Learning from Teaching and Learning with the Internet (CI 5361 Blog 1)

For much of the 2020-2021 school year, teaching and learning with the internet was a necessity versus a pedagogical choice. The learning model (distance, hybrid, or in-person learning) our school was engaging in most heavily determined the technology tools and platforms I incorporated into my lesson plans. In hybrid environments, where learners were asynchronous and without on-demand teacher access, I created interactive lessons on Nearpod and EdPuzzle. When we moved to distance learning, I developed modules of readings and activities for the learners and I to discuss during our fifteen-minute Google Meets. And, when we finally found ourselves in packed classrooms five days a week, I experienced many learners expressing a desire to ditch their iPads all together. For the first time in a long time, I was getting more parent and student requests for paper copies of activities, for games with physical, hands-on components, and for discussions on which screens were away and chairs were circled. Faced with having to ‘drop’ one assessment area during trimester three due to lost time, I chose not to assess learners’ 7.3a competency criteria in which they make a creative multimodal, multimedia work. After all, trimester two was one big multimedia, multimodal experiment. I regret this decision for two reasons. First, as a Language Arts teacher, I see one of my primary roles is teaching learners how to be critical and conscious consumers, creators, curators, and disseminators of content on one of the most important communications platforms: the internet. Second, in echoing learners’ sentiments that “online learning sucks” through my actions, I missed an opportunity to show learners how beneficial technology can be when selected for learning process and objective without being constrained by learning model.

The Eager Teacher Embarks on a Higher-Order Mission

On the first day of this past school year, I asked learners to think about the last times they had read or written something. The majority of students said, “I can’t remember.” When I told them that I had read an Instagram post and caption this morning and had wrote a text to my mom, chatter filled the room. “Wait, that counts?”, D said. “Of course,” I replied, “and by reading the room and reading your expression—hand scratching head, teeth biting lip—I can tell that you are surprised.” We spent the rest of the class period complicating and defining reading (Can reading be listening? Can reading be looking?) and writing (Does all writing use words?). I wanted to challenge learners’ notions of what constituted reading or writing. I wanted learners to see themselves as authors, editors, commentators, and audience members. I believe much of the reason I see learners think strategically about the goal and audience of a Tik-Toc and not an academic essay is due to educational institutions drawing a binary between “formal” and “informal” communications and acting as though the skills learned in one format cannot transfer to another. Likewise, I believe the reason many my learners hand-waved the impact of a YouTube video that perpetuated misinformation but were  appalled to find an informational text in our library with outdated information (“What if some sixth grader picked this up and thought Pluto was a planet?”) is because our education system has placed boundaries between “informational” and “entertainment” content. I wanted to use the internet to deconstruct these language-rooted binaries this year. As a Language Arts teacher, my job is to guide learners in considering how language shapes their worldviews. But, as we moved into distance learning, I let the internet become the scary beast that boxed-in my lessons. I let many of my wants waste away when I didn’t have to do so.

The Faceless, Feet-Less Adversary

From the description of my lesson above, I think it is pretty clear that my teaching appeals to constructivist (“let’s challenge our individual notions of reading and writing”) (DeDe 2008), constructionist (“let’s build new definitions of these terms to make their meanings more broad”) (Olson & Maurath 2020), and social learning theories (“let’s share our definitions with each other and then revise them.”) (Olson & Maurath 2020), perhaps sometimes to a fault. These learning experiences, which require participation, immersion, production, and communication, exercise the high-order thinking skills of applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating (Olson & Maurath 2020). Sometimes, I feel so guilty designing tasks that simply ask students to remember and understand information: Isn’t this the same as treating learners minds like empty piggy banks, waiting for me to deposit information? I often forget that remembering and understanding outcomes are necessary: “learning at the higher levels [in Bloom’s taxonomy] is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels” (Shabatura, 2018, para. 3). I don’t think I fully felt the ways I sometimes underprepared students for higher-order thinking tasks when they were in the classroom. If a student couldn’t recall an academic term while creating a vocabulary board game, he could raise his hand and I would be across the room in a second. When a student wanted to verify she understood a text’s theme before writing a journal entry about how she saw the theme play out in her life, she could wave me over and look for my head nod and smile. Higher-order thinking tasks take time and energy: no one wants to spend valuable resources fixing a leak if they are not sure if they have the right tools or are even working on the right pipe.

When we moved to distance learning,  my on-demand presence was removed due to our mostly-asynchronous learning environment. Learners lost the external reinforcement (head nods, smiles, and verbal clarifications) that they needed to engage in higher-order thinking tasks because they had not mastered their remembering and understanding of the content (my fault, not theirs’). I immediately saw their work quality and the time that they spent on their work drop. It is no wonder why! I was asking all learners to make a collage of objects or words that connote the word “immigrant” when some of them were still working to understand the concept of connotation and recall the definition of immigrant.

Distraught that my once-participant classes seemed to be shrugging off their work, I reasoned that asynchronous learning necessitates some form of immediate feedback. Assignment completion rates ticked up as I designed multiple Kahoots!, Nearpod lessons, and EdPuzzles that served my students an instant “hit” of correct or incorrect. I am glad that I did this for some tasks: my students were motivated and comforted by the real-time feedback. I am horrified that I used these types of platforms for all tasks because I thought the feedback was always necessary in that environment. I wish I would have viewed online learning as a space for progression up Bloom’s hierarchy and not a constraint that necessitated that we stay at the lower levels. If learners had completed a vocabulary Kahoot! and checked their understanding of the assignment rubrics and directions with and EdPuzzle, I’m sure they would have felt safer spending their resources on their collages.

Figure 1. “Bloom’s taxonomy” by Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Sequel in which the Assumed-Dead Protagonist Reemerges, Stronger for all they Learned.

By April, my students had associated online learning with quizzes and isolation because that was the extent of possibilities I afforded them. No surprise, when they clamored back into the classroom, they were thirsty for connection and authentic learning experiences. They whined each time I asked them to open their iPads because they thought deep learning and internet learning were mutually exclusive. Instead, I should have selected technology to help them ease into the depths of authentic, internet-based learning that required participation, immersion, communication, and production. Learning is a process of increasing depth and selecting different tools to work through that process.

I had to recall my experience to understand it, and now I can apply this knowledge to my future pedagogy (haha…Bloom’s pun).


Dede, C. (2008). Theoretical perspectives influencing the use of information technology in teaching and learning.  In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (Eds.) International handbook of information technology in primary and secondary education (pp. 43-62). Berlin: Springer Science and Business Media.

Olson, M. & Maurath, K. (2020). Evaluating the Learning Experience . In T. Trust, Teaching with Digital Tools and Apps. EdTech Books. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/digitaltoolsapps/evaluatinglearningexperience