“Too often, education technologies are developed that position students as objects of education, a reflection no doubt of how traditional educational practices also view students. Education technologies do things to students, rather than foster student agency. […] What sorts of technologies can offer students the power to “own” their learning — their data, their content, their digital profiles, and their domain?”© Audrey Watters.

My name is Marleen Spierings. As a teacher of English I work with my students and as their fellow learner and their coach, I keep wondering how I can best facilitate their learning process taking into account my own Hybrid Pedagogical Content Knowledge (Shulman, 1986: ‘the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others’)?

My students need and want to be digitally literate and responsible citizens, and I need to contribute to the applied wisdom curriculum © Leland Beaumont, or do I? In 2005 I set up a Moodle Learning Environment to allow my students to work online internationally. I became iEarn and eTwinning Ambassador. This Moodle environment was awarded Prizes by the Dutch, Bulgarian and Turkish Ministries of Education.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor generation z
I need to teach Generation Z, and they need to be more aware of Cybersecurity.

Now I am taking swimming lessons in the Global Data Lake of Digital Information Literacy. I hope my students will prevent me from drowning.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor smelt

In a tsunami of educational possibilities and products I am like a small fish right now. Like a rainbow smelt, an Osmerus mordax mordax, a weak swimmer, trying to figure out which approach works ‘best’ for me to connect to the 21st century learners in my classroom. At the moment, structuring and stewarding sources, linking these data through semantic relationships to my curriculum seems a better option to me than drowning or becoming extinct. I might be doing the other teacher-fish like me, a huge favour. I take the quick & dirty approach to ingest & then curate this tsunami of new data into chunks of meaningful information in 21st century didactic approaches to teaching & learning English at Higher Secondary level in the Netherlands.

In 2014 I took part in a Professional Learning Community “Differentiation in the Bilingual Classroom” by ICLON Leiden. There I learnt how to design differentiated whole tasks. This idea Fred Janssen shared with us.

As a teacher I have to be able to function in a classroom replete with too many choices within EdTech despite a myriad of tech tools mainly because my nitwit approach allows my students to help me out time and again. I am not afraid to ask silly questions, I connect, I share, I am openly present in this online environment the the critical digital literacy community. That’s what saved me so far, really. That and being a quick learner willing to try out out-of-the-box approaches.

© Helen DeWaard https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

When I look back at when I was a student, I was not allowed to speak in the classroom, let alone in English. My teachers did not speak English when they taught, they did so in Dutch, explaining about the words and grammar of the English language and it was not until year 6 17-18-year-olds that we did text analysis and some literature, and off we went to University. And… we had to read 10 novels ourselves which not many students actually did, nobody understood, and I thnik I was one of the few students who had actually been devouring books from a very early age on. So nothing much has really changed.

These days, about 50% of my students when they enter Higher Secondary General at the age of 12 already master listening and speaking of English at level B1 in CEFR. Writing is more of a challenge to them, so is reading, let alone textual analysis.

All teachers learn from their students so I have been very busy continually updating my own knowledge and skills. Over the last 25 years my teaching developed from teaching grammar, vocabulary, and some literature to teaching CLIL & Critical Reading, Listening-Viewing, Writing, and Speaking Skills & More. It is the more I have always been interested in, for WHY DO I TEACH AND WHAT THEN?

I integrated into our Dutch curriculum of English: argumentative and persuasive essay writing and devices, bias detection, IB written tasks to our literature programme, and debating. We still read Shakespeare, of course, and we read 1984, we started rewriting literary fragments from a different perspective, text types A / text types B using literary devices such as allusion, appropriation and irony, and by examining, and then changing, context. Teaching English has become more and more like teaching Dutch, our mother tongue, and we focus more and more on content & critical thinking skills.

Yet, the English Classrooms in The Netherlands, which are in transition from ‘echoroom’ to ‘distortion room’ (Paulsen), need to focus on the 5 Cs of 21st century learning even more: communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and computational thinking. In fact, I would like to add CONTENT to these by making specific tasks for students, called Scrums, which integrate digital literacy, literature, and Academic and Critical Reading, Writing, Listening-Viewing, Speaking, all courses which they make first year students take at University, which we really need to already cover in years 5 and 6 Vwo.

Now, I take agency in shaping my own professional development as a teacher. I do this by creating my own Professional Learning Communities within www.sociating.com. Also, I am trying to develop a curriculum app. I participate actively in the Leiden Educational Innovation networks.




Borgen-Verduurzamen in online netwerken:



On www.sociating.com you can create your own group, open or closed, within your own profesional development themes. You have to create a profiel first. You can create your own webpages, event, blog. Het is een Start-Up uit Leiden en beschikbaar voor Professional Learning Communities, het vraagt geen geld en gaat dat ook niet doen. See community guidelines.

Verduurzamen in lerende netwerken real-life:


Het LEF – Het Leiden Education Fieldlab

To sum up, in 2020, I find myself to be experimenting as a cross-curricular and transnational teacher-developer of English Digital & Information Literacy within English, Ethics & Tech. Opening academic borders for myself and therefore providing my students with the same opportunities.

As a a teacher I try to connect the ‘new, Generation Z’ digital literacy topics and skills and text linguistics to the ‘old, Generation X’ information literacy skills. I try to give evidence of my learning here, and share my materials within the creative commons.

In simpler words and to narrow it down: I create SMART DigLit Scrums in English classrooms higher secondary general for pre-university students in the Netherlands and the Big Elsewhere.

As a teacher, when you want to do such a thing, very often you need to develop in your own time, or ask for funding yourself.

In 2020 I submitted a bid and as a result received LOF funding for my proposal to integrate Digital Information Literacy in whole tasks by scrum approach for students aged 16-18 higher secondary general in The Netherlands (K-11/K-12, or years 9 and 10 or A-level).

This means I can experiment with digital information literacy in my lessons within our Dutch ‘Knowledgeland / Kennisland‘.

So within this environment, in its ‘back office’ I am currently desgining Scrums based on the themes of Digital Literacy. I will share these with you later as I can do, i.e. learn, ‘that’ #my way. Which is exactly what I would like my students to be doing in my classrooms.

Apart from this LOF Funding I am a project leader in De Leidse Aanpak and ‘t LEF. I coordinate 4 projects: Profielwerkstuk in de Stad Leiden, and Leids Museum Debat, Project Futurables, and Project Mattie, the App.

I have a fulltime job as an English teacher in The Netherlands and I enjoy it enormously every day, not in the least because my students always make me laugh, and you know what they say: a laugh a day keeps the doctor away.

Jumpshot Photography of Woman in White and Yellow Dress Near Body of Water