These are my notes from Richard Beach’s keynote, “Different Purposes for Using of Digital Tools to Teach Literacy in the College Classroom” at the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education “Reading Conference: 21st Century Learning Environments” on September 24, 2010. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Web links for Richard Beach:
– Richard on Twitter: @rbeach
– Richard’s professional wiki:
K12Online Conference Ning Profile page
– Richard’s 2009 K-12 Online Conference presentation: “Using VideoAnt Annotations to Provide “Audience-Based” Assessment to Students’ Video Productions
– Richard is a co-author of the book, “Teaching Writing Using Blogs, Wikis, and other Digital Tools” and the book, “ A Web-linked Guide to Resources and Activities

Today’s resources are available on
Richard’s Google Doc for today

Today’s backchannel on Today’s Meet (Transcript is available)

Research shows most 8th grade teachers are still doing traditional writing activities, NOT with computers, because testing regimes reinforce traditional print literacy curriculum

Jeff Uteckt: Literacy Curriculum Models
– Today’s model of literacy development: Print literacy, digital literacy, networked literacy


iPad is going to have a HUGE impact
– tools -> purposes -> reading / writing / communicating

You’re going to see a ton of apps for younger kids especially

Web 2.0 tools: Affordances
1- Interactivity: both read and write
– students as consumers and producers

2- multimodality
– combine images, video, music and text

3- hyperlinked
– connected texts

Our four purposes today:
1- how do you get information: acquiring / subscribing to / sharing information
2- collaborative construction of knowledge
3- formulating arguments using online role play / games
4- using audio feedback

Purpose 1: acquiring / subscribing to / sharing information
– key tool is social bookmarking
– this is SOCIAL
– one tool I use a lot in my classes is called Diigo
– some of you may be familiar with Delicious, I think diigo is better
– can setup class Diigo sharing site

Staring in the 5th century, people had “common place books”
– people would write all over the place on these books
– people learned from reading these

I am calling these now “digital common place texts”
– how do you help students share knowledge with each other in this way? Diigo is a good way to do this social bookmarking
– setup groups based on classes
– students share bookmarks to the class
– students tag bookmarks
– students annotate online texts/sites using sticky notes

My personal learning network is how I develop professionally
– for me that includes my Diigo groups

Use Diigo to your web browser as an add-on

Textbooks are going to go away, they are all going to be online
– Textbook companies know this and they are scrambling now

Using example of “Womanhood” poem to show annotations with Diigo

free online books eBooks
Open Library: 1 webpage for every book in the world
Project Gutenberg
Many Books

Use iAnnotate on the iPad to highlight and comment on PDF files ($10 app)

Most popular tool my teachers use and talk about: VoiceThread
– permits written as well as audio annotations

Now playing “What’s a VoiceThread anyway?

Digital notetaking: Evernote is great
– this can be a big dumping ground for notes, and then you can share them

Essential concept: RSS Feed Aggregator
– teach your students to use Google Reader
– Bloglines is going bully up

Another tool: Digital Mind Mapping
– use to help students make connections between relationships in a text
– Examples: Inspiration,, VUE, Cmap, Text2Mind Map, DebateMapper, Comapping, Compendium, WisdomMap, Freemind, My Mind, Belvedere, Mindomo, Mind 42, Umlet 3.2
– links to mind mapping tools are on

Wikis are for organizing information
– collaborative writing of reports / essays
– shared revision
– hyperlinking of texts

Blogs are spaces for students to write their own work
– I have my students have blog partners


Blogs can be ePortfolios
– forget about commercial e

Rhetoric and Composition wikibook at St Cloud University:
– students can build on each other’s prior knowledge

Key to a good wiki is good CATEGORIES on the sidebar
– example:

shared revision is easy to do in the page history

Example assignment I gave to my students
– observe a Dinkytown restaurant / shop
– inquiry: post some questions or develop an idea about the restaurant or coffee shop
– this is like Ethnography 101
– go to the site and take pictures / video and field notes within a blog post to be added to a wiki
– this is our wiki we build collaboratively in this project:

Rural Voices project from the Univ of Nebraska is GREAT example of this type of ethnography
– using the technology to capture the images and voices of a place

Rural Voices, Country Schools
Rural Voices Radio in Nebraska

– Richard’s private / invitation-only Ning for his digital writing classes:
– In November we typically have to cancel some classes because of snow/weather
– we use synchronous chat in our Ning during these times (you have to pay $19 per month now to get chat, $19 per year for basic Ning)

Some faculty are now using Facebook for academic purposes
– I encourage faculty to use Facebook for personal uses

Formulating arguments using online role-play / games
– select an issue
– formulate a primary argument
– choose roles and conduct research
– post arguments on a blog or online forum
– step out of roles and reflect

this can help students learn to form coherent arguments
– doing online role plays

Reason many websites are blocked now in schools is because administrators are paranoid about liability, and schools outsource content filtering to other companies which are very conservative


Used Ning and students had to create a profile on a Ning
– argument had to do about changing their school, something that actually could make a difference


Research shows biggest problem with role play and argumentation for students is they do NOT know how to create “counter-argument”

Students in this project wrote a position paper, and then met with their tech person
– the tech person actually unblocked sites
– there are some reports on this

Post role-play reflection
– use of arguments
– comfort in role
– target audiences / alliances
– who has power (reasons and strategies)
– sense of potential change

These should be examples of “collaborative arguments” not just persuasive writing pieces composed entirely in isolation

critical element of inquiry: Identifying contradictions

final purpose: Developing a sense of Voice through podcasting / blogs
– book talks
– spoken word poetry
– reader’s theater productions
– Radio Shows
– Skype interviews

Resources on


Recommended podcast about educational technology and digital learning: Digital Campus from George Mason University

Feedback and self-reflection
– audio files as feedback to writing
– VoiceThread comments
– VideoAnt: Annotations for video productions
– Using Jing to record audio comments
– E-portfolios

VideoAnt, a free tool developed by our university
– has to be a video with a URL (YouTube videos work)
– put that URL into this

Students should NOT attach video files to their blog posts, they are just too big (they should post them elsewhere, and link to / embed videos)

Now showing part of his 2009 K-12 Online Conference presentation: “Using VideoAnt Annotations to Provide “Audience-Based” Assessment to Students’ Video Productions

Give feedback using screencasting
Snapz Pro
Jing (free)

Now showing: “An Example of Jing Used to Comment on Student Work Online” (by Shelly Blake-Plock)

The English Companion Ning is a fantastic resource with LOTS of groups and sub-groups

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One Response to Different Purposes for Using of Digital Tools to Teach Literacy in the College Classroom by Richard Beach

  1. Richard Beach says:

    Wes, thanks so much for your excellent summary–I really appreciate your taking the time to do this. I really enjoyed meeting you and your presentation. I’m amazed at how much you can accomplish–daily blogging, teaching, organizing the K12 conference, speaking, etc. (In your shot of you and your family in San Diego, that looked like Imperial Beach.)

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