Digital Literacy: Communication

Digital Literacy is often defined as many things:

Most of these fall within the categories defined here under 21st century learning as well:


But I’ve become interested in the Communication facet the most. At my job we use Slack to communicate. One thing that makes slack so powerful are the integrations it has – and the ability to ignore things you don’t need to see and bring to your attention what you do. EG: whenever pull requests are made on github there’s a channel to see those without having to go to a separate webpage… web meetings can now be started straight from slack… there are bot integrations to find images and other information straight from slack as well. (although to be honest usually these are more fun than anything else).

Separately, Social Media is becoming more and more interconnected with hashtags mainstream and even on Facebook. Instant Video with Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope, not to mention Snapchat is truly revolutionizing the scope of what can be seen and when. Our students growing up today will never understand when one only saw video of the worlds events on television at a set time and channel. (Eg the 90’s and before!).

One thing I constantly am trying to convince the teachers in my Fresno Pacific classes is the changing nature of communication both professionally and with students – and how we need to not necessarily always be trying out the latest fad, but be thinking about how we can use the latest tools for our own educational needs. Example: Live Video (Periscope, Facebook) means I can watch a concert for free via someone’s phone… or learn from someone presenting at a conference (given they are ok with it). Or why not broadcast my college course classes live if it’s something that might be useful to others? These issues haven’t been fully explored (and if you read this Angel or Jeanne, I haven’t done that!) but should be… the age of instant knowledge has been upon us, and in the past couple of years instant video and augmented reality have arrived as well. There are privacy implications as well as amazing use cases for this.

For me personally, I learn a lot on twitter when people share ideas. I don’t think I would know about Hyperdocs without Twitter as an example! I see the idea of personalized PD coming soon as social networks get more interactive but we’re not quite there yet… twitter is still too hard for the beginning teacher to participate in I feel like – although sites like and Tweetdeck go a long way towards organizing the constant flow of content to make things more workable.

In conclusion, Communication is probably the most invested-in concept of our generation, so it’s going to be amazing to see how those investments change the fundamental nature of our human interaction in the coming years!

Quick ideas on Questioning

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago during the #MTBOS blogging initiative, and also in relation to the university classes I teach. I feel all of these would be completely appropriate and possible with upper elementary on up. This particular post was inspired by a Voxer group I just joined.

    1. Instead of in-class presentations, have students create screencasts of their interactive presentations and make them interactive with Zaption.
    2. Have students create TED talk-style podcasts and use Soundcloud to comment on them along the way. I’ve found that when focusing just on the audio, you can get a tighter presentation. I also once made them submit to me two different files – their practice essentially – then they were supposed to listen and resubmit! This worked VERY well even if it was annoying to them…
    3. In Google Classroom/GAFE, have students grant comment-only privileges and share with one another – what you grade is the comments/questions they ask about each others’ presentations. In math this might look like, “Is this the most efficient formula to use?” or, “What other ways could you have tried to solve this?” etc.  (Note: Not my screenshot/got it from Google)

What are other ideas you have?

Ditching Textbooks for Higher Ed

A lot has been said about ditching K-12 textbooks in favor of 3-act tasks, innovative websites, and digital learning platforms.  But this blog post isn’t so much about that as it is how I’ve managed to evade using an expensive textbook in my higher education classes that I teach.

The great thing about a textbook is that they’re consistent. They’re the same from one year to the next, and a course can be planned around that consistency. For the past 3 years, I’ve planned my higher education courses around a few different PDF’s instead. They’re not the same each year, but that’s not always a bad thing.

Currently my class (technology for student teachers) is planned around PDF’s from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Specifically, the 4C’s – Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication. I have my students read each PDF and write/turn in Notes using a program called Mendeley, which was a life-saver when I was writing my own masters thesis in 2013. Exporting notes is a great option to capture student thinking… and make sure they read and reflect on the entire article.Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.16.26 AM

The hard part about relying on PDF’s (the current set of readings was only published in October 2015!) is that I need to constantly update the class, but I feel especially for higher education, it’s necessary and makes for a better experience for students!

With tools like Mendeley, the extension Kami and other real-time collaboration tools, anything more than six months old doesn’t need to be used in a higher education class when we’re trying to educate tomorrow’s leaders!

Using Mathematica for Teaching Part 1

When I was an Undergrad at Fresno Pacific, I was introduced to Mathematica for the first time.

I immediately loved it. I enjoyed of course the mathematical abilities of the program, but also how it was very much (well, is) a programming language too. When I became a teacher, I stopped the need for programming in mathematica but loved Wolfram’s Demonstrations. Especially with a smartboard, they were a great way to illustrate to my students certain mathematical concepts long before Desmos came along and when Geogebra was not nearly as mature as it is now. (Back then, Geometers Sketchpad was king!)

So I’ve long thought of ways to use Mathematica in the classroom. Now that coding/programming is all the rage, I couldn’t help but think recently how mathematica could be used in secondary classrooms or before to teach both programming concepts and math.

For example this page talks about graphing in mathematica. The command is:


Thus, students are taking a look at the function, the input variable and the importance of domain etc when graphing.

Down the aforementioned page is also an interesting teaching application.


Click for copyable input


The graph curves themselves are now linked to further information (from MathWorld) that students can click on for more information. This could be used in the context of transformational geometry applications, changing slope, etc.

I’m just starting to think about this, mainly in the context of my work at OpenEd. Wolfram says soon they’ll have their Demonstrations online without the need for a browser-based plugin, so they will be more easily accessible for virtual manipulatives for students and teachers alike.


Periscope Videos to Youtube on Mac

I ran into a problem recently where  uploaded periscope videos but were not saved to the camera roll. There is no way to directly export videos from periscope and regular sites/extensions I may have used such as didn’t work. It took some digging – basically every site out there referred to saving the video to your camera roll directly after recording, but that wasn’t an option this time.

Here’s what I did. You will need to be able to pen the terminal on your mac as well as be comfortable copying and pasting (use command c and v for ease).

1) Install HomeBrew

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

2) use Homebrew to install Youtube-DL

brew install youtube-dl

3) Get the url ready from the periscope and now:

youtube-dl <periscope url>

4) I had these videos show as corrupt on my machine (not editable in camtasia or imovie) but they uploaded to youtube just fine. Just the awkward different aspect ratio thing.

Let me know if you have something better please or if this was helpful at