Reflection on Digital Is Workshop

by Anne Lenzini


What is it and how does it work?

A few of us from Dr. Turner’s Media Literacy and Technology course attended a workshop led byTroy Hicks about Digital Is. Digital Is is a knowledge base for teachers and educators to share resources that explore how to teach writing in the digital age. Ivelisse, an educator attending the workshop, described Digital Is as a support group of educators wanting to increase their use of technology in the classroom, and I think she is absolutely right.

In this forum, teachers can add blog posts, comment on blog posts, create Resources for educators, or compile those resources into Collections. During the workshop with Dr. Hicks, we focused primarily on understanding what a Digital Is Resource is and began the production of our own Resources. A Resource in Digital Is often feels like a blog post, sometimes with multiple sub-posts, that reflect on or encourage the use of digital literacy in schools. Resources range from posts about successful projects that incorporate video making or Facebook into an ELA or Social Studies classroom to larger “calls to action” around digital collaboration and planning.

Why use Digital Is?

There are a number of reasons to visit this site including accessing Resources to inspire oneself to play with new technology in the classroom, exploring progressive philosophies driving the digital movement in education, finding practical resources about how to incorporate technology into the classroom, and reading reflections on how to improve the use of technology in schools. As Cassie mentioned during the workshop, an educator can start at Digital Is to see when a technology works best by reading saavy educator’s reflections rather than relying on trial and error in ones own classroom.

How would I use Digital Is as a new teacher?

As a consumer, I will visit Digital Is to expose myself to veteran educators who have creatively integrated technology into their classroom. I will use their Resources as a jumping off point for my own brainstorming and unit/lesson planning. I will collaborate with other educators to ensure I am “standing on the shoulders of giants” rather than working in silos.

As a writer, I can share my own experiences (successes and failures) around integrating technology, I can share my planning process for deciding which technologies to include in my classroom, and share ideas for how to best implement new technology. The Resource I drafted during the workshop would include an introductory post explaining my need for one platform that holds me accountable for being an organized educator. It would explain the need for a software that lets me communicate easily and efficiently with my students, allows them to see an overview of what assignments they are expected to complete, allows me to easily offer feedback on their work, and track their progress and grades. Ideally, it would be software that enables communication amongst students and seamlessly integrates with Google Documents. I would add at least three sub-posts that would be linked from the introductory post. These would include graphics and tables explaining my decision-making process, tips for software set-up that include screen shots for any challenging or confusing user interfaces, and ongoing teacher and student reflection on the software.

Personal Reflection

My biggest take away from the workshop that I would like to share with you is three-fold: 1) we, as educators, are responsible for collaborating with our peers both inside and outside of our school buildings, 2) we are, therefore, responsible for seeking out powerful tools and forums that will allow us to collaborate and hold us accountable for growth as we continue teaching, and 3) Digital Is is the perfect forum to continue professional development, networking, reflection, and growth around teaching writing and digital literacy in today’s overwhelmingly fast-paced digital world.

This workshop also served to remind me that, even though I am a new teacher, my voice is worth hearing. I should not be afraid; in fact, I should be excited to share my reflections on teaching and incorporating technology into my classroom, especially given my steep learning curve. I will begin by consuming Resources in Digital Is, knowing that I will eventually be a writer will hold me accountable to deeper reflection on my practice and will give that reflection purpose with an audience of educators.


Defining Digital Literacy/ies

By Jane Ragno, CLAIR PhD candidate


In his groundbreaking book, Digital Literacy, Paul Gilster (1997) highlighted the key to digital literacy:

Acquiring digital literacy for Internet use involves mastering a set of core competencies.  The most essential of these is the ability to make informed judgments about what you find on-line, for unlike conventional media, much of the NET is unfiltered by editors and open to the contributions of all.  This art of critical thinking governs how you use what you find on-line, for with the tools of electronic publishing dispersed globally, the Net is a study in the myriad uses of rhetoric.  Forming a balanced assessment by distinguishing between content and its presentation is the key (p. 2).

The key points Gilster (1997) made here are: a.) engaging in digital technology requires multiple skills; b.) anyone with access can contribute to the digital information pool; and c.) being a critical consumer of digital information is a requisite skill embedded in digital literacy.

Defining and understanding digital literacy/ies might be easier to do if we compare it with what we know as traditional literacy.  When we (especially teachers) think of literacy, we think of decoding and encoding using a phonetic alphabetic system to glean or express a message or meaning.  Succinctly put, literacy involves using a code to express or gain meaning.

Let’s now take a look at digital literacy.  According to Gilster (1997), digital literacy is “the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers” (p. 1).  So, similar to traditional literacy, digital literacy involves making meaning, understanding, comprehending.  But, Gilster (1997) reminded us that digital literacy is understanding from ‘multiple formats’ and a ‘range of sources,’ which leads us to believe that there may be more skills involved than merely decoding a set of phonemes.

Kajder (2010) pointed out that digital literacies allow us to “examine practices tied to constructing and critically understanding the modes made possible by digital tools” (p. 8).  Here, Kajder (2010) sees digital literacies as involving a meta-awareness of the separate modes and skills involved in digital literacy.  Rheingold (2012) used the term literacies to encompass the social skills involved in using digital technologies.  “We need to know how to behave in an online community, grow a personal learning network, and ethically share cultural productions” (Rheingold, 2012, p. 53).  While Rheingold’s take on digital literacies is different from Kajder’s, they both, nonetheless, emphasize the need for a spectrum of literacies in order to fully engage with digital technology.

Gilster (1997) pointed out a critical difference between traditional literacy and digital literacy when he wrote, “the journey through text becomes enriched with choices” (p. 3).  When we read a book, we choose to turn the page or not; when we interact with a webpage, we are faced with choices that force us to be critical consumers of digital information, that challenge our notions of attention, and that offer us opportunities for autonomy and agency—all of which require specific literacy skills.

Like traditional forms of literacy, digital literacy presents us with the opportunity to make change.  Though, unlike the exclusive publication process of print, it is much easier for people to publish on the internet.  “We presently have many examples from around the globe of people, especially young people, using digital tools to publish texts that challenge the status quo and push back against powerful monopolies on representations of our world” (Gainer, 2012).  Rheingold (2012) cleverly called these roadblocks, “gatekeepers of magazine and book editors” (p. 53).  In the unguarded and participatory digital world, critical literacy becomes an embedded skill within digital literacy for the many out there who choose to use digital technologies as a space for collaborative systemic change.

I believe that digital literacies is the more appropriate term for what we do when we engage with digital technology.  This engagement involves multiple skills and multiple literacies to navigate digital resources, understand information, and critique that information.  Not only is decoding and encoding required of users of digital literacy, but so is media literacy (understanding graphic messages), technological literacy (understanding how to use digital technologies), critical literacy (understanding and acting against implicit messages that attempt to oppress and marginalize), and more.  And as more of the world becomes connected and the range of digital modes increases, so will the skill set required to understand, process, and create using those modes.  By broadening our conception of what is required of us to fully engage in digital technology, we are allowing room for growth along the way.


Gainer, J. (2012). Critical thinking: foundational for digital literacies and democracy. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(1), 14-17. doi: 10.1002/JAAL.00096

Gilster, P. (1997). Digital literacy. New York, NY: Wiley Computer Publishing.

Kajder, S. (2010). Adolescents and digital literacies: Learning alongside our students. Urbana,IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Stewards of digital literacies. Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 52-55. Retrievedfrom: ?sid=e960f1f7-44c4-4216-bca0-f76da2dda3c%40sessionmgr4001&vid=11&hid=4208


DLC week is here!

It’s DLC week!  Monday we will be preparing for the Institute, which will be held Tuesday at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University.  We will also kick off the week’s blog posts with some reflections on digital literacy/ies by Jane Ragno, a doctoral student in the CLAIR program at Fordham.

Tuesday we host Sara Kajder and Troy Hicks, as well as some excellent teachers who will share their classroom practices.  Our institute, Developing Digital Literacies, promises to be a fantastic event.

Wednesday, DLC  teachers will meet together to explore Digital Is and prepare their own classroom materials for publication.  They will spend the rest of the week prepping their posts, and we will link them on this blog when they are live.

If you would like to become involved in the work of the DLC, you can complete this application.  We are inviting up to 10 teachers to join us for the 2014-15 school year.

Developing Digital Literacies Institute 2014

We are one week away from the first annual DLC Institute.  We are excited to host Sara Kajder and Troy Hicks, two leaders in the field of developing digital literacies.  You can access the full program here.


It is not too late to join us for this fabulous day of learning. You can register online or at the door.  Hope to see you there!


Turning a “Yes, BUT” into a “Yes, AND”

How many times have you walked away from something – PD, a meeting, a conference, a cooking class – and thought “Wow! That was great! What an awesome way to wrap a burrito [or fill in the blank with some great piece of knowledge obtained], BUT I don’t have that cool burrito wrapping contraption [fill in the blank with the tool you need] at home [fill in the blank with your classroom].

Okay – enough with the burrito analogy.

During a DLC discussion a few weeks ago, we started talking about the “Yes, Buts.”  A “Yes, But” is a road block or challenge that an educator faces when trying to incorporate digital tools and literacies into her classroom. How many times have you heard (or said/thought) a “Yes, but?”   “YES – using instagram in the classroom as a means of storytelling is great, BUT not all of my students have cell phones to access instagram!”


A few years ago, I worked with an improv theatre, and I learned that THE cardinal rule of improv is the “Yes, And” rule. Whatever your partner on stage brings to the scene, you must accept it. You must say, “yes, and” add something of your own to the scene in order for it to keep going.

I  challenged the DLC to create a digital piece of writing that tackles some of those “Yes, Buts.” Here’s what the amazing DLC came up with:

Kristen’s:  Is Access an Issue?