Incorporating Game-Based Learning with Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to Maximize Students’ Achievement and Engagement

Sarah Wolf, Grand Island Central Catholic, Grand Island, NE, ms.wolfgicc @

Phu Vu, Associate Professor of Teacher Education, University of Nebraska at Kearney, vuph @

According to Anderson and Jiang of the Pew Research Center (2018), 88% of U. S. teens have access to home computers and 95% to smartphones. This ease of access to technological devices, in turn, rapidly fuels digital consumption. While 45% of teens reported being online with virtually round-the-clock regularity, Anderson and Jiang noted that “roughly nine-in-ten teens go online at least multiple times per day” (p. 8) and the same number participate in video gaming. As a matter of fact, the percentage of teens who use the Internet on a near-constant basis has nearly doubled in the span of only three years.

Teens enjoy using technology not only in their personal lives, but also in the classroom to enhance their learning. Game-based learning (GBL), a pedagogical method in which games are incorporated into the curriculum in order to accomplish specific learning objectives, enables individuals to attain content mastery through various competitive, collaborative, and goal-oriented means. By combining gaming principles with purposeful instructional design, teachers can create an active learning environment that promotes academic interest/engagement and improves knowledge retention (Pho & Dinscore, 2015; Spires, 2015).

Specific to English language learning, researchers have found that the adoption of GBL can result in promising learning gains. In their study of nonnative and native English speakers interacting in the virtual world Quest Atlantis, Zheng, Wagner, Young, and Brewer (2009) discovered that GBL created a learner-centered environment in which participants worked together to complete educational quests in an atmosphere that felt more interactive and flexible to them than did the rigidity of a traditional classroom. As a result, their linguistic abilities were furthered in the areas of pragmatics, syntax, semantics, and discourse. To further examine how GBL impacts student performance, Zheng, Bischoff, and Gilliland (2015) examined nonnative/native English speaker educational interactions in the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) World of Warcraft. The researchers ascertained that the collaborative nature of the MMOG and the richness of the in-game linguistic resources provided multiple contexts for the acquisition of both vocabulary and multimodal literacy skills. Furthermore, they noted that GBL provided participants with lexicogrammar opportunities that went beyond the offerings of a physical classroom.

However, Zheng et al. (2015) also stressed that educators must exert agency over the lesson development process in order to avoid academic stagnation in the digital era. The traditional teacher-centered instructional model favors the reduction of language concepts into clearly delineated units taught via rote learning. Yet this singular focus on content mastery limits the motivation to engage with the curriculum and the ability to perform higher-level cognitive processes. The GBL research conducted by Wu, Chen, and Huang (2014) determined that modern students—a generation highly influenced by Web-based multimedia—require active learning experiences that mirror real-world linguistic/communicative situations outside of the school setting.

One pedagogical resource that provides such active learning experiences is Kahoot—an online application launched in 2013. With Kahoot, students use digital devices to participate in multiple-choice quizzes in which they are pitted against their peers. After the conclusion of each round/question, they receive immediate feedback and points for correct answers, with the class leaderboard subsequently updated between rounds.

Although Kahoot is a relatively new means of instruction, studies have shown that this GBL platform increases students’ test scores and levels of classroom engagement. Iwamoto, Hargis, Taitano, and Vuong (2017) conducted an experiment in which two undergraduate classes received identical instruction during a unit on general psychology. One class (the experimental group) reviewed the lesson material via non-graded Kahoot quizzes during the last 10 minutes of the period, whereas the other class (the control group) continued with the lecture-discussion format of instruction. The day before the test, the experimental group spent the entirety of the period replaying all of the Kahoot quizzes from the unit; conversely, the control group completed a study guide as a class. After both groups were administered identical multiple-choice exams on the same day, the researchers discovered that the experimental group received significantly higher scores on the exam than did the control group. Moreover, results obtained from a post-exam questionnaire indicated that 71% of the experimental group’s members found Kahoot to have aided them in preparing for the exam.

Researchers across disciplines have made similar discoveries. For example, Plump and LaRosa (2017) found that more than 85% of students enrolled across twelve university business classes stated that Kahoot aided their conceptual understanding of course content and proved to be a positive and engaging experience. Furthermore, Wang and Lieberoth (2016) found that 90% of first-year information technology students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, with both full and partial access to Kahoot, found educational value in their game participation and became more academically motivated in the content area.

Gaming/Learning Preferences Survey
To measure how the data from the literature review is reflected in the classroom, we administered a gaming/learning preferences survey to a class of 40 sophomore English students taught by Sarah, the first author, at the private Grand Island Central Catholic High School in Nebraska. Phu, the second author, served primarily as a research mentor uninvolved in the classroom activities and without direct contact to the students.

The results of this survey informed us of the extent to which gaming is an essential part of high school sophomores’ personal lives. More than 80% of the students reported that they incorporate gaming into their weekly routine, with the majority desiring an entertaining means of interacting with their friends. Based on my hall duty and lunchroom monitor responsibilities, I am unsurprised by these findings because students are permitted to interact with their cell phones for recreational use during passing periods and in the cafeteria. I frequently observe them engrossed in gaming on their devices, sacrificing nourishment and/or an early arrival to class in order to make progress on a mobile level of their choice. When these devices run low on battery, panic-stricken students seek teachers out for permission to charge their phones in their rooms. Additionally, not a day goes by without discussions about mission quests/boss battles or competitive digital card games. Dance-offs that make use of various Fortnite choreographic sequences are regularly present at school dances, and the potential reception of video game console upgrades is a topic of fervent conversation during the holiday season.

In the survey that I administered, two-thirds of respondents also indicated partiality to demonstrating content mastery through gaming. As educators, it is imperative to acknowledge a paradigm shift in pedagogical best practices because traditional teaching methods must be amended in order to better meet the needs and interests of 21st-century learners. When the majority’s preference for learning does not align with the educator’s preference for teaching, instruction is not being designed to optimally promote academic success. Teaching the way students learn enables them to invest themselves more thoroughly in their education.

Post-Survey Reflection
Analyzing high school sophomores’ educational and technological predilections led me to reassess the manner in which I taught Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.” This unit culminated in two summative assessments: a text-to-text/text-to-world exploration project (in which students researched, analyzed, and evaluated the similarities and differences between aspects of “The Lottery” and various laws/traditions/persecutory practices) and a test over plot elements and literary structure. By preparing for the test, the class experienced factual concepts and textual interpretation in a manner providing a firm foundation for pursuing the upper-level elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

When previously presenting this unit, I noticed that many of the students struggled to fully engage with the content of the lessons. Whereas the exploration project of this unit has traditionally been viewed by sophomores as a highlight of the academic year, they tended to lack intrinsic motivation when reading and analyzing “The Lottery”: their involvement in lessons merely stemmed from a desire to pass the class, not from interest in the subject matter. As a result, grades on the test reflected the stagnant effort with which they approached the learning process.

Furthermore, their linguistic and literary abilities often required my attention in order to transcend from lower- to higher-order thinking skills. In fact, many students defaulted to a role of passivity when receiving information and needed prompting in order to actively engage with, examine, and communicate the deeper meanings of the text. For example, when asked to identify character names that take on additional symbolism, many ably located Graves (foreshadowing death) and Warner (portentous tragedy) but struggled to explore how said names possessed deeper levels of meaning. When asked to locate/cite/present textual information, such as providing two quotations predicting the end of the story, they required extensive scaffolding. Additionally, as they lacked confidence to share their answers, I was able only to solicit their verbal responses after providing substantial encouragement.

Objective: Implement GBL
Based on a desire to promote content engagement and the digital learning preferences of my students, I decided to implement GBL as a means of accomplishing the following objective: given a 25-question test, students will be able to recall information from the short story with 80% accuracy. The selection of 80% as the desired level of proficiency stemmed from a pedagogical guideline published by the National Council of Teachers of English asking teachers to state desired performance levels for objectives at 80% (Peterson, 1975).

To actualize these objectives, Phu and I chose Kahoot in order to explore game creation in a manner not requiring prior coding knowledge or experience. Although we appreciate the idea of open educational resources, we often find that these pre-existing activities address neither the specific subject matter nor specific instructional contexts. The composition of learners in my classroom necessitated the incorporation of tasks that provide engagement through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities. Kahoot enables students to read the content with which they are engaging, to hear the teacher provide an oral rendition of the question, and to interact with their peers in a competitive player vs. player or team activity while solving said question. Furthermore, designing a Kahoot facilitates the customization of both content questions that meet the educational needs of the students and time constraints for providing answers.

Our selection of Kahoot was also influenced by the cohesive nature and scholastic habits of my students. As a whole, they are one of the closest-knit groups that I’ve taught. Not only do they favor socializing as a large group, but they also strive to encourage each other to achieve academic success. Despite this strong bond, this grade boasts sizeable numbers of both introverted and extroverted personalities, thus I introduced an entertaining, technology-based activity that would appeal to both solitary and communal learning styles.

The mechanics of Kahoot foster student excitement and engagement in a manner that can be smoothly initiated and monitored. When beginning a round, the teacher selects customization options such as question/answer randomization, answer streak bonuses, and podium recognition for the top three finishers. After the teacher clicks either “classic” (player vs. player) or “team” mode, the class is presented with a welcome screen, projected from the master computer, that provides the game PIN. Once they enter the PIN and a moniker (with the teacher having the power to eliminate inappropriate choices), the teacher clicks “start” and play commences. Kahoot displays a question on the board for five seconds, then the students answer by pressing on the corresponding shape/color on their individual devices. Once time runs out, a checkmark appears next to the correct response with a bar graph of anonymous student responses. The five highest cumulative point totals are displayed on the scoreboard at the conclusion of each question. At the end of the game, the teacher privately receives data on student performance (see Figure 1).

I began by furnishing the students with a traditional multiple-choice pretest on “The Lottery” and stressing the importance of interpreting the results as a diagnostic baseline for their current understanding of the material rather than as a measure of their intelligence. In other words, I wanted them to set personalized goals for attaining content mastery by discovering what they did not yet comprehend. Afterwards, with the aid of a randomizer, they read “The Lottery” aloud together. Since they knew neither the order in which they would be called nor the frequency with which they would be asked to participate, they paid close attention to the text as it was recited. Before the end of the period, I assigned them study guide questions to complete within three days.

During the week-long duration of GBL, the Kahoot link was available on my sophomore English online weekly planner. Students therefore interacted with this resource on an independent basis. Every other day, they competed against each other on Kahoot during the last portion of class; on alternating days, they reviewed the questions with a partner. Because they tended to select answers swiftly without reading the question or the answers themselves (in order to earn a potential maximum of 1,000 points), I activated the “Answer Streak Bonus” option to encourage them to take their time and favor accuracy over rapid clicking.

In between each Kahoot round/question, the students asked questions in order to clarify their understanding of unfamiliar content. One such occasion emerged when those who incorrectly answered the question “What is Jackson’s main theme in this short story?” (with “the foolishness of blindly following tradition” being the correct answer) proactively queried their peers regarding the definition of the word “theme” and why the correct answer was the best selection out of the four possible options (with the other options “the value of human life,” “the need for change in a community,” and “the need for tradition in small towns”).

On the day of the posttest, they competed in a round of Kahoot as a means of studying for their assessment over “The Lottery.” Afterwards, I distributed the 25-question, multiple-choice exam. All of the students completed the task in under fifteen minutes and substantially improved their scores:

Using Kahoot brought about constructive results from both student and educator perspectives. As I currently teach at a 1:1 school, all of the sophomores possess a Chromebook. Since two-thirds of the class members are partial to demonstrating content mastery through gaming, they relished the chance to participate in Kahoot. Consequently, student interest and motivation/desire to succeed resulted in the pretest-to-posttest scores improving by 244.37%. Their avid engagement emboldened them to become active agents (as opposed to complacent bystanders) in the learning process. In other words, they became more confident in interacting with others, verbalizing their opinions, and asking for help.

Interacting with the Kahoot appealed to visual/auditory/kinesthetic modalities and thus aided students with diverse learning styles. Furthermore, presenting various setting and grouping options for the Kahoot (e.g., independently outside of class, with a partner during review time, and with the entire class at the end of the period) enabled both introverts and extroverts to experience the online platform comfortably. Removing barriers to learning by providing options for access and perception helped them grow in their ability to critically analyze literature: when I presented the information in a manner that the students could more readily comprehend, they mastered the information more expeditiously and possessed a stronger knowledge base from which to execute higher-order thinking skills. For instance, those with a confident grasp on the plot initiated class discussions on topics such as how “The Lottery” exemplifies satire, how the story’s theme of “the foolishness of blindly following tradition” is echoed in the real world, and why Jackson would use a cheerful/objective tone to narrate a story that ends with an execution.

From a teaching standpoint, being able to monitor participant behavior permitted me to discern between the mastered material and that requiring additional reinforcement. By walking around the classroom throughout the duration of the Kahoot, I could provide assistance and instruction and to redirect off-task behavior as needed.

Notwithstanding the success, an area of rectification lies in the domain of product testing. Although I spent hours generating and customizing the content, I could not preview the game from a student’s perspective. As a result, it was not until the students began inputting their usernames that I realized an error had been made: the background color of the video summary of “The Lottery” embedded on the welcome screen was almost identical to the color of the Kahoot font. Only by tilting the laptop could I view the usernames. In the future, integrating Kahoots into the development process should lessen the presence of such software bugs.

For teachers seeking to replicate this process, I would strongly urge them to provide access to the Kahoot outside of teacher instruction. When individuals are able to experience content at home and receive instantaneous feedback, knowledge retention and lesson engagement are greatly enhanced. Because the Kahoot link was posted on the English online weekly planner, the absent students could still interact with the material and keep up with their studies. Moreover, those who experience anxiety when interacting with new material in front of their peers have opportunity to grow in self-confidence and mastery on a timeline that best fits their educational needs.

Something as simple as copying/pasting a Kahoot URL to a Google Doc takes only a few seconds, yet this action can have a tremendous impact. For instance, with the institution of online access to class activities, I noticed that the attendance rate of one student, whose apprehension toward unfamiliar content often caused her to become physically ill and miss multiple, often consecutive days of school, started to sharply rise. This student found a sense of confidence within herself and realized that she could accomplish greatness through determination and ambition. She is determinedly strengthening her ability to communicate interpersonally and now desires to increase her involvement in extracurricular activities. Furthermore, I began to form more positive connections with students whose comportment had previously been less than desirable. One with a history of acting out because of impulsivity and hyperactivity and a general disinterest in literature transformed into a far more focused and motivated student. This self-styled “Lord of the Kahoot” (a nickname which he coined and highly favors) is presently my assistant during his free period. Another student had struggled significantly with completing homework and asking questions to clarify understanding—actions which resulted in significantly low assessment scores—but now completes her tasks with excitement and enthusiasm. To her, the English room is now an environment that caters to her learning needs and a haven where she feels valued and supported.

Although the 244.37% pretest-to-posttest score improvement demonstrates the benefit of GBL, what inspires me the most to continue are 1) the connections the sophomores made with the material and 2) the emotional maturation attained by various individuals. While test-score data provides concrete proof of scholastic advancement, changes in behavior provide further evidence of student growth. As the sophomores’ lockers are right outside my classroom, I frequently hear them socializing before and after school. During the implementation of GBL, I noticed that their mentioning ENG 10 began to evolve from reminders about deadlines/assessments into discussions about the content of “The Lottery.” Similar to the informal gatherings of John Keating’s students in Dead Poets Society, they would freely converse about the themes/concepts addressed in class in order to form interpretations and viewpoints about material that personally resonated with them.

Final Thoughts
GBL activities such as Kahoot can provide a powerful foundation by which to foster scholastic achievement and engagement. While a positive correlation exists between academic gaming and student learning, teachers should never blindly assume that technology will instantaneously ameliorate curricular outcomes. By itself, technology is but a tool of incredible potential and seemingly endless possibility. The success of this instrument comes from the combination of digital resources with effective pedagogical practices. Teachers who use GBL in such a manner will ultimately better serve the needs of their students and provide a more grounded educational experience.

In addition, one potential factor that may have contributed to the students’ positive performances is that of novelty. This was the first time that this GBL activity had been introduced, therefore the novelty may have played a role in the higher posttest scores. Novel stimuli have been found to enhance visual perception (Schomaker & Meeter, 2012), and the resulting “novelty effect” has also resulted in greater rates of participation in GBL (Ku, Chen, Wu, Lao, A. C, & Chan, 2014; Ronimus, Eklund, Pesu, & Lyytinen, 2019). Follow-up assessments and implementation should provide evidence of whether the levels of excitement will remain consistent in subsequent GBL activities or will decline due to habituation.

Furthermore, low pretest grades may have resulted from students experiencing “The Lottery” for the first time during the in-class reading (as opposed to accessing/reading the digital copy of the story provided via the online class weekly planner), while the improved pretest-to-posttest scores may have resulted solely from reading and reviewing the text in class. To verify that student success resulted from GBL implementation, I could 1) survey the students for verification on whether or not they read the short story prior to taking the pretest and 2) teach the short story unit to different class sections of sophomore English via a variety of methods and compare the variance in test scores.

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Are Students Ready for the Online World? The How and Why to Embed Digital Citizenship Skills in English Classrooms

Madison Gay Gannon, College of Community Innovation and Education, University of Central Florida, Gannon.madisongay @

Elsie Lindy Olan, College of Community Innovation and Education, University of Central Florida, Elsie.olan @

With the growth of technology, and, thus, research on its impact on society, the term “digital citizenship” continues to grow and take on more meaning. Digital citizenship encompasses all the expected behaviors and self-regulations that would make an individual successful in the digital world. Many of the behaviors that should be occurring in the real world, like sharing opinions politely and respecting others’ belongings, are basic skills that students have been taught for decades. However, it is critical that they are intentionally taught how those appropriate behaviors should transfer from daily life into the online space.

Many researchers and organizations have developed different frameworks that define the components of digital citizenship. Ribble and Bailey (2007) built a framework consisting of nine components that have since been modified as their research has deepened. Nonetheless, their framework laid the foundation for the concept of digital citizenship to take root. While digital citizenship has been defined in a variety of ways, researchers emphasize the importance of quality digital citizenship education to meet the needs of our twenty-first century learners (Hollandsworth et al., 2017; Ribble et al, 2004).

In some cases, digital citizenship education can be tied to funding. However, many educators are not trained how to do this effectively when obtaining their degrees or in current professional development trainings (Ribble, 2012). We still see this as an issue: Madison (author 1) received no digital citizenship education training in her undergraduate classes between 2013 and 2017 and has not received professional developments in her time teaching in public schools since graduating from her undergraduate studies. During her time as a graduate student, there was an emphasis for the need of digital literacies, but after researching digital citizenship, she realized that there was a lack of guidance and resources. She shared with Elsie (author 2) how there was a need in how to help middle school students navigate the digital world as a whole, going beyond multimodal texts and other digital literacies.

Current digital citizenship education is not being implemented properly. Many students are receiving isolated digital citizenship instruction that prevents them from adequately applying those skills later in the digital world. Digital citizenship education should be authentic and implemented across content areas so that students are versed with the skills they need to enter the current workforce. Reading about these inadequacies of digital citizenship education, and seeing it in her own school, made me curious about how the lack of digital citizenship education is impacting youths’ self-efficacy in the digital age. Even more so, we both wanted to figure out how to better incorporate digital citizenship skills into a middle school English classroom.

Unfortunately, many educators believe that their responsibilities stop at warning their students of cyberbullying, predators, and other unsafe possibilities in the digital world. However, if schools continue to push students to put their cell phones away, then they are not learning how to properly balance technology use, which could impact their success in the real world. In this essay we report on the subscales of Reasonable and Critical Decision Making and Academic Self-Efficacy as a major component of the following research questions:

  1. What are youths’ levels of digital citizenship?
  2. What are youths’ levels of self-efficacy?
  3. What are the relationships between youths’ levels of digital citizenship and youths’ levels of self-efficacy?

We began by researching instruments that would allow us to identify the digital citizenship and self-efficacy levels of 7th grade students, ranging from 12 to 14 years old, who took part in the survey. The participants were found through convenient sampling as participants in a volunteer-based after school “boost camp” through the Social Studies Department at Madison’s school. While the school’s 2018-2019 demographic data has not been posted publicly, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported for the 2016-2017 school year that the school in which the study was conducted, Indian Trails Middle School in Winter Springs, Florida, enrolled a total of 1,175 students. The population’s ethnicity was less than 1% American Indian/Alaska Native, 3% Asian, 8% Black, 25% Hispanic, less than 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 61% White, and 3% with two or more races. There were 576 male students and 599 female students. Finally, 380 students (32%) were eligible for free lunch and 81 students (7%) were eligible for reduced lunch. These numbers give a picture of the demographic of the school and thus the participant pool in this study.

We decided on Kim and Choi’s (2018) Digital Citizenship Scale (DCS) consisting of 18 questions distributed between 5 sub scales:

  1. Ethics for Digital environment
  2. Fluency for Digital environment
  3. Reasonable/ Critical decisions
  4. Self-identity in digital world
  5. Social/cultural engagement

We also used Muris’ (2001) Self-Efficacy Questionnaire for Children using three sub scales–academic self-efficacy, social self-efficacy, and emotional self-efficacy–with 8 items in each subscale.

After administering the measurement instruments to the participants as an online survey, we completed two types of data analyses: descriptive statistical analysis and correlational statistical analysis (both Pearson and Spearman correlations dependent on statistical assumptions). From these analyses, we identified a subscale of the Digital Citizenship Scale that all teachers could imbed in their daily instruction: Reasonable and Critical Decision Making in the Digital World. The results indicated that students’ mean score in this subscale was 3.95 on a 5-point scale with a standard deviation of .49. While this is above average, the importance derives from the correlation this subscale has with students’ self-efficacy. The Digital Citizenship subscale of Reasonable and Critical Decisions had a strong correlation with Academic Self-Sfficacy, rs = .302, n = 69, p = .012. This finding is important because the correlation shows students who value making reasonable and critical decisions in digital spaces also conveyed a high regard for their academic potential.

We realized that while many of the participants recognized the importance of making reasonable and critical decisions online, their responses did not accurately portray if they knew how to do that effectively. For instance, the items focusing on Reasonable and Critical Decisions were as follows:

  1. Students should express their emotions reasonably through communication when problems or inconveniences arise in the online digital environment.
  2. Students should express their opinions online and learn and share their expertise.
  3. Students should act in accordance with appropriate decisions when communicating in an online environment.

Students who agreed with the statements above also rated themselves highly on the items focusing on Academic Self-Efficacy:

  1. How well can you get teacher to help you when you get stuck on schoolwork?
  2. How well can you study when there are other interesting things to do?
  3. How well can you study a chapter for a test?
  4. How well do you succeed in finishing all your homework every day?
  5. How well can you pay attention during every class?
  6. How well do you succeed in passing all subjects?
  7. How well do you succeed in satisfying your parents with your schoolwork?
  8. How well do you succeed in passing a test?

If students who recognized and valued the benefits of making reasonable and critical decisions online also had high academic self-efficacy, then it would be worthwhile for teachers to provide them with an environment that fosters those skills in both the classroom and in online spaces. The majority of the population that I serve has access to devices and digital resources at home and has cellular devices on the school campus. Having the digital world around them constantly does not translate to their knowing how to use it. So, it is up to teachers to show them how to use these resources to heighten their ability to make critical decisions online.

How should digital citizenship skills be taught? Ribble (2008) recommends a four-stage framework on how to teach digital citizenship briefly summarized by the following:

  1. Create awareness by engaging students with examples of being technology literate as well as examples of technology misuse
  2. Provide frequent guided practice where students can explore and take risks while using technology
  3. Model and demonstrate appropriate technology use from adults and allow a dialogue between adults and students to promote learning
  4. Provide feedback and analysis on how students are using technology and how they can improve technology use in all aspects of life (p. 16). (See Figure 1)

Jones and Mitchell (2008) recommend that digital citizenship education be separated from digital literacy education and cyber-bullying prevention to “instead be focused on using Internet resources to have youth (1) practice respectful and tolerant behaviors toward others and (2) increase civic engagement activities” (p. 3). Ribble (2008) recognizes that this practice is not limited to teachers, but should also be implemented at home and in the community. Again, students must be given authentic learning experiences on how to use technology appropriately and how to navigate the digital world.

In this study, we defined digital citizenship education as embedded instruction and real-world practice within all content areas that specifies how to appropriately behave in and navigate the online world in order to prepare students to be successful members of online communities. Unfortunately, many schools are not one-to-one with devices and, in many cases, the devices get pulled for testing. For instance, our students have approximately eight laptops that teachers may share and use in station rotations. However, they are pulled for various tasks throughout the quarter such as subject area exams, PSAT, FSA, District Level Writing assessments, infrastructure trails, and county surveys. The classrooms do have a projector that connects to the teacher’s desktop, which tends to serve as the sole access to digital resources on a daily basis.

Regardless of the lack of availability of devices per student, it is critical that teachers find ways to incorporate online skills in their regular classroom. Just as we saw in our own classrooms, it is not enough for students to learn how to write emails, type, practice Microsoft Office programs, and build résumés in their computer electives. The problem was that these skills were not being translated into content area classes. For example, my students sent a number of emails that frequently needed feedback so they would learn how to communicate appropriately and effectively in that space, despite having isolated instruction on writing professional emails in an elective course. For example:

Many of those assignments are part of a required elective in middle school. While these electives are meant to build students’ skills in the digital world, they rush through the required assignments because they do not see how these outdated tasks will translate to the real world.

Translating Classroom Instruction to the Digital World
Initially teachers can incorporate questioning that allows students to begin thinking about how their behaviors can be replicated in the online world. For example, if your students are determining an author’s purpose of a text, a follow-up question would be, “What changes should the author make if this were shared on a different news platform or modified into a tweet? How would the word choices impact the new audience?” These types of questions would allow the conversation to progress to establishing norms of appropriate communication and sharing opinions online. When I implemented these types of questions and digital language in my classroom, I found that students were highly engaged in these discussions because the critical questions were more relevant to their digital lives.

Then, English teachers who want to focus on reasonable and critical decision making can intentionally modify their current methods of instruction that allow students to apply classroom discussion behaviors to the online environment. To begin, teachers could provide role-playing opportunities that require students to establish appropriate norms when communicating online while experiencing different scenarios. These scenarios could range from how to deal with an offensive post from a peer on social media to making decisions about what photos should be posted of oneself or friends. Breaking down these realistic and often problematic situations that occur when communicating on the Internet would provide a foundation that would allow them to make more critical decisions online. To progress to step two in Ribble’s framework, teachers can create a classroom blog for students to practice the appropriate behaviors when responding to discussion posts connected to current content.

In a unit on social/class and coming of age, I created a similar scenario when creating discussion posts on the novel The Outsiders and on nonfiction texts that my 8th-grade standard level class had been reading. The class was expected to answer, with evidence from multiple texts, the following essential questions:

  1. How do societal divisions affect communities?
  2. How does one’s environment impact his or her identity?
  3. What determines loss of innocence and entrace into adulthood?

Prior to starting this discussion, I showed the class the flowchart by New Tech City (2014) (see Figure 2). Many were reluctant because they claimed that if a peer posted something that offended them, then they would just keep scrolling. However, I emphasized that the last row where they’re asked to listen, respond, affirm, and contribute to online discussions is important because it allows them to add their thoughts and opinions to the conversation. They were then asked to write an extended response to one of the following three questions:

  1. Was the herd behavior more of an obstacle or comfort for the Greasers and Socs? How does herd behavior impact our daily lives?
  2. In context of the article “On Revenge,” is revenge ever justified? Do you think revenge is justified in today’s society?
  3. Can education improve a person’s situation? Explain.

After writing their responses, they responded further to each other by using the method proposed in the last line of the flow chart. Below are some of the posts (Figures 3 and 4) that they made with names and images removed to protect their identities:

Elsie and I found that by asking students to respond to each other using this method, they were more inclined to think more deeply about their peers’ posts in order to know how to respond and determine what they wanted to add. Although their responses seem brief, they show more evidence of critical thinking than their previous responses of “I agree” that occurred before being shown this method. By using this response technique, they added their own thoughts and posed critical questions that go beyond simple affirmation. This is just one way to incorporate Ribble’s second step to teaching digital citizenship.

To meet step three, teachers should provide model answers or scenarios with the post that guide students toward meeting the expectations when responding to others with conflicting few points. We found it beneficial for this stage to occur multiple times and in multiple ways when implementing digital citizenship education. Finally, allowing students to reflect on the experience would further establish effective online behaviors in order for them to determine their strengths and areas of improvement. When teachers plan lessons, if they strive to incorporate any of these steps, dependent on the students’ needs and targeted learning goals, then they will be supporting students’ abilities to make critical and reasonable decisions in the digital world.

The embedded instruction does not have to be solely online. Rather, it should have students consider how it would translate to the digital world. Take this lesson for example: Begin by providing the class with opinion or informational articles and prompt them to discuss the main claim or stance in each one and how effectively it came across. Depending on standard of focus, steer the conversation toward the diction and how it impacts the tone, or if the language is too vague or too technical for the audience. Then discuss the types of arguments and the reasoning and support that the author provided. This type of analysis requires comprehension, but it also meets the expectations of state standards. Finally, through a digital extension, require the students to post responses to the article to the comments sections. Doing this would expose them to communicating critically online and require them to practice delivering clear and appropriate communication beyond the classroom environment. This type of lesson strengthens English lessons because it bridges the gap between the digital and real world for our 21st century students. The implementation of digital citizenship instruction, particularly within the subscale of reasonable and critical decision making online, can broaden instruction from just standards and testing to real world benefits.

Hollandsworth, R., Donovan, J., & Welch, M. (2017). Digital citizenship: You can’t go home again. TechTrends, 61, 524–530.

Jones, L., & Mitchell, K. (2016). Defining and measuring youth digital citizenship. New Media & Society, 18(9), 2063-2079.

Kim, M., & Choi, D. (2018). Development of youth digital citizenship scale and implication for educational setting. Educational Technology & Society, 21(1), 155–171. Retrieved from the Academic OneFile database. (Accession No. edsgcl.524180837)

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National Center for Education Statistics. (2018-2019). Common Core of Data, Indian Trails Middle School. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. (2008). Passport to digital citizenship: Journey toward appropriate technology use at school and at home. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(4), 14-17. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ904288)

Ribble, M. (2012). Digital citizenship for educational change. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(4), 148–151.

Ribble, M. & Bailey, G. D. (2007). Digital citizenship in schools. International Society of Technology in Education.

Ribble, M., Bailey, G. D. & Ross. T. W. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behavior. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1), 6-9. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ695788)

Using Kahoot Jumble to Teach Paragraphing in the Writing Classroom

Adam Sprague, Bellin College, adam.sprague @

Over the past twenty years, online formative assessment has emerged as a valid pedagogical strategy from the combination of research in both formative assessment and computer-assisted assessment. In fact, numerous scholars have synthesized a plethora of knowledge in these two fields of research (Clark, 2012; Conole & Warburton, 2005; Nicol, 2009). One common thread found within these syntheses is that technology can be used successfully by instructors for evaluative purposes (Brown, 1997; Skorczynska, del Saz Rubio, & Carrió-Pastor, 2016). This realization may mean that writing instructors could use student response systems (SRS) to help evaluate how their writers are progressing toward various writing skills as SRS have been used successfully to evaluate a wide range of other skill sets in courses ranging from Sports Management to English as a Second Language. Furthermore, students consistently report that SRS are easy to use and improve their engagement in these environments (Dervan, 2014; Sprague, 2016; Steed, 2013; Williamson-Leadley & Ingram, 2013). As a result of SRS providing immediate, targeted feedback that improves overall learning (Angus & Watson, 2009; Kibble, 2007; Wang, 2007), I wanted to test how they would respond to the use of Kahoot, a mobile SRS, as a way to evaluate their progress with paragraphing within the second unit of a college-level writing course.

Kahoot is an Internet-based SRS that enables students to practice skills in a fun and inviting atmosphere. Teachers can create quizzes, puzzles, surveys, and polls, and students can respond during class time by using a smartphone or computer. By mimicking a game show, Kahoot encourages students to compete with each other, which, research suggests, both increases motivation to learn and increases engagement with class material (Iaremenko, 2017; Wang, 2015; Zarzycka-Piskorz, 2016).

During the Fall 2018 semester, I tested Kahoot’s newest mode, Kahoot Jumble (KJ), with forty of my own students across two sections of a required, first-year Composition & Professional Writing course to see if the software could serve as an effective modality for demonstrating paragraph writing knowledge after a series of lectures, readings, and activities on paragraph writing conventions. I was particularly interested in KJ because it offered a different experience from the other SRS like Socrative in that the mode encourages even more focus and critical thinking. That is, KJ’s questions challenge students to quickly place answers in the correct order rather than only select a single correct answer from a list of possibilities (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Kahoot Jumble projector layout (on the left) with students’ smartphone layout (on the right). KJ drastically differs from the two other modes in Kahoot. For example, Kahoot Quiz simply asks for the correct answer in multiple-choice fashion, and Kahoot Survey allows teachers to gather only students’ opinions about the prompt they create.


Using KJ as a teacher is an easy and straightforward process. In order to create a quiz, log into your account and select from the quiz, jumble, or survey options displayed under “Create new Kahoot!” Once you select the jumble option, you will be asked to enter a name for the KJ, select “Go!,” and write the first prompt or question. There are a variety of options available when writing questions for the activity, including uploading videos, pictures, and music in order to encourage thinking. A drag and drop option is also provided for adding pictures. You can also play a YouTube video during a specific prompt/question by placing a URL address in the box requiring a website ID.

Once you add the prompt or question (e.g., “Correctly organize the following sentences to make a paragraph”), and you have added any other multimedia features, you can include up to four “answers” for students to drag and drop into the correct order. The answers can be single words or short phrases, but both the questions and answers have character limits. Prompts and questions are limited to 80 characters, while the answers are limited to 60 characters.

You can also adjust the amount of time to answer each question and the number of points each question is worth. Once you have completed the prompt/question, select “+ Add question” at the bottom of the page until you have completed the quiz. After adding the last question, select “Save & Continue” to be asked about language, privacy settings, and the primary audience. There is also an option to include a description of the jumble and the difficulty level of the KJ.

Then, once ready to present your KJ, log in and choose your previously created KJ, which is then displayed on the screen. Students then visit via their browser, enter the PIN displayed on the main projector screen, and type their name or nickname (which will then be displayed on the main screen). All names entered are then shown to the class, so both students and teachers can see who has joined the session. Once everyone is accounted for, simply click to start the KJ.

During the KJ, the three top-scoring students will be displayed after each question. This is a useful way of introducing a competitive element, particularly if there’s a reward for the winner. An especially useful feature is that each time you deliver a KJ, the data from all of the participants’ responses are saved. You can choose to download this after the session is over either as a Microsoft Excel file or to import the data directly to Google Drive.

In my class, I introduced paragraph organization and transitional phrases, and my students learned how to place sentences in the appropriate location of a paragraph by only looking for key phrases. They then learned a number of basic transitions presented in the textbook, They Say/I Say. For example, we analyzed basic one-word, two-word, and three-word transitional phrases like “for example,” “next,” “the primary reason,” “another point,” “in conclusion,” “this means,” “moreover,” and so on. We then discussed how such phrases usually appeared in a very specific part of a paragraph. We also analyzed previously published articles and essays to understand this point more fully.

Rather than rely on what I have regularly done, that is, cut up paper copies of paragraphs I’ve written and distribute the randomized sentences to groups to re-order, during the KJ I presented them with the key phrases we had covered and then assigned them to drag them into the correct order on their smartphones and laptops. Immediately, I noticed improved engagement and fun levels compared to the non-digital alternative. Additionally, the results report (a downloadable spreadsheet) allowed me to see who was struggling. I learned much more about each individual learner this way than by the much more difficult approach of walking around the room and checking each student’s work, as one of the sections of my course had an enrollment of more than thirty.

Although it is natural for students to improve over the course of the semester, the average essay grades in the course rose from unit 1 to unit 2 when KJ was implemented in regard to paragraph organization and transition use. Ten points of each essay grade were linked to paragraph organization and transitions, and the average in this category rose from an 8.3 or 83% in unit 1 to a 9.1 or 91% in unit 2. While this positive change in academic performance is encouraging, 14 students also commented on the use of KJ in a short, anonymous survey emailed to them three months after the class concluded and final grades were released. Key written responses included:

I [can’t] believe you made all of those [prompts/questions] for us. They really helped me understand how to do a good paragraph.

The [KJ] games were fun. It was better than reading. It made me really want to win too.

My favorite part was that you gave us cool little prizes for winning. I wish all my teachers at [the college] used [KJ] for review especially for [course title] because [the teacher] is never around and [he/she] doesn’t explain anything and [he/she] doesn’t review anything either.

[KJ] helped me with [transitions]. Words like moreover I don’t even get. I honestly hated the book but [the KJ] told me which ones to use.

I really liked the games. They also showed us exactly what you wanted [in] the essays. It helped me get [an] A.

They were good. I just liked that I could play it after class.


Despite this positive feedback, we know that technology can fail and have several downsides. First, students can be bumped from the game if their WiFi connection drops, which did occasionally happen. Another concern may be the level of noise KJ will create itself and promote in the classroom. In true gameshow fashion, KJ plays music in the background and uses sound effects to mark when time to respond is running low for a particular prompt. While the music and sound effects can encourage engagement with the software, it could also be stressful and cause the classroom to become quite noisy as students yell in excitement or agony over gaining and losing points. Additionally, everyone will need either a phone or laptop in order to participate fully and may feel singled out if they do not have such technology. It is harder to measure and evaluate individual learning if they are then paired in groups versus tackling the KJ independently. Finally, I would not recommend using KJ for each unit. Teachers also need to be aware that KJ’s ease of use and functionality might lead to becoming too reliant upon it rather than varying pedagogical approaches to appeal to a variety of learning styles.

Even with these concerns in mind, the advantages of KJ vastly outweigh the disadvantages. Those kicked out of the game by poor WiFi can easily be partnered up with a peer, and the majority of group activities, digital or non-digital, tend to bring with them a certain expectation for noise. After my experimentation with KJ, I can confidently recommend this modality as an effective way to create intrinsic motivation among writers because it allows them to engage more deeply with their instructor and peers because of its collaborative nature. I feel strongly that such engagement and intrinsic motivation are key to encouraging long-term retention. KJ provides an enjoyable and meaningful learning environment that, if implemented carefully, may further increase the likelihood that students will end the course with a higher writing proficiency than if KJ were not used at all as evident by the rise in essay grades in unit 2 versus unit 1 mentioned above.

While there are certainly numerous ways to teach paragraphing, it can safely be argued that KJ positively impacted my students’ grades and afforded them a more collaborative, engaging, less confusing unit compared to when KJ was not used. Certainly, they could have scored just as highly or perhaps even more highly on the unit 2 essays without the use of KJ; however, KJ provided an enjoyable environment that differed from a textbook, PowerPoint, or traditional lecture. Though more research is needed to fully understand KJ’s efficacy in the writing classroom, and this experiment was conducted with a relatively small sample size, these results are nonetheless a promising addition to the ongoing conversation regarding SRS. I strongly believe that KJ could be an excellent platform for grammar instruction and evaluation in relation to a number of topics.

I will definitely use this tool in future semesters to check my students’ comprehension of paragraphing. As an assessment tool, I think it has some benefits as a way of getting a general sense of knowledge or skill in the room because the nature of the activity demands full class participation and provides a lens through which to view individual results. More importantly, KJ is a useful way of breaking up class sessions and re-energizing students who display signs of boredom. Most importantly, students reported loving the activity and requested to do more throughout the remainder of the semester. Given the easy interface and low learning curve, why not give it a try and share your own results?
Angus, S. D., & Watson, J. (2009). Does regular online testing enhance student learning in the numerical sciences? Robust evidence from a large data set. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(2), 255-272.

Brown, J. D. (1997). Computers in language testing: Present research and some future directions. Language Learning and Technology, 1(1), 44-59. Retrieved from MLA International Bibliography database. (Accession No. 2002650154)

Clark, I. (2012). Formative assessment: Assessment is for self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24(2), 205-249.

Conole, G., & Warburton, B. (2005). A review of computer-assisted assessment. ALT-J, 13(1), 17-31.

Dervan, P. (2014). Increasing in-class student engagement using Socrative (an online Student Response System). AISHE-J, 6(3), 1801-1813.

Kibble, J. (2007). Use of unsupervised online quizzes as formative assessment in a medical physiology course: Effects of incentives on student participation and performance. Advances in Physiology Education, 31(3), 253-260.

Nicol, D. (2009). Assessment for learner self‐regulation: Enhancing achievement in the first year using learning technologies. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(3), 335-352.

Skorczynska, H., del Saz Rubio, M., & Carrió-Pastor, M. L. (2016). Second language teaching and technology. An overview. In Technology implementation in second language teaching and translation studies: New tools, new approaches (pp. 13-32). Singapore: Springer.

Sprague, A. (2016). Improving the ESL graduate writing classroom using Socrative: (Re)considering exit tickets. TESOL Journal, 7(4), 989-998.

Steed, A. (2013). Technology in the classroom. Teaching Business & Economics, 17(3), 7-9. through application of digital games in an English language classroom Retrieved from Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 93286186)

Wang, A. I. (2015). The wear out effect of a game-based student response system. Computers and Education, 82, 217–227.

Wang, T-H. (2007). What strategies are effective for formative assessment in an e‐learning environment? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(3), 171-186. Retrieved from ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ762695)

Williamson-Leadley, S., & Ingram, N. (2013). Show and tell: Using iPads for assessment in mathematics. Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, Teaching, Technology, 25(1-3), 117-137.

Zarzycka-Piskorz, E. (2016). Kahoot it or not? Can games be motivating in learning grammar? Teaching English with Technology, 16(3), 17–36. Retrieved from MLA International Bibliography database. (Accession No. 2016651621)

Continuing the Conversation: Socrative’s Impact on Student Emotions, Student Comfort Levels, and Classroom Interactions

Adam Sprague, Assistant Professor and Student Success Coordinator, Bellin College, adam.sprague @

Socrative is a free, cloud-based, online student response system (SRS) available via any Smartphone or tablet with a Wi-Fi connection (Awdeh, Mueen, Zafar, & Manzoor, 2014; Dervan, 2014; Pham, 2016; Steed, 2013; Sprague, 2016). In fact, over the last decade, many studies have highlighted how Socrative increases both student achievement and complex cognitive processes (see, for example, McLaughlin & Yan, 2017). Indeed, this SRS differs from its competitors because 1) it is designed specifically for formative assessment purposes and 2) it allows instructors to create tests, peer reviews, and exit tickets quickly and easily by registering an e-mail address and password at (see Figure 1). Such assessments play a crucial role because it is vital to regularly and quickly inform students of their academic progress (Richards, 2015; Sprague, 2016).


Figure 1. Socrative’s welcome screen

These conversations are now moving beyond simply looking at the impact that SRS’s have on academic achievement. Now, researchers are investigating how they impact students’ feelings toward their instructors and peers and how such technology impacts their overall emotional state (McLaughlin & Yan, 2017). Building on my study that analyzed multilingual students’ perceptions about the use of Socrative in an English as a Second Language (ESL) writing classroom (Sprague, 2016), this study addresses a new call for research by investigating the how the 44 students enrolled in my two sections of English Composition II at Dalton State College felt about my use of Socrative to create exit tickets. Specifically, I wanted to discover how the technology impacted their relationship with their peers and me, and how the technology changed their overall emotional state.

I began by creating two anonymous surveys. I distributed the first (Appendix A) to each student after the first eight weeks of class, at which time I had yet to use Socrative. This survey asked them to use a Likert scale to rank whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with 17 statements regarding their own feelings about the course, and to explain their answers in a more detailed paragraph at the end. Key responses at this time included:

I feel a lot of pressure to do well in this course because I am a bad writer.

[The teacher] goes really fast.

Writing [essays] makes me anxious.

There’s a lot of pressure to write really good in this class.

I am very anxious in this class.

I hate reviewing lectures online.

At this half-way point and for the remainder of the semester, I incorporated exit ticket prompts through Socrative as a technique to assess what my students were thinking and what they learned immediately following a lesson. For example:

  1. What are the three ways to count syllables that we covered in class today? Which of the 3 was most confusing and why?

  2. How do importance-level marking transitions differ from guiding transitions at the paragraph level? What still does not make sense about these types of transitions?

  3. We discussed numerous reasons today why we must consider the rhetorical triangle for the upcoming essay. What were some of those reasons? Additionally, what is most confusing about the rhetorical triangle?

  4. What, if anything, would you like to review again about the rhetorical situation?

  5. Describe the reverse triangle and how writers can use it to write an introduction.

  6. Please write 1 in-text citation from the article you read for today’s class in correct MLA format. Also, what about citing sources in MLA format would you like to review once more that is giving you trouble?

  7. What is the most difficult part of MLA format so far?

  8. What knowledge do you still need from Adam before you turn in your essay to feel as though you will get an A on the project?

  9. What literary terms are currently the most difficult for you to remember?

At week 15, I distributed the second survey (Appendix B) to the same students, which allowed me to measure changes in their feelings about the course and instructor. Key responses at this time included:

Seems like the professor cares more now.

Adam takes a lot of time reviewing compared to before.

I feel in control because of [Socrative]. I say what I want to review and Adam does it. It’s awesome.

My anxiety about writing is a lot less.

My professor takes more time to review [course materials].

Seems like he cares more about us [than] before.

Our opinion matters now.

I feel less stressed out now when I come to class.

Based on these responses, I discovered that their feelings were drastically impacted by the implementation of Socrative. First, they felt as though they had more control over the course material. This student-perceived increase in control likely led to the second most significant finding, that they had decreased anxiety levels in regard to writing in class. It seems logical to conclude, then, that the use of Socrative positively impacted students in that they felt as though they had more control over the course material, and that increased feeling of control likely led to their feeling less anxious about the essay assignments.

Moreover, it was not only a reduction in anxiety related to essay writing. In fact, they also reported that they felt less test anxiety. These findings show that while Socrative may have direct benefits for students in writing courses, the use of this particular software may also help reduce test anxiety in other courses as well.

Another significant finding was that Socrative led to an increased feeling of meaningfulness for students when engaging in peer-to-peer interactions. This finding is likely due to the collaborative nature of Socrative. Students inputted their answers to the exit ticket questions in class, but the results of those answers were viewed and discussed collaboratively and led to collaborative review work the next class period. Because Socrative allowed for easy, quick collaboration in regard to reviewing course concepts, these findings are significant but not altogether surprising.

Consequently, students also reported feeling as though they had more frequent interactions with their peers. This means they felt that peer-to-peer interactions were more meaningful and that they were occurring much more frequently even though the first half and the second half of the semester had the exact same number of group work days, highlighting how the technology promoted more frequent interaction within the classroom despite being a digital tool. They also felt themselves growing and developing in a positive manner more so during the second half of the semester than the first. It can be argued that Socrative may have played a significant role in allowing them to feel more positively about themselves as a result of my change in pedagogy via the implementation of Socrative.

This is a truly monumental finding, as it points to the widespread positive impact Socrative had on the students in this study. Thus, it can be safely argued that Socrative was a major affordance as it played a major role in improving the students’ happiness, feelings toward me as their instructor, feelings toward their peers, feelings toward the course materials and course structure, sense of self-worth, sense of maturation, and feelings of anxiety. In other words, Socrative had a major impact on the students’ emotional domain in a wide variety of ways, which was what this study was determined to investigate.

Ultimately, these responses mirror much of what I felt as the instructor. To me, the primary affordance of using Socrative was that I had the ability to cater to problem areas visible as a result of my students’ exit ticket responses. It is my belief that this built a stronger community of students who better understood why I chose the materials for the next lesson, as they were the materials students showed they had the most trouble with overall. In other words, Socrative provided an increased level of transparency to the course, which led to students feeling a greater sense of control. By doing this, I felt more assured that I was providing the information that they needed, which visibly reduced their anxiety levels about the work asked of them for the course and significantly lowered the number of students asking for help during office hours likely because they received a review of concepts at the beginning of each class session.

This study answered the current call for more robust research in regard to whether or not SRS have a significant impact on students’ emotional domain (McLaughlin & Yan, 2017). Although this remains somewhat of a modestly sized investigation, the study is unique because it focuses primarily on the impact Socrative had on student emotion. The results of this study continue to push the conversation forward in regard to how teachers may best use Socrative in the classroom.

Specifically, the findings of this study suggest that Socrative allows instructors rather easily to enhance their students’ feelings about the overall course, course content, their peers, and their instructor while reducing their students’ anxiety levels. The software was particularly useful as Socrative allowed me to quickly make sure everyone in the class understood the day’s lesson and were keeping up with the materials covered. Still, this study does not provide enough data to draw definitive conclusions. Therefore, further studies could examine the use of Socrative across a wider variety of courses or over a number of years to determine if the findings in this study are generalizable or isolated to my specific writing course.

In closing, Socrative may be a good choice for teachers working in classrooms where technological resources are rare and where computer labs may be unavailable. In a time when mobile phone usage is ubiquitous in today’s youth culture, more campuses may want to consider delivering online formative assessment using mobile devices given the overwhelmingly positive reaction students had to its use in this study.

Awdeh, M., Mueen, A., Zafar, B., & Manzoor, U. (2014). Using Socrative and Smartphones for the support of collaborative learning. International Journal on Integration Technology in Education, 3(4), 17-24. Retrieved from


Dervan, P. (2014). Enhancing in-class student engagement using Socrative (an online student response system). All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 6(3), 1801-1813. Retrieved from

McLaughlin, T., & Yan, Z. (2017). Diverse delivery methods and strong psychological benefits: A review of online formative assessment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33(6), 562-574.

Pham, H. (2016). Integrating Quizlet and Socrative into teaching vocabulary. Issues in Language Instruction, 5(1), 27-28.

Richards, J. C. (2015). Key issues in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sprague, A. (2016). Improving the ESL graduate writing classroom using Socrative: (Re) considering exit tickets. TESOL Journal, 7(4), 989-998.

Steed, A. (2013). Technology in the classroom. Teaching Business & Economics, 17(3), 7-9. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 93286186)


The Evolution of the English Classroom: From Brick and Mortar to Virtual

Jennifer Seymour, Wausau Area Virtual Education, jseymour @


If the names William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Kate Chopin, H. G. Wells, and Sojourner Truth sound familiar, you may be an English teacher (or you paid attention in your high school literature courses). And, now that you are nostalgically thinking back to that English classroom that served as the hub for your scholarly pursuits, you may be fondly remembering Mrs. Smith as she clip-clopped between desks reciting “To be or not to be,” delighting all with her wit and enthusiasm. In contrast, the memory more prominent than the rest may be the sound of Bobby Porter’s voice reading aloud from To Kill a Mockingbird–he was the only one in class who volunteered. Regardless of your positive or negative memories, one thing is certain: the majority of adults reading this article attended their required English classes on a daily basis, sat in Lilliputian desks, and carried gargantuan anthologies wrapped in brown shopping bags to and from home (this should have counted towards PE credit).

Luckily, students and teachers of the 21st-century have alternatives to the traditional setting. As a teacher for the past twenty plus years, I have poured my heart into making sure the precious, allotted minutes of desk time were spent in the most engaging English environment possible while addressing the diverse needs of the students that entered my classroom. And, in reflection, I am proud to think that most of those students had benefited from what they had learned by the close of the semester. Still, I know there were students filling the spots on my rosters that would have had a more meaningful English experience in a setting less driven by time and space, an experience that allowed more flexibility in content delivery as well as minutes spent on a given task. For these students, the traditional setting did not allow the freedom needed to fully engage and learn deeply, nor did it encourage the independence to become self-driven learners.

The virtual classroom is a viable option for students whose lives and paths need more flexibility than the brick and mortar model of our past. Currently, I am teaching English courses in our district’s virtual charter school, Wausau Area Virtual Education (WAVE), which has the motto of anytime, anywhere education for the 21st-century learner. The Wausau School District is committed to providing many pathways for students to achieve success in education, and, in addition to other charter schools in the district, WAVE provides one of those paths. Our student body is composed of individuals who have chosen the virtual model for various reasons, some because their passions and dreams require a commitment to an intense sports training during the “regular” school day. I am excited to think that down the road our WAVE graduates may be Olympic gymnasts, NHL hockey players, and PGA golfers. Other families have chosen WAVE for the the freedom it provides them to travel; I currently have a family traveling the world while not missing a beat of their Wausau School District education. For others, the teenage drama of high school is too much, and the option to learn in a setting void of that drama is the preferred option. Still others, for a plethora of other reasons, have found virtual high school to be the best fit for them: employment and internships, the need to be a caregiver to a family member, social or anxiety hindrances, the desire to graduate early. The beauty is that virtual school changes the game and provides a choice for students who previously did not have one regarding the delivery of their public school courses.

How does an English class look in the virtual setting? For WAVE, we contract with Wisconsin Virtual School through CESA 9 and national curriculum providers to obtain rigorous, tested, highly engaging course curricula. The core English classes are all taught using Florida Virtual School curriculum, while the electives (Creative Writing, Mythology and Folklore, Lord of the Rings, and Gothic Literature) come from various other national providers. When I was trained to be a virtual school teacher, I was apprehensive. How could I possibly teach Macbeth via the computer? How do I get to know my students? How… How… How… the questions and doubts flooded my mind, but all that changed when I had the chance to dig into the curriculum, the Learning Management System (LMS) and its tools, and the Student Information System (SIS) and its reports. Furthermore, hearing the excitement from other virtual teachers regarding what they were able to accomplish in their classrooms was the catalyst I needed to keep investigating this new frontier, and I am so happy I did.

To start, the curriculum is outstanding. The modules are aligned to national standards and organized into deliberate scope and sequence lessons. I am impressed with the continuity and skill building that exists between each of the core classes. Furthermore, the rigor is truly impressive. Students are being taught to the highest of expectations and standards. Additionally, students who are accelerated can move at a pace that does not hold them back. When they have mastered a task, they can move to the next one. I can offer honors modules and additional enrichment to them as well. Furthermore, because online teaching is so personalized and dependent on teacher feedback, I can easily differentiate my instruction as needed.

Differentiation is much easier to manage in the virtual world where students are free to work at a pace appropriate to them versus the standard delivery which, for the most part, requires them to stay lock step with one another. For example, learners who struggle with a concept can move slower through the pacing. I can meet them in Google Hangouts, we can have running discussions in the margins of the feedback on a Google doc, we can email, we can talk on the phone, and if it works logistically, we can meet in a face-to-face environment. WAVE has a unique space for these types of meetings: we have a storefront in our local mall that serves as its face. This space provides blended learning opportunities for those who need a hands-on component.


WAVE Storefront / Meeting Center


Another bonus I have seen in the virtual world of English is that students are required to communicate often and communicate well. There is no possibility of students crouching in the corner desk hoping the teacher does not see them. Every student must initiate, respond to, and maintain regular communication throughout the course. If a student cannot do this, virtual school is not the right option. Specific student-driven teaching in the virtual setting occurs through this shared communication. I may ask students to re-submit an assignment multiple times and provide specific feedback to them through screencasts, links to video tutorials, or audio feedback regarding what needs to be improved in order for mastery to occur. There are many formative opportunities built into the curriculum as well as the reteaching that happens on a student-by-student case. Students, by nature of the delivery, will inherently become more sophisticated and confident communicators throughout their virtual experiences.

Any educators with a few years of teaching under their belts know that the key to reaching students is developing and nurturing relationships. Moving from the face-to-face world to the virtual one, I wondered how I would manage to create those same connections. It quickly became clear that it would take a more concerted effort on my part as the instructor. In the traditional setting, I stand outside the door and greet kids as they walk in. I know their personal styles through observation, and I create camaraderie in the classroom through shared educational risk-taking. How in the world was I going to accomplish that in the virtual classroom? The answer is by rethinking the ways I can connect to students. One avenue I have found to be invaluable is the constant communication which I’ve already discussed as being essential. I require meet-and-greet discussion boards at the beginning of the course to establish classroom culture. Students are asked to share things about themselves (including a picture) and carry on conversations within the discussion thread. These discussion threads also occur within course units to encourage collaboration among peers. Furthermore, when I have the opportunity to speak with students on the phone, in Google Hangout, or in person, I make sure that a portion of that conversation is spent getting to know more about them. I extend these conversations into emails, asking how a sporting event turned out or how the new puppy is doing. I also make feedback personalized by always using the student’s name, identifying successes, and encouraging continued growth. Then there are the quirky bitmojis and GIFS that I send to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and successes. I feel like I know my virtual students as well, if not better, than students in traditional classes.

Virtual school prepares kids for life beyond high school. In a world that requires them to be technologically savvy, good communicators, and flexible enough to handle what life after high school throws their way, these kids are ready. I embrace the opportunities for growth that teaching English in the virtual setting has provided, and I look forward to the evolving changes sure to present themselves before I retire. Heaven forbid I ever lose sight of the fact that there are many different kinds of learners and many different ways of teaching. Let us celebrate them all.

“We Are Not All the Same”: Strengthening Teacher-Student Relationships through Online Classroom Dialogue

Robyn Seglem, Illinois State University, rseglem @

Antero Garcia, Stanford Graduate School of Education, antero.garcia @


In the January 2016 issue of English Journal, Golden and Womack reminded us that the importance of relationships is often overlooked in these times of massive reform, particularly when working with minoritized youth. Through our work with preservice teachers, we strive to instill the importance of relationships within future teachers on a daily basis, emphasizing, as Golden and Womack urge, the importance of abandoning a deficit model of instruction. For Antero, this mission is personal because of the years he spent working with high school youth who dealt with inequitable schooling conditions on a daily basis. And for Robyn, who works with teacher candidates with little experience working with youth of color, it can be a challenge to demonstrate how to foster relationships with students they see as having little in common with them. As former teachers, we know that teachers and students must lead organic change from within schools. Thus, we asked ourselves how we could we shift our teacher candidates from being enactors of the status quo to advocates for youth from all backgrounds and experiences. Realistically, we knew that, by ourselves, we could not accomplish this through one or two college courses. Yet, we also knew that if we could assist in the development of authentic relationships between white preservice teachers and youth of color, we could begin to plant the seeds of future advocacy.

This article looks at how teachers and students can guide change from within classrooms by recontextualizing the cultural experiences and relationships at the core of learning and growth in today’s public schools. Whereas “classroom management” tends to be the focus for how new teachers must “control” kids, we focus our efforts to transform English teachers’ classrooms through utilizing online tools for humanizing purposes. Building on a study of our work with high school students and preservice teachers, we consider how reflection on the dynamics between these two groups and an evolution in how we build relationships in classrooms can better drive a revolution in the academic needs of students and the cultural awareness of teachers.

Connecting Teachers and Hearing Students
As literacy educators, we began our work by examining the potential of media to connect two groups who lived thousands of miles apart. With a class of sophomores who attended school in the South Central Los Angeles high school, where Antero had previously taught, and a cohort of preservice teachers studying how to teach in suburban Central Illinois, we wanted to explore whether we could tap into the potential of the digital world to unite the two disparate groups, helping them to reflect upon their individual realities and construct an educational experience leading to a impactful shared reality. Acknowledging the Discourse in which classroom exchanges typically commence (Gee, 1990), we wanted both teachers and students to reflect critically on the cultural role that language plays in defining the identities enacted in classrooms. Not simply making transparent the language practices necessary for participation in schools (Delpit, 1988), we wanted teachers to hear and validate the diverse Englishes” that students fluidly speak (Garcia & Seglem, 2018; Kirkland, 2010).

Just as importantly, we recognized that language–both typed and spoken–evolves over time. The cultural practices imbued within how youth communicate online including uses of emojis, abbreviations, and creative deviations from “standard” English reflect the youth popular culture that is often too absent from our classrooms (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008; Ladson-Billings, 1995).

Alongside bringing in youth popular culture mindfully as to not simply appropriate youth-focused tools, our project was also focused on considering how the uses of technology can do more to “sustain” cultural identity within classrooms (Paris & Alim, 2014). While there are extensive studies on digital literacies within classrooms (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003), our emphasis was on exploring how high school students and teachers could use these tools to communicate and build relationships. Even as recent research by Turkle (2012, 2015) highlights how technology may be further isolating individuals and negatively affecting relationships, we wondered if these same tools could guide strengthened relationships and vibrant language practices within classrooms. In short, we believe that if high school students want to be understood and respected by teachers who may come from very different cultural backgrounds, learning how to communicate within the continually evolving textual spaces of online dialogue is an important first step.

Building Virtual Meeting Spaces
Pairing one to two high school students in South Central Los Angeles with one preservice teacher in Central Illinois, we had the two very distant (geographically and culturally) groups meet online weekly in chat rooms. Importantly, though the Los Angeles City Council officially renamed the area “South Los Angeles” more than a decade ago (Gold & Braxton, 2003), the students and local school community continued to refer to the area as “South Central” because the historic identity of the space remained important. While students were able to receive one-on-one feedback on their writing and work within an English class, our larger goal was to open up space for the kinds of reflection, textual exploration, and relationship building that comes with groups meeting each other through tools different from those frequently used. Traditional teacher-student power relationships were no longer possible when high school students were driving conversation, doing so in the language practices they were comfortable with, and– later –even conducting mock job interviews with the preservice teachers. Our revolution for learning and relationships in schools is built on recognizing the skills, expertise, and identities of the students in our classrooms.

Though we had more than a dozen different chat rooms running throughout the semester (approximately one for each preservice teacher), we are focusing on two of them to explore more deeply the textual exchanges that occurred. Looking at these two transcripts of conversations that transpired over the course of the Fall semester, we share several transcript exchanges to look at how language and identity intermix and shape relational understanding. In particular, we are interested in how the language practices within these chat rooms mediated identity and power relationships between the preservice teachers and high school students (Garcia & Seglem, 2018). Participants’ uses of intertextuality and digital language practices like emoticons facilitated nuanced persona building that affected the kinds of exchanges that occurred between youth and adults. Below we look at exchanges within our chat room transcripts as means for reflecting on academic learning, evolving what relationships can look like in classrooms, and fomenting a humanizing revolution.

Using Literature to Reflect Upon the Larger World
The first transcript we share demonstrates how the chat rooms built inroads for utilizing literature to reflect upon the world and the realities youth face on a daily basis. As was typically the case in each discussion, the high school students and the preservice teachers paid close attention to language practices–in this case on the choices made by Alexie (1998) in his essay “Superman and Me.” Yet, while high schoolers Luis and Michael began the conversation focusing on Alexie’s essay, their discussion eventually evolved into a conversation that focused on the boys’ experiences in school. Through their reflection, they were able to share with Jill, their preservice teacher partner, their personal experiences of often not being heard in a school dominated by white teachers; the online environment created space for marginalized voices–those of youth and particularly youth of color–to be centered and understood:

Jill, Michael, & Luis, December 5

1. Luis: Hello. Good Morning. Today we are going to talk about the Biographical essay of Sherman Alexie.”Superman and Me.”

2. Jill: Very good, do you have thoughts to start our conversation about the essay?

3. Michael: cool..

4. Michael: “at the same time i was seeing the world in paragraphs”

5. Luis: What do You think or feel about that quote, Jill?

6. Jill: Could I ask which paragraph this quote came from?

7. Michael: the start of the 4th paragraph

8. Jill: I can see both sides… sometimes things come to us in a single thought, or paragraph and other times I feel like I see the world as a bunch of random words… what do you think on my thought?

9. Luis: I think that’s what Sherman Alexie thinks too.

The dynamics of this conversation are interesting. It is evident that the boys were mimicking the language of school. In Turn 1, we see Luis address his “class” by stating the objective of the day, with Michael following up in Turn 4 by providing a specific reference to the text, highlighting the importance of using Alexie’s words to dig into the meaning of the essay. The two high school students shifted into language that mimics a teaching identity: “Today we are going to talk about” finds the students in the formal register that was beyond their typical banter with Jill. It is clear these youth have experienced this type of approach to instruction in the past, and Luis underscores their intent by explicitly asking Jill her opinion. His use of her first name is notable because they often address her more formally like they would a teacher, making the teacher persona even more evident in this dialogue. He furthers this persona by affirming Jill’s thoughts in Turn 9, responding to Jill’s request about their evaluation of her performance by stating “I think that’s what Sherman Alexie thinks too.” This layered approach to language highlights the unspoken, tacit knowledge these two high school students fluidly possess: they shift into traditionally authoritative language repertoires while also knowing how to usurp such practices when delivered by Jill. Conscious of the traditional scripts of schooling and varied language practices, Luis and Michael command the academic space in ways that traditional schooling often stifles.

Continuing the transcript from above, Jill, Michael, and Luis interrogate Alexie’s ideas about the paragraphs of the world, with Jill ultimately asking them to reflect on “What kind of actions or decisions in our lives make for a solid, flowing paragraph?” Luis responds: “Decisions that affect our life’s outcomes. School is one of them. College. Work. Stuff like that.” His answer prompts Jill to ask what they plan to do after high school, and Michael states he would likely go to work because he doubts he’d “last in college.” The excerpt that follows demonstrates why Michael feels this way:

Jill, Michael, & Luis Example 2, December 5 Continued

27. Jill: I think that you would do great in college!! You are always very insightful and contribute great thoughts in this class!

28. Michael: hehe thank you i can do good in every class but math ._. i haven’t been learning much math since 7th grade i always have a teacher that can’

29. Michael: cant’ control their class due to immaturity amongst kids

30. Jill: Your right, we are not all the same… how do the teachers at your school encourage you in your decisions?

31. Jill: Is that teacher not able to control their class because they have low expectations of you? Why are the kids immature in their class?

32. Michael: well the kids don’t take the class seriously. students are always being sent out it just gets worst over time..

33. Jill: What do you think would solve the problem?

34. Jill: There was a time that a teacher told me that I was dumb and the only reason I was doing well in her class was because I work hard.

35. Michael: if people were to take the class seriously . I mean kids just mess around the teacher just allows it and doesn’t do a thing to stop it

36. Jill: What do you do to help the situation and do your part to learn in class?

37. Michael: I don’t do anything to disturb class because i actually want to learn due to not learning much math these last few years

38. Michael: Stay in my seat and I’m quiet

39. Jill: Your decision to learn will take you far… both of you make decisions which will help you in the future.

Within the partnership between Jill, Luis and Michael, Jill consistently projects the most stable persona–that of teacher. Whether through rephrasing a question (“Can you be more specific with your personal anecdote”), redirecting the conversation (“tell me again, what is your position… and your 3 claims?”), or asking for clarification (What do you mean by “run tardy?”), Jill returns to more formal teacher practices throughout the partnership. At the same time, as Turn 27 indicates, Jill is obviously trying to build a relationship with Luis and Michael, and she appears to genuinely care about what they have to say. Noting an opportunity for a personal connection, Jill takes a break from the discussion over Alexie’s essay in order to affirm Michael as a student. Her willingness to do this suggests growth in their relationship because rather than staying on the task at hand, she seems to recognize the importance of connecting with her students and affirming their self-worth. In particular, as we look at this example in relation to the weeks of dialogue in which Jill tends to focus solely on the academic task at hand, the flexibility she exudes here is a significant shift from how she typically spoke with Michael and Luis. Jill ultimately invites the youth to reflect upon how the essay relates to their own lives, providing inroads to developing cultural understanding.

Evolving ELA Classrooms through New Language Practices
Reviewing the language choices in the online space above, we must consider how the kinds of words, phrases, and symbols that the youth utilize reflect how they perform characteristics of their identity. For example, Michael and Luis, making the unhappy-looking emoticon >.< speak informally. Their language is transgressive within the traditional space of schools. Likewise, lol engendered Jill into the youth-endorsed language practices, whether she wanted to participate in this language or not. It is important to recognize that such emoticons and abbreviations were initially a source of confusion for Jill. Throughout the semester, Jill did not type or send any emoticon or lol-like abbreviations, despite the fact that Michael and Luis used both in every single transcript. Neither the students or the future teacher seemed willing to concede the ground of their language practices for the dialogue.

Yet even within this exchange and the advice that followed–”Even when the situation is not how we would like it to be, we can learn from it”–Jill continues to adopt the formal language practices she associates with the Discourse (Gee, 1990) of teachers. Further she seems to accept Michael’s assertion that the disruptive class was the fault of his peers, rather than the teacher’s ability to manage the classroom. In affirming Michael’s view, Jill misses out on an opportunity to engage in culturally responsive practices that explore how a mismatch between teachers’ and students’ experiences can result in situations such as the one described by Michael. In contrast, the following excerpt reveals the diversity of language practices with which Antoine and Vincent communicate while also identifying differences in beliefs and worldviews that arose during the holiday season. Precisely because of shared language practices, these exchanges highlight how different worldviews can be understood and negotiated between youth and adults.

Prior to the conversation below, Antoine explained that he is vegan, and they both noted how very different their Thanksgiving experiences were. From there, we can see how a willingness to move forward and laugh through their differences allows Antoine to sustain an environment for powerful exchange:

Antoine & Vincent, November 28

1. Antoine: what did you do on black friday?

2. Vincent: I WENT SHOPING

3. Antoine: does all caps mean you are yelling? why are you yelling at me? hahaha! where did you shop? what did you buy?

4. Vincent: ahaha no im not yelling at u tf?? aha its more like saying something in exciment i baught cloths

5. Antoine: what’s “tf” mean? i did not go out on black friday. i was scared.

6. Vincent: aha it means the fuck lmfao (x scared of what?? O.o

7. Antoine: hahahaha!!! that’s hilarious. i know what “lmfao” means. hahaha!

8. Antoine: i was scared of shopping.

9. Vincent: tf y r u scared of shoping?????? O.o thats not normal in my neighbor hood

10. Antoine: i just don’t like consumerism. it scares me.

11. Vincent: what dose consumerism mean??

Unlike most classroom dialogue, both Antoine and Vincent slip comfortably between using acronyms, emoticons, and a lackadaisical approach to capitalization. In Turn 2, we can see the playful nature of Vincent capitalizing a sentence and how they both draw and explore the different intentions of capitalizing the statement. The meaning of textual “talk”–what could be naturally inferred in a face-to-face context–is instead discussed, clarified, and utilized for strengthening the relationship between the two chat room participants.

Antoine was humored by Marco’s language choices. Rather than ignoring or questioning Marco’s language, he declares that it was hilarious and often laughed digitally: hahaha! Building trust, Antoine encourages Vincent to comfortably explain the expletive-laden meaning behind the tf abbreviation. Accepting Vincent’s cursing, lack of capitalization, use of abbreviations, emoticons, and exclamation and question marks, Antoine’s engagement in the chat room highlights a willingness to understand difference that guides the new teacher’s future practice. Even though Vincent and Antoine have markedly different experiences, their shared language practices offer a familiarity to learn and meaningfully dialogue.

In addition to making the space informal so that Antoine can inquire about tf, we also see Vincent asking about consumerism–a conversation that continues into a discussion of wealth, Marxism, and the interests of individuals that Vincent knows in the South Central community. A rich narrative emerges as a result of how textual changes in online space create familiarity even when these two participants are pretty different otherwise: in addition to age, location, and ethnicity, the transcript highlights different ideological stances. With a foundation for exploring cultural meaning and identity in online spaces, relationships helped evolve the possibilities of learning and engagement within the classroom.

Revolutionizing Relationships through Talk and Reflection
Even though Jill did not share the same rapport with her students as Antoine did with Vincent, she still created a safe chat space for the boys to feel comfortable enough to interact playfully and faux-antagonistically. The shifts in power in the classroom evolved gradually across the semester. Looking at both of these groups–and the rest of the high school students and preservice teachers that they worked alongside–it is important to consider how the collective literacy efforts developed (in collaboration between student and adult in online spaces) was highlighting one way to consider revolutionizing the possibilities of English classrooms today: revolution through relationships.

Further, we must consider that these changes happened within the traditionally out-of-school digital space of virtual environments. In fact, had we not developed this virtualized school-based learning context, these relationships would not have been possible. For instance, consider how ideologically different Antoine and Vincent were in their dialogue. Antoine’s ideology was quite different from Vincent’s own perspective of the world. However, by having a conversation grounded in student-developed social language and shifting power dynamics in these spaces, these two individuals were able to build common understanding and support Vincent’s academic growth. The chatroom also created a needed distance for some high school students to speak up within their partners; by not seeing their partners, high school students in this class gained the confidence to be heard.

Fairclough (1995) notes that power can be understood “both in terms of asymmetries between participants in discourse events, and in terms of unequal capacity to control how texts are produced, distributed, and consumed (and hence the shapes of texts) in particular sociocultural contexts” (pp. 1-2). Radically reinventing the possibilities of the English classroom requires significantly understanding how existing power structures can be reshaped and renegotiated. Considering the needs of high school students in today’s politically polarized society, we must question how technology in schools is fostering powerful learning and meaningful relationships. By realigning a more balanced approach to how students and teachers participate in and produce discourse and language within their classrooms, we see new English practices that more fully incorporate our students’ humanity, dignity, and growing voices.


Alexie, S. (1998, April 19). The joy of reading and writing: Superman and me. Los Angeles Times, p. 110.

Delpit, L. D. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280-298. Retrieved from America: History & Life database. (Accession No. 19700856)

Duncan-Andrade, J. M. R., & Morrell, E. (2008). The art of critical pedagogy: Possibilities for moving from theory to practice in urban schools. New York: Peter Lang.

Fairclough, N. (1995). Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language. New York: Longman.

Garcia, A., & Seglem, R. (2018). “DUDE UR GUNNA BE A GREAT TEACHER YO”: Cultivating diverse Englishes through chatroom discussions between preservice teachers and urban high school youth. Reading and Writing Quarterly.

Gee, J. P. (1990). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses. London: Routledge.

Golden, N. A., & Womack, E. (2016). Cultivating literacy and relationships with adolescent scholars of color. English Journal, 105(3), 36-42. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database. (Accession No. 112596050)

Kirkland, D. E. (2010). English(es) in urban contexts: Politics, pluralism, and possibilities. English Education, 42(3), 293-306. Retrieved from ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ880910)

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2004). New literacies: Changing knowledge and classroom learning. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Paris, D., & Alim, H. S. (2014). What are we seeking to sustain through culturally sustaining pedagogy? A loving critique forward. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 85-100. Retrieved from ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ1034292)

Turkle, S. (2012). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.

Turkle, S. (2015). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. New York: Penguin.

Teaching English Online: Challenges and Successes

Elizabeth Jorgensen, Arrowhead Union High School, jorgensene @


Although some districts offer online classes year-round, the high school where I work, Arrowhead Union, offers traditional and blended classes during the school year, while exclusively online classes are only offered only during summer school. Throughout my past decade of teaching these courses, I’ve made invaluable professional, community, and student connections; learned more about myself and technology; and watched students acquire English skills as they matured academically and personally. But I also experienced challenges and setbacks.

Creative thinkers and educational pioneers are long accustomed to learning, growing and adapting. But because technology constantly changes, online teachers in particular need to remain responsive and reflective. By anticipating roadblocks and collaborating with colleagues and professionals, online teachers can meet student needs.


Teacher Resources and Support
One of the biggest obstacles I encountered teaching online was installing, incorporating, and instituting multiple learning management systems (LMS). In 2003, teachers at my high school used Moodle to electronically store and disseminate course content in online, blended, and face-to-face classes. A few years later, Arrowhead phased out Moodle. According to Donna Smith, Arrowhead’s Director of Library Media and Technology, Moodle “was a widely used learning management system. At the time, Moodle user communities and professional development were robust and commonplace …. A district need only maintain the system on a server and set up a domain name.” When Moodle no longer met Arrowhead’s needs, Smith contracted with Canvas. While some teachers moved content to Google Classroom, others utilized Canvas. As teachers moved content from one LMS to another, support was provided. Specifically, online teachers participated in several meetings each year, developing protocols and sharing best practices.

At Arrowhead, all online teachers provide students with a welcome letter highlighting course procedures, teacher office hours and LMS information. In this letter, students learn about a mandatory face-to-face meeting (prior to the course start date) where the teacher will field questions and introduce content. Similar protocols from all online instructors allow for transparency and for students to accurately gauge what will be required. Once enrolled in the course, students have the opportunity to watch a welcome video. Most instructors introduce themselves, state course goals and encourage students to raise questions and concerns.


welcome letter.PNG


To help teachers instruct online, in 2013, Smith and I created an online teacher expectation rubric. This rubric allows teachers to assess themselves on daily visible presence (responding to students within 24 to 48 hours regardless of weekends or holidays); constructive posts; comments that respectfully challenge students; contact with parents, as needed; and engaging activities including events, lectures, guest speakers, discussions and tutoring. Furthermore, where in-school collaborative time is not provided, teachers could reference online communities and discussion boards.

Specifically, in Canvas, the Commons allows educators to “find, import and share resources.” In Moodle community forums, instructors share ideas and connect. Other resources include the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the National Standards for Quality Online Teaching (iNACOL).


Meeting Student Needs
During Arrowhead’s six-week summer school session, students might find themselves at sleep-away camps, working 40-hour weeks, or traveling. With the flexibility of online classes, students can build their own schedules. In end-of-class surveys, 25 percent of my online students report regularly accessing course content between 50 and 250 miles from school on phones, tablets and computers.

Offered to incoming juniors and seniors, online summer school English classes include composition, creative writing, journalism, and college strategies. Last year, 89 students enrolled in these online classes. The online summer school course offerings match what is offered to Arrowhead’s juniors and seniors during the school year. For freshmen and sophomores, summer school offerings remain remedial and face-to-face only.

Smith told me in an email:

We offer online courses at Arrowhead because there is a need for our students to experience self-paced and personalized learning. Online learning takes a lot of discipline and motivation. Students need to be willing to ask questions and troubleshoot technical problems if they arise … The benefits to our students are many. Online courses help create learners who are independent and persistent. Some learners find they prefer the discussion opportunities and personalized feedback in online courses. As online courses and training become more prevalent in post secondary education and in the workplace, we feel that we are preparing our students through blended and online opportunities at Arrowhead. The time management and communication skills our students practice in online courses will benefit them in all aspects of their future lives.

Annually, in end-of-course surveys, Arrowhead students, at a 90 percent rate, recommend that all students take an online high school course. They recognize that online classes require self-direction, motivation, organization and independence. They also recognize high school as a place to develop these skills in a safe and encouraging environment.

At Arrowhead, online English classes, capped at 15, remain a stark contrast to in-person classes capped at 35. Online classes of 15 allow instructors to monitor student progress and provide individualized attention and faster feedback. Smith says, “Online education creates an awareness of the importance of clear communication on behalf of both the instructors and students.”

In addition to presenting English content, netiquette rules, and information on web tools and the LMS, I monitor student progress. According to the Wisconsin DPI’s FAQ on online and blended learning:

Learning Management Systems (as well as the Student Information System) in online courses often provide a wealth of information about students’ times logged in, times on task, and assessment results. Especially in cases where the student’s pace, time or motivation seems to be a problem, teachers will want to work with the local contact person (sometimes called a local education guide, coach, case manager, mentor, or liaison) for further insight.

At Arrowhead, a secretary serves as a liaison between teacher and student only during the first week of summer school. This secretary contacts students who fail to log on or complete tasks; communicates student concerns to parents; and coordinates adds and drops. These efforts allow teachers to focus on students and instructing. Beyond this contracted time, these responsibilities fall to the teacher.

Special education teachers remain available for online summer school students, and the library is open during regular summer school hours. In the library, students receive technical support, wireless access, and devices, allowing teachers to focus on instruction and assessment rather than hardware or access issues. Although I do not require students use the library for learning, it remains a hub for academic and technological resources. My office hours are held in the library and, often, students will choose to work there, discussing assignments or collaborating with peers.

At Arrowhead, parents can access Canvas as an observer. This allows them to follow the course and see their son’s or daughter’s progress. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) list of online teacher responsibilities:

Online courses are particularly suited to keeping parents and guardians informed and involved as they can be given online access to their student’s progress and work. Continual communication and collaboration is a key to success. Communication with students, parents, counselors, etc. can be accomplished via phone calls, e-mails, progress reports, screencast videos, texting, announcements on home page, web conferences, and feedback within individual assessments.

For students who fail to complete assigned work, a nudging email or LMS message is the first step. A face-to-face conference is a second step. Often, these contacts propel the resistant student. Initial contact can also be made via web or phone call. Losing points can serve as motivation, as students see how negligence impinges academic success. According to Hamilton and Jorgensen (2017):

If the students remain resistant, a phone call or email home can be the impetus needed. If a student continues to refuse, connecting with a previous teacher or guidance counselor can provide insight (what motivated a student to work in a previous class can often continue to be a motivating factor online). (p. 367)

Additionally, every composition, creative writing, and journalism assignment is completed for an authentic purpose and audience. Writers’ markets, with hard deadlines and strict requirements, motivate students with the allure of publication or prizes. However, if students still refuse to work, parents and I will collaborate and require them either to meet with me or work in the library.

At the end of each summer school session, data is reported to administration, correlating student failures to time spent online. At the end of last year’s session, three students failed online English classes. One spent a total of 57 minutes and 23 seconds on the course; another spent 37 minutes and 01 second; the other spent seven hours, 16 minutes and 28 seconds. This is in contrast to successful students who spent a minimum of 60 hours.

In an online class, I want students to get to know me. If students enjoy me and my instruction, they are more likely to increase effort and achievement. To accomplish this, I post videos (shorter than three minutes) highlighting course information, announcements or updates. I record myself informally using my iPhone and then upload the content either directly to the LMS or use a YouTube link. If I see common errors in student work, I create and record mini lessons or lectures. I also provide video resources from Khan Academy or TED Talk. By combining a variety of resources, I scaffold and differentiate.

The work in my online courses relies on student engagement and options, similar to my face-to-face courses during the school year. I present several options or strategies and allow students to choose the task or assignment which will best demonstrate mastery. During online summer school, I utilize writers’ markets. Last summer, students wrote haikus for the Milwaukee Haiku Club’s haiku competition, poems for the Milwaukee Public Museum 10th annual poetry competition, and essays for The Capitol Centennial Commission K-12 Art and Essay Writing Competition. For each, I required students to understand the authentic audience and compose multiple drafts. Throughout the writing process, I provided individualized feedback.

Online feedback is different from that in face-to-face classes. Whereas in a traditional classroom setting, I confer with students at their desks, the same is not possible online. I’ve found students can be more sensitive to feedback provided in text comments because they can carry an unintended tone. Utilizing voice comments on Google Docs is one way students can understand my perspective and hear my intention. In Canvas, instructors can leave feedback for students using text, audio, an attachment or video. The same can be done in SpeedGrader. In addition to addressing my feedback and watching videos and lectures, students read exemplars, complete research, peer edit, and post to discussion boards.

I encourage students to use web tools to demonstrate learning. They explore digital storytelling and create presentations that utilize music, narration, text, photographs, animation and video. In my online classes (in contrast to face-to-face classes), they are allowed to use multimodal text to demonstrate content mastery. Often, they will use PowerPoint, Google Slides, Moviemaker, podcast, montage, infographics, collages or public service announcements to demonstrate learning. They reflected on this in an end-of-course survey:

The example pieces really helped me wrap my brain around what we were doing. Also because the course was online, I could pull up things multiple times to just double check, which was nice.

This class had many different writing assignments which kept variety in the course.

I liked the different resources of different kinds for different ways of learning.

I really enjoyed the assignments where there were videos along with them. I found that they helped inspire my writing and answer questions I had.


Overcoming Challenges
My online summer school courses (similar to my traditional classes) focus on writing for an authentic purpose. But challenges arise when many student writers’ markets close during summer months. Specifically, the Sejong Cultural Society offers a sijo-writing competition that accepts submissions through late February. I asked contest coordinators if they would allow summer submissions. Although they would not, they offered a different contest solely for my online students. In this competition, each student wrote a sijo poem and submitted it to professor Mark Peterson of Brigham Young University (a renowned expert on Korean poetry). Peterson provided individual feedback to each student and Amazon gift cards to the top three entries. The lesson for me: finding creative solutions is the first step in elevating the opportunities and instruction my students receive.

Arrowhead administrators recognize the time and training it takes to deliver quality online instruction. The technology integrators offer Canvas professional development during weekly professional collaboration time, but no remuneration is offered for course set-up, curriculum development or training when administrators adopt a new LMS. Additionally, technology integrators are not available during summer months. In my tenure teaching online classes, I have transferred content to and from three systems in a laborious and time-consuming process. I anticipate my online teaching will continue to evolve as both technology and students change. I also recognize the importance of utilizing professional development and my colleagues.

When Arrowhead migrated to Canvas, I found it less intuitive than Moodle. Canvas didn’t play nicely with Google Docs, my preferred vehicle for providing feedback. To get around this, I created a submission process that fit within Canvas (where students created and shared a Google folder with me). Students expressed frustrations and after the first year, provided feedback:

I personally don’t like using Canvas as Google Classroom was easier to use.

My main issue with Canvas is that every assignment from a form had to be copies of the original, not automatic individual forms like Google Classroom. However, I did like the forum-esque communication and I found the grade feedback options helpful.

This was the first time that I really had to use a Canvas page for a class, and it took a bit to adjust from the normal Google Classroom.

I really enjoy Canvas now because of the online courses I took simply because it’s a lot more accessible than Google Classroom is. It’s easy to see how the course is laid out (modules) and it’s easy to keep track of what you’ve done.

Although no one system will please administrators, teachers, parents and students, the nature of technology requires  all stakeholders to modify previous practice to meet current needs. For example, when I started teaching online classes, web 2.0 tools remained a bedrock of quality online instruction. Teachers used web 2.0 tools to instruct, and students used them to demonstrate learning. But a web 2.0 tool used in 2009 may now be defunct. Take Kerpoof. In 2009, it was named the top web 2.0 tool by Technological Horizons in Education (THE) Journal (Riedel). But by 2014, it closed its doors. The same was true for number seven on the list: Yack Pack. As Bates (2014) said in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology,” teachers need to “embrace change” and be “extremely thorough and think two steps ahead.” This, in addition to course development, curriculum management, instruction, clear procedures, responsive feedback and meeting the needs of each student, remains paramount if students and teachers are to have success online.


Lingering Questions
When the 2013 Wisconsin Act 257 repealed the requirement for 30 hours of professional development for online teachers, it allowed any individual to “teach an online course in a subject and level in a public school, including a charter school, without a license or permit from the department if the individual holds a valid license or permit to teach the subject and level in the state from which the online course is provided.” But what does this mean for Wisconsin’s online English teachers and the students they serve?

According to Wisconsin DPI’s list of online teacher responsibilities, “[I]t is up to the certified teacher to assign the class activities” and that “[T]eachers will need to plan for and coordinate the provision of specially designed instruction and needed supports,” provide both summative and formative assessments, and report outcomes to administrators, students, parents and guardians. Although many of these duties are consistent with face-to-face instruction, there are differences in teaching and learning online. First, online classes remain open for learning, 24 hours a day. This requires specific district expectations for feedback and communication timelines. Additionally, content and presentations must be planned and offered in advance. In my online courses, all materials are available on day one, so each student is able to work at his or her own pace. The exigency of online students requires teachers to anticipate roadblocks and offer personalization at the forefront. Because online teaching and learning are done through asynchronous communication, protocols must signal completed work.

According to Wisconsin DPI’s State Budget Licensure Changes, since no Wisconsin mandates, state legislature, or regulation monitors teacher training, practices, or online instruction quality, educators and their administrators must develop, offer, and utilize quality online instruction. Teaching online comes with a responsibility to meet not only the state content standards, but also the International Association for K-12 Online Learning’s (iNACOL) National Standards for Quality Online Teaching. According to the Wisconsin DPI’s FAQ on online and blended learning:

As teachers go through classes, they must reflect on what works and what can be improved. Student assessments and participation can be used as data. State and other standardized tests can inform the teacher about which standards and objectives students are learning and which may need additional attention.

In every online course I teach, I provide instruction in a variety of ways: written instructions, recorded lectures, YouTube videos, audio files, infographics. Diversifying instruction, as well as the ways in which students can demonstrate learning, helps meet a variety of student needs. Course organization, clear procedures and engaging materials also increase student and instructor enjoyment and success.

At Arrowhead High School, students rely on traditional and online classes to prepare them for the future. As instructors, a responsibility remains (regardless of state requirements) to provide quality, personalized and effective instruction both in person and online.

At the end of my online summer school course last year, one of my students said, “I wasn’t sure about this course at first, but as the course continued, I learned more about my writing and myself which was what I was hoping for.” And in the end, that is my ultimate goal, regardless if I’m teaching online or in person.


Bates, M. (2014, February 28). The 7 habits of highly effective teachers who use technology. Retrieved April 8, 2018, from Teacher Infographics website:

Hamilton, H., & Jorgensen, E. (2017). Accommodating all students: A co-teaching approach to creative writing. Wisconsin English Journal, 59(1-2), 361-375. Retrieved from

Online and blended learning FAQ. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2018, from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website:

Online teacher responsibilities. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2018, from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website:

Riedel, C. (2009, February 2). Top 10 web 2.0 tools for young learners. Technological Horizons in Education. Retrieved from

Wisconsin Act 257, S. 589, 2013 Leg. (Wis. 2013). Retrieved from

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Teacher Education, Professional Development and Licensing. State Budget Licensure Changes. Retrieved from

Teaching Nineteenth-Century Slave Narratives: Engaging Student Scholars in the Production of Digital Story Maps

Amy Lewis, Assistant Professor of Humanities and Liberal Arts, St. Norbert College, amy.lewis @

Abstract. Digital story maps are one key component in a project-based course focused on nineteenth-century slave narratives written in the United States. In this course, the traditional literary analysis paper has been replaced by a digital story-mapping project. This mapping project builds digital skills and literacies by focusing on how to convey stories about enslavement to a contemporary audience via digital maps and how choosing a digital medium affects the stories that we tell.

The author’s training in digital mapping was generously supported by a Digital Learning Initiative Grant provided by St. Norbert College.

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Ancient Grudge to New Love: A Remix of Romeo and Juliet

Tim Jansky, PhD candidate in Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, tjansky @

Abstract. Jansky discuss how he remixed his Romeo and Juliet unit to best capture the multimodal composing that was already happening in his classroom, a shift resulting in a student-centered approach leading to free-styling, collaboration, and the creation of music videos telling the story of Shakespeare’s tragic lovers.

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