Online Research and Media Skills: Online Reading Comprehension

[ File # csp2969035, License # 2135418 ] Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement ( (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / AnatolyM
[ File # csp2969035, License # 2135418 ]
Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement (
(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / AnatolyM
So far in our coursework in the IT&DML program we have been building up our digital identity through blogging about our Network Learning Project and educational articles, social networking via Google+ and Twitter, and most recently creating our Cooking with TPACK video. This is all done on the Internet, supporting our professor Ian O’Byrne’s notion that “the Internet is the dominant text of our generation.”

This statement attests to how educators teach and how students learn in today’s digital age. Years ago, the main source of information for students was receiving a textbook and/or photocopies of a newspaper or magazine article on a certain topic. Today, this still occurs, but not as often as the Internet has become a huge source of information for education and personal use. The Internet is the biggest repository of information in the world, and is available to us in the click of the mouse. Students have access to information on class topics at any time, and can save the links to create their own personal repository in several different outlets, such as Google Drive.

Where this plethora of information on the Internet creates endless possibilities for education, it also creates some challenges for how students learn and process information. I will discuss my experience teaching at the high school for the remainder of this post in regards to the second phase of the ORMS model, online reading comprehension.

From my experience teaching high school business, I have observed that every student has the opportunity to own a device to use for educational purposes. In Meriden at the high school level, we have a 1:1 ratio of students to devices. Every student has the opportunity to own a device; some students choose not to for their own personal reasons. By the school district investing in this blended learning model and going 1:1, we are telling the students that this is the way you are going to learn best.


Michael Manderino, in his excerpt, “Reading Digitally Like a Historian: Using Multimedia Texts to Facilitate Disciplinary Learning,” discusses three strategies for improving online reading comprehension of our students. Students are constantly on the Internet searching for information, but how well are they reading this online content? Manderino discusses that students learn best when they can read, see, and hear the information. This can be done using video(s) to support the text provided to students, as students can analyze the video and use it as background knowledge for when they read.

Next, students should be exposed to not only one piece of digital text, but also an entire set of digital texts, creating a repository of information for students to sift through for information. The best way to do this is create a class website, where the teacher posts several articles that support the current topic in class in a designated area on their class website.

Manderino’s third and final strategy to improve online reading comprehension is to teach students how to critique the digital text for its credibility. I see students go online and just type their question into Google, receiving all sorts of results, usually from sites such as Now I am not shooting down the site, but students need to understand how to search for reliable sources. I urge my students to only take information from domains such as: .org, .gov, .edu., and some .coms. I stress that if the page is full of ads, move on to the next one.reading-online-19834589

Manderino’s article echoes what we read from chapters 9 ad 10 in the New Literacies Handbook. In chapter nine, “The Web as a Source of Information for Students in K–12 Education” by Els Kuiper and Monique Volman, they discuss the importance of teaching effective keyword search strategies to find valid information on the web. The Internet is an amazing place where anyone can create content, but unfortunately the information we find is not always credible.

We have seen the web change dramatically in the last 5-10 years, and there is no reason that it will not continue to change when our students are all grown up. Lawless and Schrader spoke about navigation in their work from chapter 10 of the New Literacies handbook, “Where Do We Go Now? Understanding Research on Navigation in Complex Digital Environments.”

I believe by empowering our students to be in charge of how they sift through content and what makes information valid will help prepare them to navigate through the web no matter how drastic it changes over time. We are “sharpening the blade” that is their skill set for reading and comprehending online content. Part of that process is being able to tell good quality from not so good quality (much like you would good vs evil in the movies or a book). By continuing to expose our students to different multimedia and sources of information, we provide them with different visual characteristics that help them adapt to different sites and platforms, similar to what we are doing in our IT&DML classes (BlackBoard, Google+, Wikispaces).

In today’s digital age, we need to teach our students how to be in charge of their own learning as well as the content of the course. Providing students with a class website and blog that holds a repository of credible sources will serve as model for students to use in their future endeavors, no matter how drastically the web changes.

-John V


BatCave Update: Framing the Exterior Wall

Batman logo courtesy of DC Comics
Batman logo courtesy of DC Comics

In my previous BatCave post, I made it a goal to complete the framing of the exterior wall for this week. I am happy to say that the exterior wall is framed and looks amazing! This was no easy task to complete, as we had to frame around the electrical box and the chimney access panel (this is where having Tim comes in handy!) I tried looking for videos on how to do this on Youtube, but did not find any that were suitable for what I was trying to do. I did find some images posted on blogs and Pinterest from others doing similar work that were very helpful in providing a visual on how the frame was supposed to look.

The framing of the actual exterior wall was rather easy, since I have had enough experience framing both the side and back walls. The exterior wall was cut into three frames, with each stud being 16’ on center. For this we simply nailed each stud into the frame created, with the pressure treated stud serving as the base. Remember, you always want the floor piece of the frame to be pressure treated because they will absorb moisture from the floor to prevent rotting.

Completed exterior wall
Completed exterior wall

The tricky parts were framing around the electrical box and the chimney access panel. These were tricky because we had to measure around the box and cut away at the frame we just built.

IMG_0038_2For the electrical box, we measured the distance from stud to stud and cut a piece that sits under the box; this will serve as a nailer for the sheetrock to be nailed onto. The electrical box is mounted on a wood platform, as seen in the picture, and caused for us to cut at the platform to make the studs around the box flush, or leveled. We kept cutting away at the wood platform, checking the level each time, until we finally got it right.

Main electrical

Next, we had to cut at the chimney access panel. This was not as time consuming as the electrical box, as all we had to do was cut away at the exterior wall stud that covered the panel. We cut away the piece that covered the panel, and cut two pieces that were placed above and below the panel. We also cut two more small nailers to hold those two bigger pieces in place. The end result is a sturdy frame around the chimney access door.

Chimney access panel

I can’t believe that the first phase of the BatCave is almost complete. This has been such a learning process and has taught me how things are built and the tools needed in order to be successful. My two goals for the next update is to tidy up and check that all framing, walls and ductwork, are flush so that the sheetrock can be hung evenly. The second goal will be more time consuming, where I will install all the insulation for the ceiling of the room. I am not going to insulate the walls because the room stays at a steady temperature already. I will take to Youtube for this since I have never installed insulation before, and will film a couple video clips to go along with my post.

Thanks for reading!

-John V

Cooking With TPACK

Cooking with TPACK reinforced that in education we are constantly altering our instruction given the resources available to us. In this scenario we had minimal resources available, such as a bowl, plate, and a meat mallet. I would have rather used a knife with a cutting board to cut the vegatables, but as we have learned we might not always have this available.

The most frustrating part was not smashing an onion, but editing the video in post production with limited software available. This was a good learning experience for me that I can pass on to my students the next time they need a reminder on not having enough information or resources. I hope you enjoyed the video!

-John V

Online Collaborative Inquiry

Morgen, Sharon Drew. Collaboration. Digital image. Sharon Drew Morgan's Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.
Morgen, Sharon Drew. Collaboration. Digital image. Sharon Drew Morgan’s Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. <;.

Throughout my coursework so far in the IT&DML program, we have talked extensively about carving out our digital identity. If it is a necessity for educators, then why can’t we make it a necessity for students? In Dan Pink’s video, “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us” he talks about the factors that motivate people to be better. He explains that people are driven by three factors:

  1. Autonomy- the desire to be self directed
  1. Mastery – the urge to get better at stuff
  1. Purpose – makes coming to work better; inspiring

I believe the same can be said of the skills and strategies included in online collaborative inquiry. The best strategy for students to practice these skills is through blogging online. By blogging in class it allows students to share their voice and express how they feel about certain topics or readings; as a result creating a digital identity. This is a useful skill to develop, as students will feel more comfortable speaking and sharing with others. It can also improve the quality of work, knowing that they have an audience that is looking at their work.

In order for students to become more adept at creating work online, they need to be exposed to reading and writing online. In “The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension: New Opportunities and Challenges for Students with Learning Difficulties” by Jill Castek, Lisa Zawilinski, J. Greg McVerry, W. Ian O’Byrne, and Donald J. Leu, they go on to say that reading online is different from reading print. I agree with this theory as more and more districts are going with the blended learning model, incorporating more technology into their curriculum than ever before. Students in today’s digital age should only know how to read print, but also how to read online. They explained this notion through five practices that are required when reading on the Internet:

  • Reading to construct useful questions
  • Reading to locate information (keyword search strategies)
  • Reading to evaluate information critically (credibility of sources)
  • Reading to synthesize information (more information available in several formats)
  • Reading and writing to communicate information (texting, blogs, wikis, etc)
Digital image. Brains on Fire. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.
Digital image. Brains on Fire. N.p., n.d. Web. <;.

Judy Arzt, in her work, “ONLINE COLLABORATIVE INQUIRY: Classroom Blogging Ventures and Multiple Literacies,” said, “…Students should not be mere consumers of technology. They should be composing and creating effective communications with the tools to develop advanced literacy skills.” I believe what she is saying here is that teachers need to provide students with opportunities not only where they are reading online, but also creating and thinking critically online.

After reading these sources I now have a better understanding of how to incorporate blogging and scaffold it into my own classroom. This year I look to take the first few weeks of class and teach students how to search for credible sources, using keywords rather than simply typing in their question into a search engine. Before having students create their blog, I will have them write in a blue journal every week, requiring at least two entries on a weekly basis. One entry has to be about what they learned in class that week, and the other being about something they learned on their own outside of school (how to ride a bike, tie their shoe, etc.). Students will share their journal entries with a classmate, where their classmate will comment on the entry.

Once students have gotten the feel for expressing their opinions and commenting on others’ work, I will have them create their own blog, which will serve as their new blue journal. This way, rather than writing their two entries a week into a journal, they can now blog about what they learned and comment on others’ blog posts. This will create a collaborative, social learning community within the classroom where students can express their voice through writing, and learn to listen and respect others’ voices as well.

-John V

BatCave Update: Shelving the Closet

Batman logo courtesy of DC Comics
Batman logo courtesy of DC Comics

This week I did not get as much done as I would have liked in the BatCave. I was away in Virginia from Tuesday to Friday visiting Michelle’s sister and family. My original goal was to find time to finish the nailers on the ductwork and at least half of the exterior wall. Unfortunately, I did not get the exterior wall done. I did get the nailers done, and made an adjustment to my schedule so that I did not fall behind.

Since I did not have much time this week to work on the BatCave’s exterior walls, I decided to change my approach and build the closet shelves, which does not take a lot of time. I have never built shelves before, and took to Youtube to find some resources that could be of help. I came across HackaweekTV’s video on building closet shelves, which gave me a good idea on how to start the process of putting shelves in the basement closet.

I wanted to put 3 levels in the closet for storage of our paint cans, air conditioners, and other miscellaneous items around the house. In order to do so, I measured four inches from the back wall to the front for the top level, and cut the brackets thirty-four inches long so that they would be sturdy enough to hold a good amount of paint cans. Once I had the correct measurements and cut the two brackets to size, Tim took his DuoFast nailer (high powered nail gun) while I held them leveled in place, and shot three nails into each bracket.

Next, we needed to install the second set of brackets that would serve as the second and third set of shelves. These brackets would need to be longer since they will be holding heavy air conditioners during the winter season. I decided to measure this set of brackets a foot longer (forty six inches) than the previous bracket. Once the brackets were cut to size, we took the DuoFast nail gun and nailed the brackets into place.

3 level closet with crawl space access

Lastly, we needed to install the actual shelves. This step was rather easy, as all I had to do was measure the distance between the two walls, and the distance from the side wall to the front of the closet. For the top shelf I cut the shelf thirty-eight inches long, and for the second shelf I cut that fifty-one inches long. The distance from the side wall to the front of the closet was about five feet, so I wanted to leave enough room to eventually install a bi-fold door. I cut these two pieces to size and placed them on top of the brackets we made earlier. The final result was a nice, sturdy shelving unit consisting of three shelves. There is also a crawl space underneath for light items we rarely need.

By applying the skills learned from using resources available on the Internet (Youtube), it is really helping me understand how things work when framing and putting things in place. The knowledge learned in previous updates were vital in helping me understand where the brackets needed to be and the tools needed to get the job done. Even though I did not meet my initial goal for this update, I made an adjustment to still get something done so that I do not get too far behind.

Now that the closet is out of the way, I can focus solely on getting the entire exterior wall framed for my next update. This will not be as easy as the interior wall, as I have to frame around the electrical box and the chimney access panel. With the resources available online, I am up for the challenge!

-John V

BatCave Update: Framing and Boxing in Ductwork

Batman logo courtesy of DC Comics

Here’s a quick recap from my first post about the Network Learning Project for ED 7714. My goal for this project is to complete the framing and insulation for the BatCave by the time this class has completed in mid August. After the walls are framed I will have my electrician come in and set up the electric hook-ups before insulation. I am doing it this way so that my electrician can have access to the junction boxes in the ceiling of the room without having to move around insulation, which is made of fiberglass.

Half of the back wall

At the time of my previous post, Tim and I were able to frame half of the back wall. We did not get much framing done that day since we had to blueprint the room and pick up all the supplies from Home Depot. In order to do this accurately, we had to measure the square footage of the room, by simple length (L) x width (W). I watched a quick video by Tim Gibson to make sure I calculated the square footage correctly.

In our most recent session we were able to get both the interior (side) and back wall framed, as well as boxing (framing) in the ductwork running from the back wall to the bathroom overhead. Framing the walls was rather easy, as we got into our groove after putting the first frame together the previous session. When putting together a frame, you must make sure that your studs are exactly 16” apart, better known as being “16 on center.” This is to provide utmost support for hanging sheetrock.

Boxed in ductwork with completed interior wall

Boxing in the ductwork was a very challenging task as it called for holding heavy frames in place for extended periods of time. The toughest task was making sure that the framing was flush, or leveled. This means that the frame needs to be perfectly leveled so that the sheetrock can be flat, providing a nice even look when the walls are done. After a couple attempts, we were able to get the frame for the ductwork level, making day 2 a success.

I am learning so much from this process, not just from learning by doing, but also searching the web for quick how to videos that will give me a sense of how to attack a certain step in the process. Youtube and Google searches are becoming my best tools, along with my friend Tim (although he doesn’t count as an Internet resource).

Completed back wall
Completed back wall

Taking advantage of the vast amounts of resources on the web is teaching me so much in how a room is built. This process of using my resources online is the same process I use in building my classroom environment; finding materials online that will best suit the goals I set for myself.

My goal for the next update is to finish installing the nailers (where the sheetrock is screwed into) onto the ductwork framing and finish at least half of the exterior wall frame. I look forward to continue learning and updating my readers on the progress of The BatCave!

-John V

First half of the interior wall

Understanding TPACK

Photo courtesy of
Using the TPACK Image. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <;.

In today’s education it is no longer only about an educator’s knowledge of content (the subject matter in which they teach) and knowledge of pedagogy (the practices and methods in which they teach) that makes them an effective teacher. What makes an educator in the 21st century effective is understanding that there is a third domain in play, technological knowledge. These three domains make up TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge).

TPACK operates under the notion that all three domains work together, not separately. “In this model, knowledge about content (C), pedagogy (P), and technology (T) is central for developing good teaching.” (Mishra and Koehler, p.1025).

I hear all the time that “teaching isn’t what it used to be” and “these kids just don’t know what to do with the technology, why are we allowing this to happen?” Recently we read an article and watched a video in ED 7710 on embracing change, where we should embrace the new technology rather than run from it. My thoughts after reading about TPACK is that it is our responsibility as educators to develop and polish our skill sets, just like we ask our students to, and learn new ways to leverage this new technology into our classrooms (pedagogy). This can be done through professional development or simple online exploring. Once we find an effective platform (Google Classroom, Edmodo, Moodle, etc) that students are comfortable working with, we can take our subject matter (content) and use that to enhance student-learning experiences through online discussions and simulations.

In my classes I have found that using a platform that students are comfortable with helps ease the frustration of actually learning the content. If it is easy to find the assignment and readings, then this puts them in the right frame of mind and will most likely make them feel better about completing the assignment. In these assignments, teachers can use their technological skills (C) to use screen captures to annotate important steps in their assignments, screen cast to demo lectures or to even flip the class. By learning new technology and the advantages that come with it, teachers will notice that it fosters collaboration, which creates a social learning community inside and outside the classroom.

Learning about TPACK has made me aware that every lesson and every assignment needs to connect all three domains to provide students with the best opportunity to learn, not only the content of the class but also how to use modern technology to learn and collaborate with others. I look forward to incorporate this further into my teaching through blended learning and using the flipped class model.

-John V

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teachers College Record, 1017-1054.