One of my best days of teaching ever (or How the World is Different Now)

I had one of my most memorable days of teaching ever last week. I didn’t plan it on paper, but to some extent I did in my own mind. I could never have predicted what would happen this day, but I did predict that something like this could happen when you use web 2.0 tools in the classroom.

On Monday, a wonderful reporter from the Globe and Mail named Susan Krashinksy (@susinsky) came to my class to do a story on the ways we are using a web-based comic creation tool for literacy in the classroom. The students and myself were totally stoked by this. It was a great day. Susan hung out as we worked on our Social Studies / Language project, took some photos, asked some questions.

On Wednesday, the article was published (check out the article here). I posted the link on our class moodle and Twitter, and sent it to a few colleagues and friends. Not that big a deal, but fun. Little did I know that it was in reading the article as a class that we would open up an exciting can of worms.

The students in my class beamed as they heard their names being mentioned in our national newspaper. As we neared the bottom of the web page, we noticed that there were already quite a few comments posted. One of them was negative.

(For some reason, the numerous comments that were on the site have been deleted. I’m not sure if it was crashed by my students going on and commenting, but, unfortunately, most of them are no longer there.)

The essence of the negative comment was that a) we were dumbing down learning; b) we were not teaching writing; and c) kids today won’t be prepared for the future as a result. What’s more, the comment had a very sarcastic tone.

If only you could have seen the look on my students’ faces as we read this comment together. It was a mixture of shock, excitement, and anger. My entire plan for that period was sabotaged. We had to deal with this comment.

I was taken aback by the conversation it started. After calming my students down, I had them plan a reply to the comment in groups. Here are the ideas they came up with:

  • We did hard, critical research for the project.
  • It’s much harder to be creative and different in presenting information than just writing them in paragraphs.
  • We don’t just comics. We use many other technological tools, and we work hard on our reading and writing.
  • Working on fun tools like bitstrips gives us a voice. The teacher lets us show ourselves, not just pleasing the teacher.
  • We are trying to address 21st century skills like collaboration and creative thinking.
  • You have a narrow view of what learning is. it’s not just about paper and pen and essays?

I nearly weeped with pride. I just couldn’t believe they were already so articulate in communicating what was happening in our class. Some other ‘teachable moment’ points we had to address:

  • Why it’s important to be respectful in our reply, and not take a personal stance.
  • Whether or not we should use or real/full names.

So that’s what happened. It was one of my best days of teaching ever, and it could only occur in this crazy, constantly changing world we live in. Here are some of the replies from my students:

Hi Mr.Allen
I’m Dana from the article. I read your comment and i noticed that you think that when we were on bitstrips, you thought that we were just playing with comics. I just wanted to say that we were also doing work. Don’t believe me? well here’s what we did. First we took a few weeks to find information on what we were doing our comics on, then we had to put all of the information we had and put it all in 5 comics. most of the student had lots of information so it took them longer to arrange the information. we aren’t dumbing down, we also use paper and pencil and other programs to help us with our work. So…,what i am saying is that first did u try out bitstrips then write the comment? If not then why did you write the comment if you don’t know how good bitstrips is. try it out then think again if you think we are dumbing down the future. Bitstrips is not only for fun, it can be hard if you have to find alot of information and decide how to put all of your information into 5 groups for 5 different comics. so please try out things before you say if its good or bad.

Hello Mr. Henry Allen, I am a student in Royan Lee’s grade 5/6 class, the Nathaniel in the article to be exact, and I would like to thank you for the wonderful compliment. It got me to thinking: why do you have that opinion of our digital literacy? I settled on the fact that everybody has a different view of learning and school. Times have changed! It’s not all pen and paper anymore!

Switching gears, I would like to inform you about our digital literacy. We also use YRDSB Moodle, a website used by many classes in York Region where you write in forums about anything, view your homework, access informational websites, and a whole lot more! Try it sometime!

Finally, I would like to say that if you ever have any concerns, feel free to voice them anytime!

But seriously! It is hard work! For example, we have to create characters, pick through your information, setup positions, sizes, props, shapes, furniture, backgrounds, and titles! It’s hard work being a critical thinker!

Hello, I’m a student from Mr. Lee’s class. I sort of have to say that you are wrong Henry Allen. You have proved some intelligent points in your comment but 1 thing is that we have done hard research before making the comic on bitstrips. For example, I researched Japan. 1 worksheet we had to do was fill in an “ASAB” sheet.(Authorship, Sources, Appearence, Backup.) School isn’t always about writing big essays with a pencil and paper. If we all kept writing stuff like that, some people will only be doing a bunch of work for nothing. If we do comics on bitstrips, we will be having fun and learning at the same time. This will be easier for students like me to learn. It’s MORE frightening for us to think about going to school and only writing paragraphs and paragraphs EVERYDAY! This might even help us become a computer engineer! Or maybe an awesome literacy teacher like Mr. Lee!


  1. Wow!!! Obviously what you are doing in class has had a real effect on your students! I find it interesting that people who are not in the field of education always seem to know what is best for our students. It’s so great that you are teaching them important concepts like synthesizing and critical thinking at such a young age! We need more teachers to be in this mindset as by the time they reach us in high school, they have it ingrained in their brains that rote memorization of facts is the most important aspect of school. Awesome job with your students and congratulations on what must have been an amazing day in your classroom!

  2. This post made me weep, made me laugh, made me celebrate with you and your wonderful, articulate students. May they always have the power of reply, and the power of restraint.

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