To bridge the digital divide and address our diverse student population, apply the I-TOTEMS of technology-rich learning: Information, Time, Opportunities, Tools, Experience, Motivation, and Strategies.

This workshop examines specific technology resources and tools that can be used to facilitate life-long learning and promote information fluency in K12 students across content areas. Begin by exploring the Overview and ITOTEMS sections on this page. Then, to explore the seven ITOTEMS using the menu bar at the top of the page. Return to this page to read the Conclusion.


My husband and I recently visited the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. I was fascinated by the rich history and culture. Every exhibit filled my mind with ideas, thoughts, and questions. I left the museum wondering whether everyone had the same passion for exploration and learning that I possessed. I wanted to know more about the technology used in the virtual exhibits. I wondered about how the wood and leather crafts were produced. I speculated about the origins of the various spiritual movements presented in the exhibits.

Do you have a passion for learning? What environments stimulate your thinking?

After leaving the museum I immediately turned to technology as a means of addressing my questions. I watched the mini-series 500 Nations on DVD, read books, and listened to an NPR program on the museum. I continued to think about the history and culture as I photographed nature over the next several months.

More Questions…

This experience stimulated many questions about how students and teachers use technology in the classroom and in life. Are we teaching students to make the best use of the resources available to become more information fluent members of society?

  • What if we help students connect their personal world to the larger social, historical, and scientific community?
  • What if we taught the joy and art of learning?
  • What if we helped our students learn to make informed decisions?
  • What if we used technology to empower?


One of the most interesting artifacts of the Northwest American Indian is the totem pole. Totems are a form of visual storytelling that can convey many different ideas:

  • Crest of family ancestry
  • History of a clan
  • Life experiences
  • Legends, folklore
  • Life commemoration

Totems are authentic, meaningful artifacts created to communicate and provide connections. What technology tools and resources can help facilitate communication and connections?

Learn more about totems:


I-totems are the information processes, resources, and tools students need to identify essential questions, evaluate multiple perspectives, and make informed decisions.

I-totems involve Information, Time, Opportunities, Tools, Experiences, Motivation, and Strategies that students need to tell stories, show relationships, and describe understandings.

Totems, Technology, & Experiences

Think about yourself and your students. How is technology currently used? How could it be used to learn more about yourself and your students, your class as a collaborative team, and the world around you?

Annette on trikeTechnology for Me Totems
Consider ways that technology can put students in touch with themselves. What tools and resources can help them express themselves? A digital camera, scanner, and word processor can be use for recording life stories that help students connect their life and interests to the world. For example, photo on the left brings back many memories of visiting my grandparents on the farm in Iowa.

Ask yourself:
What technology tools and resources will help me learn and share my understandings?
Download the Toys Word Document. Write about your memories.

cd Technology for We Totems
Consider how you and your students can work together on a joint project. For example, Doug Johnson and Bill Spradley, science teachers at Washington Middle School, developed a 37 minute "film within a film" with their middle school science students. The Pirates of Pigeon Creek uses the theme of a hidden treasure to stimulate interest in history and science. Along with demonstrating techniques of gathering water quality data to meet state standards, the video also explores the intriguing history of a local creek that runs into the Ohio River. While students learned important science and technology skills while making the movie, they were also able to share their understandings with future classes that might not be able to take a field trip to the location.

Ask Yourself:
What technologies and activities will facilitate group learning and understanding?
Let's use Google Notebook to organize ideas and resources. Or, try Google Docs. These tools will help you organize and share information.

Technology for Our Totems
Think about ways to expand the experiences of your students through the use of technology. For example, the Voice of Civil Rights website shares the stories of ordinary people during the Civil Rights movement. In the classroom section, students can watch video clips and explore primary source documents from the time period. Consider ways that students can learn about others and themselves.

Ask Yourself:
What technologies will help me understand and enhance my relationship with the world?
Seek out quality lesson ideas:
Thinkfinity/MarcoPolo Search Tool


Learning is a life long journey, not a 6, 12, or 16 year destination. It's about experiences, personal growth, and expanding understanding. It's about adventure and self-awareness. Learning is about stretching, challenging, and exploring. Technology-rich learning environments can provide the tools and atmosphere to support this type of 21st century learning.

How can the I-TOTEMS enrich the lives of you and your students?

Remember that learning is an exciting life long journey. Seek out materials to make learning interesting and exciting such as Shakespeare: Subject to Change.

Ella PrestonEnriching Lives

My great grandmother, Ella Preston (upper right) graduated from high school in 1897. She studied the same subjects we do today including reading, writing, science, and social studies. Like our students, she was required to pass a test for graduation. In her case that involved writing, memorizing, and reciting a 500 word essay.

At the National Governor’s Conference (2005), Bill Gates states that “America’s high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded – though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.”

His solution is to promote rigor, relevance, and relationships.

In addition to these three new R's, I'd recommend that we enrich our teaching and learning environment through the I-TOTEMS.

Developed by Annette Lamb, 6/05. Updated 6/07.