Friday, April 16, 2010




Pondering this topic, the song “Changes” by David Bowie runs through my mind. As I am a “digital immigrant” trying to educate in a new “digital native” world, I am adapting my methods by implementing big changes. The kind of teaching practices I employed with my Spanish students during my first year of teaching (14 years ago) are quite different than the techniques I utilize now. The internet has changed the way I view and access information today. In addition, the means of research used by today’s students are the only methods they have ever known.

Today’s students use the internet to access practically all their information. The internet is utilized for two purposes: the Read-Web and the Write-Web. Dan Gillmor elaborates more on this theory in a chapter entitled the “Read-Write Web” in his book, We the Media. When one seeks access to literature, research, and various texts, students explore various websites and databases by using search engines and other tools. When producing their interpretation of their findings, students apply content by implementing, sharing, uploading, and editing information; analyze content by comparing, organizing, deconstructing, integrating, and tagging; and finally evaluate by critiquing, experimenting, collaborating, networking, and reflecting. Just as Tom March wrote in his article, I tried to “look for the sparks that create insights, the contrasts that excite problem solving, the bells and whistles that motivate, the passion that inspires.” In this capacity the internet serves me well.

One great effect the internet has had upon students is that the internet provides a means to transfer content learned to a real-world context. For example, in one single project, a student may study the core subjects of Economics, Geography, History, Government and Civics. In one example of a Digital Youth Project: Nafiza, instead of just memorizing facts about three countries, she and other students transfer the content to a real-world context in a virtual world with characters, background and dialogue. Ideas are connected across disciplines and illustrated. Within the same project, students practice 21st Century themes such as global awareness and civic literacy. By actively participating in these internet activities, students will encourage curiosity and involvement in world affairs, which may initiate change throughout society. A particular student’s deliberation may lead to others’ participation.

In a different example of a Digital Youth Project: Luis, connections over the internet take a prominent role. Luis develops Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy. Drawing on multiple forms of expertise enables Luis and his peers to be better able to see the relationship between subject knowledge and the world around them. Luis also develops civic literacy, as he chooses to educate fellow citizens. His reaching out to others advocates a call to action, which may lead to multicultural exchange for the betterment of all.

Unlike the last five to ten years, the internet has become a significant research source employed by students for school-related tasks. They look to the internet for resources when doing homework and/or projects; download podcasts for classes; use email (with the teacher) to obtain homework assignments or answer questions about projects; and use wikis, blogs, and social networks. Students even use Facebook as a way to connect with exchange-student friends from around the world. (Facebook was the communication tool of choice to maintain relationships established during annual Croatia-U.S. student-exchange at my school.)

So again, I would reiterate that change has come, change is here, and that one must be flexible in internet practices.


Digital Youth Portrait: Luis (part of the Digital Education Project)

Digital Youth Portrait: Nafiza (part of the Digital Education Project)

Gillmor, D. (2004). We the Media - Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. eBook distributed by Authorama – Classic Literature. Licensed under Creative Commons. Retrieved at

March, T. (2005). “Working the web for education. Theory and practice on integrating the web for learning.”

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9:5. Retrieved at

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


(Courtesy of Alan Cleaver

In my Spanish IB classes, I teach a unit about Addictions to Technology in Spain. It is quite interesting to my students that people across the ocean are just as or even more “addicted” to their technology tools, namely cell phones (“móviles” in Spanish.) One might consider the scenario worse in Spain, as their fees are higher than those typically paid here in the U.S.

Personally, I consider my laptop as the computing device that is an extension of who I am. It actually belongs to my school, and I rent it out each summer in order to continue my search for new knowledge and tools during the long break. I have utilized it at home in my quest to master MovieMaker, to maintain Ning social networks, to play around with Voki, to watch and upload videos on Teacher Tube, to follow leading Instructional Technologists on Twitter, to explore and share on blogs, to create Scavenger Hunts, etc. I have actually given up watching television in the evening in lieu of investigating education-related websites.

I have spent many years tutoring Spanish for additional income, and I always bring my laptop. Panera and Crispers are Wi-Fi hotspots where I have frequented. Even my youngest son and I have played computer games on my laptop at the local Panera while we shared a bowl of soup. I initiated a Technology Consortium this year at my school, and I hook up my laptop to the LCD Projector in order to introduce and discuss new Web 2.0 tools. I present at area schools sharing my technology expertise in the realm of student-friendly Web 2.0 tools, and again I tote my laptop. Even when going on a cruise out of the country, I bring my laptop.

So, yes, I guess you would call me “móvildependiente!”

As for using mobile computing devices in disadvantaged or underdeveloped environments, they would appear to facilitate improved learning. Owning a cell phone is uncommon in countries with poor populations. “The flagship ITU publication Measuring the Information Society notes that two-thirds of the world's cell phone subscriptions are in developing nations, with Africa, which has a 2% subscriber rate as recently as 2000, growing the fastest. (World Bank 2010.)” As I read the EduTech blog from, it is noted that cost plays as an important factor in structuring mobile computing systems in underdeveloped countries.

Disregarding the cost details, similar results from development of 21st Century Skills appear in students from underdeveloped countries too. For example, players from over 130 countries play an online game called Evoke. Here they “form their own innovation networks: brainstorming creative solutions to real-world development challenges, learning more about what it takes to be a successful social innovator, and finding ways to make a difference in the world (Hawkins 2010.)” The use of mobile computing devices will benefit students from all backgrounds. The question is will the poorer people of the world be given such tools in order to maintain similar learning levels, and perhaps will we truly collaborate so that solutions emerge.

Current References:

World Bank. (2010). The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries. Retrieved from website at,,contentMDK:22267518~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:282386,00.html

Hawkins, R. (2010). EVOKE -- When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. EduTech:
A World Bank Blog on ICT use in Education. Retrieved from

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Geo-caching in the Spanish classroom


After sharing and learning from a UF Ed Tech program colleague and friend, I have witnessed through discussions, videos, blog and a wiki how successful an experience can be using GPS in the classroom, with students as young as 2nd graders. Anna Baralt uses geo-caching with various levels of students to utilize cross-curricular learning in integration of reading, writing, math, science, social studies and geography. Geo-caching enables students to develop the 21st Century Learning skills of inquiry and problem-solving. Specifically “students take ownership for their learning; use real world data to encourage high order thinking skills; collaborate and cooperate when working with a team; increase their understanding of mapping systems, as well as the principles of direction, distance, and location; construct their own knowledge and share it with others; and make decisions. (Baralt 2009.)”

Many classroom ideas are described on Anna’s related blog and wiki, which makes it very helpful for educators like me looking for lesson plans. The particular project called Geocaching – Integrating Math & Social Studies revolved around “money” and piqued my interest. The directives included that an educator “scan or find photos of currency from around the world and then place the currency in caches. Once students find the caches, they return to the classroom to identify the currencies and find the exchange rate for each currency in US dollars using an online currency converter (Baralt 2009.)”

Even though Anna was able to acquire 10 GPS receivers through grant funding, I aim to rent or borrow similar GPS receivers for a similar proposed project of my own. [Another option is Groundspeak's Geocaching Application which is best supported by the iPhone 3G or 3GS, but is also compatible with the iPod Touch and 1st generation iPhones (wi-fi dependent) and an upcoming version for the Android in Spring 2010.] I intend to use authentic currency I have collected during my travels to Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru to use in caches I would hide around our school campus. I would have the student groups (of 2-4 persons) take digital photos of the currency (as to not remove the caches); go to the computer lab to aid in identifying the currency; find the exchange rate for that currency in US dollars; add up the currency to find out which group had the most valuable amount; graph their findings on a graph on the class community wiki; and finally write about the significance of the images on each currency in how it relates to that country’s culture and history. All information compiled will be written entirely in Spanish and shared on the class wiki.

Ultimately, this project will result in the students strengthening their language production skills. Performing an activity beyond the traditional classroom walls and different than plain lecture or worksheets can play an important role in influencing student achievement. By providing students with atypical and enriching learning activities such as this, students should develop collaboration and higher-order thinking skills, a significant benefit for today’s learner. In my experience, the teenagers benefit from learning a foreign language especially when it is meaningful, authentic, and integrated in other curriculum.

With regards to students in disadvantaged environments, if the educator were able to obtain the technology tools (perhaps with grant funding or simply borrowing the tools), the students would greatly benefit from the “exciting, empowering, exploratory environments that focus on student engagement in the learning process (Christie 2007.)” These students would apply problem-solving strategies in their learning, collaborating, and communication with geo-caching. Students who typically may be subjected to passive learning in their classrooms would have the chance to participate in “active, exploratory and inquiry-based learning (ISTE).” If applied, continuous educational gains would surely be achieved by these students.

Current references:

Baralt, A. (2009). Using GPS blog. Retrieved from website at

Christie, A. (2007). Using GPS and Geocaching Engages, Empowers, and Enlightens Middle School Teachers and Students. Retrieved from website at

ISTE. (n.d.). National Education Technology Standards. Retrieved from website at

el 16 de abril de 2.010
BI: Español B – Nivel Estándar, Segundo Año

Jackie y Agnes son las primeras en encontrar los tesoros.

Jessica busca la caja-cache debajo del banco.

Finalmente Marina encontró la caja-cache detrás de la Máquina de Refrescos.

En la biblioteca, Agnes quiere conocer la tasa de cambio de las diferentes monedas del mundo.

¿Cuánto dinero conseguiste, JR? Si él tuviera un millón de dólares, compraría un coche-Lotus.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Potential of Games & Virtual Worlds

One thinks back to (maybe) ten years ago, sitting in an enclosed box-like video game, plastic gun in hand. Stereo speakers are at ear-level, and the visual imagery is amazing on the screen 12 inches from your nose. Placed in the arcade, watching that dinosaur chase you as you ride away in the Jeep while you excitedly rack up more points – how can a person not think that experience is thrilling?

Now, do all human beings enjoy playing digital games? I believe the answer is no. However, I believe most people have a competitive spirit somewhere inside them. That sense of competition may spark someone who normally shies away from digital games to go ahead and try them.

Speaking of technology-haters, there’s my dad. He is a 67-year-old man who refuses to buy a computer, to have an email account, or even to use an ATM card/machine. However, my seven-year-old son and he have spent many afternoons playing baseball on Wii. You see, my dad is very competitive and loves his sports. Consequently, he will gladly play a game of baseball, bowling or even jousting if it means he can beat Luciano at a game! And, he does learn a thing or two along the way.

Now, if you can entice a person to participate competitively in a virtual world/game, you may enrich his/her learning experience. The modeling found in a simulation/virtual environment is very important and may contribute to learning and development of 21st Century Learning Skills. “Because while people learn from their interpreted experiences…models and modeling allow specific aspects of experience to be interrogated and used for problem solving in ways that lead from concreteness to abstraction…it grows as well from comparing and contrasting multiple experiences. But modeling is an important way to interrogate and generalize from experience (Gee 2008.)”

Because of the “emotion” aspect, I believe that games and MUVEs benefit some students more than others. “Emotion appears to be a key source of motivation for driving thinking, learning, and problem solving. Video games, as a form of entertainment, are good at attaching emotion to problem solving, just as films are good at attaching emotion to stories (Gee 2008.)” As stated in the course recommended podcasts and various research articles, there are various academic uses for games and virtual environments. Benefits are reaped by educators transferring skills, and by the “gamers” who are “edutained” in these formats. Persons who take on personas through avatars in fantasy worlds, such as World of Warcraft, are given the opportunity to “act out” in different ways than they might normally in the real world. Prominent companies and even the United States military employ virtual simulations as part of their training exercises to transfer real-life skills to employees. Gaming as a form of entertainment and learning greatly benefits the learners, especially those who expect to be entertained or who simply are “digital natives (Prensky 2001.)”

A substantial benefit of gaming and virtual worlds in educational settings is its conformity with the “digital-native’s” mind. In today’s world, students are consumers and producers. They live in a different culture than what existed 20 years ago. We teachers are products of a different culture than our students, but we must still prepare them for the future, especially in ways that are different from the ones our predecessors used. Our old methods will not be effective, and it is our job to teach the youth and develop in them the skills needed to produce the desired outcome – success in their future academic and professional careers. We need to teach them essential skills, such as good judgment, internet navigation, creative “play,” collective intelligence, etc. These skills will enable our students to make meaningful connections with people all over the world, in whichever context on the internet, but perhaps more successfully through MUVEs. Recalling a quote by Marc Prensky from his article “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” he states that “students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” Therefore, if teachers accept the fact that students’ thinking patterns have changed, it is in their best interest to help them learn in the Digital-Native style. An instructor who has the initiative to create learning activities using a MUVE enables students to manage information efficiently. Teachers expect students to absorb, analyze and create (information); why not teach them using a Digital-Native style? And how better to analyze, collaborate and create than in an “authentic” situation in gaming? Again, gaming and virtual worlds in education may prove advantageous.

Current References:

Gee, J. P. (2008). Learning and Games. The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 21–40. doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.021

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. MCB UP Ltd Bradford, West Yorksire: England.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Evaluate the credibility of information available online!

As an educator, I take my students to the computer lab to do research. As a graduate student, I frequently search for information to evidence my opinions and findings on assignments. The World Wide Web has become an integral part of finding up-to-date information, but one must also step back and evaluate the credibility of that information.

Educators are responsible for training students to become digitally-literate. Tasks include fine-tuning students’ skills to maximize their Internet research, how to evaluate sites, and how to keep themselves safe. By effectively helping them to find, sort and evaluate information from the internet, we empower students to develop critical thinking skills and thus be responsible for establishing the credibility of sources. “As the first generation to grow up with interactive digital media, millennials are comfortable with collaborating and sharing information, and do so ‘in ways that allow them to act quickly and without top-down direction.’ This, of course, has profound implications for credibility construction and assessment (Flanagin & & Metzger 2008.)”

First things first, teachers themselves need to learn new research skills. Aims should include:
– Being able to differentiate between the different types of sources.
– Being willing to look “further” for sources (strategies.)
– Being able to translate that into student expectations.
Teachers ought to teach students how to be strategic, not random, in their internet searches. From there, after they retrieve quality information, students will be able to synthesize the information, which leads to power and success.

First, educators should discriminate between quality and popularity of a website. “In fact, most search engines, including Google, determine the “quality” and “relevance” of sites using a “link-popularity” metric. This metric selects which Web sites to display and the order in which to display them on the search results page based on how many other sites link to a site. Consequently, more popular pages are selected and are displayed higher in the search results. Because few people go beyond the first few pages of the search output, however, ‘even if a page is of high quality, the page may be completely ignored by Web users simply because its current popularity is very low.’ This kind of a system sets up a sort of “popularity equals credibility” heuristic that could be dangerous or at least disadvantageous to students’ learning (Lankes 2008).

Educators can extend their resources by collaborating with school Media Specialists who can assist the teacher to provide direction for student research projects. For example, media specialists can create links on the school website to enable students to connect to academic-use-subscription- databases. Databases are fantastic resources for academic assignments, and act much like electronic textbooks.

To ensure success, teachers also need to plan projects effectively in advance and in an organized manner, as to easily outline expectations for the students. Require students to have a “balance of sources” when it comes to research in order to differentiate the knowledge base.

Now, let’s get “real!”
REAL is a four-step process by which educators can teach students to help them validate web materials. Teachers should train students to mentally ask themselves these questions in an effort to figure out authenticity of Web sites.

R Read the URL
E Examine the Content
A Ask about the Author & Owner
L Look at the links

1. R: Read the URL – gives a quick view of how Web pages are organized within that site. Look at the domain name and the extensions.
2. E: Examine the Content – Does the site offer useful information? Is the site current, and do the links work? Does the information contradict information you found elsewhere?
3. A: Ask about the Author & Owner – Are the author’s name, address, biography, and credentials listed? Do a separate search on the author and see what comes up.
4. L: Look at the links – Evaluate bias or quality of information by checking forward links and back links. Forward links should take you to universities, museums, or government research sites. If the domain names don’t change, the pattern might suggest bias (November 2008).

On a side note, it is sometimes difficult to sort through internet applications because one does not understand the background vocabulary. Here is my official Cheat-Sheet as assistance:

blogs – an interactive Web page where persons can post anything, and ask others to join conversations (Ex.: )
directory – searchable indexes where people compile collections of resources (Ex.: Yahoo!)
domain – the name of a website, that is comprised of two to three components (Ex.:
extension – part of a web address that indicates what type of establishment owns the domain (Ex.: .org)
home page – the index of a website that usually links to further information
Internet – network of many different computers from all over the world connected to each other
IP addresses – (Internet protocol addresses) that are written in numeric form (Ex.: 727.36.100.10)
link – a connection that navigates a user to a related source of information (forward links, back links)
podcasts – audio or video files that can be downloaded into a mobile music player
Search engine – programs that collect information about World Wide Web content; results are sent back as pages of links. (ex.: Google Web Search)
URL – Uniform Resource Locator, also known as a web address (Ex.:
Web browser – a computer program that lets you browse the Internet for information (Ex.: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari)

Resources available:

AltaVista is a search engine that comes highly recommended. (Web Literacy for Educators. Alan November. 2008.) Teachers can tailor effective searches with the host: command and the url: command within AltaVista. Strategic commands in search boxes can yield positive results for students. For example, sites with a .edu or .gov extension are highly reliable, because the sites can only be maintained by educational institutions or government organizations.

1. Click on
2. In the search window, type host:gov + _________
In the blank, type in some key words (example: host:gov + Mexico + liberation + Spain)
3. Try adding titles of specific people, authors, etc. to retrieve the information you were seeking.

Within AltaVista, you can search trusted educational sites, and again add key words and phrases to receive quality results. Some examples are DiscoverySchool (; National Geographic (; and the U.S. National Archives ( )

1. In AltaVista, type host: plus the domain name of the educational site.
2. You can add to the above with more key words. (example: + Costa Rica + monkey + howler)

Another option for effective searching within a large site is to create a “virtual index” which is a quick list of Web pages with the same root domain. By refining your index, you can organize it to suit your needs.

1. In the AltaVista search box, type host: plus the domain name of the educational site.
2. Use the plus sign to add key words, leaving “spaces” on both sides.
3. You can add to the above by putting key words and phrases in quotation marks. (example: + Costa Rica + monkey + howler + “diet”)

AltaVista is not the only search engine that we recommend. You can also try ; ; ; and among others.

New to me!

In my research to develop a plan to evaluate credibility, I learned many new things that I would like to share. Did you know that…

• search engines only search within their own databases?
• there are better academic search engines than Google?
• people can bid on keyword search terms?
• Google produces different search results in different countries?
• REAL is an acronym to make the task of validation easier for teachers and students alike?
• there are clues to look for after the backslashes in a URL to determine if a Web page might be a personal page, such as the % and ~ symbols?
• checking for author and ownership of a Website is a good way to validate authenticity?
• one can use the “Wayback Machine” to validate internet information?
• evaluating links (forward links and backward links) can help with validation of quality information, because it provides relevant cross-referencing information?
• there is (good) reasoning behind searching smart by using extensions and host: commands?
• when teachers create a virtual index, students can pinpoint particular pages and resources?

If you have any other great resources to share, please comment and let me know. Happy smart-searching!

Representing Myself Online

By the nature of online mediums, one must define oneself. Unlike face-to-face encounters where one interacts through oral communication, a person in an online network shapes his/her identity by what and how he/she writes. For example, on social networks, through reflection on topics of interest, communication of personal anecdotes, or even uploading of particular pictures, one portrays personality and preferences.

I personally belong to various social networks on Ning, but I have never started a page on Facebook or MySpace. My online identity has been limited to my professional development, whether interacting with like-minded colleagues on the World Wide Web, with colleagues in my graduate study courses, or with my students on private classroom Spanish-only educational sites. I do plan to venture into some new virtual gaming worlds this semester, but again plan on the experience being for professional purposes only. Having been a private and Catholic school educator for 14 years, I am wary about exposing myself online when it comes to a social nature. This probably has benefited me, as I take care to remain private, conscientious and guarded when it comes to my involvement online. However, I do experiment with a variety of Web 2.0 tools, and have reached the conclusion that with proper and planned use, individuals can utilize the internet to benefit their academic learning.


Flanagin, A. & Metzger, M. (2008). Digital Media and Youth: Unparalleled Opportunity and Unprecedented Responsibility. Digital Media, Youth, and Credibility. Edited by Metzger and Flanagin. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 5–28.

Lankes, R. D. (2008). Trusting the Internet: New Approaches to Credibility Tools. DigitalMedia, Youth, and Credibility. Edited by Metzger and Flanagin. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

November, A. (2008). Web Literacy for Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I Define Myself...March 14, 2010


How do we define who we are, and shape or reaffirm our identity using social networks?

When I first joined the Language Teacher Summer Institute’s Ning social network in 2008, I discovered what it meant to be an online participant, especially one who had never previously met the other members in person. I was asked to join this network prior to engaging in a face-to-face course, and was “forced” to reply to a couple of profile questions. These questions acted as an “ice-breaker” activity for the participants, and really did help to prompt conversations and discussions, even if just about commonalities in residence areas or types of schools where we taught.

By the nature of online social networks, one must define oneself. Unlike face-to-face encounters where one interacts through oral communication, a person in an online network shapes his/her identity by what and how he/she writes. Through reflection on topics of interest, communication of personal anecdotes, or even uploading of particular pictures, one portrays personality and preferences.

Much like my iGoogle Personal Learning Network, I belong to a variety of Ning social networks, each reflecting a different facet of my professional online self:

• I am a high school International Baccalaureate Programme Spanish teacher and I have established a Ning network for each of my classes over the last three years. My students, fellow language teachers and I communicate and expand our thoughts in a secure online environment, completely in Spanish. On Ning, I set up projects where students blog weekly, (for example, about their college admission process,) as well as discuss and comment on pre-selected questions related to themes covered in class. Students have even added pictures, videos, and audio recordings, all in the target language. I monitor the sites frequently because I add my own journal entries (to give them an authentic reading experience) and write and comment on their entries (expecting responses from them, thus giving them writing experience.) In this manner, students formulate and defend opinions by making judgments about information, and also validate other classmates’ work by writing comments. This method of teaching has greatly assisted my IB students by giving them beneficial opportunities to practice for the reading comprehension and essay writing portions of their external IB Exam.

• I am a classroom teacher connected to the world. I have recently joined some Ning networks that promote educator collaboration through its inherent professional learning community. This “emphasis on learning as a social practice” has effected “active learning and foster(s) meaningful change (Burke 2009.)” It seems that every time I wander around one of the networks, I find a useful tip, an interesting perspective, or a link to a valuable article.

• I am a collaborative associate. As I freely share my technology experiences, knowledge and views with others, I have established a new Ning network in order to foster more relationships to effect change in area Diocesan high schools. I seek to partner with others to share educational best practices and to find new and better ways to conduct classes. My personal aim is to aid students develop into leaders for the 21st Century. Teaming up with like-minded individuals will cultivate a culture of educational improvement. Encouraging others to teach and learn in professional circles is my goal.

Current references:
Burke, J. (2009). English companion: Where English teachers meet to help each other. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53.1, 87(3).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is the glass half empty or half full? Perceptions...March 7, 2010

How do we perceive ourselves (and others) in the real and digital worlds in which we live?

Perception is a funny thing. “Is the glass half empty or half full?” –it makes you realize that two different people can have two different views of the same exact thing. The way I perceive myself in the digital world is as a collaborator, creator, learner and teacher. This is also how I perceive my colleagues in the UF Educational Technology program. Trying to explain this percept to others outside however can prove difficult, especially if the precept has no grounding in their personal experiences. They simply do not understand.

In “real-life,” I am a (private) high school Spanish teacher in Clearwater, FL. My online identity very much involves my professional life, as it is the primary reason I explore the net. I have established social networks and wikis for all the classes I teach, and my students and I utilize them almost daily, all in Spanish! I attempt to create an environment for them where they can use Spanish in authentic and meaningful ways. I say authentic because I believe that communication with another person, no matter if within a virtual world, is indeed authentic communication.

My digital world experiences have impacted my real world practices lately. I have always been a “teacher” and a person who takes much pleasure in assisting others; I lend a hand to many people from a variety of places and educational settings with my newly acquired Educational Technology wisdom, and my creative ideas. Through a school-wide Technology Consortium that I facilitate online and face-to-face, or through mini-workshops I hold for colleagues and other professionals, I truly collaborate. It may be with colleagues, friends, classmates, my students, or other teachers (or basically anyone who wants to brainstorm with me) but I communicate and likewise learn from others. I consider myself a life-long learner, and currently enjoy all aspects of study as a digital being, an Online-Gator!

In the online world, I have forced my students to interact within the Ning social network in our Spanish online world. Recognizing that U.S. youth “participate in media ecologies …specific to contextual conditions,” as a teacher I attempt to tap into that interest and simulate a similar educational environment (Ito…Tripp 2009). As my students learn outside of school and participate in real-world activities and also in digital spaces, I attempt to similarly focus their energies on class thematic content within digital contexts. By asking them to post a blog entry or react/comment in a discussion forum, they actively participate, IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE! In the same way, “in line with our sociocultural perspective on learning and literacy, we see young people’s learning and participation with new media as situationally contingent, located in specific and varied media ecologies (Ito…Tripp 2009).” By creating situations in an educational virtual world, I oblige the students to experience Spanish language and thus construct their own authentic experiences, no matter if only in a digital setting.

“Media literacy involves not only ways of understanding, interpreting, and critiquing media, but also the means for creative and social expression, online search and navigation, and a host of new technical skills. The potential gap in literacies and participation skills creates new challenges for educators who struggle to bridge media engagement inside and outside the classroom (Ito…Tripp 2009)." So far, this educator has not found it to be overly difficult, maybe due to the private school setting in which I teach. My students are in high school, all with internet access and experience with various websites. Sometimes I have to teach them about a new Web 2.0 tool, but usually their learning curve is high and students adapt to the next Web 2.0 tool quite easily.

Authentic teen experiences include all the “hanging out” time, whether it be online on Facebook, or perhaps by texting on a cell phone; or in the same-space with a friend at the movies or at a party. No matter what, their time together is communication time. I wish that my students would keep “tabs” on each other within our classroom Spanish-language Ning network, but expectedly, they use the Ning as communication only for educational purposes. When they want to speak to each other, they operate on Facebook, IM chat or text (SMS) each other. As much as I desire them to interact on our class social network, I understand that they too have a different “online identity” and distinctive “school identity” where the two sets of actions and activities are singular of themselves. On a happy and successful note, they have reported to me on occasion that they have held a complete chat conversation in Spanish with their classmates!

I plan to further explore my identity in the real world and in the digital world, as well as that of my own students. The EME 5404 course should prove to be eye-opening in my self-examinations and later world views, and I look forward to experiencing the diverse perceptions and perspectives of the next seven weeks.


Ito, M., Sonja B., Matteo B., Boyd, D. Cody, R., Herr, B., Horst, H.A., Lange, P.G., Mahendran, D., Martinez, K., Pascoe, C.J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., & Tripp, L.(2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press
Photo taken with cc permission from Flickr: