Global Awareness via Snapchat Life Stories

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog

I am fascinated how the social media platform Snapchat is bringing global awareness to its users! I noticed specific cities appearing for 24 hours on the app:

  • In small tidbits
  • in a collaborative manner (users at a specific geographic location are invited to submit a few seconds of their “perception” of what life in their city looks like)
  • raising interest to immediately watch it by  making it available for a limited time (reminded me of the Beanie Baby craze of introducing and retiring certain animals to make people run for the stores and increasing value)

Since then I have seen on Twitter


and on blogs,


people gearing up to showcase their city. What types of tidbits should be included? How to best shine the light on their favorite:

  • activities
  • food traditions
  • how to get around their city
  • landmarks and famous sites
  • language and colloquialism
  • wild life
  • leisure time
  • festivals/celbrations
  • traditions
  • street music
  • sports

The city to be showcased becomes an event on a certain day and allows people who have their geolocation enabled to submit their snapchats for inclusion in the city’s life story (For details: How to Post to Our Stories)

So far the cities, like  Manchester, UK, Barcelona, Spain, Nairobi, Kenya, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Los Angeles, USA among others have been officially “snapchatted” and curated. For a complete list of cities and events that have been showcased, take a look at What is on Snapchat Stories Today?

Today on June 5th, Brisbane, Australia was featured:

IMG_0414    IMG_0419 IMG_0421 IMG_0422 IMG_0425 IMG_0426

IMG_0424 IMG_0427 IMG_0433

Below are some reactions to the Brisbane Snapchat story of today (and a couple of other twitter reactions to Snapchat Life Event Stories ) in terms of global awareness. Also, remember that over 70% of their users are under the age of 25)


snapchatlife3 snapchatlife4 snapchatlife5 snapchatlife6 snapchatlife7 snapchatlife8 snapchatlife9 snapchatlife10  snapchatlife12 snapchatlife13

The idea of using the social media platform, where the under 25 crowd already hangs out (their turf) and finding a way to “feed them tidbits” of global awareness (“hey there is life outside your backyard” or thinking and discussing critically what stereotypes, misconceptions about a city/country are)  is note worthy. I am wondering how to bring this into the classroom. With older students you could directly go into Snapchat to look and react to the City Life Event. For youunger students, I am thinking of the possibilities of using an app like 1 Second Everyday  to capture short video clips to tell a story of awareness, learning and sharing.

I would love for Snapchat to give their users to create their OWN events and invite collaborators to contribute to these event stories. Think about the possibilities for field trips, exchange programs, collaborative units of inquiry (transportation, immigration, how do living things adapt to survive?, etc.). Can you imagine the global collaboration possibilities and the critical thinking and “NOW” literacies involved to make decisions of what, how and where to capture in order to tell and share “the story”?

How do you imagine using the concept of event/story feature on Snapchat with your students?

More interesting articles about Snapchat:

Student Voices: Using Social Media to Share Your Passion and Affect Change in the World

The GIN (Global Issues Network) conference brought together an amazing group of young people, all united in their desire to change the world for the better and collaboratively find solutions to the world’s problems.

The Global Issues Network (GIN) empowers young people to collaborate locally, regionally and globally to create solutions for global issues. Each year, thousands of students worldwide engage in GIN-related activities.

langwitches-GINI had the opportunity to work directly with students during two breakout sessions about the use of Social Media (Thank you Lisa Goochee for your support and participation) Students had been researching, planning and working together on a solution under a chosen topic listed in the twenty global problems identified by Jean-François Rischard in his book High Noon: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them (2002).

They had created video trailers showcasing their projects and prepared presentations to share with their fellow GIN conference attendees from International schools all over Central and South America.

How could these students:

  • reach an audience beyond the conference attendees?
  • strategically build a network to connect with other students interested in global issues?
  • disseminate their challenges, solutions and ideas to receive feedback and gain support?
  • make contact with NGOs, experts in their field of interest or potential funding partners?
  • continue working with other teams and schools to continue to grow their projects beyond the physical dates of a face to face conference?

The answer: Building a social media network. While there are many different social media platforms that anyone can use to build a network in order to affect social change, the basic idea behind the potential of connecting, collaborating, communicating, crowdsourcing or crowdfunding is similar to all platforms. These platforms also include video-streaming websites like Youtube. And if the thought of buying likes and views has crossed your mind, or if a colleague of yours is thinking about buying likes for their youtube videos, they should proceed right ahead.

  1. Create a “storefront”, a profile or bio to let others know who you are and what you stand for
  2. Build a network by strategically choosing people/organizations/companies to follow
  3. Encourage the “right” people to follow you back
  4. Contribute quality content
  5. Participate in conversations (give feedback, ask questions, add perspectives, add value)
  6. Build a brand (document your work, share , interact, inspire, present, showcase, etc.)
  7. Grow, weed and maintain your network

I challenged the group of teens in my session to take another look at a Twitter . Most had an account, but we encouraged the ones who did not to create one.

  • How could they use the account to connect and promote their project?
  • How could social media help them build a positive digital footprint and become part of their portfolio?
  • How could they build a network of peers and experts?

The rest of the session was hands-on.

  • create a Twitter account (if you didn’t have one)
  • choose a username
  • create a profile description
  • Tweet1:INFORM: share something with follow GIN attendees (use the hashtag)
  • Tweet2: CONNECT: mention a keynote speaker (give feedback, ask a question, connect….)
  • Tweet3:REFLECT: share your aha moment
  • harvest usernames of other GIN attendees to add to your network

Twitter-challengeHere are a few examples of students sharing a tweet with their network.

Who else is teaching social media skills, techniques and strategies for students to start building their own learning/professional network? How are we supporting students to harness the power of social media? How do we encourage students to add their voices about the issues they are passionate about to the conversation? Can you share your strategies as a teacher with the rest of us?

Global Project: Visualize Poetry Around the World

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

Cross posted to Langwitches Blog

visualize poetry around the world

Description of Project:

Based on Taylor Mali’s visit to The American School of Sao Paulo, Meryl Zeidenberg and I were inspired to amplify students’ poetry writing by adding a visual and audio layer as well as connect them globally to other students’ poems.

We are launching the Visualize Poetry Around The World project and are looking forward to connecting teachers and students, bringing global awareness and encouraging them to look beyond their own backyard and their own perspective.


  • Encourage students’ global awareness and their ability to share their traditions and experiences based on their cultural heritage or geographic locations
  • Support Third Culture Kids and expats to express their unique experiences through poetry and make the advantages and challenges of International living accessible to geographically rooted children and vice-versa




  1. Become a member of the project by joining the wiki. Questions? Contact me
  2. Become familiar with or already have familiarity with Taylor Mali’s lessons/poems/workshops.
  3. Become familiar with project objectives, expectations, timeline & mini-lessons
  4. Complete task

[ There is no specific beginning or ending date for this project. Each teacher contributes his/her students video poems on their own time to the wiki platform. All we ask is that part of the commitment is to share, connect and give quality feedback to other students’ contributions ]

Task Breakdown:

  1. create poem
  2. find/create images & record voice
  3. publish on project wiki
  4. connect and give feedback


  • expect quality student work using poetic devices
  • students create poem based on one or more of the provided prompts
  • students visualize poem with quality images and overlaying poem text with author’s voice
  • strict observance of copyright conventions and citations.
  • contribution of final student work to collaborative platform
  • participate in feedback of student work.

Time Commitment:

  • up to 80 minutes- write poem
  • 80 minute class: Students present their poems to class (teacher and peer feedback). Students re-edit after feedback.
  • up to 2 -80 minutes class periods digital production

Third Culture Kid Poem Example


I am from…

I am from Germany, Argentina, USA and Brazil

I am from Germany. From the warm Bretzel with melted butter and the sound my shoes make when going for a walk in the dense forest.

I am from Argentina. From the crowds on Florida and Lavalle and the smell of a Bife de Chorizo at a friend’s asado. I am from the smell of Jasmine as I step off the colectivo on a warm Spring day in early December.

I am from the United States. From the smell of salty and buttery popcorn at the movie theaters. The wide streets and gigantic parking lots that fill up to capacity after Thanksgiving.

I am from Brazil. From the language that is almost understandable, but different as if listening under water or with glasses of the wrong prescription strength. I am from feeling almost close, but through the fog so far away.

I am also from lighting Hanukkah candles as I am smelling Christmas in the air and buying Charlie Brown Christmas trees on the 24th day of December.

I speak German, Spanish and English. Ich bin from Argentina y el vos. I am from speaking in all the 3 languages in one sentence without having to be held hostage by staying in one alone.

I am from leaving on a gray, cold and rainy day in October in autumn. Racing along the runway, up up into the sky towards spring air and towards a country far away and forever closer to me.

I am from arriving after a 24 hour journey to a tiny village, at the foot of the Katzenbuckel- The Cat’s Arched Back” where my grandmother anxiously awaits at the door, welcoming the return of the world travelers.

I am from changes, the differences, the friends made along the way. I am from the opportunities to see wonders of the world, tasting, smelling different ways of life. I am from the different faces of the world and history.

I am neither from here nor there or even there. I am destined to be torn forever between Fernweh and Heimweh, from always being far from.

Geographically Rooted Poem Sample


I am from the United States – New Haven, CT- where the imposing, old, stone, university architecture validated my fairy tale-laden child mind.

I am from the warm, loving scent of Aunt Martha’s cookies baking in the flat below.

I am from the one mile, all weather walk, to and from elementary school, where urban flora stubbornly persisted through sidewalk cracks.

I am from the grassy field of the local schoolyards where the kids from my street gathered and grew up, after school, until the street lights flicked on.

I am from the marvel and curiosity of tales from the old country spun out in a mixture of Yiddish and English around my grandmother’s kitchen table with the men drinking schnapps, the women tea.

I am from learning French because it is a “romance” language.

I am from learning Portuguese because of a Brazilian romance.

I am from the security of knowing my way around and where everything is.

I am from the frustration of not knowing the the colors, smells and sounds of everywhere else except from books and movies.

Ready to participate? Head over to the project wiki to sign up.

Designing New Literacies

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog

designing-new-literacies-tolisanoIn Mike FIsher and my keynote/workshop last week at the Wildly Excited Conference at the Grand Rapids State University in Michigan, I shared the following blended sketchnote (blended= self-drawn doodles/sketches combined with a photograph). Participants were asked to take a look at the image and use the Visible Thinking Routine I see, I think, I wonder from Project Zero. They shared their thinking in a backchannel in a Today’s Meet room.

Before looking at my image annotations and reading the examples/ excerpt of the backchannel below with teachers’ responses, consider going through the exercise yourself. Take a few minutes to intensely look at the image above and follow the thinking routine: I see…, I think…, I wonder… Share your responses in the comment section below, adding your thoughts…sharing and making your thinking visible to others.


How could you use these techniques shown or demonstrated in your own classroom?

  • sketchnoting
  • visual prompts
  • I see, I think, I wonder routine
  • Backchanneling
  • annotated sketchnoting (or other visuals?)

Teacher Visible Thinking Routine responses

  • One of the difficulties of education our students learn differently than we do,
  • I see an interest in connecting internationally.
  • I wonder what amazing things could happen in classrooms if we all started being more techie and digital in our classrooms?
  • I think it is about the new age of learners
  • I see people handing boxes up to a person standing on them. To me this means building a learning network.
  • I think this is where the digital learning age is headed. I wonder if I’m ready for it
  • Artwork: its Silva. Her family, life. Moving, lectures, author, etc.
  • Are books of no value anymore?
  • how do I use this when I can only get computers once every two weeks
  • Fast paced graphic learning like they are used to. Keep things moving!
  • I think today’s kids brains are wired differently than most teachers over the age of 30.
  • The drawing is busy a lot going on and represents changes in technology and many options of technology
  • I see various ways of gaining/sharing knowledge. I think it represents the current work. I wonder how available for kids in poverty.
  • I think my processing speed needs to incease!
  • I see what students are bombarded with on a daily basis
  • I know this is a worldwide reality and it is exciting, but no wonder our kids are ADHD.
  • I see lots of possibilities!!!!
  • collaboration
  • We need to change our way of teaching. We need to teach more about accessing information.
  • I wonder: when do we allow our brains to have a break from all of those distractions
  • I think this is an accurate picture of our society today- lots of different ways to interact and connect with a variety of people
  • students now have the ability to visit other places and interact with others virtually, without leaving their bedroom or the classroom
  • Global learning and global appreciation is more easily obtainable.
  • Students can use various ways to present their thoughts.
  • We can connect with everyone across the world. We no longer need to be in our own classroom.
  • new literacies: apps, threads, global literacy, digital collaboration, graphics, imagery and film, multiple languages, software and programs
  • I see a variety of media.
  • I see the ink connecting with classes across the district or within our building could be a small start
  • A bunch of disconnected images
  • The power of learning in different ways.
  • Having the luxury of so many ways/strategies to help students in their learning. Looking at learning as evolving.
  • Open a book to learn new things!
  • I wonder how I can use these strategies with classroom with young ones who have special needs.
  • I see a selfie being taken.
  • There are a variety of items that are connected, but if I don’t have a way to connect them they float out in space.
  • I see connections between teacher facilitation and individual work.
  • #world wild learning!
  • when I look at the movie projector I think that many young kids don’t even know what it is!
  • Holy overwhelmed Batman…
  • The tough part is when the students start text talking. I see that a lot in our chats in the online classroom.
  • So many ways available for us to teach and learn.
  • I see flags and think I know those countries and I wonder why are those there, is that where she has been?
  • It’s like going on vacation to other places without leaving your room.
  • Global learning can take place when using technology and connects students with much more information than ever before!
  • Students have so much in their minds!
  • Constant scrolling messages distract ability to sort out my own thoughts!
  • Globalization–speaking multiple languages is important to connect–by plane and/or virtually!
  • Students are learning so much each day through so many mediums. How do we help them prioritize so it changes them?
  • Students learning in the classroom is constantly changing to the digital world.
  • Represents the many ways people are connected.
  • I don’t get the rain clouds in the middle
  • Students can communicate all around the world
  • I see what someone brings to the classroom
  • I see a lot of experiences. I think this looks like a great way to describes oneself through visuals. I wonder who drew this
  • Connecting the world through digital learning and accessing new ideas. A bit overwhelming
  • I think technology can pave a path toward global awareness.
  • Learning is global and there are infinite ways to share
  • I think the drawing is overwhelming
  • It’s the brain of most of our students
  • That image looks like the information overload that most of our kids are living with on a daily basis. 😉
  • Many options!
  • Reminds me of the book the Lexus and the olive tree
  • It helps us link or connect our learning to others
  • This is a lot to take in, but this is the way our kids learn now. Very different from what I am use to
  • Great for discussion! Visuals can say so much
  • I think: multitasking and information overload
  • I see literacy becoming more technology based and global. I wonder how it will impact students’ ability to communicate in person.
  • I see learning 2.0
  • Our small learning community is focusing on global cultural and we could reach out to other countries
  • I see interaction in person and remotely
  • Linking ideas together globally
  • There r endless ways to teach and communicate w students
  • The image seems busy to my list-making mind. I’d love the pictures to be in a row.
  • I Think about educational chances
  • to me it represents learning and the different possible ways to learn
  • This picture reminds me of my brain right now! And many of my students!
  • I see interesting artwork that is very symbolic
  • Links to what is already known in the students’ lives, multiple ways of learning and multiple ways of achieving literacy.
  • I see students connected to the whole world. I think I want to do this! I wonder how I can adapt it for my third graders.
  • World traveler who is equipped with technology, family and friends
  • I think this represents our ability to gather knowledge from all over the world using technology
  • Helps all types of learners
  • I see the ways the world is connected
  • Sensory/information overload
  • the power of tapping expertise worldwide
  • Connecting multiculturally.
  • merging the old with the new in innovative ways
  • Digital media brings it all together
  • Very global…learning around the world
  • I see lots of ways to communicate

Against Technology (the word)

by Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Heidi-3-c-croppedUbiquitous in every sphere of education; the word “technology” is splattered loosely. No subliminal messaging here, the term is to mean that schools with wifi, tablets, one to one laptop programs, and smart boards are preparing students for the future. Simply having a computer doesn’t mean that the curriculum and instruction are contemporary and relevant. Students can be using the internet to research irrelevant and dated content. A word processor does not ensure quality writing competence. When a group of middle school students runs around campus with flip cameras, it is unlikely they will produce a first rate documentary. Perhaps there is some kind of magical thinking, that digital tools will prompt innovative outcomes.I share this concern as a firmly committed advocate for the modernization of learning opportunities.

laptopsMost telling is our current obsession with dated assessment forms. Teachers are not encouraged to innovate when their institutions are pushing time traveling to the past. Although mission statements are packed with phrases like “tomorrow’s school” and “careers of the future” and “global preparedness”, the truth is that all fifty states in my country value assessments that are basically identical in format to those used thirty years ago.Multiple choice, short answer essay prompts to de-contextualized paragraphs are the raison de vivre. Some national publishers are creating on-line testing, but the items are still the same type as those used when standardized testing first was developed. Certainly our learners need ACCESS to the global portals and dynamic applications available through digital media in order to become literate and connected, but access is insufficient.

We should pay attention to school faculties, leaders, and individual teachers who are actively and boldly upgrading curriculum content to reflect timely issues and problems and crafting modern assessments such as digital-media-global project based learning opportunities. Website curation, app design, global network research, and video/audio production are indicative of modern learning environments not only for students but for their teachers as well. What might happen if in our discourse we replace the loose use of the word technology with the phrase contemporary learning environments?

Cross-Posted to ASCD edge.

Grow Your Network: Become a Detective

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Cross posted to the Langwitches Blog

Connected Educator Month is only a few days away.

Seeking to build on this success, the Department of Education has called together a second Connected Educator Month, to be held (by educator request) in October, 2013. This year’s event will have a special emphasis on helping districts promote and integrate online social learning in their formal professional development.

Other goals include:

  • Getting more educators “connected” (to each other)

  • Deepening and sustaining learning of those already connected

  • Stimulating and supporting collaboration and innovation in professional development.

Looking at the goals, I want to take a closer look at “getting more educators connected”. I see Twitter profiles of educators every day who have “jumped on board” by joining “The Twitter”. I wonder if these newbies are network literate? Where do they receive the support to grow? Who supports them?

A typical profile might look like the one below. No tweets and tentatively starting to follow random people.


Or it might look like this one, with already a few tweets under the belt and a growing number of people to follow.


At this point I am following over 5000 educators. That might seem a lot and very overwhelming to many. I acknowledge the point of view of many others who have unfollowed everyone on their Twitter list, to handpick few they wanted to follow. Others have a large disproportionate difference between the number of people that follow them and the one they follow. These methods  work for them.


Twitter is about building, growing and maintaining your network for YOU. It has to work for YOU! My network would not necessarily work for someone else. I would not get the same benefits out of someone else’s network. That is why it is called PERSONAL.


I am also fiercely protective of the kind of educators I follow. I will unfollow people as my own interests change, grow and evolve. I unfollow people, when THEY interests and the things they tweet about change.

I am a “connector” though. I work with colleagues from all subject areas and different grade levels. I want to be able to curate and funnel resources to the Art teachers as well as to the Math teachers. I might be looking for collaboration partners, peers or experts who can bring in different perspectives, authentic feedback and serve as primary sources. My role as a connector is facilitated when I receive a constant stream of ideas and resources, I did not even know I was looking for them. I don’t want to rely on people specifically having to @mention my username to make me aware.

Creating a Twitter account (or starting your own blog) is only the first step in building a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network). Your network won’t build or grow itself. I am on a constant lookout to STRATEGICALLY add members to my Twitter network that will enhance the QUALITY of content of my feed.

Here are some strategies that work for me.


Be clear about what you want out of your network.

  • information filter?
  • resource curation?
  • support for your learning?
  • potential collaborators?
  • global audience?
  • controversial discussions?
  • stimulating discussions?
  • opportunities to read and write in other languages?
  • multiple points of view?
  • preaching to the choir?
  • answers to burning questions?
  • tech support?

…and what you will or will not tolerate

  • non-educational related issues (sports scores? illnesses? family affairs?, etc.)?
  • foul language?
  • bullying?
  • self-promotion?

Once you have an idea of how your network will help your specific learning needs it is time to actively and strategically grow.


Become a detective

  • by reading blog posts
    Blogs are great spaces to intentionally be looking for twitter handles of educators that are involved, transparent and willing to share. Reading blogs about your specific interests and learning needs will yield new additions to your network. Read the posts with the intention to look for connections. Does the author mention other collaborators or resources? Does he/she include additional Twitter handles in the post? Follow these links! Check to see if the mentioned twitter user feeds match your criteria of quality followers for your purposes?
    In the example below, I found the link to a Math blog on Twitter, which in turned shared the Twitter handles of various connected Math educators. Bingo, for the connector, who wants to support her Math teachers with resources, ideas and potential members for their learning network.
    @Trianglemancsd, @bobloch, @mbosma8, @LukeSelfwalker, @ddmeyer, @fawnpnguyenAs you are reading blogs,  take the time to check if the blog author is on Twitter. Most blogs will should have  Social Network buttons displayed in one of their sidebars or as a link in the top navigation bar. Click on the link, check out their Twitter feed and, if interesting, follow them.
    twitter- link
  • by taking  advantage of people using personal brands
    Sometimes, unfortunately, bloggers don’t easily display a link to their Twitter feed. It requires a little more detective work. In the example below, you will see a blog about TCKs (Third Culture Kids), that I am a reader of. The name of the blog is DrieCulturen, but I was having trouble finding a direct link to a Twitter account.
    It was worth a shot to hope that the author was thinking about personal branding and was using the same username “DrieCulturen“on Twitter. Bingo… I was able to find the Twitter feed and start following them.
  • by commenting and following up on blog posts
    When you leave comments (make sure you also include your Twitter handle) on blog posts that are of interest to you, it is worthwhile checking back to see who else has left a comment and contributed to the conversation. Follow the breadcrumbs to check out their blog and/or Twitter feed.
  • by exploring twitter followings
    When I find a Twitter feed that is especially interesting, I wonder who inspires that person? Where do they get their resources? Collaboration or discussion partners? I check out the list of people THEY follow to be able to harvest potential quality contributors to MY feed.
  • by exploring twitter lists
    Twitter allows users to create public or private lists of specific users they follow. Once I find an educator who contributes significantly to my learning, I take a look if they have taken the time to organize the people they follow into a specific lists. I can also see, the lists that they have have subscribed to an are a member of, which will give me further people to explore.
  • regularly check who has started following you
    Make it a habit to check who has started following you. Take the time to click yourself through to their profile and their last tweets in order to make a strategic decision to follow them back or not. Once someone looks interesting, digg deeper by following some of the strategies mentioned above.
  • pay attention who @mentions you on Twitter
    People who take the time to interact with you on Twitter (not the spamming kind of mentions) are always worth to check out. These twitterers have already shown that they are interested in connecting and contributing.
  • tweet out specific requests
    Looking for resources or collaborators? Just tweet it out and see who response as well who gets recommended to check out.


What are some of your strategies you use to grow your network? How do you read online with a lens of network literacy? As you make your own thinking visible, HOW are we going to teach these strategies to our student ? Is anyone teaching them?

Thinking Differently about Learning- Bringing in an Expert

Cross posted on Langwitches Blog by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

I am working hard at being a “connector” at my new school. I want to help shift the culture to thinking differently about learning. Bringing in experts from around the world to make a topic and content come alive, to answer questions and taking learning off the pages of a book is a critical component of modern learning. I don’t want a Skype call to be an isolated incidence, but to be part of:
  • how we learn
  • how we dig deeper into information
  • how we research, analyze and evaluate information
  • how we become aware of different perspectives
One of our 7th grade Humanities class is on to something BIG! They are STORYTELLERS. They are developing a story that soon the entire Graded community and the WORLD will share. Shhhh…. I can’t and don’t want to give too much away, but be prepared… it is BIG :)
Just a tiny clue…
In order to prepare, they have called in an expert, Christine Weitbrecht, a transmedia storytelling specialist,  to answer some of their immediate questions and guide them as they are developing their storyline.
Students were well prepared for the Skype interview (which makes THE difference between a Skype call and a LEARNING call) and shared the responsibilities to introduce our school, the project, give an overview of the storyline so far and then dig deeper into questions.
These 7th graders articulated their questions:
  • How can we best introduce the story to others? What would be the best way to start? What should the timeline be?
  • What about interactivity? Will the audience have a say in how the story continues?
  • Why does Ms. Weitbrech feel that transmedia is the future of storytelling and marketing?

On my school blog, I have posted the following questions to the students after the Skype call:

  • What were the advantages of bringing in an expert via Skype to the classroom?
  • Could students have learned the answers to their questions simply from a book?
  • Will the Skype interview support and shape students’ future work on their project?
  • What are some other opportunities in school, when bringing in an “expert” via Skype could help students learn?
  • What do you think?

If you can spare a moment read their comments and maybe even leave them a reply. I do want to highlight a few excerpts of the comments for you here though.

Mr. Beck (teacher):

[…] I think the skype conference with Christine took this project to a new level. Without her expertise, we would have been guessing rather than being deliberate in our decisions on how to actual tell a story using the interactive power of transmedia. As a teacher I learned that even if you don’t fully understand new developments in your field, you can reach out to experts in the real world who can not only serve as excellent facilitators for student learning, but can also be inspirational.

Juan Carlos:

Since she was an expert and we were just starting to learn about trans-media, we learned a lot of things that we needed to know but before we didn’t know. She gave ideas and suggestions that by ourselves I think we couldn’t have come up with. I also think that some of the answers to our questions couldn’t have been answered by a book. For example the question ” Why does Ms. Weitbrech feel that transmedia is the future of storytelling and marketing ? ” couldn’t have been answered by a book because it has to be her own opinion

Ji Won

[…] I think that this Skype interview would be way better than reading off of a book. Although, books are an amazing way of learning and educating, this Skype interview with Christine, an expert, would be much helpful because we got to ask questions unlike a book. Also, books have a limit of information. It only teaches us what is written in it, but an interview is more “interactive.” She gave us suggestions in how we could start our project. Since this project is based on a new type of story, it helped us a lot in how to manage it while it is running. A Skype interview with an expert helped a lot because Christine is an expert in Transmedia and we were beginners. I think that a Skype interview would really support and shape students’ future work.  […]


[…] She gave us information to improve on our story, and to really give it that “push” that it needs to get of the ground. Also I think that it was useful to talk to her because most of us are not used to writing a story like this. We can wright essays or papers and maybe even a short story. Were as she helped us out with something we had not experienced before.[…]

I am asking YOU the same questions than we asked the students. How have you, as an educator, taken learning off the pages of a book by bringing in “experts” via video conferencing?  What are some other opportunities in school, when bringing in an “expert” via Skype could help students learn?

Jerry: Amplified

Cross posted from Smartblogs:


“Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about authentic tasks, that allow students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.”

~Silvia Tolisano from the Langwitches blog


I had a wonderful modern learning experience this past school year Skyping into a first grade class in Jacksonville, Florida. This first grade class is learning geography (as well as global perspectives!) through an activity that they call “Mystery Skyping.” The teachers connect with someone via Skype somewhere in the world. That person Skypes in and the students get to ask questions to discover where in the world that person is. I was so excited to participate and be one of the “Mystery Skypers!”

The teachers captured some images and blogged about the day I Skyped in. Click here to read it.

During my chat with the students, I was introduced to Jerry, their class stuffed animal. Jerry had traveled home with each student over the course of the year and each student recorded Jerry’s experiences in Jerry’s Journal. They wrote about what they did with Jerry and shared pictures of their time with him. I asked the students if Jerry had ever traveled outside of Florida.

I invited Jerry to come visit me in Buffalo and offered to write in Jerry’s journal as well. We also decided to do a Skype session live from Niagara Falls with Jerry, extending this lesson in geography. The teachers in this class, Pamela Lewis (@PamelaLewis1388) and Marissa Tolisano (@Marissa2309) blogged, tweeted, and stayed plugged in during the entire process!

Skype-Teaching At Niagara Falls

Jerry Back At School

When I sent Jerry back to school, I sent him back with interactive journal entries. Rather than just pasting in a few pictures and writing a few anecdotal notes, I decided to go a little higher tech.

I took a picture of Jerry with my phone, uploaded it to Dropbox and used the image to create a Concrete Poem with an original limerick:


In case it’s hard to read, the limerick is:

When I got into town for my visit;

I wasn’t prepared, I admit it.

The heat had expired,

A hoodie required,

It isn’t still Winter, is it?


I wrote another poem and a rap song and uploaded the content to Youtube. I created QR codes for the content, printed them, and glued them into the journal along with the pictures that I took. While these students had already been introduced to QR codes long ago by their forward thinking modern teachers, I wanted the students to have to access the new content in a modern way.

Here are the videos that the QR codes directed to:





The teachers here, in amplifying their classroom to open it up to global opportunities, have created multiple levels of engagement and learning for their students. Amplification essentially means that the learning is moving beyond the classroom, the way sound waves move from their source. Amplification means that learning is broadcast to a global audience, allowing for larger and more authentic experiences through different types of publishing, feedback, refining, relearning, and continual improvements. Amplification creates opportunities for global discourse and learning that make the learning louder and more impactful than it would be otherwise.

This amplification of Jerry, through blogs, Skype sessions, tweets, even the involvement of the US Mail, had several educational impacts:

  • The activity allowed students to authentically merge two learning zones: their personal journaling efforts and geography.

  • Because of the opportunity to “visit” Niagara Falls live, they were able to ask and answer questions in the moment, which offered teachable opportunities about science, specifically on weathering and erosion, as well as reflection and refraction due to the constant rainbow in the mist!

  • The activity created mental velcro inside these 1st Graders brains. They have an automatic set point now, a new knowledge base from which to construct new learning.

  • They used technology for a specific, task-dependent purpose that dictated the use of immersive digital tools that were chosen because of the way they supported the task, rather than the planning around the tool.

The activity also allowed me to jump out of my own comfort zone and teach class, over Skype, at a gigantic waterfall. It was the equivalent of “Educational Skydiving.” It was a thrill to take a risk on something like this, literally from the edge of a gaping chasm. When it was over, I felt like a million bucks! (Side note: a group of 50 or so tourists were crowded around me and watched me from beginning to end. Over half of the tourists were visiting from China and one of them, who was bilingual, translated everything I said to the group. How’s that for GLOBAL IMPACT!?!)

This learning moment was the highlight of my academic year. I was so impressed with what these teachers are doing in their classroom and so impressed with these students and their voracious consumption of knowledge.

Now that the summer is here, I hope that those that are reading this will think about their own curriculum design and perhaps use this as a launching pad for their own authentic upgrades as they plan for the next round of students in the fall.

*Author’s Note: I am going out on a limb here and sharing my rapping skills. My wife would like you to know that she tried to talk me out of it, especially since I’m writing this for a national audience, but I am throwing caution to the wind. Motivating and engaging kids to learn is way more important to me than me being embarrassed, though many of you have already witnessed “Karaoke Mike” at multiple venues around the country. If it makes you cringe, it’s okay. It had the same effect on me. 😉


ASCD Virtual Conference 2012

ASCD’s conference in Philadelphia on March 24-26, 2012 will also have a virtual participation component.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Curriculum21, Brandon Wiley from the Asia Society and Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, Langwitches Blog,  will be co-presenting a  Real-Time Global Forum: How to Connect Your Classroom and Schools.


Connect your school with schools around the world in purposeful teaching and learning experiences! Through interactive technology, participants will meet virtually with a global team of teachers and students from places like China, Argentina, India, and the United States to examine a thoughtful and stimulating set of award-winning projects, global learning partnerships, and media presentations. Leave with a wealth of resources to globalize your classroom and school while aligning to common core, provincial, or national standards.


Registration Information:

Virtual Conference registration is just $129 for ASCD members and $159 for nonmembers. That’s less than $8 per session!
Register Now

For bulk registrations,please
contact our Service Center at

Interested in attending in person?
More about ASCD’s 2012 Annual Conference

Curriculum21 Podcast- Episode 16

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano had the opportunity to speak to Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, two educators who are making a difference in their students’ lives as well as thousands of other students and teachers from around the world.
Vicki is a teacher from Camila Georgia. She blogs on the Coolcatteacher blog and tweets under @coolcatteacher. Julie is the E-Learning Coordinator at Beijing International School. She blogs at E-Learning Journey and tweets under @julielindsay.

These two amazing women are the co-founders of the Flat Classroom Project  and have co-authored the book “Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time“, due to be released in February 2012.

Don’t miss out listening to these dynamic and passionate teachers with concrete advice for any teacher embarking on global education and flattening of their classroom.

Links mentioned in the episode: