Today’s definition of literacy is more than reading and writing as the world is increasingly dominated by mass media and communication technologies. Since we can reach limitless information through modern communication tools, the effect and control of media on the way we live and think has significantly inreased. Therefore, it is imperative for schools to prepare their students for real life by making them media literate. In order to be functionally literate, students are expected to analyze and interpret the messages that can influence people’s attitudes, behaviour, and values, produce examples to express their own messages through multiple forms of media. Media Literacy Now and Open Thinking Wiki offer a comprehensive list of resources you can use with different age groups to teach all these skills.

As part of our media literacy program, our students first study an introductory unit on what media literacy is and why it is important to study media literacy. For high school students, you can use the resources in the MLC website to discuss these issues. Students then identify, analyze, interpret, and evaluate media techniques and messages in different formats and create similar products. Please read this blog post for more ideas and download the Quick Start Guide that has great project-based ideas to teach media literacy skills to your students. My Pop Studio is another great site that helps students learn media literacy skills and promotes positive youth development with highly interactive creative play activities. Here you can see the project assignment sheet that we prepared for My Pop Studio.

We integrated news literacy, ad literacy, and film literacy units into our English program because they match so well with our learning goals. Before doing so, please make sure that your students know how to analyze non-fiction texts, write informative texts, use persuasive style, and distinguish fact from opinion. I can hear some people saying, “Why should I teach media literacy, after all I am an English teacher!”  Please read this great post on the value of media education. Doesn’t our job also involve making a difference in our students’ lives and preparing them for the challenges of the era they live in? Integrating media literacy education into your curriculum will enable you to teach your students many of the Now Skills 21st century requires. Many teachers complain about disengaged students. One of the reasons of this disengagement and boredom is because students cannot relate to what they are learning in the classroom. The real life connections that media literacy lessons provide may increase the level of engagement of your students.

             Image Source: Embracing Technology in Education Wiki

You can start teaching news literacy to your older students with this great TED-Ed lesson on how the opinions and facts (and sometimes non-facts) make their way into the news and how the smart reader can tell them apart. Like any other TED-Ed lesson, you can create a new lesson by changing the tasks depending on your students’ needs and level, using the tools the TED-Ed website offers. In this list you can find some resources that you may use to teach news. Start by giving your students news reports that you think will interest them. Here you can find a graphic organizer, a recipe, and a checklist for news writing that your students can use. This 5 W’s and H graphic organizer and The Inverted Pyramid graphic organizer will help them understand the format and style of news reports better. Teach your students all the ingredients of news reports (how to write a headline, a lead, how to use quotes, bias in writing, etc.) before they start writing their own news. This assignment  will familiarize your students with the format and style of news reports and magazine articles. The news unit is also a good time to teach or revise Reported Speech as your students will use it while they are writing their news reports. We always try to teach each grammar topic when there is a need for it and never teach it in an isolated fashion.

After they master all the ingredients, you can give your students a collaborative news writing task using Google Drive. My students love the news writing competition activity when I give them the headline and the lead of a news report and ask them to work in groups to predict and write the rest of it using everything they have learned about news reports. After they finish writing their piece, groups exchange their news reports and give each other feedback. Then, I share the original version with them and they choose the news report that is closest to the original version. They then compare their style with the original version and choose the best news report in terms of style. Another creative collaborative news writing task can be given in Literature classes. Ask your students to choose one part in the novel they have  read  and write a news report based on it.

Students also love the ad literacy units because of their real life connections. Just like the news writing unit, they first learn how and why ads are designed, how the features of a magazine advert are different from that of a TV commercial or a persuasive advert like a flyer. They learn about the different techniques and styles to use for different types of ads, the significance of catchy slogans and the target audience. In this list you can find resources  you may use for your ad literacy units. There are several game-based, interactive websites among them like Admongo and Don’t Buy it! Get Media Smart! Your students will enjoy playing the games here and learn a lot about advertising while doing so. Please visit the Teachers’ pages in both websites where you can find  resources to teach ad literacy. After students learn about the techniques on designing ads, you can assign them a task like this one or give them a list of target audience to choose from and ask them to design a product and an ad for that specific audience.

Film literacy is the most popular media literacy unit among  students. The main goal of film study in the classroom is to make our students active viewers of films rather than passive ones. Students, as critical viewers learn to analyze what is in the frame, how it is constructed, what is left out and apply the techniques they have learned in their own products. The basic principles of the film study in English classes across levels can be:

* Elements of film language
* Features of different genres
* The rules of filmmaking
* The difference between still and moving images
* How the sequencing of shots can create a narrative

* How the use of camera angles, light, music, sound effects, etc. change the meaning of a moving sequence
* The critical role of screenwriting

In this list you can find some resources you may use while designing your own lessons to teach film literacy and you can find great media literacy projects created by Global Digital Citizen in this guide. In the video below, the famous filmmaker, Martin Scorsese talks about how ideas and feelings can be expressed through a visual form and the importance of visual literacy.

The ability to appreciate and analyze film is a critical skill for our learners as it also teaches them how to make their own products to be able to tell their own stories. Of course, film is not the only medium for the students to practice these skills. The fact that young people are surrounded by visuals today, has transformed the way they learn and perceive the world. They read, analyze, interpret and create graphic novels, comics, and cartoons to make sense of the visual world and to express themselves. Here is a sample task we prepared for our 7th grade students using the resources in Cartoons for the Classroom.

Combining images with text is a fun way for learners to demonstrate understanding and be creative. Today, there are many tools for the learners to show what they know using different forms of media. Especially learners who cannot fit into the traditional classrooms with one-size-fits-for-all type of education, benefit a lot from using sequential images and text together to tell a story or relate their understanding of learned materials.

Digital media offers us a great learning tool by bringing text, images, sound, and music together: Digital storytelling. The reason why digital storytelling has become so popular is because students love expressing themselves using different forms of media.

Here you can find a great post by Silvia Tolisano on creating new forms of digital storytelling using digital media. One of these forms is transmedia storytelling, in which the narrative is told across multiple platforms, and may include sound, images, text, movie and gaming elements. All these elements contribute to the meaning of the narrative and the reader cannot fully understand the text without interacting with each element. Inanimate Alice, Pottermore, Rockford’s Rock Opera, Collapsus and Ruby Skye are some transmedia examples. Here you can see the summer homework we prepared for our students on Inanimate Alice. The students were expected to read all 5 episodes of Inanimate Alice and after completing the assignment on episode 1, we asked them to choose another episode and prepare a digital worksheet about it like the one we did and post it on their blog. As the last step, we asked them to continue Alice’s adventures by creating their own digital story, episode 6 and post it on their blog. If you want to use Inanimate Alice in your classes, please check these lesson plans and student resource pack and this starter booklet.


Here you can find the summer homework we prepared for our 6th grade students on Rockford’s Rock Opera. Both of the resources are amazing examples of creativity and imagination and serve as perfect models for our students who are also creating their own digital stories. As Jason Ohler says, “Today, digital expression is the new literacy and creativity is the new fluency.”



Even if you are not using social media at school, your students are using social networking sites like Snapchat and Instagram, downloading music, and playing games online. Learning how to look after one’ digital footprint is an important issue these days and knowing what to share, who to share it with is a vital part of this process. Therefore, it has become inevitable for the schools to teach them how to be safe and responsible online. In order to do this effectively, schools should design a digital citizenship curriculum. There are many resources available according to the needs of each age group online that will help you do this.

Before you start designing your own curriculum, please read this post by George Couros and watch the video. I strongly believe that the message in this inspiring post is very important and our curriculum should be designed to teach our students and the parents what they can accomplish if they are smart and responsible in using the opportunities technology provides us. You can then visit Mark Dribble’s website and read his post on the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.

9 Elements

IMAGE CREDIT: Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth

Google, YouTube, and Common Sense Media have prepared their own DC curriculum that you can use while designing yours. Digital Citizenship resources by Edutopia, Edudemic, ISTE, ICT Evangelist, Shelly Terrell, Digital Citizen wiki and Digital ID wiki may also be helpful.

If you follow this link, you can see a free comic book that teaches many things about copyright. The resources in this livebinder may also help you teach copyright to your students. In this link, there is a great guide prepared for K-6 teachers planning to design a digital citizenship curriculum. Here, you can find another great interactive guide which you can explore with your students. If you scroll down the blog post by Global Digital Citizen, you can find digital citizenship agreements that you can download and use with your students. Please make sure that the resources you have curated or designed are age-appropriate and relevant and meet the needs of your learners. You can find examples here  and here. Finally, in this blog post, Andrew Miller suggests designing Digital Citizenship PBL projects with students. I’ll try this with my students next year. What about you?



Digital literacy is more than knowing about how and when to use the tools. It is the ability to process information by locating, understanding, analyzing, evaluating, creating, and sharing it using digital technology. In the past, we used to do it with printed materials, but now technology provides access to a much wider range of learning resources available at all times and allows us to communicate information in a variety of media beyond word and text; so, looking up information in the library in traditional ways is obviously not enough. To be literate today requires navigating a connected world offering us endless information with which we can interact in many different ways.

Our students are familiar with technology but they use it for social purposes. They know how to copy and paste but they don’t know how to process information with the help of technology. They should master the critical skills below to conduct research effectively and come up with creative projects instead of copy-pasted ones:

• Identify how information can support their learning
• Locate and access information from a variety of sources both print and digital
• Compare, evaluate and select information
• Organize and manage information
• Apply information to specific problems/ issues
• Analyze and synthesize information
• Communicate information in a variety of media

If we deprive our students of all these skills, they will graduate without being ready for the challenges of the work and social life that is awaiting them. Therefore, it should be the prime duty of each teacher and school to teach information literacy to their students.

To integrate information literacy into your curriculum, you can start by checking the resources on Cybraryman’s Research Page and by visiting Kathy Beck’s website. Power up offers a great guide you can use while planning your lessons. This blog post will take you to a link  where you can find resources for your elementary students. Do your students look up information for projects and end up with websites way beyond their reading level? This tutorial will show you how you can change the reading level of your Google results and this post offers you tips on teaching the research paper to your students.

Many schools have policies against plagiarism and there are consequences for students if they plagiarize, but in many cases students do so because they don’t know how to deal with that information. They should know how to paraphrase , how to locate and cite sources, how to use the information to explain, persuade, and create. There are also great tools that help us conduct research and our students should be familiar with them and this link will take you to a post on creating collaborative research projects with Google Apps.

Information literacy is not only about finding information but also about evaluating what you find.  Students should learn this critical skill to determine whether the information they have found is relevant and reliable. You can check the resources on evaluating websites and the quality of content in this list before you start creating your own resources.

While teaching effective researching skills to our students, we should also teach them the inquiry process.

the-inquiry-processIMAGE SOURCE: Inquiring Mind Website

The first step in teaching the inquiry process is the art of asking good questions if we want our students to come up with creative solutions to the problems using their critical thinking skills. Questioning is a skill that has often been neglected because we tend to focus on the correct answers rather than questions in educational systems based on standardized testing. However, thinking is driven by questions. Here is a video from an expert explaining why we should focus more on questions than the answers:

Here is another video that you can share with your students on the importance of questioning:

The next step is to teach them about essential (thick, rich, fat) questions.

Another important step is to help them refine their questions to come up with questions that cannot be easily googled by hitting a search button. There are a number of frameworks used for guiding students’ questions. My favorite is created by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano and here you can find an update for it.

The next step is the information processing. There are a number of models you can use like the Big 6 (and Super 3 for young learners). Here you can find a long list of tools students can choose from and use at each step of the inquiry cycle and here is another great list with both tools and resources curated at ISTE 2015. You can also use Google tools for your project.  This website has great resources that you can use during the entire process.

When their research is finished, students share what they learn via a presentation tool of their own choice. After they have presented their project, have them write a blog post to reflect on their learning and share evidence of their understanding. This also gives them an opportunity to assess their progress and think about how what they have learned may apply elsewhere beyond the project.

In her blog post, Projects with Rigor Jane Kraus lists the important aspects of critical thinking to make better projects. After reading her list, you can also check the project ideas here and some project samples in ISTE Resource Library.  Once your students master the questioning skills and the inquiry cycle, you can go a step further by not giving your students problems to solve. Instead, help them find real-world problems for projects. You can watch Ewan McIntosh’s TEDx talk for more information on this.

Inquiry, project and problem-based learning help students enhance collaboration, problem-solving, critical and creative thinking skills if they are used correctly. By using these pedagogies, teachers can connect their curriculum to the real world and make learning meaningful. Many students prefer this kind of learning in class to being lectured as they have a real need to know something so that they can use this knowledge to solve a problem or answer a question and they learn by actually doing it. Using these approaches will bring learning to life but only students with strong information literacy skills and schools that are able to build strong learning communities can do that effectively.

What tools and models are you using for your learners to internalize information literacy and inquiry learning? Please share your experience.



According to the definition on the Cornell University website, digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet. If used correctly, digital literacy enables students to think critically about information and communication as citizens of the global community while using technology responsibly and ethically. It will eventually help them become life-long learners who have internalized the fact that learning can take place anywhere at any time in multiple ways.

Digital Literacy has 3 important components:
• Technology Literacy
• Information Literacy
• Digital Citizenship

I had originally planned to write about digital literacies in one post but it became such a long post that I decided to write about information literacy and digital citizenship in another post. I know there are too many links in this post but updating curriculum to transform learning requires a lot of reading and research to be able to do it effectively. Transforming education is not an easy process. I strongly believe that before transforming our schools and our curriculum, we need to transform ourselves as educators and know the reasons why there is a need for such a transformation as well as how to do it.

Technology Literacy

Our students should develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology as active and successful participants of the 21s century global society. This will allow us to personalize learning effectively and fully immerse them in content that is interactive, relevant and authentic, making learning fun, and improving student motivation and engagement. The important point to keep in mind is the fact that tech integration is not about technology, it is about learning. Otherwise, adding technology to our curriculum, without changing the way we teach, will take us nowhere.

"The real problem is not adding technology to the current organization of the  classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning"

Image source: Langwitches on Flickr


• Use technology for discovery, accessing opportunity, documenting and sharing learning, showcasing achievements and reviewing/reflecting on learning. If used correctly, technology can give every student a voice and help make student thinking and understanding visible, enabling them to communicate and collaborate with others in and out of the classroom to find solutions to problems, to construct knowledge, to create content, to share their learning or to get and give feedback. The aim is to enable the students have the control over their learning by making choices about what to learn and how to learn it at their own pace by using higher order thinking skills and practicing effective communication and collaboration skills. In such a learning environment, the teacher is the coach rather than the expert and the authority in the classroom. Instead of focusing on delivering knowledge, the teacher provides scaffolding to help students develop higher order thinking skills and deeper understanding.

• In our tech and information-infused, rapidly changing world, teachers are not expected to have all the answers. The teacher is a learner, too; so, don’t be afraid of using technology if you feel that your students are better at it than you are. Instead, empower them by making them the tech leaders of your class. Let your students be in the driver seat and make sure that your relationship with your learners is based on trust and openness rather than power and control.

• Technology will give you endless opportunities to personalize learning. Address and respect your learners’ gifts and struggles appropriately by utilizing technology to ensure that each learner feels a part of your learning community. Give them freedom to discover and develop their own passions and interests to boost their engagement.

• Make sure that learning doesn’t only come from books but from experience as well. Since you cannot be an expert at everything, let your students connect to experts all over the world to find the answers they are looking for or to learn new things. Imagine how excited your students will be if they get connected with the author of the book they are reading or someone from NASA if they are learning about space. You can also take them to virtual field trips and bring the world into your classroom.

• Using technology in the classroom may sometimes mean making mistakes and failing. Instead of avoiding using tech in your classroom because of that, use it to show your students that making mistakes and failing are important parts of learningtechnology and can be used as an opportunity to grow on the way to success.

• Help your students become creators rather than consumers of technology. Make sure that your students know creation literacy skills so that they can effectively create information.  Provide them with opportunities to self-publish and share their work.

• As learners learn best when they create, share, and teach others, have your students use screencasting tools to create meaningful learning experiences. Model your students by screencasting yourself to flip parts of your curriculum.

• Technology will also help you make formative assessment a routine in your classroom to support learning. Make sure that there is ongoing formative assessment in your classroom as a seamless part of the classroom culture. There are great tech tools that will help you do this. You can use backchanneling tools to get immediate feedback, ask your students to create video projects, or podcasts to review the lesson, use digital exit tickets or QR codes for reflection activities  and give them feedback on their work. Teachers whose students don’t have or are not allowed to use electronic devices in the classroom can use Plickers.

Here you can see an end-of-the-year reflection assignment prepared for our 11th graders who took an IELTS preparation course. This was a two-hour elective chosen by some of our students who were preparing for the IELTS exam. Because it was a mixed-ability class, we designed a class blog to cater the needs of different types of learners with different levels of English. By clicking the links under the Useful Links tab, students were able to choose the tasks according to their needs and do them at their own pace. Some students were going to take TOEFL or SAT instead of IELTS, so we added links for them as well. As this was an elective course, students who didn’t take this course but were going to take IELTS had access to the blog as well. Without the help of technology, it would have been impossible for us to do all these in such a practical way both for the teacher and the students.

• So, how are you going to integrate all these skills into your literacy curriculum? Teach-Learn-Lead is a digital edu-library where you can find a wealth of resources for your PLN. Please keep it on your desktop or Dropbox because you will refer to it a lot if you are planning to update your curriculum. This valuable resource was curated by my Twitter friend, Dean J. Fusto. Even though we have never met personally, we have stayed connected via social media and have learned many things from each other via sharing.

• Before you start designing your new curriculum, you can analyze NCTE’s framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment,  Curriculum 21, Education 2020 Wiki, ISTE standards, and ISTE Standards Implementation Wiki as a starting point. You may also check the questions in this post.

• For effective tech integration, WebTools4U2Use Wiki, 21 Things 4 Teachers, 101 Free Tech tools for Teachers, Apps for Education40 Free Mobile Apps, and Hidden Gems may be helpful. You can also find many useful resources if you visit Edutopia.  Shelly Terrell’s website is a treasure for teachers. You can also visit websites like Curriculum21 Clearinghouse and Graphite to find teacher reviewed apps, games, and websites.

• Using Google Apps for Education is a practical way to share resources with your students. They are great for classroom and school-wide collaboration. You can find what other things you can do with Google Classroom in this blog post and how you can use it in this comprehensive guide.

• Please note that all these tools have been listed for you to choose the ones to support your curricular goals and learning objectives. Otherwise, there is no point in using them. Make sure that your digital curriculum includes tech that improves the learning process. After all, digital literacy is more about enhancing learning than using tech tools. In this blog post a first grade teacher writes about how technology has transformed her teaching.

• Having proficiency and fluency in using tech tools not only means knowing how to use them but also when and why to use each tool to achieve the desired outcome. Therefore, instead of telling your students which tool to use for a specific task, give them a list of tools to choose from. For this purpose, you can use curation tools like Pinterest,, Symbaloo,, and Edshelf. You can also share websites like Web Tools for Kids and wikis like Cool Tools for Schools with your students. Let them find, evaluate and use apps that match with the work they are doing and take risks and try new things with them.

As Heidi Hayes Jacobs says, “As times change, so must our curriculum. Start small by learning one new tool a month or making one curriculum upgrade a month. Your students will love you for it, but even better than that you will be sending them out of your class with tools they need to be successful RIGHT NOW – not in the future!”