Practicing New Literacies through Website Creation


For a high school summer program I taught, I wanted my students’ work to extend beyond the classroom walls and have potential to reach a meaningful audience. I wanted them to engage in a project that they believed held purpose.

*Aligned with the Connected Learning approach


By allowing my students to create websites on topics of their choice, they became invested in learning and practicing new literacies skills I wanted to address.
*Guided by the Online Reading Comprehension Assessments (ORCA) skills: locate, evaluate, synthesize, communicate


Throughout the course students:

  • Explored the purpose of websites
  • Designed and created sites using Wix or WordPress
  • Learned how to effectively search for information online
  • Grappled with how to apply fair use
  • Practiced determining the credibility of sources
  • Synthesized information from different websites
  • Shared their sites at a final event (some continued to use their sites for work or school)

Student Website Examples:


  • Teaching and ensuring the protection of private information
  • Explaining and enforcing fair use
  • Technological setbacks (internet fails, forgetting to save work, passwords, etc.)
  • Attending to individual students working on different projects and requiring different needs

Further Questions:

1) Do you have ideas about ways you could incorporate website creation into your curriculum?

2) What hesitations do you have about giving a website creation project?

3) Are there components of the project I shared that you could incorporate into your instruction?


The Aspen Task Force’s Key Principles for Learning and the Internet

Alternatives Website Creation Sites:

  • Edublogs – only supports educational content so it usually isn’t blocked by school filters, there is an option to keep blogs private, ads are allowed on free version of site
  • Kidblog – doesn’t advertise to kids, doesn’t ask for their emails and gives teachers full moderation power, but design features are limited
  • Weebly – has an education version that allows teachers to manage student accounts

The Media Education Lab offers many resources for teaching copyright and fair use to students. I used their “What’s Copyright?” and “User’s Rights” music videos in my class.

Project Look Sharp provides media literacy curriculum kits that include lessons that critically evaluate websites pertaining to specific content areas

Our Class Website Project Rubric:
Portfolio materials:
_ [2] Goals for 2013
_ [2] Topics of Interest
_ [2] Research Agenda
_ [2] Website Template (blank paper folded in four)
_ [2] Website Purpose
_ [2] Website Schedule
_ [4] Research Process
_ [2] Research Summary
_ [2] Reflection
Portfolio total: out of 20
Your website must have:
_ [4] At least four pages
_ [4] A title on each page
_ [2] A working navigation
_ [5] Text informed by research on one page
_ [5] One piece of media created by you (photo, movie, song, etc.)
_ [4] Attributions (cite where you got photos and information from)
_ [2] A clear purpose
_ [4] Consistency with your portfolio planning materials
Website total: _ out of 30
Project total: _ out of 50

Individual Worksheets Used in Class:
Website Purpose
1. What is the specific purpose of your website?
2. How is the purpose of your website unique and different from other websites that already exist?
3. How do photos or videos support the purpose of your website?
4. Give one example of how you can add value/repurpose a photo on your website you found online
Website Schedule
In order to complete your website by the end of this course you need to set deadlines for yourself. Use this worksheet to plan what you plan to accomplish by the end of each class day. Make your goals realistic and stick to your plan!

  • I have already finished…

Wednesday, July 24 (35 minutes of in class time)

  • By the end of class I will be done with…
  • On my free time I am going to work on…

Friday, July 26 (40 minutes of in class time)

  • By the end of class I will be done with…
  • On my free time I am going to work on…

Monday, July 26 (One hour of in class time)

  • By the end of class I will be done with…
  • On my free time I am going to work on…

Wednesday, July 28 – Present website to the class

  • I am nervous about completing…

Research Process
1. How will research be important to your website?
2. What information are you looking for? What is your main research question?
3. What search engine are you going to use?
4. What search words will you use?
Research Summary
What is your research question?

  • Source 1
    • Search words used:
    • What is the URL of the website?
    • Copy and paste information from the site that is useful for you:
    • Now summarize the above text in your own words below:
  • Source 2
    • Search words used:
    • What is the URL of the website?
    • Copy and paste information from the site that is useful for you:
    • Now summarize the above text in your own words below:


  • Combine your two summaries above to create a paragraph for your website. Once this is written all you will need to do is copy and paste it on your site.
  • Make sure to cite your sources when posting on your website!

Building Robust Video Discussions with Vialogues

Are you looking for ways to move beyond paper-based homework assignments?

Do you want a new way to draw upon videos for educational purposes?

Vialogues is an online platform that allows users to engage in time-stamped discussions that revolve around a posted video.

*This tool may be best suited for educators working with adolescent and adult students since a login is required by all participants.

How can you access Vialogues?

  1. Go to: – Look around, explore the site, see what it has to offer! In order to participate you need to have an account and be signed in.
  2. Create an EdLab account – Provide your name, username, email and password then agree to the terms of service. Specific instructions on how to create an account can be found here:
  3. Once your account has been verified, log in to using the email and password you provided.

What can Vialogues be used for?


Create –

Invite –

Interact –

Embed –


  • NAMLE Key Questions for analyzing media messages
  • Be aware of email notifications associated with account!

2013 Reflection


2013 was quite the whirlwind of a year for me. I want to take a moment and recognize the great moments, memories and

accomplishments it contained. By doing so I more fully appreciate who I am and what I am capable of doing while also gaining the courage and motivation to reach new heights in 2014.

In 2013, I …

All of these highlights of 2013 would not be complete without my friends, family, advisors and colleagues. I’m looking forward what is yet to come in 2014!

Photo thanks to

Digital Storytelling & Animoto

I believe incorporating digital storytelling in the classsroom is important for several reasons. From my experience working with disabled and underpriviledged populations I have discovered the importane of student motivation. I have found that using digital resources initially spurs student interest which is alway key before moving forward with a lesson. Once the students are engaged, the media combined with the storytelling component really enhances student creativity. The multimodality of the combination allows students to learn and express themselves in various ways from written word to images to video.

I have incorporated digital storytelling in the classroom on a few different occasions. I taught one digital storytelling lesson as part of a summer academy for ninth grade foster students in RI. I used the Ormie the Pig video to teach story elements such as character, objective, conflict, climax, etc. The students then identified such elements in the music video Call Me Maybe. Next, we had a discussion about how the video added another layer to the song with a story that was not told in just the lyrics. To conclude the lesson, the students chose songs and wrote stories that aligned with their perception of the lyrics. They then filmed their stories and edited them with their chosen songs to create their own music videos. The finished products were rather impressive and the class screening went very well.

I  presented at the NAMLE conference this summer on how Animoto can be used in the classroom. Students can use it for book reports, current events presentations, science projects, or introductions as I have demonstrated for a course I’m in right now. Teachers can also use the resource to introduce a new topic, inform parents about classroom activities or make an end of the year video.

Country Roots in a Computer World

Carr starts the second section of The Shallows writing about the survival of the book and reiterating his comparison of online text to print text. He writes, “It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards” (p. 116). When I began to read the chapter, I was uneasy about his strong bias towards the book, but with this statement he looped me in to his argument with the reward component. The varying literacy styles can be debated, but the rewards offered by the web extend beyond this.

Carr eloquently juxtaposes the benefits and dangers of the online interface in two sentences. “The Net’s interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment” (p. 117). I know I can relate to this with my use of Facebook where I quickly glace to see how many people like my picture or comment on my post. From such a metaphor, he again goes back to his repeating thesis that the internet has an impact on our brains by saying, “The Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli- repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive- that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions” (p. 116). I must admit when he again went into the implications on the mind in great detail I began seeking bits of intellectual snacks rather than digesting it all because my appetite for the subject was weaning.

I really appreciated how thoroughly Carr investigated Google. Since it plays such a prominent role in Internet use today, I believe it is pertinent to know about it’s history, research tactics, and business approaches and strategies. Thinking of media literacy which involves both the analyses and creation of media messages the Internet is fascinating to me because it of course, it much more multifaceted and complex than other media we have encountered before. To produce an online media product is it enough to make a Tumblr or WordPress account or should production only be validated in the creation of websites through code? Will only then people fully understand the workings of the web? Is code the curtain between consumers and creators? Or are all the platforms offered to create without code better options since they are what made web 2.0 and allow those, who otherwise would be limited, to contribute their ideas?

I have taught two courses where I had students create websites using WordPress or Wix merely for practical purposes. They still learned many valuable skills and improved their knowledge on the basic ideas behind the layout and design of websites, but it is definitely something I’d like to explore more. In the process of making publishable sites, they needed to obtain information to share, which is where the use of the web tied in.

“What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: we are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest,” Carr writes (p. 138). This is perhaps my favorite quote out of the whole book because it depicts such a visual understanding for me. Growing up in the country with a keen sense of what each word in his statement meant aligned with the historical significance of its reference, I mentally clung to this quote as I read the rest of the book. Going back to my web courses I taught, I most definitely observed the students rapidly clicking through the search engines and scanning through the sites, only pausing briefly to gather a few berries of information without much thought. As an educator, I feel it is my role to teach them how to become hunters in the ‘electronic data forest.’ In contrast to a gatherer, a hunter has focus, patience, and selectivity.

Staying on the same country note, Carr goes into studies comparing the mental capacities of individuals in urban settings compared to those in rural settings. While it is not a reasonable solution to have everyone move to the country and escape the technology and noise of city living, it is reasonable that people take Carr’s advice and pause every now and then. “Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion,” Carr writes (p. 168). This should not be how it is and I am fortunate that my parents emphasized such a point in my upbringing.

As a result of my roots, I found it is necessary for me to spend time outside everyday unattached to any technology (yes, I even put my phone away). While this may still be extreme for some, I observed my colleagues over the past year who were actually less involved with technology than I was but were using it more often in long time spans and they seemed to be much more hurried, distracted, overwhelmed and anti-social to some degree.

Knowing my family was an important part of how I am aware of technology, I found Carr’s touch on culture intriguing. He was specifically writing about how people use technology to store information, which includes memories. “The offloading of memory to external data banks doesn’t just threaten the depth and distinctiveness of the self. It threatens the depth and distinctiveness of the culture we all share,” he writes (p. 196). I do not think he went into enough detail on the culture component in the text for me to fully align with his statement “outsource memory, and culture withers” (p. 197). It seems in this section as if life doesn’t exist outside of the computer. Culture is alive amongst events and personal interactions and the media itself so I do not think it will ever come down to it just being written electronically.

Towards the end of the book Carr more directly relates to McLuhan once again. He makes the very ‘McLuhan-ey’ statement, “Even as our technologies become extensions of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies”  (p. 209). This reiterates a strong point he is making in the book about the psychological, cognitive and societal influence of the Internet on humans. As I am learning more about the media literacy field I am interested in I am finding out how much McLuhan and his famous statement “the medium is the message” plays into theoretical framework informing scholars today.

Now that I am done going through specific sections of the book, I’d like to end on the question: what was left out? More importantly, what are some significant points I believe he left out? I think he should have played up the significance of the ‘copy-and-paste’ function that computers allow us to do. It would have been interesting to read the implications when applied to the Internet where others work is published. In association with this, I was also wondering where copyright and fair use were in the book. What I address was touched upon in the Google book scanning part, but not in a deep level and broadened to larger applications. At large, the sharing of information was not addressed as much as the processing of information in the text. How does the sharing of information via technology and the Internet fit into the many points Carr made? What are the most crucial arguments and facts in this book that are important to pass on to other teachers and scholars in the field? How can Carr’s demonstration of integrating history into his cautions for the future be applied elsewhere in this field (digital media education)? Lastly, the big question… what is to come next?

Deconstructing the Chaos

Chaos is my word of the day. Actually, I believe it deserves more than that. Chaos is my word of the month.

I am at a point of transition in my life so naturally, there is chaos. I am leaving Rhode Island in a few short weeks and even though I have been trying to push this fact aside, I feel the uncertainty weighing down on me with the humid air of these summer days. I am moving back to my home state of New York where I will be attending the University at Buffalo for a masters in education. I am excited to start a new chapter in my life, but the unknown is always a little daunting. Sometimes I prefer to address what awaits me in New York as Ted and Marshall in How I Met Your Mother do by saying “that’s future Kelsey’s problem.” And with this attitude in mind, I have decided to focus as much of my attention as I can on the present.

Narrowing the present down to a class I taught today, I will continue to weave my thoughts together with the themed thread of chaos. Today was the first day of of my media education class for the URI Ram First Star Academy. This academy is designed to help foster students in the state of Rhode Island prepare for college by attending classes on campus for the month of July. I am co-teaching the class with an education student from URI who has been lovely to work with so far.

Our class started at 1:30, but we met at noon in the curriculum materials library on campus where we would be teaching to ensure everything was planned and prepared as needed. We went over our lesson plan and chose who would be leading each activity. Then, we got the Smartboard out and made sure it was working properly. It took three librarians and two instructors to figure out how to get a tool bar to display and how to write on the board smoothly. We pulled up all the web pages ahead of time and practiced doing the activities we wanted to do with the students. All the finicking before class panned out. When we used the Smartboard everything went smoothly and we did not have any technical errors, which is a rare thing!

This is my second year teaching these students so I had some sense of what to expect. As soon as the students stepped in the door there was a sense of commotion. To start with, I showed them a brief Animoto video of photos they had posted on the secure Facebook group we have as a year in the review opener. After the viewing each student said one accomplishment they had this year. Some took it more seriously than others, and those who did were applauded by the class.

Next, I went over what we would be doing in class this year, which is creating websites and learning to do research (online & offline) and there was actually more of a positive reaction than I expected. Some students asked if they could do videos, music or photos and I told them they could incorporate such things in their websites. I mentioned working in groups which raised some complaints, but this was expected since collaboration was one of their struggles last year.

For the next activity they wrote down three goals they wanted to achieve in First Star and the media class this year. All of the students completed the task, but I was discerned by one student who became rather frustrated about writing. She said she makes mistakes writing and does not like to. I want to address such a frustration carefully moving forward. By the end of the activity there was a negative vibe about the room and I was slightly fearful of having everyone hating the class on the first day.

Our next planned activity was to have them get in groups and write lists of class rules. Going off of the negative feedback from the last writing activity, I decided to shift gears quickly. Instead of writing a list, I instructed the groups to come up with a bad class behavior scenario they could act out and say how they could prevent it and resolve it. Each of the three groups went in front of the class and performed their skits. While the groups were presenting all the students were listening intently and the room was the quietest it had been since their arrival. The scenarios were well acted out and it was fascinating to see some of the students who test the teachers take on the teacher role. It was good to see that at the very least, the students know what unacceptable behavior is. While they were presenting my co-instructor wrote down their responses and we are going to pose the class rules next time. After they finished, I used the quiet moment to my advantage to point out to them how quiet it was. I spoke about there being a time to act and a time to listen and knowing the difference.

After that activity we took a ten minute break. When they returned I introduced the Media Education Lab ‘smartphone’ which is an update from the ‘remote control’ they used last sumer. I was happy when several of the students remembered the ‘remote control’ from last year and asked if we were going to watch a video when I brought it up showing that they also remembered our past activities. I pulled up a youth produced website from a student of mine in a different class and had students come up and read/review each page of the site. Then a student came up and answered each question on the back of the ‘smartphone’ by marking evidence for their response on a web page. We saved screenshots of their drawings as we went along.

To get them moving around again, we did a four corners activity where students were put into four groups and asked to defend a certain perspective given to them. The question was: how much access should teenagers have to the internet? The given perspectives were: open, limited, none and regulated. They had some difficulty grasping the idea, but did better when I let them take their own perspective on the issue.

We ended class with reflection on the day. I brought up sandwich feedback which was an important component of last years class and the students remembered the format which is positive, something to improve on, positive. Several students gave feedback and one student in particular gave a silly answer at first, but then asked to go ahead and I was really pleased with his second attempt. He said: “a positive is that we are all here together again, a negative is that we have some trust issues with each other, and another positive is that we are like family and we have to remember that we’re close.” I thought this was a real positive note for the day and ended class on that.

We got through everything in our lesson plan and finished a few minutes early! There was craziness, but it was also evident that there has been progress since last year and lots of hope for this year.