it and speak one-on-one with her, which was a very exciting experience!  During her presentation, Renee shared her insight on her idea of “Create to Learn.” One of the ideas that she presented, which I found very interesting, was her idea of “Intellectual Grandparents,” as she explained that these intellectual grandparents have created a network of relationships between people and ideas that have continued to be an influence for educators. She created a website that can help anyone understand the history of media literacy education around the world.

Check it out! 

Renee Hobbs’ Intellectual Grandparents Website

Furthermore, the first speaker that I listened to during the morning breakout session was Natalie Biden, the winner of Dr. Turner’s iHero Award. I was so excited when her accomplishments were announced at the conclusion of the conference because I was blown away by the ideas she presented during her presentation. She showed us video examples of how she teaches digital reading in her NYC classroom and we even got to take part in a little demonstration so that we can get a first-hand experience.  Her students seemed to love how she rolled out her digital media lessons, and it inspired me to want to do something similar in my future classroom.  Ultimately, I loved her idea of the “Digital Word Wall” which helps students visualize digital reading as well.

Digital Word Wall!

Lastly, in the afternoon breakout session, I attended Dr. Jade Morano’s presentation on Navigating Technology in the Elementary classroom.  She introduced several different digital tools and sources to use to help enhance and motivate students in the classroom.  My personal favorite was the app called Chatter Pix. We got to make our own creative pix and share them with the group.  I will definitely use this app in my future classroom as it can be used for any subject.

Check Out the App!




Developing Digital Literacies Conference


Sketchnote by Kate Baker

We are still glowing from the inspiration, collaboration, and presentations at our first #DrewTEACH Winter Conference! Our participants were treated to a keynote by author Renee Hobbs. In her keynote, “Create to Learn”, Hobbs reminded teachers that at the core of all digital work, “the foundation skills are still reading and writing”. She also reiterated our unofficial DLC motto, that teachers should, “tinker, explore, and fail”. Hobbs also challenged the audience of pre-service and veteran educators to engage students by getting messy and embracing chaos in our classrooms. Audience members were so inspired by Renee’s keynote that the ensuing Twitterstorm actually had our conference trending on Twitter!


Check us out at number 3!

During the keynote, Kate Baker another stellar NJ educator, created a sketchnote of Renee’s speech. The image, at the top of the page is not only beautiful, but highlights the multi-modality of our work.

After the keynote, participants traveled to one of the six morning demonstrations presented by our DLC Teacher Leaders.


Our iHero, Natalie Biden, presenting “Start Them Young: Digital Reading in the Elementary Classroom”

Prior to lunch participants were able to get copies of Renee Hobbs’ and Kristen Turner’s books signed!


Renee Hobbs and Kristen Turner during the lunchtime book signing.

Our afternoon sessions were just as successful as our morning demos. The afternoon even found teachers running through the Ehinger Center trying to complete a challenge presented by Emilie Jones’ “Tweets, Trailers, and Talks: Making Reading Connected” demo.


A packed house for DLC founding member, Emilie Jones’, demonstration

The day closed out with a Tech Talk by Dr. Kristen Turner. Participants had to fill up “dance cards” by chatting with fellow educators about their favorite tools.


Educators filling up their Tech Tool Dance Cards

We also were able to share our exciting news! During the closing session Kristen announced that Drew University’s new Master of Education program had been approved the night before. We were also able to announce that Drew Writing Project had been approved as one of the newest National Writing Project sites.

Participants and presenters alike left the day feeling happy in their teacher hearts. With so many new and exciting things happening with DrewTEACH we cannot wait to continue our work with this growing network of educators.


Winter is Coming-So is our conference!

The DLC is getting ready for the #DrewTEACH Developing Digital Literacies Collaborative Winter Conference.  This conference is always one of our favorite days of the year.  We’re very excited to host our first conference at the DLC’s new home, Drew University in Madison, NJ.   

Our keynote, Renee Hobbs, is a leader in the field of media and digital literacies and author of Copyright Clarity, Discovering Media Literacy, and Digital and Media Literacy.  We cannot wait to hear her speak!

Our DLC Teacher Consultants are hard at work perfecting their demos and we’re really proud of the sessions we’ll be offering.  It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching kindergarten or seniors, there will be multiple sessions for every educator, of every subject area.

If you haven’t yet registered for the February 3rd conference, you can do so using this link.    

We’re offering early bird specials and a very special discount to schools who register multiple teachers.  


DLC 2017-2018 Kick-Off

The 2017-2018 school year is off to a great start for the Digital Literacies Collaborative.  In addition to welcoming thirteen new members we began our work on October 17th,  by discussing Anne Elrod Whitney’s article, “Keeping It Real: Authenticity in the Writing Classroom”.  While our members teach all different subjects and grade levels, we were able to have a deep and meaningful conversation about how to make assessments, units, and lessons real, without feeling contrived and how to prepare for and use failure-both our students’ and our own.  


DLC members came to the virtual conversation with a lot of deep questions about their own practice and how to bring Whitney’s work to life in their own classrooms.  We discussed how to cultivate imperfection in our students, especially when we, as educators, aren’t always okay with imperfection ourselves.  We discussed how internet-free writing, across subject areas is a great place to begin this work.  Teachers noted that often times students don’t always trust themselves without using the internet to double-check their thoughts.  We agreed that ensuring facts are true is an important, and necessary skills, it can sometimes stunt good writing and that it’s okay once in awhile to practice this tech free writing when beginning the process.  We also discussed how teachers can model this process of imperfection.


Our secondary teachers pushed back on the idea of authentic assignments by questioning what authenticity really is.  Sometimes, it seems, that teachers create assignments that appear in the real-world, but the product doesn’t leave the classroom.  For instance, asking students to write a “blog post”, but never actually posting to a real blog, just means students are writing a traditional report.  This questions got us thinking about how audience creates the authenticity Whitney described in her article.  When students know that their work is going to be read by someone, or a whole lot of someones, beyond their classroom, the stakes are raised and the work becomes real.   The idea of audience also lead us into a conversation about privacy and how to ensure student safety.  


The conversation ended with Rebekah bringing up quote a Marian Wright Edelman quote she heard at the 2014 NCTE National Convention. Edelman said, “We must love our children more than we love our comfort zones.”  The quote was the perfect endnote to our conversation and the perfect opening to a year full of inquiry, innovation, and imperfection.  We’re already looking forward to our December meet up and January discussion.

DLC Members Present At NJECC 18

Dr. Lauren Zucker (@lgzreader) and Joe Pizzo(@profjpizzo), two veteran DLC members, presented at this year’s New Jersey Educational Computing Cooperative Conference.

Lauren’s presentation, “Open Badges in the K-12 Classroom”, showed teachers how to integrate, and make, badges in their own classrooms. You can check out the link to Lauren’s presentation here.

In Joe’s demonstration, “The Color of Digi-poetry 2.0”, educators were asked to think beyond traditional poetry.  Participants explored new platforms and planned ways to integrate them into existing curriculum.

Both of these excellent educators will be presenting on February 3rd, at this year’s Developing Digital Literacies Conference at Drew University!


Joe and Lauren at NJECC18