Learning in 2015: An Endless Journey


Thinking about the Web and how much it has changed the last ten years has me thinking about a question that was posed in the commentary, “Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should we Take Now?” by Christine Greenhow, Beth Robelia, and Joan E. Hughes: What path should education take now? In their commentary they discuss how the web is no longer a place where students just read online information, rather where students read and create all within the same space.


This space that they discuss has changed the way teachers form their pedagogy, as many educators are shifting towards the social platforms available to create a social learning community that takes place both inside and outside the classroom. These “social operating systems” (Greenhow, Robelia, Hughes, p. 255) have changed the landscape of how teachers conduct their class using the web. Such communities are Edmodo, Moodle, Google+ and Google Classroom to name a few. Education is quickly gearing towards cloud computing, making class instruction and resources available to the students anytime, anywhere.


Within these social learning communities, or social operating systems, students can share what they are learning and reflect on how they can use this new knowledge in their everyday lives, or to create an opinion on a particular issue. This can be done by the teacher posting discussion questions within the community for students to respond via a discussion post, or through a blog post on the students’ own blog. I have become a big believer in implementing blogging into my teaching pedagogy in my short time in the IT&DML program at the University of New Haven. I feel this way because I learn best by responding to a few prompts made by my professor, and reflecting on what I have learned from the resources provided to formulate my own viewpoint within a blog post, allowing me to enhance my digital identity within my own personal learning network. Students can share their opinions with others in the class and comment on their posts, fostering collaboration and the appreciation of other opinions outside of classroom.

I believe that teachers should be studying new ways to enhance their teaching pedagogy to engage students in the class no matter where they are. I feel teachers should take advantage of any professional development where they can learn about the great advantages using cloud computing provides. Google Apps is a great tool for teachers and students to use, as they no longer have to rely on saving their work locally, being able to create and automatically save work in the same cloud. Students can share their work with others through peer edits and group work.

For the remainder of my time in the IT&DML program I see myself continuing to add to my technological skill set by utilizing the tools learned from my coursework into my own class practice. I look forward to making blogging a big piece of the learning experience for my students, as it has helped me become a better writer and digital citizen; listening to others and sharing my thoughts on their work. Our path of learning is an endless journey, and it is up to me as a teacher to continue honing my skill set to best prepare my students to succeed in the ever changing digital world that we live in.

-John V


EDUC 7710 Commercial: Who Am I?

View More: http://jfiereck.pass.us/wedding062114

Below you will find my one-minute commercial about me for EDUC 7710. This project seemed easy at first, as I put together bullet points for what I wanted the viewers to know about me. As I was shooting the video, I realized it would not be as easy as I first thought.

I decided to shoot the video in my back yard with a cardboard cutout of Ryan Gosling in the rearview for “visual support.” There was a little breeze as I was shooting this video by hand, and that created a couple challenges. One challenge was keeping a steady grip of my phone while shooting, and the other was Ryan swaying side to side from the breeze (this was rather startling).

Even though I was prepared with bullet points, that did not prevent me from shooting this commercial several times until I was comfortable with the final product. Once I was satisfied I edited the video using iMovie. Normally I am a Sony Vegas guy but I decided to give iMovie a try on my new Macbook.

Just like we do in teaching, I kept working at shooting a quality product, not letting small obstacles get in my way. As a result I am very happy with the final cut and hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed filming it.

My neighbors probably think I am a crazy person as they walked out into their yard as I was shooting, talking to myself with a cardboard hunk behind me.


-John V

ORMS: Online Content Construction

under construction

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing the ORMS (online research & media skills) model in education and how it can and should be implemented into classroom pedagogy. In earlier work I discussed how collaborative inquiry and online reading comprehension are two important pieces of the ORMS model as they ask for students to work together as they sift and search through online content.

The third piece of the ORMS model is online content construction. Online content construction defines the abilities necessary to communicate the information assembled while searching, sifting, and synthesizing knowledge gained during online reading comprehension. (O’Byrne, ONLINE CONTENT CONSTRUCTION: Students as Informed Readers and Writers of Multimodal Information). Ian explains in his work that students today should not just be “movers” of knowledge, but should “construct ‘representations of new knowledge.’” (O’Byrne, 73).


In his work, “’At-Risk’ Adolescents: Redefining Competence Through the Multiliteracies of Intermediality, Visual Arts, and Representation,” David O’Brien discusses the ORMS model in two facets: intermediality (the ability to read and write media online) and using art or digital media to express opinion and comprehension of content. Students today are not stuck with just printed text; they have unlimited resources available to them on the web. Students can access content anytime, anywhere; we educators should urge our students to access resources for class on the Internet and use their personal learning network to help them find their voice so that they can be heard around the world.

It is getting more and more difficult to be the first to do something in 2015. In his Ted talk video, Kirby Ferguson explains how we need to remix the work we create and not be afraid to steal work from others. This “remix culture” (Maria Popova) promotes students to go find the information, and give it your own interpretation. We do this constantly in our graduate coursework, as none of us are inventing any one thing specifically. We are stealing ideas from others, just as Steve Jobs did, and putting our own spin on an idea.

In my classroom, students will be reinforced that after reading the content found online (online reading comprehension), it is ok to use other people’s work in creating their own idea based off another’s (online content construction), posting it on their class blog for the class and the world to see (online collaborative inquiry). Students will learn what makes a resource credible and how to properly cite the source within a blog post, linking the text to the site so that the reader can go straight to the source of the information. Students in my class will blog weekly on skills learned and reflect on topics discussed from class, providing them their own mountain top where their voice will be loudest.

Man on top of mountain. Conceptual design.
Man on top of mountain. Conceptual design.

The best way for students to learn, and for a teacher to assess this learning, is for the student to create and reflect with consistency through weekly blogging and commenting on classmates’ work to respect other viewpoints and ideas. This will take time to build up in class culture, but when students begin to understand that they are learning collaboratively and that everyone’s voice is valued, they will be motivated to be the best digital creator that they can be.

-John V

Multimodal Tutorial: Quizlet


Building this tutorial was a great learning experience because it reinforced how important it is to set accurate and precise step by step directions. I wanted to make this tutorial identical to how a teacher would create a classroom set of vocabulary for students. I learned that creating a tutorial takes time, and should not be rushed. Being impatient in this process could lead to a step or two being confusing, and then the teacher will end up getting multiple messages from their students who might be confused as a result. Quizlet is a great tool for educators to leverage their class vocabulary using the web and students’ smartphones and tablets. I hope you enjoy the tutorial!

Click the link below for the multimodal tutorial on Quizlet.

Quizlet Multimodal Tutorial

-John V

Online Research and Media Skills: Online Reading Comprehension

[ File # csp2969035, License # 2135418 ] Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php) (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / AnatolyM
[ File # csp2969035, License # 2135418 ]
Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php)
(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 Ask.com. 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

Online Collaborative Inquiry

Morgen, Sharon Drew. Collaboration. Digital image. Sharon Drew Morgan's Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://sharondrewmorgen.com/can-collaboration-work/collaboration/>.
Morgen, Sharon Drew. Collaboration. Digital image. Sharon Drew Morgan’s Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://sharondrewmorgen.com/can-collaboration-work/collaboration/&gt;.

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. <http://www.brainsonfire.com/blog/2014/11/04/best-blogging-practices/>.
Digital image. Brains on Fire. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.brainsonfire.com/blog/2014/11/04/best-blogging-practices/&gt;.

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

Tearing Down the Wall of Change

In his video on motivating the learner’s of today, John Seely Brown urged us as educators and people to “Embrace change, don’t run from it.” This statement can serve as the tagline for the 5 Cs of change as highlighted in the article, “Navigating the Cs of Change” by J. Gregory McVerry, Lisa Zawilinski, and W. Ian O’Byrne.

In today’s world, students have so many distractions available to them in the forms of video games, new technology, social media, streaming TV, as well as plenty of others. This inadvertently pulls the student away from conquering new challenges and pigeon holes them into a self-made cocoon. When a student has difficulty with a task for class, they are more likely to take out their phone and find a distraction to take their mind off the task at hand. At home, if they have that same difficulty, they can plug right in to their video game console or streaming TV service to avoid having to face this challenge.

As educators in this new age of leveraging content in our classes, we need to embrace this change and motivate our students to tackle these changes head on. We can do this by placing students in situations where they can be creative and think critically, such as creating a blog that represents their identity and provide a weekly reflection on what they learned. In the same process students will display their comprehension of class material through these reflections, fostering the opportunity for classmates to communicate through commenting on blog posts and being accepting of others’ viewpoints. In turn this creates a social learning community in a collaborative setting where all students are working together to achieve the common goal: be the best student he/she can be and knock defeat the game that is change.

-John V