Review by Amy Lauren Botula, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014

Digital Is

Engaging space for tech-forward instruction, teacher collaboration

Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Created by teachers for teachers, it's a place for inspiration on how to support your students in the world of digital media.

Cons: This isn't a grab-and-go resource; you'll need time to read through the site's many articles and entries.

Bottom Line: More like a media-specialist mentor than a website, it's a resource for new ideas on teaching with technology and media.

Look at Digital Is as a virtual media specialist you can access whenever you want. Nevertheless, plan ahead to make the most of the site's offerings. You'll want to take the time to read through and digest everything the site offers. It's a resource that will probably be most useful when planning, either at the start of the school year or between semesters.

Once you're familiar with the site, you can return whenever you need a new way to incorporate technology into your writing lessons -- or when you just need inspiration about teaching in general. Take advantage of the option to join the Digital Is community -- you can get support and guidance from other members. The community can offer help with a specific unit or media tool, or you could even share a unit you've designed to solicit feedback.

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Created under the direction of the National Writing Project (NWP), Digital Is is a media-literacy website created and curated by a community of educators. As a source for grassroots professional development, the site shares the NWP's ethos of encouraging teachers to help others in their field. 

Content on the site is organized under four tabs: Blog, Resources, Collections, and Community. The succinct blog entries link to activities and, when needed, definitions. Much of the Resources section is comprised of teachers' documentation of their own inquiries into their practice. These narratives focus on specific activities, like media storytelling, Connected Learning projects, or social-justice units that are tied to current events. The Collections are exactly that -- resources grouped by theme; as such, they serve as a user-friendly way to get at the site's content.

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Digital Is is all about community; the majority of the site's content serves as professional development by teachers, for teachers. Whether you're tech-savvy or a reluctant neophyte, the site's blog and other resources provide direction, guidance, and inspiration for the many effective ways to incorporate technology and media into your teaching. The resources here don't just guide the teaching of writing, but also extend into general teaching practices. Unlike many online teacher resources, Digital Is helps foster a sense of community, with the option to comment on any article and engage with the teacher who posted it.

The site's content runs the gamut -- from manifestos on the power of Connected Learning to using digital music programs or teaching voice with Twitter -- and all of the content invites discussion and further exploration. There's a lot here; in a world of ever-changing media, it might be tempting to think of Digital Is as a quick place to pick up tips or resources on the fly, but the site demands a bit more of an investment. Any time here is likely well-spent, though, as staying current in the digital landscape is a crucial need for teachers and students alike.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

With a focus on supporting connected learning and enhancing media literacy, this resource offers educators a means of implementing high-interest, technology-centered curricular units.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Along with the Resources and Collections sections, the site's blog and community forum support teachers in creating tech-forward, media-savvy curriculum and activities that will be both familiar and engaging to students.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The site offers many resources for designing technology- and media-based curriculum. However, strategies for meeting the specific learning needs of special-needs students would be a helpful addition.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Tara W. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Golden Valley High School
Merced, CA
Great site to find inspiration for teaching for those willing and able to spend the time to search.

One of the most important parts of the teaching process is lesson creation and reflection. This website provides the interested teacher with a variety of voices on a variety of topics in teaching writing. Teacher members contribute ideas in the forms of blog posting. I found an excellent blog on Flash Fiction in the classroom. Not only did the writer define the terms, but she also provided ways that she teaches this in her classroom. Posts like these are very helpful. However, there are other posts that might not be as helpful. Some blog postings are teachers musing aloud about issues in education. While I definitely believe that posts like these are important in our profession, some teachers looks for ideas to implement in the classroom might be disappointed in posting on the abstract when they are in need of concrete activities right away. After I figured out how to best search for tags, I was able to find content that best fit my needs as a teacher. Even though I think that this website would benefit from a section for Lesson Plan ideas, I feel like the searching required was beneficial in the end. The search process exposed me to more ideas that I wouldn't normally encounter.

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