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Digital Literacy: Crafting Digital Media

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This article was written by current PBS Digital Innovator Heidi Weber and has been reposted from her blog, Learning Links: A Personal Learning Network Collection

Creating is the highest level of thinking on Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised). It involves combining parts to make a new whole and producing new or original work. One of my goals has always been to show my students how to not just be “consumers” of information, but “producers” as well. For this reason, I have tried each year to encourage them to “show what they have learned” in ways that they choose.

Last year I launched some new options for my 4th graders, focusing on using mostly Google tools. I gave students their learning goal, let them choose the resources (texts) they read and then they would analyze and evaluate their resource sharing their thinking with the tool of their choice. I got many slide decks, drawings, docs, and sheets to compare/contrast texts. The focus then became on the learning…not on the technology and yet students were learning so many tech skills through their creative products of learning.

This year I look to continue this but will add a few other tools to the list of choices: notably Educreations, audio recording/podcasting, and sketchnoting (both ‘analog’ and digital’). These are tools my students have explored in the past with specific projects, but now I look to open up accessibility. This is part of my plan for students to ‘level up’ and unlock more exciting classroom privileges.

The pinnacle of creation in the opinion of my 9-10 year olds however comes in the form of video production and website building/design. A few years ago I started experimenting with having students create videos when we did virtual field trips. Students worked in small groups to explore a virtual destination and then were invited to create a video sharing what they learned with others. There were some hysterical interpretations, including a Jeopardy match, an ‘interview’ broadcast, performing of a song (written to teach others about bioluminescence), and more.

Year two I learned how to use a green screen and we had a great time exploring it. We learned some valuable lessons however…like if your classroom is designed to be ‘green’ and you have lighting that casts green, people in your videos look ‘transparent’! I also started to upload to YouTube for better streaming when videos were shared. Videos were recorded on an iPad (I found a WONDERFUL iPad tripod stand that made it easy for students to record themselves) and thanks to Donors Choose, we had a MacBook for students to do their own editing on iMovie. Students had a great time sharing what they learned with videos. I learned so much about my kids as I watched them practice and record their videos. The process was more educational for them than the product!

As I headed into my 3rd year of gifted reading, I took advantage of Donors Choose to get puppets for even more creativity when making videos. As my 4th graders completed “must do” tasks, they started helping me ‘re-do’ some videos on figurative language. (I had some ‘flipped lessons’ that served the purpose but lacked interest and creativity). The puppets inspired some great scripts and nice videos for teaching others. (Check out these student creations: Oxymoron, Personification, Similes, and Onomatopoeia)

By the end of the year, we were pretty comfortable with our video creation capabilities and so our video products in our virtual field trips were the best yet.

One thing I had floating around in the back of my mind to explore is having students create digital portfolios with websites.  I knew the potential, but wasn’t so comfortable with the tools available. I use Weebly to build sites regularly and find it user friendly but couldn’t figure out a way for my students to really “own” their own (too much supervision required for 9-10 year olds; I am a HUGE believer in digital citizenship). Google sites at the time was hard (love the new updates…BTW). Still I had a few 4th graders who were eager and so I let them explore!

Now fast forward to a new year… as I consider all that I’ve learned with my students, I look forward to helping my students really create more of their own digital media. The emphasis will be on ‘showing what they learn’ and my role will be to provide support and facilitate their creative processes as they craft their own digital media for others to view!

Heidi Weber is a Gifted Intervention Specialist in Loveland, Ohio teaching reading to 3rd/4th graders. Check out her blog for teachers at She also writes a blog for students and families,

Heidi Weber

Heidi Weber Gifted Intervention Specialist Twitter: @mrsweberread

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