Not all Those who Wander are Lost: The Action Plan Journey

Just because they AREN'T doing something, doesn't mean they CAN'T do it.
Just because they AREN’T doing something, doesn’t mean they CAN’T do it.

You can take a look at my action plan reflection and summary here:


All that is Gold : The Plan 

My Action Plan: Engaging students in deep reading of literature using digitally native technology.

Did it work? YES!

But how?

After my students and I co-designed designed study tools, coming up with: Crash Course-style Youtube video to treat T.S. Eliot Poems; Instagram scripts and videos to treat Hamlet (and make it 5 minutes long); and Student Led Critical question seminars through Google Hangouts on Air, they had familiar tools to work with and a real live audience to perform for. They also had to use deep literary analysis to produce these tools, which were (as they stated a need for) relevant to studying for their IB English exams in May.

After I switched my teaching and we started to perform first time read-throughs IN CLASS , they became more confident in engaging with the literature. They’re even preparing Google Hangouts on Air, after school hours, to create permanent video study-aids for their peers!

It went very well.


All Those Who Wander: Student Reflections


Yes, the students caught on that I was tricking them into engaging with the literature. One student wrote : “There should have been more time to develop the social-media study tools. But overall it was a good way to disguise our studying in a creative manner”  – Hm. More time, eh?

Another student wrote: “Seminars after school are good because you are able to watch the answers to the essay questions at any time. Also, when presenting the answer to a question, you learn a lot more about a text.” – So, they want permanent tools to access to study for the exams, but they also appreciate the learning they had to do.

A third student wrote: “We were able to incorporate themes and motifs from the poem and the overarching information that people needed to know to read the poem and understand it.”, referring to T.S. Eliot, which they had previously deemed inaccessible.

But this fourth student really got me thinking:

“We managed to run a very funny condensed version of Hamlet via Twitter (90% complete). We worked hard to try to keep our group on task, but they seemingly did not care about both the project and the group.”  Their version of Hamlet, arranged by ACT for ease of consultation, can be accessed here. It is hilarious. It served as the back bone for much of the Hamlet Instagram Script.  As you can see, though, the whole group did not participate. This was the catalyst for my own reflection on the project.


Do Not Wither: My Reflections

Collaboration: While the students produced excellent results, the reflections which addressed group dynamics and participation caught my attention. Next time, I would scaffold authentic collaboration into the tasks. In fact, I plan to learn more about authentic collaboration through the summer in order to do just that next time.

20% Time: They wanted more time to perfect and complete their research and products. Next time, I plan to build in 20% time and have them create the tools throughout the year, so they’re not cramming last minute. Since I now have the answer to my action plan research question, I know this will help them engage deeply with the literature early on in the course.

Out-of-Classroom Experience: I was unprepared for the level of positive feedback I received for the Google Hangouts On Air tutorials. Students have requested more of these since we officially finished the project. Here is one I led going over the structure of their paper 2 exam. It took a lot of effort to go through the protocols to get their faces on the internet (one “I can be on youtube” waiver, and another “external image release” waiver) , but once that was settled, it was easy-peasy. I will certainly be preparing these tutorials from the beginning of the year as well next year.



Cohort 21 is a build your own PD – we have a general focus (21st century learning) and a task (create an action plan, and execute it if possible), but other than that, we are free to design professional development, research, and projects that suit our own unique classroom needs.

Not only that, but the constant collaboration, from twitter chats, to Hangouts, to Project Tuning Protocols, to fellow “Cohorters” attending your PD sessions, there is a network of encouragement and support throughout.

Finally, seeing what others are doing is invigorating! It has really encouraged me to continue in my plan and to use the work of others to help me reflect on my own.


2 thoughts on “Not all Those who Wander are Lost: The Action Plan Journey

  1. Great video summary, Ashley!

    I love how you walk us through the process of getting to know WHY the students weren’t engaging and then using that point of understanding of your students to develop solutions to the problem. You have not only integrated the design thinking in your own problem solving process, but you went further to have students solve their OWN problems using the design process.

    A couple questions:
    I find it really interesting that the students wanted to take “boring” and “difficult” readings and “condense” them. To me, that speaks to our students general desire to not dig too deeply into things. However, I find time and time again that students are completely capable of digging deep, and that whey they do, they often surprise themselves with what they can learn. Do you think that by having them condense it, they were actually abel to dig deep without realizing that’s what they were doing? I also wonder whether or not we should just submit to the idea that “hard” things are boring, or whether we should try to get student to embrace these challenges as exciting? One great solution that you developed for this is the use of an authentic audience. It’s important to recognize that they were willing to engage when they were challenged in the right way. Great work! I look forward to learning more about your process on Friday.

    1. Hi Les!

      In response to your questions:
      They wanted them to be easier, and thought this would be the case if they were condensed. However, there are some great media theorists talking about tweets and texts, and the best blogs, and how they are sophisticated uses of language because they distill salient points of big information.

      Many people in humanities will have experience with this, as in Uni we may have had to create a “precis” of a text chapter (one page summary), whereby the prof assessed whether we understood the deep meaning of a text.

      So, with my example of scene 3:1 of Hamlet, we see that the students actually were analyzing at a depth in order to produce a robust study tool through the instagram video scripts.

      Upon reflection they did understand what they were doing. But while they were doing it they were somewhat oblivious. I prompted them to go deeper at some points, too. I coached them along with comments on their scripts, for instance. But all in all, after encountering the texts with me in class, they were highly capable of going deep. Their own perception of the difficulty, and therefore the “boringness”, was the barrier, rather than their ability.

      I agree, we should have them embrace the challenges as exciting, but that’s where I’m stuck! Some will do so without prompts, and others care ONLY for usefulness – and some will only engage minimally, even with their own input at the center. I’m hoping to get feedback on that on Friday. 🙂

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