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#DigiLitSunday: Agency



The link up to other #DigiLit Sunday posts can be found at Margaret Simon’s Reflections On the Teche. Please check out what other bloggers are writing about today!

And today’s topic:


What does agency mean to me?

It means choice.  Yesterday I chose #TheEdCollabGathering created by Chris Lehman (definition one below) and I made sure that I acted on that agency (definition two) by attending sessions live all day.  Barely pausing for conversation, my brain on fire, I moved from one session to the next, each one carefully chosen as a tapestry of confirmation.

Topics I needed to revisit.  Topics I needed to dig deeply into again.  Topics I needed for inspiration and affirmation seven weeks into this new year.  Welcoming learning with friends.  Welcoming new friends in the Twitterverse.  Welcoming a day of JOYFUL learning from my home on a Saturday. (Agenda for #TheEdCollabGathering here.)  The sessions were free.  The sessions will remain free and accessible.  The sessions can be accessed at your leisure. The.sessions.are.well.worth.your.time!  TRUST ME!  Check them out!


Evidence of Agency for me yesterday?

  1. That I could choose the free sessions to attend from the comfort of my home.
  2. Attending the sessions, tweeting out and having conversations with fellow attendees, presenters, and colleagues from around the world  . . .                                   and then Blogging about my attendance and learning today!



Life Shattering?

No . . . er . . . I don’t know YET!






Kind of . . .

I have been working with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge lately. Those four levels that in some circles have replaced Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I don’t think either one is exclusionary and in fact believe that there are some positives in each. Both invite thinking in order to move up the levels.

These Depth of Knowledge levels are available about writing at this Edutopia resource.

Level 1 (Recall) requires the student to write or recite simple facts.  This writing or recitation does not include complex synthesis or analysis but is restricted to basic ideas.  The students are engaged in listing ideas or words as in a brainstorming activity prior to written composition, are engaged in a simple spelling or vocabulary assessment or are asked to write simple sentences. Students are expected to write and speak using Standard English conventions.  This includes using appropriate grammar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling.

Level 2 (Basic Application of Concepts & Skills) tasks require some mental processing.  At this level students are engaged in tasks such as first draft writing for a limited number of purposes and audiences.  At Level 2 students are beginning to connect ideas using a simple organizational structure.  For example, students may be engaged in note-taking, outlining or simple summaries.  Text may be limited to one paragraph. Students demonstrate a basic understanding and appropriate use of such reference materials as a dictionary, thesaurus, or web site.

Level 3 (Strategic Thinking & Complex Reasoning) tasks require higher-level mental processing.  Students are engaged in developing compositions that include multiple paragraphs.  These compositions may include complex sentence structure and may demonstrate some synthesis and analysis.  Students show awareness of their audience and purpose through focus, organization and the use of appropriate compositional elements.  The use of appropriate compositional elements includes such things as addressing chronological order in a narrative or including supporting facts and details in an informational report.  At this stage students are engaged in editing and revising to improve the quality of the composition.

Level 4 (Extended Thinking & Complex Reasoning) tasks may incorporate a multi-paragraph composition that demonstrates synthesis and analysis of complex ideas or themes.  Such tasks will require extended time and effort with evidence of a deep awareness of purpose and audience.  For example, informational papers include hypotheses and supporting evidence.  Students are expected to create compositions that demonstrate a distinct voice and that stimulate the reader or listener to consider new perspectives on the addressed ideas and themes.

As I reflect on my agency and my learning today, I am confident that most of my Tweets fall into the Level 1 category.  I often try to capture exact words – the very essence of the speaker’s thoughts – and that is totally recall.  No doubt. Level 1.  And yet sometimes, I’m pulling in background knowledge or shortening the exact quotes when there are long hashtags and I must cut down the number of symbols.  Is that always Level 1?  Probably not. Is it sometimes Level 2?  Perhaps yes.

And what of this blog post?  Where would it rate?  Ideas from the day are flowing through my brain.  Some pictures are already uploaded. Others are paused.  Too few?  Too many? Which serve the meaning and the understanding of the reader?  Which are examples of MY thinking?

 Right now I think that I am approaching or possibly just peering over the ledge of DOK 3.  Your thoughts?

As I consider all the meaning embedded in Level 4 (Extended Thinking and Complex Reasoning), I believe this is where Katherine Bomer’s thinking lies when she said,

“Capital E, Essay equals thinking!”

A student or adult is agentive and completing that “extended thinking and complex reasoning” when totally engaged in a task of their own choice.  When writing, it may be an essay, a poem, or some great work of literature.  But it’s something the student knows and knows well due to their passionate study.  It may be a study of their own thinking and problem solving as suggested by Burkins and Yaris in Who’s Doing the Work?  when the students are actually working harder than the teachers as they problem solve and persevere in forging their own learning paths when “given the time to do so”.


Jan’s metaphor of shopping was played out in this chart and compared to choosing a just right book.  Students choosing their own books . . . not being handed books by the teacher brings up a question:  “Who SHOULD be choosing the books?”


Tara Smith tweeted out that “agency = knowing how to make choices.” How often do our students struggle with making decisions?  When should they be “practicing” quality decision-making skills? Is that not a skill that should be part of the daily routines during the school day?

Consider how engagement and accessibility play into these four elements.  Jan actually framed and labeled them for the viewers. But at any point there could be a mismatch.  Clare and Tammy would also point out that the mismatches are opportunities for learning and even ownership of their learning. A celebration of learning.  Every data point can also bring hope, joy and agentive power to the students.


And what if students were publishing regularly for real audiences?  #TWT authors and bloggers, Beth Moore, Deb Frazier and Dana Murphy literally hit the game-winning touchdown with their sharing and feedback strategies! (It was a Saturday after all-so there was some collegiate football in the background.)  Deb suggested feedback to young writers  on day one, Dana said it could be ‘fancy like “Wow and Wonder”,  “Glow and Grow”, or like “slicers” -1. feel, 2 notice, 3. connection’ and Beth Moore said that someday a student writer  might tell friends about how special their teacher made them feel as a writer. Honoring students and their writing work doesn’t cost a lot of time or money.  Celebrating student learning should be an every day constant.

After all this is “their” learning!   Fewer behavior management systems might be needed if there was more emphasis on “student choice” and so much less emphasis on “compliance” and “silly tasks” but those are both topics for another day!

The intersection of agency, choice, engagement and learning seems to be a good fit for students who are “doing the work” and not passively watching others engaged in the work.  Even kindergarten students want to share their thinking . . . not their fault that sometimes their symbols and/ or work needs translation for our adult brains to make better sense (Clare and Tammy’s story about Zachary) .

But what if the entry point for all students was simply choice?

What if the responsibility and accountability lies with students?

Lucy Calkins reminded us this summer that “To teach well, we do not need more techniques and strategies as much as we need a vision of what is essential.”

What if agency is essential?  How does that change instruction and assessment?

(Did I make it to Level 4 -Extended Thinking and Complex Reasoning? You be the judge!)

#SOL16: March Challenge Day 18 – Part 2

note four talk bubble

Seriously, did you read that whiney drivel from yesterday? ( Here ) Some folks really just should keep their mouths closed and their fingers off the keyboard because all they do is show, literally, how lacking in brains and imagination they are.  It was so mortifying to be a part of that conversation and I was just the tool!

So to recap quickly, I have a new owner.  I was quite happy tucked away, twice removed from the world inside my tightly packed box with the banded wrapper around it.  I was NOT going anywhere.  And then this unbelievably OLD lady came into the store “because her phone didn’t work”.  (Don’t be offended that I called her old – it’s all relative; but do remember that I have only been on the shelf here for one short week. One. Week.   I am the new kid on the block – one of them anyway!)

Over the last two days, I have been dropped, poked, prodded, and plugged into electrical outlets and some gismo in the car. And I have no idea of the number of miles I have traveled and the places I have seen.

But I digress . . . back to the beginning.

I was on the shelf at the Verizon store minding my own business when the clerk came back muttering . . . “she really isn’t going to like white.”

I was relieved.  Safe!  Or at least for the moment.  My happiness lasted for less than a minute because she was back, grabbing me as she put Louise back in her place on the shelf.  Drat . . .white is not the “in” color!

So then I was prodded wide awake – no more yawning, plugged in to charge up, coded so I could be connected to the World Wide Web (www – in case you had forgotten) and, in general, treated so informally that I wanted to ask, “What am I, chopped liver?” but I didn’t want to take any words from anyone else’s mouth!

Chatter, chatter, chatter but what I really heard was blah, blah, blah!

Maybe I was headed for an adventure. To ride in a Mercedes Benz or a convertible. Or to a new home by the lake. No sticky fingers from kids PLEASE.  I do have my dignity to hold on to! (But have you seen this old lady?  I don’t know, but she sounds kinda bossy like she is used to telling others what to do all day!)

So, this app transferred a bunch of apps and pictures so I’m now quite a cluttery mess and then she (my new owner) said, “I don’t think I have all my pictures.  And what about Twitter?  And where is my Voxer icon?  She’s got it rough. Pictures? Twitter? Voxer?   She thinks she has worries! 

Right before we went out the door, I heard her say that she would bring all her questions back when the new screen protector came in.  PUL-E-E-A-A-S-S-E-E!  Maybe I could convince her that I was just TOO much phone for her!  AHA!  What fun for me!

So I spent the last two days as a trickster.  Sometimes I worked on command.  And sometimes I didn’t work on command.  I quickly learned how to avoid being yelled at.  There were a couple of choice words that I really did NOT like to hear.  So today we’re back  in the store.

Listen in on this conversation:

Owner – “I’m just not quite sure that this is the phone for me.”

Me – YAY!

Clerk – “It’s just an upgrade of your old phone.  In another week, you will be such an expert that you won’t even remember this conversation.”

Me – No, she’ll forget because she’s old and forgetful.  She only has one or two passwords memorized.

Owner – “It doesn’t seem to work all the time . . .”

 Clerk – “Let me double check the settings.  Re-opening apps and checking to make sure they work is a bit tedious.”

Me – Tedious?  BORING!  Case closed – whiney drivel!

Which version was more realistic?

Which version was more fun?

Is it possible that there is a third or even a fourth version?


PS.  Check out how handsome I am!  I could have been one of these old dinosaurs!

Which ones have you used?

history of phones


Process:  As I finished writing yesterday’s post,  this author began to wonder if the story could be told from another point of view.  She had revisited the two versions of the deer story that was quite popular last March here and here and wondered what could lend itself to that same CCR. A. R. 6 Point of View standard.  What do you think?  The post was drafted in 15 minutes.  The picture from yesterday was recycled with another quick search for a talk bubble.  Preview, categories, tagged, and ready to publish but oh, wait, a quick check for pictures of old, old, old phones!

slice of life 2016

Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  It’s the March Slice of Life Challenge so be ready to read DAILY posts!





#SOL16: March Challenge Day 17 -New Phone!

note four

I have a new phone . . .

because the battery kept wearing down.

Trips one, two, and three to the store

Until finally, “Do you just want to upgrade?”

I have a new phone . . .

and everything transfers with a quick “transfer app”.

But I can’t find Twitter or Voxer

And now nothing will download.

I have a new phone . . .

and it’s like begining anew.

Where do I find my grandson’s picture?

What about changing the screen saver?

I have a new phone . . .

and I spent an hour with the sales rep.

Watching, learning, and asking questions.

I have another hour scheduled for all my new worries.

I have a new phone . . .

Same model, just an upgrade.

Did my previous phone rule my life?

Or did I manage it competently?

I have a new phone . . .

I wish it worked the way I want it to . . .

I wish it worked the way I remember the old phone working . . .

I wish it wasn’t so complicated!

I kept my old phone . . .

If I plug it in – will it work?

Should I do a 1:1 match for apps to see if they are ALL present?

I have two phones – does even ONE work?

Is new technology always better?

How have you handled getting a new device?


Last night I was frustrated by the time I returned to my WORK computer (FIVE DEVICES later).  I was prepping files and devices for travel.  That meant updating email, twitter, voxer, etc. and I was totally frustrated when I didn’t get any REAL work done. My question to myself was “Why a new phone?” so I decided to answer that in this morning’s slice.  I decided that “I have a new phone . . .” would be the repeated line and I began drafting.  The lines literally wrote themselves straight through to these lines about process.  Ending with image, categories and tags.  Wowza! When I know the topic, the post writing is much quicker and flows from beginning to end!

slice of life 2016

Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  It’s the March Slice of Life Challenge so be ready to read DAILY posts!


#SOL16: March Challenge Day 16 – Midpoint


How is midpoint best represented?  Words?  Numbers?  Both?

In Google Images,  midpoint was shown on a line, on the side of a triangle, and graphed in many, many more formats.

Dictionary.com defines midpoint as:


  1. a point at or near the middle of, or equidistant from, both ends, as of aline:

the midpoint of a boundary.

2. a point in time halfway between the beginning and the end, as of aprocess, event,  or situation:

the midpoint of the negotiations.”

The second definition represents today – the midpoint of the March 2016 Slice of Life Challenge.

Did you make it?

Are you writing one slice per day and commenting on at least three slices per day?

How are you feeling about your writing?

Have you met your goals?


March – March is the month of the Slice of Life Challenge

Intensifies – The reading, writing, thinking muse takes over to guide and intensify my thinking.

Details – Writing long and strong about details generates more mentor texts for me.

Practice – I practice genre, styles and craft moves that are new to me.

Overcomes –  Fear is overcome with patience and pride in published posts.

Insecurities – . Doubts and insecurities are replaced with confidence and beginning seeds of competence.

Notes – Records and notes the process to consider to reflect my processes.

Time – Eking out precious moments of time to polish, praise, and practice writing, conferring, and praising!


March Intensifies Details,

Practice Overcomes Insecurities –

Notes Time.


Brainstorming began with  . . .16/31 = midpoint – midway – center.  I consulted Dictionary.com for the definition, went to Google Images for a graphic for midpoint. While perusing the math examples I decided my format would be poetry, probably an acrostic to focus on Word Choice and Elaboration. Then as I reviewed my poem I thought about using the words from the acrostic as their own mini poem.  Quickly drafted and added.  Reviewed, revised, spell checked, categories & tagged!




slice of life 2016

Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  It’s the March Slice of Life Challenge so be ready to read DAILY posts!

#SOL16: March Challenge Day 7 – A Writer I Am



A writer I am two

Are you a writer?

How do you know?

Process:  I began with Hamlet and “To Be or Not To Be”.  I was thinking that it could easily be re-written as “To Write or Not To Write” but then I literally ran out of steam.  Scratch that idea!  I remembered when Julieanne (@jarhartz) wrote about being a writer here and then I searched my own posts and found a slice from last year that also answered the same question here.  But I wanted a clean, crisp “pattern” so I started writing with a bit of Seuss or Yoda in my brain.  I easily drafted 15 statements and then went back to add a title.  Then I began revising in the form of “re-ordering” the sentences.  I was satisfied with the content, but I wasn’t happy with the format.  That led me to breaking the sentences into two lines with the second part indented and then creating stanzas.  Then I had to find pictures for the top of the post, tag, proof and then publish!


Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  It’s the March Slice of Life Challenge so be ready to read DAILY posts!


#SOL16: March Challenge Day 6 – Sounds

She sighs.  Her head is resting on the arm of the love seat and she faces me as I sit here working on my post for today. Her eyes are closed and yet she sighs AGAIN.  As the coffee pot stops gurgling, I leave the recliner for that first jolt of caffeine.  Her eyes follow me.  I hear one foot hit the carpet and then another while filling my mug.  I hear her stretch. And then another sigh. Today she sighs, “When will she be done? When will she pay attention to me?  When will it be my turn?”

It’s early morning.  I am not yet ready for conversation. Please, just one cup of coffee. Is that too much to ask?  Yes, I am a morning person.  But I am a peaceful, quiet morning person with rituals and routines that begin the day calmly and quietly and without any fuss and especially so on a Sunday!

Here I sit with my coffee and I’m rewarded with her sweet, gentle kiss.  And then she races to the door, tail wagging and snuffling – quietly letting me know that she is ready to head outside.  She is ready to begin the day with her first outside excursion.

What sounds does Mya make?

The answer seems so simple.  When she is in the house, she barks to herald arrivals. She barks and barks as a vehicle pulls into the driveway, as a driver exits the car, and until that knock on the door is answered.  When she is outside,  Mya barks to share her excitement with me when she finds something outside that I need to see.  She barks when another critter (but not the familiar deer) invades her space.  But she also hums when I rub her belly, or cries out when dreaming, or that bit of an attention-getting sigh when ignored too long.

However, this morning Mya quietly goes outside to check out the sunshine and someone who is not working on a computer.


Peak into Process:  

I read Dana’s “Be Inspired” and followed the link to inmanlilysaad’s “The Sound of Plates” (site is no longer available). I opened up my word document where I am drafting slices and put the title “Sounds” and then jotted 4 ideas:  Traffic, Mya, Early Morning Sounds, It’s the News but what does it sound like?  I sipped my coffee and considered each idea.  Thinking mode/no writing until that first cup of coffee was drained and refilled.  I picked up the laptop and began writing about Mya. I typed a draft that began with describing Mya’s barking.  I stopped and drank my second cup of coffee. And then I began to revise.  I began with her sighing because it was the first sound I heard TODAY from Mya. (Another day could definitely be different.)

Drafting/Revision, Process, Tagging, Previewing: 40 minutes from beginning to publication

Which is your focus?  Product / Process / or both?

When does the priority of your focus shift?  Or does it?

Check out Margaret’s comparison of writing to watercolor painting in her post “Technique” !

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts DigiLit Sunday and Slice of Life!


Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  It’s the March Slice of Life Challenge so be ready to read DAILY posts!


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