Secondary Teacher Candidates’ ePosters

As you know, I have embraced the possibilities of Web 2.0 technologies even though I am what is known as a “digital dinosaur” according to my age (*). I used to make fun of my advancing years by joking with students that I was in the classroom when “dinosaurs roamed the earth.”  My students, most of them, anyway, are in their 20s and 30s. They sort of laugh nervously when I make this joke. I’m beginning to believe they might actually visualize me roaming the plains with velociraptors, so I’ve quit making this joke. This decision was further cemented when I saw the following YouTube segment.

In Literacy Beat, we have talked before about how teaching content literacy to secondary teacher candidates is a challenge for literacy researchers and educators, as students come from all disciplines to take this one required literacy methods course. This summer I taught two sections of this class for the California State University, and, as usual, I wanted to try something new with—and for—my students. In prior years, I asked students to make audio podcasts (see ).

As I am also insatiably curious, I like to study my own teaching—after all, I need to walk the talk, too—so I’ve done a little research on what this summer’s secondary teacher candidates felt about technology and teaching. I’m also curious about what technologies they learn from their teacher preparation program, other than in their stand-alone educational technology course. For now, let me share with you some of the ePosters they created.

This summer almost 50 secondary teacher candidates in my classes wrote a lesson plan using a literacy strategy relevant to their content, but they also made an e-Poster (they could choose either a Glog or a Prezi) that supplemented, extended, or became a part of their lesson plan.  First, I made a Glog and a Prezi to show students. I figured if I can do it, anyone can. The Glog was pretty easy, but the Prezi took a little longer. I showed both to the students and gave them their choice of which to use. Prezi on Martina ( and Glog on the WORD conference 2011 (

Every single student was able to do the ePoster, mostly without complaint! Then came the good part! They posted their lesson plans and e-Posters to Blackboard and responded to each other’s work.  As usual, I am impressed by the people who choose to go into teaching! No, they didn’t all like the assignment, but many did and they were also able to recognize the possibilities for their grades 6-12 students to use media creatively!

I’d like to share their work with other teachers and they’ve all given me permission to do so.

Best of the Prezis and Glogs by content area:

Prezis were in the minority as many students found the Glogster site easier to use (13 total of 47 ePosters). The Glogs are much easier to do, but sometimes harder to access through linking. Here are several that you might find interesting.


Allen Amusin

Katyana Sacro


Ronny Smith

Angelica Vila


Joshua Stroup

Chuck Faber

Eric Kemper

Social Studies:

Rich Seeber


Lauren Shahroody

Physical Education:

Brandon Allen

Thoughts on ePosters

Many students commented on the relevance of using technology in their content areas. They analyzed each other’s work and a number of them praised their colleagues for the ePosters they had done.  Here is a brief example:

“The video you attached to your glog, alongside the differentiation between the first and third person narrative, is truly an efficient way of supplementing classroom learning in regards to this specific lesson plan. I will be sure to look further into this “Zoom” book you have mentioned and utilized so effortlessly in an academic manner. In regards to using this book in correspondence with the California English/Language Arts Standards, “Zoom” seems to be extremely intriguing, very useful, and incredibly original. Great lesson plan!”

However, some students did not see the relevance very clearly. I’d like to leave you with an honest comment that I found both poignant and hopeful. Poignant because it still appears very teacher centered. No matter how often or intensely we discussed the necessity of focusing on their students’ learning more than on themselves as teachers, it was difficult for some students to “decenter themselves.” Perhaps it is because they lack experience, but I fear it is because some teacher candidates did not get the basic message that teaching (no matter how skilled) does not equal learning. The hopeful part of this message is that the student is still thinking about the topic.

“But my point is that I am not sure if you can really use much technology in your classroom. Maybe you could use it more by having kids look at stuff online when they are home. So using a prezi or glog might still work, but more as a study aid or a way to present things for the students to look over outside of class. I think this lack of a need for technology might be a good thing. I think many teachers use it as a way to trick students into being interested in boring lessons, except technology for students isn’t some fascinating new thing, they use it everyday, so to really interest students the lesson itself needs to be interesting. This is more of something for me to think about – only using technology when it is legitimately useful and adds to the lesson, not just using it because it is there.”

(*) He who shall not be named! First, I’m a digital immigrant, which is bad enough; now I’m a digital dinosaur. You all know who I’m talking about.

Critical Evaluation of Online Information

A post from Bernadette

The Internet is an open network environment where anyone can post any information. Fake or erroneous information posted online may range on a continuum; from that of a prankster to a poster of a more sinister nature. For example, a report in The Times newspaper in the U.K. listed Masal Bugduv at number 30 in a list of 50 rising stars in football. A number of top premiership clubs, including Arsenal and Liverpool, were reported as being interested in signing the young player.

30. Masal Bugduv (Olimpia Balti)

Moldova’s finest, the 16-year-old attacker has been strongly linked
with a move to Arsenal, work permit permitting. And he’s been linked with
plenty of other top clubs as well

However, the story began to unravel when football fans, bloggers and reporters started to note inconsistencies in the story. Masal Bugduv was in fact a non-existent, manufactured player whose name was curiously phonetically similarly sounding  to the title of a story in the Irish language called M’Asal Beag Dubh, a story of a pretty useless donkey! Over an extended period of time a prankster has posted snippets of information about the rising status and footballing prowess of the Moldovan player on blogs and football forums on the Internet. Thereby creating the fictitious player and leaving The Times reporters with red faces! At the other end of the spectrum are hateful websites such as,, a web site created by Stormfront, a white supremacist group, designed to discredit the life and work of Martin Luther King.

Therefore, one must exercise critical evaluation skills, critical thinking skills, critical reading skills and media and information saviiness skills to obtain, corroborate and integrate information across multiple online sources and to interrogate online text in terms of accuracy, reliability, believability, currency, depth, authority and author motive. The research suggests that adults (Fogg et al., 2002) and adolescent students (Leu et al., 2008) rarely engage in such critical evaluation of online information.

 Free Forever: The Dog Island (
In a recent study (Dwyer, 2010) which I conducted with 3rd and 5th grade elementary school students, (N=43) the children were asked to evaluate the reliability of the information on the dog island web site  ( The web site welcomes dogs to a better life on dog island free from the stress and strain of living among humans and is of course a hoax web site. The children judged the information to be very reliable using either signals on the web site (“It has an email and shows you photos of the little dogs and you can check out the dog island products”); or past experiences and topic knowledge (“dogs would be happy if they’re with their friends in a family…. And when they have their babies; their babies aren’t going to be taken away from them”). One dissenting voice, in what could be termed an emperor’s new clothes moment, suggested that the information was not reliable because, “There’d be loads of dogs there, and they’d have done loads of stuff and save they were really stuck on an island like, and they had nothing, what would they eat? How would they get a wash? Well I know how they’d get a wash, but if they got a wash like that’s salt water and something might happen to their skin or something. Where would the water be?They can’t drink sea water so…”

The children’s ability to evaluate online information was developed by explicit strategy instruction in both a checklist and cognitive type approach (For a review of these approaches read Metzger, 2007). For example, the children were taught to evaluate the information provided in the URL domain-name prefix and suffix concerning the reliability, origin and purpose of the web site. Further, the children were encouraged to judge, evaluate, and cross check information across multiple web sites and connect this information with their prior domain and world knowledge. Finally, the children engaged in  class discussions to reflect on the need to critically evaluate information in an online environment.

Data analysis suggested that although the children were aware of the strategies needed to evaluate online information they did not consistently engage with these strategies. Clearly more research on critical evaluation skills in an online environment needs to focus on the possible developmental nature of such skills. Is it feasible to develop critical evaluation skills, beyond a procedural and declarative level of knowledge to a conditional level of knowledge, with elementary school children? Or perhaps the best we can hope to achieve is that children develop an awareness of the need to have their antennae raised around issues such as, reliability, veracity, authority and author bias in evaluating online information? What do you think?


Metzger, M. (2007). Making sense of credibility on the web: Models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology,58(3), 2078-2091.

Fogg, B. J., Soohoo, C., Danielson, D. R., Marable, L., Stanford, J., & Tauber, E. R. (2002). How do people evaluate a web site’s credibility? Results from a large study. Retrieved August,15, 2011 from

Leu, D. J., Coiro, J., Castek, J., Hartman, D. K. Henry, L. A., & Reinking, D. (2008). Research on instruction and assessment in the new literacies of online reading comprehension. In C. C. Block & S. R. Parris (Eds.), Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices (2nd ed., pp. 321-346). New York: The Guildford Press.

Developing student’s visual literacy through scaffolded image inquiry

A post from Bridget

We live in a visual world.  The screen of the computer, eReader, smart phone, and game consul is dominated by visuals that we must interpret in relation to their design, communication purpose, and interactive capabilities. What is changing, however, is the degree to which the visual is entering the academic domain.  While visual literacy has always held a place in the literacy curriculum, it is increasingly recognized as an essential literacy skill for the 21st century.   According to the Common Core standards and the IRA/NCTE reading/language arts standards, students must learn how to be savvy consumers AND creative, adept producers of visual messages.

In this post, I feature one of my favorite visual literacy resources, Image Detective, and share an example from Isabel Bauerlein demonstrating how the Image Detective scaffolded inquiry process can be extended in the classroom.  Read on! View on!

Image Detective, is a free online tool developed by Bill Tally and colleagues at the Center for Children and Technology, Education Development Center.

home screen of Image Detective

click image to enlarge

We’re used to teaching students the inquiry process in relation to their research projects and science investigations.  Why not teach them how to “inquire” about images?  Better yet, teach them visual inquiry within a subject area such as social studies so that they develop visual literacy skills while also learning to think like a historian with primary sources?  The Image Detective scaffolds the inquiry processes of asking questions, critically reading images, understanding context and background, synthesizing ideas and drawing conclusions, and comparing conclusions. The turn of the 19th century images reflect social studies themes such as immigration, women’s suffrage, and the American west.

This next screenshot shows how students collect and interpret visual clues in response to one of the default questions, “Is this poster in favor of women’s right ot vote or against it?”  Students may also type in their own question.

screenshot shows image clue hotspot and notes about clue

click image to enlarge

The third screenshot shows how students develop a conclusion based on the image clues that they have collected. Once they’ve submitted a conclusion, they can compare their response to others’ that have been posted.  Important note – the Image Detective does not save students’ work after the session is ended, so students will need to print out their work or cut and paste it into a Word doc.

screenshot showing prompted conclusion

click image to enlarge

What about the research base for this type of digital tool?  Tally and Goldenburg (2005) studied how 159 middle school and high school students and their teachers used Image Detective to explore one of the Picturing Modern America images.  They found that students were able to engage in historical thinking behaviors such as close observation, inferencing from evidence, corroboration, and question posing.  Students also reported that they enjoyed learning history by investigating images, rather than listening to lectures and reading textbooks.

To learn more about this study, read:  Tally, B. & Goldenberg, L. B. (2005).  Fostering historical thinking with digitized primary sources.  Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38(1), 1-21.

Extending Image Detective in the classroom – An example from Isabel Bauerlein

Teachers often ask me if it is possible to use Image Detective with images other than the nine scaffolded images that are featured in the tool.  I think that would be a great feature, but it is currently not on option (are you listening, Bill Tally?!).

I usually respond that it would be great to introduce students to the visual inquiry process using the Image Detective tool and then extend it informally beyond the specific tool and images.  In one of my classes last semester I suggested that Power Point might serve well as a hypertext authoring environment for creating an Image Detective-like learning experience.    I speculated that teachers and students could both get involved in creating scaffolded image inquiries to share with others.  Isabel Bauerlein, a recent graduate of our masters’ degree program in reading, took up the challenge.  She designed an intriguing extension of Image Detective for her class project, using  Power Point to create a scaffolded inquiry experience with photos that are now freely available from Life magazine.  With her permission, I am sharing some of her work. I find it quite inspiring!

Here is Isabel’s description of her project:

Isabel Bauerlein Analyzing Images  This three lesson series for 9th grade English is designed as an introduction to the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Students practice analyzing images on the Image Detective website, transfer those skills to analyzing a historic image from the 1930s, learn about the Scottsboro Trial, and then analyze a set of LIFE magazine photos for ideological stance.

An excerpt from Lesson 2 about the Scottsboro Trial is shown in the next 3 slides.  Note how Isabel used the same inquiry structure as the Image Detective, offering support through hyperlinked slides.

click image to enlarge

Isabel goes on with additional slides that pose questions and offer clues that encourage students to apply a more critical perspective to this historical image.  For example, in the following slide, Isabel asks students to think about why the Life reporter (and magazine editor) would use the word “goggling” in this caption to describe how these young black men are viewing the scene outside the window.

click image to enlarge

Are you feeling inspired to try out Image Detective and/or create your own scaffolded images ?!  While this tool and Isabel’s example are designed for students in middle to high school grades, I can imagine how it could be extended for work with younger students.

Please share your experiences teaching visual literacy skills and resources by posting a comment to this blog.  Read! View! Interact!

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