EdTechTools for Collaboration & Communication

by Clemencia Acevedo

We are experiencing a time when educators are pioneering with tech tools to make a bigger difference in student learning. Educators in the United States face a variety of challenges since we serve a culturally diverse and multilingual community of students and parents. Tech tools for education offer opportunities to bypass many of our struggles, frustrations and give motivation to our students publish and share with others their finished works. Learning about and implementing tech tools in our classrooms can be challenging at the beginning but study groups such as Fordham Digital Literacies Collaborative (DLC) make that process easier.

On Nov. 3, 2016, DLC study group met via video conference to discuss Chapter 1 in Blogs, Wikis, Podcast, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classroom by Will Richardson.  Dr. Kristen H. Turner, Margarita Battle Zahl, Ivelisse E. Brannon, Lauren King, Joseph Pizzo, Gordon Van Owen, Anne Lenzini, Tricia Clarke and I talked about how we have been using tech tools covered in the chapter to support our teaching, parent engagement and professional growth. Among the tools discussed that came up were Blogs (WordPress & Google Blogger), Google Classroom, Google Hangout, Google Communities, Wikispaces,  Facebook Groups, Twitter, YouTube, Teaching Channel, Pinterest, Doctopus and Goobric.

Publishing Sites: Google Classroom, Wikispaces and WordPress and Blogger sites are useful, free or at a low cost publishing websites that allow teachers to upload, post content material and assignment information so that students can access it to finish their work from anywhere at anytime. These also allow students to publish their finished work.

Community of Authorship
Community of authorship- Google Blogger

Parent Communication: Everyone agrees that parent engagement is essential and key to student success in school. In the past years, tech developers have made tools available for teachers to easily use them to share student progress and assignments. In making parents our best partners our members use Remind, Google Hangout and Closed Facebook Groups.

Communication with parents

Professional Teaching Development: Teaching is an ongoing learning process and in this Digital Age educators connect, learn and collaborate with one another using Google Apps and Social Media tools. Not only do we learn about the latest useful EduApps but also how other teachers make it work in the classroom.

FB for collaboration among professionals
Google Classroom for collaboration

Using tech tools for education require time, dedication and practice, however, it’s worth the effort since we connect with amazing educators who help us improve our teaching craft and stay relevant. 

Nov.3 Video Conference Full Length in YouTube

EdTechTools Resource in Google Document 


2014-15 Schedule Announced

Mark Your Calendars!


Welcome new DLC members!


Study group Hangout (8:15 – 9:15 PM date TBD)

Developing Digital Literacies by Dustin C. Summey

Led by Rebekah Shoaf


The FDLC presents at NCTE!

Last year’s members will gather at NCTE.  All new members who attend the conference are invited to attend our two sessions and join us for a DLC social (TBD).


Study group Hangout (8:15 – 9:15 PM date TBD)

Adolescents and Digital Literacies by Sara Kajder

Led by Ivelisse Brannon


Study group Hangout (8:15 – 9:15 PM date TBD)

Crafting Digital Writing by Troy Hicks

Led by Emilie Jones


Demo Night (Date and Time TBD)

All DLC members are invited to attend a workshop and reception at Fordham and to bring a colleague.  This night will kick off “demo development” for the summer institute.


Online Demo Workshop

All DLC members who would like to continue on the path to Teacher Leader will meet in a virtual workshop setting to discuss their teaching demonstrations.


Demo Feedback

Mentors will provide feedback on demos.  Depending on the group’s wishes, we can hold this session in person or virtually.


DLC Institute 2015

The institute will take place 3 days during July.  One for demo share (a dry-run of your presentation), one for the public workshop, and one for a private writing workshop following the public workshop.  The days of the institute will be determined in January.

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: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.avoserv.library.fordham.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer ?sid=e960f1f7-44c4-4216-bca0-f76da2dda3c%40sessionmgr4001&vid=11&hid=4208


Developing Digital Literacies Summer Workshop

We are pleased to announce our first annual Developing Digital Literacies Summer Workshop to be held from 8:30 – 3:00 on Tuesday, July 29 at the Fordham Lincoln Center Campus.  Features speakers include Sara Kajder (Adolescent Digital Literacies), Troy Hicks (Crafting Digital Writing), and DLC Teacher Leaders, who will present classroom demonstrations.


Developing Digital Literacies


If you are interested in becoming a DLC Teacher Leader, please contact Dr. Kristen Turner (krturner@fordham.edu) for details.

Making the Most of Digital Spaces in the Classroom

Our second book study discussion was on Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. We started by considering how Richardson’s work challenged or changed our thinking, and our discussion ranged from Wikipedia to teachers as users of digital media to the challenges of publishing print versions of books about digital media to the use of blogs in the classroom.

Several of us admitted that our thinking on student use of Wikipedia had changed, either because of Richardson’s book or because of other illuminating experiences with the site. We discussed the possibility of allowing students to use the sources cited on Wikipedia pages but not the page itself, but we also acknowledged that doing so deprives students of the opportunity to actually conduct their own searches for sources. Some of us are beginning to see Wikipedia through the lens of “shared knowledge” and are developing a belief that the teacher’s job is not to tell students which resources they can and can’t use but rather to teach them how to make informed decisions for themselves. Given our own use of Wikipedia to answer all sorts of questions for ourselves, barring Wikipedia in the classroom seems less tenable. Instead, we agreed that the ubiquity and undeniable usefulness of Wikipedia mean higher expectations for teachers in creating research tasks. We should not be assigning our students tasks where they are simply answering questions that others have already addressed on Wikipedia or elsewhere. Instead, we need to design student tasks that require the analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of what students find on Wikipedia.

One of our members has long advocated that writing teachers should also be writers, and we saw this theme in Richardson’s insistence that teachers seeking to incorporate digital media in the classroom should be using those tools in their own lives, too. Furthermore, teachers should be open to collaborating with and learning from their students, who frequently have more familiarity with digital media than we do. We were especially taken with Richardson’s statement that ”We can’t pretend to know everything anymore” (155). It’s humbling but also liberating to know that it’s okay to tell students that we don’t know something and to ask them to show us how it works!

We noticed several places where Richardson’s book seemed out-of-date (his beloved Google Reader no longer exists!), and this led us to a discussion of the challenges faced by authors writing about digital media in print forms. We learned about the Digital Humanities Movement and how it is challenging the field to reconsider what it means to publish, how we incorporate feedback and revision in digital spaces, and why we should trust the wisdom of the crowd.

As far as how we might incorporate these tools in our own classrooms, we talked mostly about our past and aspirational uses of student blogs. During our first meeting we talked about the reality that public writing is scary for a lot of students (and teachers!), and this theme reemerged during this discussion. We identified commenting as the first step to blogging and as a way to develop comfort with public writing. We also emphasized the need to really use blogging to its full capacity as a collaborative tool; rather than simply posting teacher questions and having students respond individually to those questions, students should be engaging in conversation with one another, while the teacher plays the role of facilitator, observer, and feedback provider.

As we move forward, we might consider:

  1. How can we develop authentic research tasks for students that require analysis, evaluation, and synthesis?
  2. What can teachers do to ensure that students are using blogs as collaborative spaces?
  3. How do we address the complex issue of audience in students’ digital writing?

One more note: At least one member of our group thought that this book did not really do Will Richardson justice. We were lucky enough to meet him at Fordham’s Summer Literacy Institute (#fordhamlit13) and to hear him speak about teachers’ ethical and pedagogical responsibility to incorporate digital media in the classroom. While Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms is an informative how-to manual for teachers, we missed his passionate voice here.

Next up: Crafting Digital Writing

Welcome to the Fordham Digital Literacies Collaborative

Welcome to the Fordham Digital Literacies Collaborative.  This year a group of talented, dedicated teachers in NYC will be studying together, writing together, and thinking hard together about what it means to be literate and what it means to be teachers of literacy.  Our series of book studies begins with Because Digital Writing Matters in July 2013 and will continue through the academic year.  We hope to document our journey and our thinking on this blog.