Terry Elliot asked me to explain how I try and bring the principles and core values of connected learning into my classroom. This dialogue came about after I posted an ignite talk defining,  or rather poaching, the meaning of connected learning. I use transmedia teaching.

What is transmedia?

Transmedia storytelling involves an unfolding narrative across many digital new platforms. This is different than cross-platform (like a comic book, novel, and movie edition). Transmedia requires the unique content that authors and makers newtowrk together into one larger narrative.

What is transmedia teaching?

My emerging definition of transmedia teaching evolves from the principles and values of connected learning and the work of Gee’s embodied literacies. Gee argues that when we discuss digital technologies for learning we need to always begin with the purpose and and not the tool.

Once we have a pedagogical goal we then “network the tools” (Gee, 4:53). It is in this networking of unique content across multiple tools that defines transmedia teaching.

Every classroom has a space for learning, and this space consists of content (Gee, 2004). I give my students mutliple portals to interact with this content across many different media platforms. Sure we have our main portal (a class website hosted on Google Sites and class network as a Google+ community) but I encourage my students to network to otehr content and tools through this main portal.

As of now I have been more modeling transmedia teaching but hope to see greater diversity in the portals students are using to enter our learning space.

My Transmedia Teaching

I am going to once again refer back to Gee and use portals to define the networks and technologies we use as part of our transmedia teaching. Portals act as generators in that they lead to new content for our learning space (Gee, 2004). These are often digital texts and tools.

The Printed Word

The first technology we use is probably the most efficient tool I know for deep learning. The printed word. We use both a book and research articles (though these are both in electronic form). Our common texts include:

boyd, d. (2007). Social network sites: Public, private, or what? The Knowledge Tree, 13. Available:https://kt.flexiblelearning.net.au/tkt2007/edition-13/social-network-sites-public-private-or-what/

Downes, S. (2005). An introduction to connective knowledge. Stephen’s Web. Available: www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=33034

Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. Macmillan.

McVerry, J. G. (2012). TPACK and the new literacies of online reading comprehension. In S. Kadjer & C. Young (Eds.), Research in ELA and technology: An edited collection. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

O’Byrne, W. I. (2013). Online content construction: Empowering students as readers and writers of online information. In K. Pytash & R. Ferdig (Eds). Exploring Technology in Writing and Writing Instruction.

Richardson, W. (2008). Footprints in the Digital Age. Educational Leadership. Available: https://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Footprints-in-the-Digital-Age.aspx

Ruffini, M. (2012). Screencasting to engage learning. Educase Review: Available: https://www.educause.edu/ero/article/screencasting-engage-learning

Students are also encouraged to share texts from outside our common reads. These pour in from YouTube, Pinterest,  and RSS feeds.

We then interact with this content across different tools and networks and this interaction then changes the content in our space. For example we still use discussion questions and have academically focused discourse around the readings.

Yet I also encourage students to make the reading social. As I read I annotate and share my thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #edu522.

To date no student has joined me. I learned this lesson early on. I do not force students through portals (except the primary portal). Instead I try to model the potential during my normal every day use. So I see Twitter as a tool I am using for instruction that cuts across different networks nodes. It is unique content


We began the class by creating 6 word mainfestos on digital teaching and learning. To accomplish this task we used one of Mozilla’s webmaker tools Popcorn.

Synchronous Video Chat

We also use Hangouts on Air as a tool for both synchronous and asynchronus video chat. This allows us to personalize the class and rely on expression to gauge each other’s learning.

 Screencasts and Online Video

In our current module we are focusing on building online spaces for learning using video. We have been creating a variety of screencasts or videos. The students began by teaching us something that they are passionate about (hopefully non-educational). They then had to choose a pedagogical goal and make a video for that goal.

I tried to model and teach this practice across many different tools. I have used scribing, animations, and screencasts.

I also shared other great content instead of building what is already done. Such as Michael Kennedy’s video on Mayer’s principle of multimedia learning.

Finally I screencast all of my feedback to students at the completion of each model. Due to the personal nature of these videos I do not share them here but I find it to be one of the best tools in my transmedia teaching toolbox.

Each of the videos I share are create are designed to introduce or reinforce new content while also modeling how a digital text and tool can be used.

Dispersed Media

We also have content joining our space from areas outside of the classroom. The video I shared on connected learning was uploaded by someone else to Vialogues.  I then reshared this with the class. Another Vialogue was then posted as a response to my video on  affinity spaces. This unique media made its way into the space we use to learn.


Transmedia teaching builds on the values and principles of connected learning. By having content networked toggether across many different digital texts and tools we strive to reach our shared pedagogical goal.

I am not there yet. I haven’t got the civic engagement component totally built into the classroom yet. We do, those of in the class, have a shared purpose united around a pedagogical goal of improving our instruction with digital texts and tools.


It is over. I am done. I want to in no way support the idea that we “need to raise digital citizens.” In fact I officially renounced my digital citizenship. I just need to go to the embassy and fill out the requisite forms.

Is it at Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google+? Maybe I need to visit AOL Online. Nope. Its probably located at Prodigy. After all that was the first place I started to interact with folks in online spaces. Yet I can’t go there at all, let alone go to renounce my digital citizenship either. Why?

Because the idea of digital citizenship is an empty and hollow construct. It has done as much damage to the integration of digital text and tools as the idea of Digital immigrants/natives.

I have had this thought for quite some time. Yet it really gelled in last night’s #edtechchat.

My brief Uneducated History of Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship has long been the darling of the #edtech community. In fact they are enshrined in the ITSE standards:

5. Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal
issues related to technology and practice legal and
ethical behavior.
a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible
use of information and technology
b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology
that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for
lifelong learning
d. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship

ISTE will even give a seal of approval to educational materials that help to build digital citizenship.

I do not know when the term became en vogue, but the idea of digital citizenship seems enculrturalted in computer classrooms especially at the elemenrary level.

A Product of Fear

I believe the idea of digital citizenship was born out of fear. Fear of content producers who wanted to control the channels of production and distribution. In the heyday of Napster they wanted to codify the idea that stealing was wrong. If only we knew this before the Internet. If only someone put this in their learning standards eons ago (oh yeah they did…see the 8th commandment.)

Digital Citizenship was born for a fear of child safety. As soon as the World Wide Web was born every parent feared that Chris Hansen of Dateline needed to be on the other end of a dial-up connection. There are truly awful people in this world and children need to be protected. That doesn’t mean, however, fear should drive our technology curriculum.

A false dichotomy

I also believe digital citizenship creates a false dichotomy between our offline and online spaces. Am I truly to believe that someone of high moral character will act in ill-refute once they log on to Facebook? Is a troubled student posting bullying messages online a picture right out of Norman Rockwell when they head to Sunday School? No, that is ridiculous.

Being a good person should be your goal both online and and unplugged. When we push digital citeznship too far we get too much government oversight. That is, in fact what citizen means. Citizen means the “inhabitant of a city.” And with the suffix “ship” citizenship is defined as “status, rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a citizen”.Thus citeznship requires government and since “digital citizenship” was born of fear it leads to an overprotected government such as school districts that spy on their citizens. After all we need to protect our citizens.

If not Digital Citizens then What?

I have long advocated the building of digital footprints. In fact I write about here on my blog.

I do believe we need our students to create an online identity by building an online space or digital hub

I also believe what you do online has real life consequences. Just check out this infogrpahic from Mashable:

Screenshot 9:17:13 10:52 AM

Clearly recruiters consider your curated identity (I am done in for by the grammatical mistakes). So there are implications to what we do online.

Connected Learning rather than Digital Citizen

I prefer the construct of connected learning. I have been involved with the community around Connected Learning for a little over a year. The group is constantly pushing my thinking forward. It revolves not around fear but engagement. Not around protecting content producers but encouraging content creation. Connected Learning isn’t about a silo of safety but rather a tool of peer engagement.

So I am no longer a digital citizen. Instead I am a connected learner. I hope to reach new understandings in both online and offline spaces through: interest powered, peer supported, and academically oriented learning spaces.


The image is a remix:

Passport By Rich Bowen (originally posted to Flickr as Passport) [CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Digital Revolution By Marfia Adlina (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons