Presentation Summary


  • Teaching Contexts & Problems Are Complex - Administrators, community members, policymakers, and teachers typically respond to the complexity of learning with curriculum, legislation, mandates, policies, professional development, and standards.


  • Students Get Lost In the Layers - Students get lost in the layers.


  • Literacy Lives in the Layers - Careful alignment of all of those layers makes it possible to address many of the complex issues in schools because it focuses our attention and students' learning.


  • What does 21st Century literacy entail? - Emerging technologies are creating shifts in the way people work, play, live, and learn across many different domains (art, business, entertainment, medicine, science, etc.).


  • Literacy for the 21st Century Language Learner - As the culture of our society changes in conjunction with these emerging technologies, so will what it means to be literate. Language teachers are in a unique position to help students develop many of the literacies they will need.


  • Shifting Perspectives By Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zones - Although these new innovations make it clear that the world in which we are preparing students to function is very different from the world in which we grew up, the changes that teachers and schools need to make in order to equip them for it are not always as clear. We can change what it is possible for us to see by stepping outside our comfort zones--drawing on domains outside the field of education for inspiration about how to craft powerful learning experiences for students.


  • Technology & Literacy Are Linked - We must expand our definitions of text to include multimedia, and our definitions of literacy so that they include the multiple literacies students will need in order to participate in and contribute to society in the future.


  • Crafting Compelling Learning Experiences (From An Artist's Perspective) - There is much we can learn from the ways in which other disciplines create compelling experiences for their audiences. Key principles from the domains of architecture, art, filmmaking, marketing, music, and science all make one thing very clear--creating meaningful experiences for others requires thinking in layers. Each time we add a new layer to our thinking (such as adding images to text, considering spatial elements as we work with the images, then introducing sound and movement to the result), we also dimensionalize it.


  • Designing for Learning: What does it mean for the curriculum? - As we grow more experienced with the aesthetic principles of design, and more confident in our application of the National K-12 Standards for Foreign Language Learning, we position ourselves to design richer learning experiences that result in deeper understanding for our students. One practical application of these principles is to move from thinking about topics to thinking about themes, and from thinking about themes to thinking about cultural and societal change. In other words, thinking about culture as we plan enables us to contextualize what we are teaching in ways that make it more meaningful to students. As we think about the relationships among these elements, we position ourselves to transform students' thinking, and we empower our students to transform the world.


  • What About Assessment?: Designing for Understanding & Proficiency - Too frequently, we think of assessment as something we do to conclude a unit, rather than as a way of finding out more about what students understand, what they need, and what our next steps should be as teachers. As a result, we often design assessments that give us very little useful information. Project-based assessments (when they are carefully planned and scaffolded for students) can provide both the information and the support that we need in order to prepare rich and meaningful learning experiences for students.


  • Layering the Learning - As our thinking shifts from thinking about teaching to thinking about learning, we open up new possibilities for our students to grow. This does not mean doing MORE. It is about layering what we do so that it has more impact. As we move from thinking about learning to thinking about designing experiences for students that equip them to meet the challenges they are facing, we empower students to change themselves, their schools, their communities, and the world in powerful ways. In other words, every time we plan a new learning experience for them, we are, in essence, creating a better world in which to live.

  • Final Thoughts - Good teaching is not about doing things "right," it is about constantly imagining how what we are doing could be improved upon, and progress always happens with just one step away from what we are already doing toward a future filled with possibility.