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!”



After my previous post, some colleagues asked me what I think the best web tools are and which ones we are using at my school. I am going to answer this question in a future post when I write about tools and websites for English teachers. On the other hand, I think there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Schools or individual teachers should choose them by considering their learning objectives and expectations for the school year and manipulate them to serve their needs. In other words, learning should drive the technology rather than technology driving learning. Therefore, the choice of these tools may change from one school to the other depending on the learning objectives and expectations. Indeed, it isn’t really about the tools, it is about how you use them to enhance learning and  to combine the incredible powers of the human brain with the creative potential of the new technology.

The chart by Teachbytes below shows the difference between using technology just for the sake of using equipment and web tools and integrating it to serve specific purposes to transform and enhance learning.

We all know that our students are motivated if they are given the opportunity to choose and if their curiosity is triggered. Big questions that are interesting and difficult to answer, encourage students to offer theories instead of giving answers.  Moreover, they learn much better if they interact socially. If they are allowed to discover and experiment in flexible and creative environments where they are not afraid of making mistakes, they can construct their own understanding of new concepts by relating them to what they already know with the guidance and encouragement of their teachers. Otherwise, it is against the human nature to expect them to sit at their desks all day long, trying to learn what we have planned to teach them. Research has proved that if curiosity is not triggered, the human brain can’t retain or internalize information.

All this information matches with the 21st Century skills that our students have to master to be ready for the future. Therefore, inquiry, project, and challenge–based learning are the key learning approaches today. Provided that they are carefully planned and conducted, all these approaches align with the requirements of the 21st century education. Learners are faced with authentic situations to explore and solve problems. They are involved in social interaction via collaboration. Learning is structured around big or essential questions, which require higher order thinking skills. Students use their critical thinking skills to solve problems and innovative skills to come up with their own solutions.

SOURCE: Essential questions by Susan Oxnevad (Please hover your mouse and click on the interactive images).    

Luckily, technology provides us with many tools to adapt these approaches more easily and effectively in and outside the classroom. It also helps us to access information like how our students learn best and how we can make learning real, more enjoyable and engaging for all types of learners in the classroom. Consequently, it enables us to reconsider the old methodologies we have been using and discover, learn, unlearn and relearn the new pedagogies that increase learner engagement and autonomy. Many people think that transforming education in the 21st century is about using modern technology. However, it is mostly about our approach to learning.    

SOURCE: TEACHER FACILITATED LEARNING EXPERIENCES by Susan Oxnevad (Please hover your mouse and click on the interactive images).

As educators we already know that every child learns differently, so our job should be to give them choices to express what they know in various ways and give them the opportunity to use their imagination through innovation. Technology offers us many different tools to differentiate our instruction according to the diverse needs and interests of our learners and to personalize learning.

SOURCE: FLEXIBLE LEARNING PATHS by Susan Oxnevad (Please hover your mouse and click on the interactive images).

If the purpose of schooling is to enable the students to discover who they are and what their talents and passions are, why are students still being loaded with irrelevant information they will forget before the school year ends? Today, we need teachers who can foster curiosity and exploration and guide their students to find joy in learning and discovery through their passions and interests.  Only this type of schooling can motivate disengaged teenagers bored of traditional schooling. The graphics below illustrate how the source of information and the way we build knowledge have changed in the 21st Century:


SOURCE: Richard Wells

With all this in mind, we should see technology not only as an aide to learning  but as an important factor to transform learning, helping us create dynamic learning environments where learners become active participants in their own learning, rather than passive recipients of knowledge. This new definition of learning shouldn’t focus on getting high marks. We should care more about our students’ cognitive needs than the results they achieve at school.  We should encourage them to create and share information instead of memorizing it so that we can instill the joy and love of learning in them. They need to know how to think critically, creatively, and to evaluate multiple viewpoints. In these new learning environments enhanced by technology, the teachers are learners, too. They don’t control the learning any more, but instead, try to empower their students to take ownership of their own learning as passionate learners. This will eventually open the doors to self-directed learning by increasing learners’ involvement and responsibility for their own learning.

SOURCE: Med Kharbach Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

Of course, all these changes won’t be easy but  as we often tell our students, we should all have the confidence to take risks, learn from our mistakes, try new things, and develop a discipline of self-reflection to become the change agents in our communities.

Video for teachers on becoming a change agent by Justin Tarte.

Please share how you have personally transformed education.


Considering the number of students who feel disengaged and fall behind because the way they learn doesn’t match with how they are being taught, we should all personalize learning; in other words, modify instruction to individual students’ learning needs, interests and learning styles rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We all know that all programs should be based on the learner, learner-centered and process-oriented approaches rather than teacher-centered approaches to enable learners to become aware of their abilities and potential in the learning situation. Of course, engaging diverse minds with multiple activities and engaging each student as he or she enquires into problems is not an easy task to do especially for teachers who have neither been educated nor trained that way. Luckily enough, we have technology as a great source to provide more flexible learning opportunities for our students and the new discoveries in neuroscience give us valuable information on how our brain functions. Therefore, as a first step to personalize learning, both teachers and students should understand how learning takes place.

ASCD’s A Lexicon of Learning defines brain-based learning as:

Approaches to schooling that educators believe are in accord with recent research on the brain and human learning. Advocates say the human brain is constantly searching for meaning and seeking patterns and connections. Authentic learning situations increase the brain’s ability to make connections and retain new information. A relaxed, non-threatening environment that reduces students’ fear of failure is considered by some to enhance learning. Research also documents brain plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to grow and adapt in response to external stimuli.



From University of Washington Neuroscience for Kids


The first chapter of the book, Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and a Classroom Teacher by Judy Willis gives excellent information on Memory, Learning, and Test-taking Strategies. Please try to read it even though it is a bit long because it gives very useful information on how the brain works, how learning occurs, and what kind of activities teachers should implement in the classroom to enhance learning. The handbook, Six Tips on Brain-based Learning and the resources published by Edutopia may also be useful.

We should consider the principles of Brain-based Learning and Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences while preparing  our lessons. Considering the fact that each brain is unique and people have different learning styles, we should all help our students discover and develop their talents to become self-motivated and competent lifelong learners.



From University of Washington Neuroscience for Kids


Below you can find some brain-based activities you can implement in your classes to enhance learning:

BGFL MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES: Students can take the test on Multiple Intelligences after reading the information on learning styles. You can use the results to differentiate learning. You can use VARK LEARNING STYLES INVENTORY for the same purpose as well.

LDPRIDE.NET: This website provides an explanation of what learning styles and multiple intelligence are all about, an interactive assessment of learning styles, practical tips to make your learning style work for you, and information on learning disorders. They also provide links to LD sites, which, I think, teachers who believe in personalized learning will find very useful.

Education World, a website all administrators and teachers should frequently visit, offers ideas to implement Gardner’s theory in the classroom.

One activity to raise students’ awareness on multiple intelligences and different learning styles can be to ask them to prepare a mind map, on multiple intelligences after reading the information in the following websites:

GARDNER’S THEORY OF MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES: Please scroll down to see the links below in the Related Articles section.

MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES: This article published by Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, offers tasks, activities and assessment for each type of learner as well as information.

Your students can watch this video called Brainworks on how the brain functions on University of Washington’s TV channel or you can try some of the activities in Neuroscience for Kids with your students.