October 21

Assessment return and thoughts on student engagement

Another session has drawn to a close and I have received my marks on my final assessments in the two subjects I studied. I had a stronger showing this session and that has propmpted some reflections on the role of student engagement in achievement – at least on a personal, anecdotal level.

My research proposal for EER500 was a solid HD and would set me up nicely for considering whether I was interested in pursuing a doctorate, if only my overwhelming feeling upon completion hadn’t been “Thank goodness I don’t have to actually do this research project!” I really enjoy literature search and analysis, but I am not as enthusiastic about running the gauntlet of bureaucracy that is required to gather primary data in an educational setting.

In the case of EER500, I feel that the organisation of the class, the clarity of the assignment expectations and the enthusiasm of the instructor for the subject fostered engagement and enabled fulfilment of student potential for achievement. By clearing the road of the administrative obstacles and obstacles of unclear expectations that seemed to plague my subjects in the first session, I feel that Dr James Deehan really cleared the way for me to engage energetically with the subject and to pour my energy for the subject into the actual work, rather than into figuring out what had to get done and how to accomplish it. His obvious enthusiasm for research was infectious and helped to engage interest in what could often be considered a dry and tedious core subject.

I was on tenterhooks regarding the result for my final assessment in INF533: Literature in Digital Environments. That was a three part assessment, with Parts A, B and C already posted on this blog. The keystone of that was the digital storytelling project created for Part B. I barely scraped in to the HD level on my first assignment in this subject and I was really hoping for a good result here, but had a hard time impartially evaluating the quality of the project into which I had invested so much time, effort, and enthusiasm. I was relieved and delighted to achieve my best grade yet in the course, an HD coming in at over 95%, and it was especially gratifying to receive really positive feedback on my digital artefact from an instructor who I know to have substantial experience with digital literature.

Factors that I felt contributed to my engagement and resulting achievement in this subject were my personal enthusiasm for the topic and the freedom of choice to pursue my own interest in the creation of the digital artefact centrepiece. As I was deciding on topics for the final project, I was encouraged by others to pursue the topic that I personally felt the most passion about. That was fantastic advice, because my personal interest was a highly motivating factor in finding and compiling the materials that went into the piece. In fact, it was a bit difficult once I finished that portion of the task to a) stop fiddling with it and tweaking it, and b) write Parts A and C to accompany it.

Where does this musing lead me? I am encouraged to take my experiences as a student and the lessons of engagement and achievement I seein my own journey and apply them to my educational practice. I will look for ways to improve my organisation and administration to support my students and get administrative entanglements out of their way. I will also strive to increase my clarity in communicating expectations for learning experiences, activities, and tasks – giving students the clearest possible roadmap to successful outcomes. Finally, I will do my best to encourage student choice and pursuits of personal interest in assignments, while still fulfilling the requirements of curriculum and syllabus expectations. Now to start spruiking for job opportunities in which to implement these aspirations!

September 29

INF533 Assessment 4 Part C: Critical Reflection

At the start of this subject I was coming from a place where my work as an educational professional was somewhat at war with the digital environment, or at least with the engagement with it through the technology available in my last classroom-teaching experience. I discussed this with Helen in the forums (Styan, Simon, & Croft, 2018). I knew that integration of information and communication technology (ICT) was a requirement of the New South Wales (NSW) Syllabus (NSW Education Standards Authority, n.d.) and was seen as a key part of the role of teacher librarians (TLs) (Combes, 2016, paras. 42-45), but from hard experience, I had lost my enthusiasm for putting it into action.

My exploration of digital literature in the first half of the session was frustrating at times (Simon, 2018d), but I ultimately found some inspiration as mentioned on my blog (Simon, 2018e). Learning about the historical development of digital literature (Rettberg, 2012) was fascinating and readings from practitioners such as Annette Lamb (2011) and Maureen Walsh (2013) gave me practical ideas for how to evaluate and select pieces of digital literature and use them in classroom programs. I still wrestle with the idea that just because literature is digital it requires new literacies to comprehend it, as I discussed on my blog (Simon, 2018c) and in the forum (Simon, 2018a). Nonetheless, David Leu and his colleagues make a strong case for the importance of acknowledging and explicitly supporting specific skills required when reading digital texts (Leu, et al., 2011; Leu, Forzani, Timbrell, & Maykel, 2015). This new understanding underpins my conviction that it is essential for educational professionals to include digital reading experiences in their lessons and to explicitly instruct students in digital literacy across all levels of instruction.

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September 26

INF533 Assessment 4 Part A: Context

Stories from Quarantine tells a combination of historical and fictional stories from the North Head Quarantine Station in Sydney, NSW. It is a multi-modal work based on and extending Inside the Quarantine Station (Simon, 2017). It does not fit neatly into the digital literature categorisations of Walsh (2013) or Lamb (2011), but exhibits characteristics of storytelling such as structure, linearity, connection and character enabled by digital affordances (Alexander, 2011, p. 14).

This project was prepared for use by a primary Teacher Librarian or casual classroom teacher in the North Shore area of Sydney. In both roles, one teaches students across various disciplines from Kindergarten through Year Six (K-6). This resource has the potential to be used across various curriculum areas from K-6. Data from seven schools in the locality show Indicator of Community Socio-Economic Advantage (ICSEA) levels ranging between 1151 and 1194 and National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) reading and writing scores that range from state average to well above state average (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.). There are minimal amounts of students needing significant learning support, but students from language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE) account for 23% to 53% of school populations making the learning needs of students learning English as a foreign language important to consider.

The Quarantine Station site is an important landmark on Sydney’s North Shore with historical and geographical relevance on all scales from personal to international/global. In addition to having relevance to knowledge area content across the K-6 spectrum, Stories from Quarantine particularly serves Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) Inquiry and Skills outcomes from the Australian Curriculum relating to:

  • data collection through observation and sources provided or located, and
  • exploring points of view and distinguishing between fact and opinion (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2016b).

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September 20

Digital Storytelling – My perspective, including social media and learning connections

This is a direct cross-post of my answer to the Module 4.1 Discussion Forum stimulus:

What questions/answers have formed in your mind in relation to digital storytelling?

For me what has really stood out is the importance of storytelling in education. The New South Wales (NSW) Quality Teaching Framework includes narrative as a component of the element of significance, recognising that narratives engage learners in content in a significant and meaningful way that motivates and consolidates learning (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2008). As Alexander (2011, p.5) and Malita and Martin (2010, p. 3061) indicate, storytelling has been part of the human toolbox for constructing meaning and communicating throughout history and has adapted to evolving communication technologies.

In terms of using digital storytelling in a classroom context, though, I keep coming back to the question one of my course-mates keeps asking – why digital? What added benefit or different dimension is served by choosing digital technology as the medium for this storytelling occasion? Without a satisfactory answer to that question, I am not convinced that it is worth the potential extra hassle that I have often found it to be in the primary government school classrooms where I have worked. This may be as simple a reason as having the opportunity to integrate technology (as required by the General Capability requirements in the curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2016)) and be at the Substitution level of the SAMR framework (Puentadura, 2011). Ideally, though, there would be some integral element of the experience that required a digital interface, according to some of the leading definitions of digital literature (Ciccoricco, 2012, p. 471) and there would be at least Augmentation if not one of the transformational levels of the SAMR framework in play (Puentadura, 2011).

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September 7

Testing access


Updated 15 September, 2018:
This was my post to test three different platforms I was considering for my final digital storytelling project. In the end, I didn’t use any of them, for the following reasons:

Adobe Spark (n.d.) – I was concerned that the requirement for reasonably up-to-date equipment and modern browsers could limit implementation in some public schools – especially as the video would not run on the Department of Education-networked computer in the Year Two classroom where I tested these three platforms.

Google VR Tour Creator (Google, n.d.) – The need to create 360 degree photos was a sticking point for this platform. Also, the limitation on the types of annotations you could include in the tour was frustrating.

Thinglink (n.d.) – I could not access this from the test computer under a student login. Since one way I hope to incorporate this project into the curriculum is to use my piece as an exemplar for student creation possibilities, this was an issue. I did learn how to request that a website be unblocked, but the process takes time and would be a major roadblock, especially for my context as a casual teacher – I cannot postpone a lesson for a week or two while waiting for EdConnect to solve my technical difficulties.

Note: As these were quick test objects, they have not had images fully referenced and cited, but all photos are in the public domain so there is no copyright infringement. I will take down the test projects after this session is completed.


Adobe Spark. (n.d.). Free creativity for everyone on the web and mobile, powered by Adobe. Retrieved September 15, 2018 from https://spark.adobe.com/home/
Google. (n.d.) Tour Creator. Retrieved from https://vr.google.com/tourcreator/
Simon, M. (2018a). Stories from quarantine [Video file]. Retrieved from https://spark.adobe.com/video/9FpaZtvsGh22M
Simon, M. (2018b, September 1). Stories from quarantine [Annotated image file]. Retrieved from https://www.thinglink.com/scene/1092231183271460865
Simon, M. (2018, September 7). Stories of quarantine [Virtual tour file]. Retrieved from https://poly.google.com/view/4DzU5g701mj
Thinglink. (n.d.) Ignite student creativity. Retrieved September 15, 2018 from https://www.thinglink.com/edu

September 5

Exploring innovative digital literature and using socially networked reading sites in classroom settings

This is a direct crosspost from the INF533 discussion forum.
Innovative Digital Literature
          As I have mentioned before (Simon, 2018), I really enjoyed Device 6 (Simogo AB, 2014). It is one of the few (perhaps the only) longer form pieces of digital literature that I have found over the past 6 weeks that I have actually completed. I think one reason for that is the whole immersion vs engagement argument (Skaines, 2010). While I do appreciate immersion and have been known to get thoroughly “lost in a book”, I am also a fan of puzzles and interactive engagement in narrative games (though I do have an irritatingly low frustration threshold).  The blending of puzzle interaction and narrative using iPad affordances, such as gyroscopic sensors to navigate through the text, was the perfect combination for me.
          I am still exploring the hypertext puzzle narrative event Planetarium. Unlike transmedia narratives like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which once they have been released as an event are not able to be experienced in the same gradual release, serial, episodic format again, Planetarium has been around for over twenty years and is still released to each new reader in the same gradual format – with access to a new episode on a weekly basis over twelve weeks. I am enjoying it and am intrigued by it, but I am finding it easy to forget about it and lose track of releases. Time will tell whether it holds my attention until the finish.
           I have had more difficulty in identifying digital literature sites that are innovative, appropriate for use in a primary classroom, and affordable for me to access and use as a casual teacher. I have viewed the first two episodes of Inanimate Alice (The Bradfield Company Ltd., 2005-2018) and briefly glanced at the webcomic that bridges the time between those episodes. While I do believe that Inanimate Alice continues to innovate, the older episodes are more appropriately classified as “innovative for their time”. Being dependent on Flash, they face the possibility of becoming obsolete if not updated. I have not yet paid the price to investigate the more recent offerings, but can see that lack of access to earlier episodes might well have negative consequences for later episodes in the series.

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September 2

INF533 Assessment 3: Digital Storytelling Proposal

Proposal topic

The digital storytelling project will tell stories from the Quarantine Station at North Head in Sydney, NSW. It will combine historical materials and short pieces of historical fiction in a multi-modal work based on the article Inside the Quarantine Station (Simon, 2017) and related research.

Proposed digital tools and/or spaces to be used

I am still deciding on the best base platform to use, but am leaning towards Google’s Tour Creator or Thinglink. I would be using mostly Adobe tools, such as Photoshop Creative Cloud for image manipulation and Spark for video creation (if applicable), to create my multi-media/multi-modal content.

Rationale for topic focus for the digital storytelling project

In my current role as a casual teacher and in my hoped-for future role as a Teacher Librarian in NSW primary schools I need to be prepared to teach students across various disciplines at levels from Kindergarten through Year Six (K-6). The topic of this project has the flexibility and curricular relevance to be used across various curriculum areas from K-6 in my local area schools.

The Quarantine Station site is an important historical landmark local to the majority of schools at which I teach or am likely to accept future employment. Further, it is a site that has had historical and geographical relevance on personal, local, regional, national and international/global scales. The planned digital storytelling artefact would incorporate both fact and historical fiction; images, audio, and text; and primary and secondary source material.

In addition to having relevance to History and Geography Knowledge Area content across the K-6 spectrum, it particularly targets Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) Inquiry and Skills outcomes from the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), n.d.) relating to:

    • data collection through observation and sources (primary and secondary) provided or located (ACHASSI001, ACHASSI018, ACHASSI034, ACHASSI053, ACHASSI074, ACHASSI095, ACHASSI123)
    • exploring points of view and distinguishing between fact and opinion (ACHASSI005, ACHASSI022, ACHASSI038, ACHASSI056, ACHASSI077, ACHASSI099, ACHASSI127)

The artefact would be used both to engage students in learning information and to provide a model for their own creation of digital narratives. This would fulfil outcomes from both HASS Inquiry and Skills (ACHASSI010, ACHASSI027, ACHASSI043, ACHASSI061, ACHASSI082, ACHASSI105, ACHASSI133) and English (ACELY1654, ACELY1664, ACELY1674, ACELY1685, ACELY1697, ACELY1707, ACELY1717) Learning Areas (ACARA, n.d.).



Adobe. (2018a). Adobe Spark. Retrieved from https://spark.adobe.com/home/

Adobe. (2018b). Reimagine reality. Retrieved from https://www.adobe.com/au/products/photoshop.html?sdid=TY6XL4MR&mv=search&s_kwcid=AL!3085!3!155856311942!b!!g!!photoshop%20creative%20cloud&ef_id=WrIQXQAAA0AvufWy:20180901234920:s

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (n.d.). F-10 Curriculum. Retrieved Spetember 2, 2018 from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/

Google. (n.d.). Tour Creator. Retrieved from https://vr.google.com/tourcreator/

Simon, M. (2017). Inside the Quarantine Station. HistoriCool, 29, 20-24.

Thinglink. (n.d.). Ignite student creativity. Retrieved from https://www.thinglink.com/edu

August 22

Final project feedback plea

Desperately seeking collegial collaboration!

For the final project for my subject on Literature In Digital Environments, we need to create a digital storytelling project that is applicable for use in our professional context. Our proposed project is meant to have collaborative input from colleagues and classmates. To that end, I would love feedback regarding the feasibility, appropriateness and interest factor of some of my project ideas.

My context in brief (or as brief as possible for me):

  • Primary Teacher
  • Currently working as a casual only when Uni is not in session
  • I have a school I do most of my work at – I’ll call it “XPS” – but I have not done much this year because of Uni and they are currently having a major shuffle in the exec as the Principal and a DP moved on in the past 6 months, so the entire Exec Admin level is shaken up.
  • I will be exploring the possible creation of NESA-Accredited PD courses with a colleague who has attended their training session – in the English KLA, likely centering around English Textual Concepts.


“Quarantine Station Stories” – Looking at stories from the Quarantine Station in Manly – basing on a piece I wrote for Historicool magazine with several pieces of short historical fiction based on actual stories related to quarantine at the station. – Look at creating interactivity, perhaps content creation facility… connection to source documents.

  • Links to curriculum – geography – places, spaces, features that suit the site for quarantine, different uses over time; History – local history (reasonably local (45 min drive) to most places I teach); English – authority (primary sources, secondary sources), genre – historical fiction
  • Context – could be used at multiple schools, could be used in PD context
  • Drawbacks – technical skill, might need to coordinate/get permissions from State Library NSW or Q Station for materials

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August 20

INF533 Assignment 2 Critical Reflective Practice

Digital texts – the actual, the good, and the purpose

In an early blog and forum post for this subject (Simon, 2018a), my top-of-the-head definition of digital literature mostly encompassed re-contextualisations of print literature (Walsh, 2013) available on various digital platforms. I personally used these mostly as a matter of convenience, according to access or price considerations. Since writing that my horizons have been greatly expanded.

I have learned that there is no agreed-upon, standard definition for digital literature (Groth, 2018). Instead definitions seem to run the continuum from any text that you can experience on an electronic device (which I would personally define as digital texts rather than as digital literature) to only works that incorporate both textual or narrative qualities of literary merit plus an inextricable link to the digital medium on which they were created to be experienced (Groth, 2018). My preference is for a definition somewhere between these extremes.  At this point, my working definition would be: a work with a substantial contribution of written text with literary characteristics that is published and intended to be experienced via a digital device. This allows for a fairly wide range of examples and levels of quality.

So, what makes a work of digital literature or a digital text a “good” one? I agree with Walsh (2013) that there should ideally be a synergy between the literary textual elements and the digital features (or affordances). An effective digital text goes beyond the written words and static illustrations and, while it may be able to be printed out and experienced in that format, a printed experience would be a diminished one. I consciously used the word text, because a particularly strong example of a digital text that I came across in my explorations was a digital information text sold through iBooks by Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre (Carson, 2017). The text incorporated multimedia and interactive features in and engaging way that extended the information provided in a way that was congruent with the narrative and disciplinary content (Kao, Tsai, Liu, and Yang, 2016). It was also appropriate to the age level (K-2) in terms of interest and the variety of reading levels in that range. Unfortunately, I got stuck on the term “literature” in the assessment task description. I do not consider information texts as “literature”, no matter how high the quality of their writing.

I think digital texts serve the purpose of informing and communicating and telling stories, just as texts in other mediums have throughout time. While I think that there are shifts in the balance of the skills we harness when reading in digital environments, I think the essential core of communication skills remains relatively constant. This is somewhat contrary to the views put forward by some relatively alarmist voices in the field (Leu, et al., 2011; Wolf, 2010), as I mentioned in my response to this forum post (Simon, 2018b). Continue reading