About Debbie McKibbin

I am an educator with a passion for learning.

Transforming Teaching and Learning

One year and four online courses later I have discovered, “Teaching and Learning in a Knowledge Society” is an apt description for my year of formal learning.

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft Clipart

Traditional views of learning and even the way we have structured schools and school settings are inadequate in this digital age.  George Siemens succinctly illustrates the need for a new way to think about learning.  “”The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. (Siemens, 2004, Conclusion).  I have pondered last sentence many times as I reflect on the evolving nature of education.

After twenty years of being the teacher, I returned to the ‘classroom’.  How learning has changed!  Reading, writing and using microfiche for research were the primary literacies required.  Pacino & Noftle  (2011) define literacy as, “… the ability to think critically, to be self-reflective, and to make informed, ethical decisions in a democratic society.”   (p. 478).  Literacies have erupted and the quality of communication is dependent on our ability to blend and apply these literacies cohesively.  “Literacy and digital technology are becoming increasingly more intricately connected…” (Pacino & Noftle, 2011, p. 481).  I discovered first-hand the connection through the expectation to keep a blog, post substantive responses, login to a learning management system, access all resources online and create QR codes.

Ten months after my first course, I felt like I was truly beginning to integrate the learning into my work.  This spring, we had an influx of ants in the class. I first viewed them as a distraction.  Then the learning from my summer course, Inquiry and ICT, kicked in.  The ants became the spark for learning.  Opportunities to develop a broad range of literacies presented themselves across all subject areas.  The students were highly engaged, asking questions, studying live ants (catch and release!)  researching answers (online and books), examining ant and online images, creating a collaborative song,  building ant habitats and testing them (they actually worked!) and eventually concluding how we might humanely minimize the number of ants coming into our class.  Students were developing a broad range of literacies.

Self-efficacy is an important piece I have reflected upon this year.  How do we as teachers feel able to tackle technology?   “Evidence indicates that classroom atmospheres are partly determined by teachers’ beliefs in their instructional efficacy.” (Bandura, 1993, p.24).  Teacher’s tool literacy plays a significant role in the effective use of technology in the class.  Teachers need to learn new technologies in context, just as students do.  I was inspired to incorporate an iPad into my class because of a literature review I researched and opportunities to share and learn from colleagues.

TPACK has also been a guiding force.  It provides clear criteria to clarify what is an effective use of technology in the class.  This particularly important at the primary level where I struggle to develop digital literacy in such a way that is pedagogically sound and developmentally appropriate for my young students. “Teachers have to be willing to learn new technologies, always seeking connections between these new technologies and their pedagogy.” (Mishra, Koehler, Kereluik, 2009, p. 52).  As I move in a Kindergarten position next year, TPACK will be firmly in the back of my mind as I use technology.

Digital citizenship is an essential component to being safe and responsible online.  It is an important skill to teach students.  Lisa Neilson (2010) states, “…[it] does not mean hiding your identity but rather defining it and owning it.” (para.1). The importance of weaving Digital Citizenship into all aspects of online learning, right from day one, has been strongly emphasized.  This means my kindergarten students will be introduced to Copyright as we use and search images, the modelling of digital etiquette and an appropriate online identity through a class blog.

Leaving a digital footprint has the potential to be an online collection of learning.  Being ‘well-googled’ demonstrates the proficiency of numerous literacies.  This professional blog is my first public sharing of my learning and is second on the list when my name is googled.  “We must be willing to share our work and a little of ourselves in order to be “Googleable” within the context of network building.” (Richardson, 2008, p. 17).  Sharing our work is essential for making connections.

“Real learning happens in bursts, and often those bursts occur in places or situations that are out of the ordinary.”  (Godin, 2012, p.144).  I have certainly had many ‘bursts’ over the year.  The most important is the connections I make to my work.  These connections are the springboard for further learning as I strive to improve my teaching practice.


Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28(2), 117-148. Retrieved from http://www.centerforefficacyandresiliency.org/assets/docs/Perceived%20Self-Efficacy%20in%20Cognitive%20Development%20and%20Functioning.pdf

Godin, Seth. Stop Stealing Dreams (What Is School For?). (Free Online Publication, 2012). Retrieved from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/02/wwwstopstealingdreamscom-my-new-manifesto-is-now-live.html

Mishra, P., Koehler, M.J., & Kereluik, K. (2009). The song remains the same: Looking back to the future of educational technology. Retrieved from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/Mishra-Koehler-Kereluik-techtrends09.pdf

Neilsen, L. (2010, December 23).  The Innovative Educator’s Advice for Managing your Digital Footprint.  The Innovator Educator.  Retrieved from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.ca/2010/12/innovative-educators-advice-for.html

Richardson, W. (2008). Footprints in the digital age. Educational Leadership66(3), 16-19.  Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ817754&site=ehost-live

Siemens, G. (2004) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm


The Evolving Nature of Writing

Microsoft Clipart Retrieved June 10, 2013

My Grade one class has been writing letters back and forth with their Grade 7/8 partners at the middle school over the course of the year.  What impressed me was that with each letter, the quality of their writing was their personal best up to that point in time.  “In fact, in looking at all this composing, we might say that one of the biggest changes is the role of audience: writers are everywhere, yes, but so too are audiences,…” (Yancey, 2009, p. 5).  Having an authentic audience was essential to the writing.

One of the grade one outcomes is for students to be able to develop printing skills.  So where does technology fit in?  “Thus, in evaluating what it takes to teach 21st century literacies, NCTE poll respondents tended to look beyond technology applications and see that success is found in better connecting classroom work to real-world situations that students will encounter across a lifetime.” (NCTE, 2009, p.1).  As I struggle to teach the broad spectrum of literacies my student need, I am comforted by the fact that it is about all the ways we communicate, not just the digital aspects.  “And at best, we can begin to make real progress toward changing the school writing experience to better prepare students for a future that is sure to include ever-more complex tools and purposes for writing.” (NCTE, 2009, p.4).  At the grade one level, using a pencil can be complex!

”What everyone seems to agree upon, however, is that the ability to communicate clearly and understand complex messages is more important than ever to students’ future success.”  (NCTE, 2009, p.1).  My students contributed to a community blog set up by the town of Canmore as a forum for citizens to contribute their ideas for converting the old pool space.  An example of a comment posted by my grade one class is from group #4:

“I think the gym would be a good idea because the little kids and the Grandma’s and Grandpa’s could watch the babies upstairs and the big kids (and the teenagers too) could do the foam pit. But I don’t think the movie theatre would be a good idea because it is not healthy. I think maybe there could be a small trampoline. There should be a baby gym and exercise room for Grandma’s and Grandpa’s.” (2013).

As I read and think about writing in the 21st century and reflect on what my students are learning in Grade One, I am conscious of the fact that the definition of writing is changing.  Jason Ohler says “value reading and writing now more than ever.”  (2009, para. 13).  The essential takeaway for me is the quality of the message that is being passed on.


Group #4, (2013 April 12).  Engage Canmore.  Retrieved from http://www.engagecanmore.ca/consolidated-proposal-gymnastics-based-multi-use/#comments

National Council of Teachers of English (2009). Writing between the lines and everywhere else. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/WritingbetweentheLinesFinal.pdf

Ohler, J. (2009) Orchestrating the media collage. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar09/vol66/num06/Orchestrating-the-Media-Collage.aspx

Yancey, K. (2009). A call to support 21st century writing. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/Yancey_final.pdf

What is Transliteracy?

ImageTransliteracy is a new word for me.  I am developing my understanding of transliteracy and how education is evolving in response to rapid developments in technology.  Transliteracy is defined as “… the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.” (Thomas et al., 2007).  Transliteracy is not just about digital literacy; it is all the ways that we communicate. 

So why transliteracy versus literacy?  “Modern literacy has always meant being able to both read and write narrative in the media forms of the day, whatever they may be. Just being able to read is not sufficient.” (Ohler, 2009, p. 8).  So what does it mean to be literate now?  In the context of this blog, I am practicing the skills needed to synthesize and clearly express my thoughts and reflections, construct meaning from reading others work, and edit my work.

One thing is clear – literacies are emerging at an incredible rate.  “This puts literacy in what one can call a “time-frame” – the meaning of literacy changes as means of communication change over time – being literate at the turn of the 19th century had different implications than it has now.” (Mifsud, 2005, p. 133).  Education is notorious for being slow to respond to change.  How then do educators respond in a timely fashion while continuing to value reading and writing?

As educators, we are striving to develop student’s abilities to apply essential literacies with proficiency.  The quality of the communication is dependent on how well students learn to blend and apply these literacies.  “However, a well-rounded approach to the new media collage requires blending a number of literacies, both traditional and emerging, into a cohesive narrative.” (Ohler, 2009, p. 10). 

“The essential idea here is that transliteracy is concerned with mapping meaning across different media and not with developing particular literacies about various media. ” (Ipri, 2010, p. 532).   My next step is to consciously make connections with transliteracy, learner outcomes and the digital world my students live in. 


Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News, 71(10), 532-567. Retrieved from 


Mifsud, L., (2005). What counts as digital literacy: Experiences from a seventh grade classroom in Norway. Retrieved from http://www.socialscience.t-mobile.hu/dok/9_Mifsud.pdf

Ohler, J. (2009) Orchestrating the media collage. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar09/vol66/num06/Orchestrating-the-Media-Collage.aspx

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing Divides. First Monday, Vol.12 (12). Retrieved from http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2060/1908

Reflecting on Digital Citizenship

I knew how to teach my children to cross the road safely, not to play with matches and how to swim.  But when it comes to digital citizenship and navigating the muddy waters of social media, I have been struggling to keep up both at home and in the classroom.  Over the last 13 weeks I have been learning and reflecting on digital citizenship education.  I have come to realize the imperativeness of incorporating digital citizenship into my teaching.  “Teachers, media specialists, and technology people must gain awareness, educate themselves, and be ready to take action as soon as students enter the school doors.” (Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011, p. 40).  This means I must weave digital citizenship throughout my lessons, throughout the year.

"Hanging Out" - Personal Photo

“Hanging Out” – Personal Photo

It Takes a Village – Parents, teachers, media, and the community must all work together to teach and model digital citizenship skills.  “Like a village, the K-12 professional community must develop common ground that advocates the use of technology in the classroom while preparing the student to make sound choices both for themselves and for others in the digital world.” (Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011, p. 39).

Digital Citizenship is an Essential Skill – “Lack of digital citizenship awareness and education can, and has, led to problematic, even dangerous student conduct. If our educational village does not address these issues, the digital culture establishes its own direction, potentially pushing a productive, long-term solution further out of reach.” (Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011, p. 37).  It is essential students to navigate the Web ethically, safely and effectively.  We only have to listen to the news to substantiate the importance of digital citizenships skills.

Take Ownership of Your Digital Footprint – Students are learning to collaborate, communicate, create and work collectively online.  As good digital citizens they have the potential to make positive contributions to their community and the world.  “Equally important is conveying the idea that being safe and responsible online does not mean hiding your identity but rather defining it and owning it.”  (Neilson, 2010).  Can we all be proud of our online identities?

Let’s Go Scubadiving –  How do we as educators prepare ourselves to teach digital citizenship and achieve deep personal learning?  “It is whether what are now called “one shot” workshops are an effective way of providing teacher education and development on the integration of technology into the classroom. The answer is no, it is not.” (McGrath, Karabas, & Willis, 2011, p. 2).  If one-day workshops or parachuting ‘experts’ in for Professional Development are ineffective, what will help us go deep in our learning?  Guided practice, making a commitment to learning, reflecting, ongoing support, collaborating with colleagues and those serendipitous hallway conversations will all contribute to teacher development.  “They [teachers] wanted more focus on the way the technology could be used in the classroom – more models, more examples, and more chances to work on creating lessons that take advantage of the new technologies and new pedagogies.”  (McGrath, Karabas & Willis, 2011, p. 12).  Ultimately, using the TPACK model will guide our teaching and learning (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

Be Proactive – Student digital behaviors can have a positive or negative impact on their social circles and relationships, future careers, and overall safety.  Parents and teachers need to work together Parents to raise good citizens who can think critically and make informed, ethical decisions.  “A constant thread, throughout all the interviews, points to a proactive approach for effective digital practices. These opportunities will consist of effective digital citizenship curriculum, peer mentor programs, effective role models, educational faculty/staff awareness, enhanced awareness of the risks, and most importantly – a proactive versus reactive approach.” (Hollandworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011, p. 39).

“It’s not the tools students need to learn, but how to be responsible digital citizens.” (Bradbury, 2012).


Bradbury, J. (2012, May 24).  TeacherCast Podcast #21. Creating Your Digital FootprintRetrieved from: http://podcast.teachercast.net/teachercast-podcast-21-creating-your-digital-footprint/

Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 55(4), 37-47.

McGrath, J., Karabas, G., & Willis, J. (2011). From tpack concept to tpack practice: an analysis of the suitability and usefulness of the concept as a guide in the real world of teacher Development. International Journal Of Technology In Teaching & Learning, 7(1), 1-23.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Nielsen, Lisa. (2010, July 18).  Controlling your digital identity is as easy as 1-2-3.  The Innovative Educator.  Retrieved from: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.ca/2010/07/controlling-your-digital-identity-is-as.html

E-Waste and Education


“E-waste” by Rashmi Gupta, (2013, February 16) (flickr) under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs Generic Licence

Throughout my course, we have looked at citizenship from various aspects.  This week’s topic, e-waste, was particularly disconcerting.  E-waste is a significant global problem.  With over 50% of our e-waste being shipped to other countries where regulations are more lax or non-existent, do we as ethical citizens have a moral obligation to safely dispose or recycle e-waste?  “The issue of e-waste spans generations, races and cultures and is inextricably bound to business, health, the environment and the economy on an international level.” (Dickerson & Kisling, 2009, p. 53).  How and when do we teach the younger generation about proper disposal of e-waste, and the ethical and moral issues surrounding this global problem?

Did you know that electronic equipment contains toxic substances such a lead, cadmium, mercury and barium?  These substances must be handled properly to avoid contamination of water health and soil as well as protect humans from serious health problems.  (Dickerson & Kisling, 2009).  With such a disheartening topic, there has to be some hope.  “Sustainable development requires maximum possible utilization of renewable sources as well as minimization of waste production and waste recycling.”  (Klemes, 2010, p. 589).  Kasper (2011) offers hope through their study of recycling mobile phones.  Their study found an ecologically way to manage the waste polymers as well as reuse recycled material in the production of new phones or similar devices.

“When asked about having previously received instruct ion on e-waste, 88% of the students had never received instruction and 79% believed that there was little or no information available on this issue. When asked about their practices of e-waste disposal, student input was concurrent with the lack of instruction they had received on this topic.”  (Dickerson & Kisling, 2009, p. 56).  If students have not received instruction (formal or informal), how and where are they going to learn about their responsibilities and impact?  My daughter taught our family many years ago the importance of properly disposing batteries.  To this day she keeps a metal box in her room for the collection of our family’s used batteries.  Where did she learn this?  She learned this through a grade four class study on waste and the environment.  Kudos to education!


Kasper, A., Bernardes, A., & Veit, H. (2011). Characterization and recovery of polymers from mobile phone scrap. Waste Management & Research: The Journal Of The International Solid Wastes & Public Cleansing Association, ISWA29(7), 714-726.  http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eih&AN=62029993&site=ehost-live

Klemeš, J. (2010). Environmental policy decision-making support tools and pollution reduction technologies: a summary. Clean Technologies & Environmental Policy12(6), 587-589. http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eih&AN=55022955&site=ehost-live

Dickerson, J., & Kisling, E. (2009). Global and electronic waste: information in business education. Journal For Global Business Education951-60. http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=43278562&site=ehost-live

Becoming Citizens

This week I have been reflecting how to use digital technologies to engage my students in participating in deliberative processes.  According to Barber and Mourshed, 2007 (cited in Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 259), I need to first begin with reflecting upon the weaknesses in my own teaching, have access to best practices and I need to be motivated to adopt changes.  “These elements have proven to be prerequisites for teacher change and can be achieved in the context of a school culture that enables teachers to learn from each other, engage in teamwork, and practice coaching on a regular basis.” (Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 259).

How can I best orchestrate an effective learning process and begin to develop the skills required for my students to take a participatory role in their community?  Currently our town is looking at what to do with the old pool space in the original recreation centre.  They have established a blog, EngageCanmore.ca to invite participation of the entire community.  I’m currently reflecting on how to engage my students in this community dialogue and help them see themselves as participatory citizens.  “…the main purpose of integrating digital technologies into citizenship education programs is to offer students opportunities to broaden and enrich children’s identities and actions as citizens. “ (Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 249).

Communication students interviewed as part of a study exploring the opportunities and challenges for journalism and news in participatory democracy mentioned, “that the public should be involved, contribute to civic dialogue, provide feedback, and report alongside journalists.” (Mihailidis & Shumow, 2011, p. 43).  So should our students, regardless of age.  Our goal is to foster a “commitment toward community, increased ability to listen and participate in dialogue, and increased ability to relate and cooperate with others.” (Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 254).  Digital technologies further enable children’s voices to be heard.


Fonseca, C., & Bujanda, M. (2011). Promoting children’s capacities for active and deliberative citizenship with digital technologies: the CADE Project in Costa Rica. Annals of The American Academy Of Political & Social Science, 633(1), 243-262.  Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=poh&AN=57204687&site=ehost-live

Mihailidis, P., & Shumow, M. (2011). Theorizing journalism education, citizenship, and new media Technologies in a Global Media Age. Taiwan Journal Of Democracy7(2), 27-47.  Retrieved from:  http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=poh&AN=71492333&site=ehost-live

Happiness is… Student Engagement

The following finding by Levin, Belfield, Muenning, and Rouse (2006) struck a chord with me; the best predictor of health, wealth, and happiness in later life in not school achievement, but the number of years of schooling.  Our students need to stay engaged!  “Close to 25 percent of youth who enter Canadian high schools do not graduate within the standard twelve years of schooling.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 5).  This is detrimental for not only the student, but for his/her community.  How can we help teenagers make good choices about staying in school?   

You Can Read Anywhere!  Personal Photo, January, 2013

You Can Read Anywhere! Personal Photo, January, 2013

I have had the privilege of working with colleagues this year on a shared vision of instructional excellence.  This group is deeply committed to learning.  Why is this work imperative?  Our students are entitled to high-quality schools and instructional excellence is an essential component.  “School leaders need to drive change, taking on new, collaborative roles and using inventive thinking to integrate the emerging “science of learning” into their school systems.” (Metri Group, 2003, p. 11).   Are we ready to “do school differently” and strive for engaging students socially, academically and intellectually?

Student engagement is not easy to measure or teach (Parsons & Taylor, 2011).  “We need to extend its potential as a powerful construct for engaging both students and teachers in the transformation of schools and classrooms into places of effective teaching and deep learning.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 6).  Where to start?  The literature says relationships.  “…respectful relationships and interaction – both virtual and personal – are essential to improve student engagement.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 7).  Intuitively, teachers know relationships are at the core and research supports this notion.  Schools are to be places of deep learning and engaging students will not be easily achieved.   Yet this is what teachers happily strive for their entire careers.


Dunleavy, J. & Milton, P. (2010). Student engagement for effective teaching and deep learning. Canadian Education association, 48(5), 4-8. Retrieved from: http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/student-engagement-effective-teaching-and-deep-learning

Metri Group (2003). enGauge 21st century skills: Literacy in the Digital age. 1-88. Retrieved from: http://pict.sdsu.edu/engauge21st.pdf

Parsons, J., & Taylor, L. (2011). Student engagement: What do we know what should we know? University of Alberta, 1-59. Retrieved from: http://education.alberta.ca/media/6459431/student_engagement_literature_review_2011.pdf