Category Archives: Digital Age Learning Environments

Engaging the Community: Using Technology in Primary Literacy Group

Introduction and Reflection

 

For this quarter’s final project for my Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, we were asked to engage the digital community by preparing a presentation for a digital education conference.  We have submitted our proposal for the NCCE conference in Seattle in February 2019. While we haven’t yet heard if our proposal has been accepted, the process of coming up with an idea and working through the process of putting together a presentation that we feel will meet the needs of K-2 educators has been very valuable. Perhaps the most powerful learning that I gained from this project was having the opportunity to work with one of my classmates.  In my own classroom I am always talking about collaboration and how multiple brains working together bring more to our creative work and that we can often learn more from our peers than from the “teacher”. I am so glad that my peer and I took advantage of this opportunity. While I have more years of experience in education, I am moving into a grade level this coming year that I don’t have a lot of experience with, while my partner has been teaching this grade for most of her teaching career.  She also did her teaching training at a time when technology was prevalent in the classroom and most likely addressed in university education programs, where I began teaching using a overhead projector! We both brought different experiences and skill sets to our work together and I feel this allowed for our presentation to be better suited for a range of learners. Collaborating on a project like this felt more “real life” and finding the time to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously as well as meshing our academic work was an experience and skill that reminded me that these are the experiences and skills we should be “teaching” our students in the classroom if we are, indeed, preparing them for future lives in the “real world”.

 

Professional Development that Meets Teacher Needs

 

Our presentation is planned for 50 minutes.  We chose to do a session rather than a workshop because we felt that most of our audience would have some background in primary classrooms and with using technology.  Educators coming to our presentation will be actively engaged in the learning by completing a poll and also by visiting and exploring some of the digital resources we plan to share.  During our presentation we plan to meet content knowledge needs by providing teachers reasons for including technology in the primary classroom, strategies and tips for implementing technology, and resources of which digital tools we recommend.  Teacher needs are addressed because we hope to provide teachers with information and ideas that can take back to their classroom and implement immediately. Teachers find value in professional development that prepares them to make immediate changes in their teaching that don’t require a ton of planning and time.  Collaborative participation is promoted by giving time during our presentation for the attendees to talk about which (if any) of the resources we share that they have used in their classroom and also by giving us suggestions of digital tools they have used that aren’t included in our list.

 

Presentation Slides

Here is a link to our tentative Slides presentation:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1mMqqrFsnZSt0WU5qacTs4AQ1cJKaHGcNIGq3vVw9nec/edit?usp=sharing

 

Accessibility

Accessibility for all learners is important so that all content can meet their needs. For our presentation we wanted to make sure we had multiple forms for our learners to obtain information. Our main source of sharing our presentation will be projecting to a screen. For projecting our slides, we have picked larger fonts and colors that offer contrast for better viewing. In addition, we will offer hard copies of all materials discussed during our session. Finally, we created an overview video including our slides that is presented with Closed Captions for learners who need that support.

 

Video

Here a link to an overview of our presentation:

https://youtu.be/mID8P9vlif8

 

Standards

For this quarter’s work on Digital Learning Environments we focused on ISTE Standard for Coaching #3. Each week we focused on a couple indicators of this standard and this culminating project reflected our understanding of all seven indicators.

 

ISTE Standards for Coaches

  1. Digital Age Learning Environments Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

a) Model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments.

b) Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments.

c) Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators.

d) Select, evaluate and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning.

e) Troubleshoot basic software, hardware and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.

f) Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure.

g) Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers and the larger community.

Our presentation meets all 7 indicators of ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches as described below:

 

a.) We will share information about multiple ways to structure students’ use of digital tools and well as many management tips, both for the classroom environment and the technology.

b) We will provide suggestions for variety of digital tools for the primary classroom.  We will briefly explore a few during the presentation as well as include links for attendees to try out some resources we have shared after the presentation is over.

c) We will provide a lot of links to resources in our presentation. 50 minutes isn’t a lot of time, but we have a lot of information to share and want attendees to continue the learning after the session.

d) We have created a closed caption screencast providing an overview of our Slides presentation as well as been intentional with our choice of  font and graphics.

e) We have included a slide on technology management and also a slide of how to have volunteers and support staff assist when students encounter technology difficulty.

f) We chose to do this project and create this presentation as a team. We also want our presentation to be a collaborative session. We will stop and ask the audience to share anything they might want to add or share their experiences with the topic we are discussing.

g) Our presentation materials (slides and screencast) will be shared on our blogs, available on the NCCE conference website (if we are selected to present), and we will encourage attendees to share any pieces of our presentation with their colleagues once they return home. We will also share our contact information with attendees for follow-up or clarifying questions.

 

Resources

 

ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, August 22) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Developing Professional Development as Part of the Community Engagement Project.

The community engagement project challenges students to create a professional development session to be presented at a conference of the student’s choosing.  As part of building effective digital age environments, as prescribed by the ISTE Standards for Coaches #3, I chose to create an interactive session that focused on active learning and digital collaboration tools to improve current practices in nutrition education. Technology in nutrition education currently has limited uses but impactful potential. Despite the fact that nutrition information is plentiful in the digital world, the approach of dietitians and nutritionists has been to increase presence through blogs, social media, and videos (such as those on YouTube), while the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the representative organization for all dietitians, set their efforts to instill a code of ethics and provide information on privacy in the digital workplace.  These efforts may help mitigate nutrition misinformation but are often one-sided or engage only limited populations. For example, blogs may allow comments but do not allow for active engagement with the blog topics nor takes into account implementation on a local level. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter allow for nutritionists’ voices to be heard but rarely offer collaborative engagement between other experts, or communities. The solution is relatively simple as the digital tools mentioned offered plenty room for continued collaboration among participants at any level, (local or global).

The Academy itself recognizes the potential of technology in nutrition and has published a practice paper on nutrition informatics.  Nutrition informatics is a relatively new field in dietetics that addresses technology’s role in health practices.  The Academy discusses the potential pros and cons for each of the various practice fields in dietetics (clinical, food services, education/research, community, consultation/business) and technology’s potential for growth in each of those areas. In education specifically, the Academy recognizes use in distance learning, student progress tracking, speciality testing for licensing and certification, and professional course development.  However, it does not mention need for collaboration or engaging various audiences requiring nutrition education.

In order to bridge this gap and address the ISTE Coaching Standard, the topic for this professional development proposal focuses on building better nutrition education through digital collaboration tools.   The goal of this session is to explore benefits of active learning through technology aides (EdTech) and implement tools into existing lesson plans with the following objectives in mind:

  • a) Understand and/or review importance of active learning (evidence-based practice)
  • b) Become familiarized with collaborative edtech tools
  • c) Engage with edtech tool selection criteria and best practices
  • d) Explore ways to incorporate digital tools in lesson plan scenarios.

Professional Development Session Elements

In this one-hour session, participants will be invited to explore the main topic through both face-to-face and online collaboration, as the entire group navigates through a website developed specifically for the presentation. Since all of major content is available to them online, there is no need for note-taking, allowing participants to remain engaged throughout the session. Elements of the session involve: a pre-session technology self-assessment, an online group discussion via Padlet, think pair share elements, and lastly self-reflection elements submitted during and after the session.  More details on these elements are provided below.

Length. The Academy hosts local sub-organizations in each state. I chose to develop this professional development session for local dietitians and nutrition educators with the opportunity to present at the local education conference held annually.  The requirements of this local organization state that all educational sessions must be a minimum length of one hour. This is to meet the CEU (continuing education unit) minimum for registering dietitians. Considering that through the DEL program we have taken entire classes dedicated to active learning and digital tools, the length will limit the depth of information presented.  However, the ability to continually collaborate with both participants and presenter will allow for continued resource sharing after the session has ended.

Active, engaged learning with collaborative participation. Participants will be encouraged to participate and collaborate before, during, and after the session for a full engagement experience. The audience will be asked to review certain elements of the presentation website available here intermittently as they discuss key elements with the participants next to them. See figure 1.1 for lesson plan details.

Building Better Nutrition Education Through Digital Collaboration Tools
Objectives

Session Goal: Introduce ways to incorporate digital collaboration tools into existing nutrition education lesson plans.

Learning Objectives: At the end of the session participants will:

  • a) Understand and/or review importance of active learning (evidence-based practice)
  • b) Become familiarized with collaborative edtech tools
  • c) Engage with edtech tool selection criteria and best practices
  • d) Explore ways to incorporate digital tools in lesson plan scenarios
Performance Tasks

  • Participants will complete self-assessment prior to the session
  • Participants will demonstrate understanding of active learning by submitting informal Google Form Quiz in session
  • Participants will engage in collaborative edtech tools by submitting responses during the session
  • Participants will create their own digital tool need by complete case scenario
  • They will submit self-reflection via flipgrid post session
Plan Outline

  • Session Introduction (5 mins)
    • Prompt and Participation: Padlet Q & A- Describe a time you attended a great education session, what made that session great?
    • Review of self-assessment (completed prior to session)
  • Importance of active learning- evidence-based practice (5-10 mins)
    • Review of evidence: Google form quiz (embedded in site)
    • How can digital tools help? (5-10 mins)
  • Choosing the right digital tool (10 mins)
    • Triple E Framework rubric
    • Criteria for choosing the right digital tool
  • Tips on incorporating tools into existing lesson plan (10 mins)
    • Video Tutorial (take home message/resource)
  • Active practice (10 mins)
    • Case scenarios-flipgrid response
    • Flipgrid self-reflection
  • Questions (5 mins)

Total session length: 60 mins.

Figure 1.1 “Building Better Nutrition Education through Digital Tools” Session Lesson Plan.

Before the presentation, the participants will be invited to a google form self-assessment poll addressing comfort and knowledge with technology tools as well as their current use of technology tools in practice. During the presentation, the audience will be prompted to participate in “think, pair, share” elements, as well as, respond to collaboration tools prompts on padlet, google forms, and embedded websites.  After the presentation, participants will be encouraged to summarize their learning by submitting a flipgrid video.  

Content knowledge needs. The session content begins with establishing the importance of active learning as evidence-based practice to meet objectives a) and b). Just as motivational interviewing and patient-centered practice is desirable in nutrition, active learning invoking 21st century skills is evidence-based and an education standard. The content will then shift into teacher-focused how-tos for digital tools including how digital tools can help, how to select the right digital tool, and how to incorporate that tool into an existing lesson plan to address objectives c) and d). My assumption is that participants who are not comfortable with technology may be fearful or lack of motivation to explore various tools.  Group collaboration, modelling and gentle encouragement through case studies may help mitigate these fears.

Teachers’ needs. While the majority of the session focuses on introductory content to active learning and digital tools, teacher’s needs in digital tool management can be addressed through coach/presenter modeling. Simple statements such as, “I created this flipgrid video to serve as a model for students.” or “This google form was hyperlinked to gauge students’ understanding so far,” can serve as a basis to explore class management and digital tool management within the limited time. The website itself offer a section on FAQs, exploring questions and misconceptions about active learning and digital tools. Even with all of these resources, the audience will be introduced to technology coaching and may choose to consult a coach at their current institution.

In addition to modeling, three tutorial videos are available on the website to help teachers begin creating their own active learning lesson plans using the backwards design model. Each of the tutorials features closed captioned created through TechSmith Relay for accessibility.  The Google Site was also chosen because content is made automatically accessible to viewers, all the website creator has to do is include the appropriate heading styles and use alt text for pictures, figures, and graphs.

Lessons Learned through the Development Process.

One of the major challenges to developing this project was understanding the needs of the target audience.  Because nutrition informatics is relatively new, technology use has not be standardized in the profession, therefore estimating the previous knowledge and use of digital tools by the audience was difficult. My assumption is that technology use and attitudes about technology will be varied. The website attempts to breakdown information to a semi-basic level.  The only assumption I made was that the audience has good background in standard nutrition education practices. I also chose to develop the Technology Self-Assessment for the audience to complete prior to the session as a way to gain some insight into current technology use and comfort so that I may better tailor the session to that particular audience’s needs.

I realized as I was developing the lesson plan for this session that I only have time to do a brief introduction to these very important topics. If I were to create a more comprehensive professional development, I could expand the content into three one-hour sessions including 1) introduction and theory to collaborative learning which would address the importance of digital tools in nutrition education and establish need for active learning, 2) selecting, evaluating, and curating tech tools allowing educators to become familiarized with available tools based on individual need, and 3) lesson plan development integrating collaboration tools, a “how-to” session where participants create their own plan to implement. I had not anticipated that length was going to be a barrier, however, if the audience truly has limited digital familiarity and comfort, perhaps beginning with an introduction to these topics is sufficient.

One positive lesson that I’ve learned is that trying new things, such as creating a Google Site, can be very rewarding.  I have never experimented with Google Sites prior to this project and I am quite happy with the final website, though the perfectionist in me wants to continue tweaking and editing content. I originally was aiming to create slides for this presentation but realized that I am attempting to convince a possibly skeptical audience on the benefits of digital tools so using the same old tool would not allow me to do the scope of modelling I desire.  

I must admit that before this project, I had a hard time placing myself into the role of a “tech coach” because I would continually see each concept through the lens of an educator and how to apply the concepts to my own teaching.  It has been difficult for me to take a step back and realize that I am teaching but just in a different context. Creating the step-by-step tutorials was the turning point where I envisioned the audience modeling their lesson plans to the example I had given.  I hope I have the opportunity to present this session at the educational conference and bring the ideals of active learning and digital tools to professionals working in various education settings.

Using literature to teach students that taking risks, making mistakes, and persevering are key to success in today’s digital world

The Importance of Troubleshooting

 

Those of us who have ever used technology, especially those of us who rely on technology heavily in our daily lives, can recall a time (or 20 times) when the technology just didn’t work. Perhaps we knew the reason and could quickly troubleshoot the issue, perhaps we knew the issue but didn’t know how to fix the problem, or perhaps we didn’t understand why the technology wasn’t working.  All of these situations are frustrating, some more than others. Many of our students are attending schools that utilize digital learning environments and teachers are working hard to teach students how to use different devices and programs and also teaching students how to be respectful and safe digital citizens. But often how to troubleshoot the technology when things aren’t working correctly isn’t taught. We just stop using the technology, or call the Help Desk, or wait to try again later.  But if our students are depending on technology in their daily academic and personal lives, they should be equipped with some skills to problem solve technology “issues”.

ISTE Standards for Coaching 3e is “Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.”  While technology coaches are not IT specialists, it is important that they can troubleshoot basic problems. However, I think a goal of technology coaches (and all teachers who use technology in their classroom) should be to teach students how to troubleshoot basic technology problems.  Having technology not work as you had expected is frustrating and often a response is just to quit or give up. But, like with all aspects of school (and life), we are trying to teach our students that accepting obstacles, learning from mistakes, and figuring out how to persevere and problem solve are critical skills that will serve them throughout their lives in many situations.

 

How to Help Students Learn to Take Risks, Make Mistakes and Learn from Those Mistakes

How do we teach our students to take risks when there is an “easier” option?  Make mistakes without feeling like a “failure”? And to continue to problem solve and work hard even when feeling frustrated.  In the Brookings Institute blog, Kate Mills and Helyn Kim have written about “Teaching Problem Solving: Let Students get ‘stuck’ and ‘unstuck’ ”.   My favorite sentence in this post is: “Helping my students grow to be people who will be successful outside of the classroom is equally as important as teaching the curriculum.” Sometimes we, as teachers, can lost sight of that goal. I also enjoyed reading about how this teacher “normalizes trouble” in her classroom in hopes that her students learn to accept challenge and failure as opportunities for growth.  Another key point I took from reading this post was the importance of making sure students know that the teacher is not there to solve their problems, but there to support students as they solve their own problems.

“In the real world, students encounter problems that are complex, not well defined, and lack a clear solution and approach. They need to be able to identify and apply different strategies to solve these problems. However, problem solving skills do not necessarily develop naturally; they need to be explicitly taught in a way that can be transferred across multiple settings and contexts. (Mills & Kim, 2017)”.  I feel that one of the ways that these problem solving skills can be explicitly taught is through children’s literature. Reading books that show examples of characters struggling with problems, “failing”, and then persevering aloud to students and then having class discussions, as well as independent reflection time afterwards, could really help our youngest students gain the understanding of these mindsets that will be important to the success of their digital learning experiences.

 

 

Literature Recommendations

Grit, perseverance, growth mindset, and learning to fail are all “buzz words” in classrooms today. And for good reason.  As educators, parents, employers, and member of society we know (or are learning) that these characteristics, values, and attitudes are linked to success in school, career, and life.  We also recognize that often these “skills” are not explicitly taught. One of the reasons is that it is hard to “teach” these values and attitudes. However, literature allows readers to connect to the characters as an “outsider”. And often when we are outside a situation we can more easily see what is happening and learn from the situation. For this reason, teaching social-emotional skills and mindsets through literature is very effective with students. Below are some examples for books to use for primary students. I referenced Good Reads for suggestions, but many of these titles are ones I have used in my own classroom. These are just 10 books, but there are numerous books out there at every reading level and interest area that can be used to teach students skills such as risk-taking, perseverance, and acceptance of failure.

By Andrea Beaty

 

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires  

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

What Do you Do with a Problem by Kobi Yamada

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

The Dot by Peter Reynolds

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

Journey by Aaron Becker

Brave Irene by William Steig

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back up Again) by Dan Santat

 

Sources:

 

Goodreads.com website. (Retrieved on 2018, August 10) from: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/perseverance

 

Goodreads.com website. (Retrieved on 2018, August 18) from: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/kids-problem-solving

 

ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, August 18) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

 

Kim, H & Mills, K. (2017) “Teaching Problem Solving: Let Kids Get Stuck and Unstuck”. Brookings Institute Blog. (Retrieved on 2018, August 10) from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2017/10/31/teaching-problem-solving-let-students-get-stuck-and-unstuck/

 

The Connection between Digital Competence and Problem-Solving

The word “troubleshooting” most often invokes images involving a conversation with the IT department, a progression of actions guided by the technician and performed by the user, and ending with a resolution in which the user’s original knowledge of technology has not been augmented. Unfortunately this is a all too common scenario. The user defaults all troubleshooting responsibility to a third party because of unfamiliarity or knowledge deficit of technology. This is not limited to just consumers and companies, there is a concern that students also do not troubleshoot well. According to the ISTE coaching standard, coaches should help teachers and students “troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments,” (ISTE, 2017). While calling for IT or passing responsibility onto another party, like a teacher for example, is generally practiced, learning to troubleshoot is a beneficial 21st century skill because it helps develop digital competence.

Why is digital competence important?

Like all 21st century skills, digital competence is a highly-sought skill in the ever-evolving workforce. An e-magazine, Training Industry, wrote an industry-perspective article on digital competence and highlights the need for competence in the workforce from the top of the organization chart down.  The author believes that the tech world today emcompasses “VUCA”, or volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The role of those working in tech today should be to navigate this VUCA world seamlessly and one of the ways to do this is to reinforce digital competence, (Newhouse, 2017).  The industry definition of digital competence expands to include not only knowledge of technology but also involves understanding digital environments, effectively creating and consuming digital information, communicating and collaborating with diverse stakeholders, innovating rapidly, critically thinking/problem solving, and maintaining security, (Newhouse, 2017). This definition was devised from new European Union definitions and involves five major facets summarized in figure 1.1 below.

Infographic on the 5 major facets of digital competence
Figure 1.1 Facets of Digital Competence

What role does “digital competence” play in helping students problem-solve and troubleshoot online/technology issues?

One issue that arises is the general assumption that since students grew up with technology, or are considered digital natives, that they automatically build digital knowledge or that students know how to use technology well, (Hatlevik, et. al, 2015).  However, in order to use technology well, students need to build digital competence and literacy. According to researchers Hatlevik, Gudmundsdottik, and Loi, building digital competence is complex and involves various factors as summarized in figure 1.2 below.

Infographic on the key elements for developing digital competence
Figure 1.2 Developing Digital Competence

The researchers recognize that these facets are essential to culviating a deep understanding of technology while promoting critical reflection and creativity of digital skills.  These qualities in turn develop problem-solving skills in both independent and collaborative settings, (Hatelvik,et. al., 2015).

Other than knowledge deficits involving how to perform troubleshooting tasks, researchers suggest that when demanding conditions, such as a completing an assignment,  becomes difficult, it may hurt self-regulation and autonomy, (Koole, et.al, 2012). These difficulties can include cognitive, motivational, implementational, or a combinations of these factors.  While this theory is debated, meta-analyses indicate that low intrinsic value activities (such as homework) may lower complex problem solving abilities such as those required by troubleshooting, (Koole, et al. 2012).  Along with motivational issues, students may resolve themselves to believing that there is only one correct path or resolution to a specific problem in which the educator is the gatekeeper of the solution. Rather than seeking the solution for themselves, students prefer to go straight to the source which develops a learned helplessness, (Miller, 2015).

How can students develop digital competence?

Digital competence is a very complex concept that spans several social, motivational, personal, cultural, and technical understandings, therefore, there is no straightforward way for developing digital competence.  However, educators play a big role in establishing foundations for competence that may lead to better problem-solving and troubleshooting in two major ways:

  1. Allowing for self-directed learning. A consensus exists in the fact that students need to be reflective of their own learning, (Miller, 2015 and Plaza de la Hoz, et. al., 2015).  The role of the educator then shifts to provide resources including digital tools that allow students to experiment by active participation and engagement.
  2. Change in class culture. The attitudes and beliefs of the educator also reflects importance of digital competence in students. If the educator places low importance in digital competence, the students learn not to value or develop these important skills.  The educator can establish new beliefs, resources, and structures to promote a culture of answer-seeking through appropriate digital tools and tool use. Lastely, students must build self-efficacy through trial and error in a safe environment.

While researchers are investigating efficient methods for developing competences, all sources agree that in order for students to be successful in the 21st century, educators must open up the path to new technologies, new pedagogies, and new attitudes that help build digital competency, (Miller, 2015, and Plaza de la Hoz, et. al., 2015).  

Resources

Hatlevik, O.E., Gudmundsdottik, G.B., Loi, M. (2015). Digital diversity among among upper secondary students: A multilevel analysis of the relationship between cultural capital, self-efficacy, strategic use of information, and digital competence. Computers & Education. 81: 245-353. Available from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5W5P9bQJ6q0RFNib3A5Vm9wWWM/view

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaches. Available from:

https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Koole, S.L., Jostmann, N.B., Baumann, N. (2012). Do demanding conditions help or hurt regulation? Available from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5W5P9bQJ6q0M0QzalRBa0FfTXM/view

Miller, A. (2015, May 11). Avoiding learning helpness. Available from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller

Newhouse, B. (2017). Closing the digital competence gap. Available from: https://trainingindustry.com/magazine/issue/closing-the-digital-competence-gap/

Plaza de la Hoz, J., Mediavilla, D.M., Garcia-Gutierrez, J. (2015). How do teachers develop digital competence in their students? Appropriations, problematics, and perspectives. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301914474_How_do_teachers_develop_Digital_Competence_in_their_students_Appropriations_problematics_and_perspectives

Evaluating, Selecting, and Managing Digital Tools

With so many digital tools available for teachers and students to use and based on the ISTE Standard 3 for coaches, I wanted to know how coaches can evaluate, select, and manage these digital tools for teachers. To answer this question I first took a look at what my own district does to help make this process smooth for all staff members.

One Districts Technology Integration System

There are many different ways for districts to select and manage different digital tools for all staff members. My own district has a good system in place to make technology integration seem smooth and simple (in my opinion). To help manage all of the digital tools available for staff the district uses a platform called Powerschool.  On this platform the district provides access to materials such as Online Curriculum, Mobile Teaching, Technology Training and Integration, as well as, digital tools.

Evaluating and Selecting Digital Tools

Not all digital tools are created equally and therefore they need to be evaluated before staff and students can access them. My district has four things they look at when evaluating a digital tool and a simple flow chart to see if the tool meets the district standards.

The district job in evaluating digital tools allows for them to make sure they meet the requires for student privacy and safety, to make sure it aligns with current district curriculum, any potential cost, and any issues with district wide technology/Security. If a digital tools meets all of these requirements then that digital tool is uploaded on to the platform for all staff members to access. A great thing about this process is that any staff member can submit a digital tool for approval. This allows for teachers to have a voice in the digital tools they think would be a good fit for their teaching and their students learning.

Conclusion

Technology changes by the minute, and as educators we need to keep up with the times in order to best prepare our students for this ever-changing world that we live in. With a system in place to evaluate, select, and manage digital tools districts can keep up with the demand and provide its staff and students with safe, effective digital tools in the classroom. Coaches can take the model above to help teachers select what is best for their students learning, while making sure the technology fulfills laws around safety.

Digital Tools for Students with Dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?

 

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability,  affecting 10-20% of children and adults. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes difficulty with language skills, specifically reading (IDA website).  It is a disability that affects an individual throughout their life, although with interventions and supports people with dyslexia can become highly successful (Redford, 2014).  The following paragraph comes from the Yale Institute for Dyslexia and Creativity, which borrows their definition from the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.

 

Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.

Source: IDA website- https://dyslexiaida.org/infographics/

 

The Impact of Technology

Advances in (and increased access to) technology have had a significant and positive impact for students with dyslexia.  Technology has the ability to provide students with supports such as more time, the ability to use assistive technology to read and write, and ways to provide interventions without drawing attention to the disability.  Many of the digital resources that have and will continue to provide support to students with language-based learning disabilities are free. Technology also allows increased access to information about dyslexia and the ability to connect online with others who share a common interest, such as dyslexia.  

 

Recommendations

Through my research and my experience working with dyslexic students, I have come up with some recommendations as listed below. I have grouped these recommendations into three categories: reading and learning, note-taking, and writing. These are the three areas of school where students with dyslexia typically experience the most difficulty and where technology supports and resources can be very valuable and dramatically transform the learning environment and opportunities for success for students with dyslexia.

 

Reading and Learning

  • Provide shorter and less dense reading assignments, but still at same reading and information level
  • Allow students to listen to audio books (either human read or computer-generated)
  • Assign graphic novels for reading (Redford, 2014)
  • Make sure to increase font size and use font that is simple
  • Provide students with text to speech technologies

An example of using Assistive Technology (browsealoud) to read a website.

Source: IDA website- https://dyslexiaida.org/frequently-asked-questions-2/

 

 

Note-Taking

  • Provide typed notes when appropriate
  • Allow students to record lectures/instruction/ assignment directions
  • Allow students to take pictures of the board or any other visuals in the classroom

 

Spelling and Writing

  • Allow student to type their writing whenever possible and ensure they have instruction in efficient keyboard practices (Redford, 2014)
  • When students are generating ideas or mapping out their writing, allow them to dictate their thinking so that their ideas are able to be captured as their thoughts and creativity flow (Redford, 2014)
  • Provide access to programs that can translate speech to text
  • Encourage use of spell-check, spelling predictors, and grammar programs

 

Most Important

  • Allow extra time for students with language-based learning disabilities for reading, writing, test-taking, etc.
  • When appropriate provide the whole class with the accommodations options listed above for two reasons. 1) Accommodations for students with a learning disability are often beneficial to all students and 2) It allows the student(s) with dyslexia to access these supports without drawing attention to their disability

 

Sources:

Chernek, V (2015). “Will Accessible Books Improve Reading for Students with Dyslexia?” EdSurge. (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from:

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-01-27-will-digital-accessible-books-improve-reading-for-students-with-dyslexia

 

Common Sense Media for Educators website. “Best Assistive Technology for Reading in the Classroom”. (Retrieved on 2018, August 3) from: https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-assistive-technology-for-reading-in-the-classroom

 

Eide, F (2015) “3 Technology Must-Dos for Dyslexia at School” Dyslexic Advantage (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from: https://www.dyslexicadvantage.org/3-technology-must-dos-for-dyslexia-at-school/

 

International Dyslexia Association website: https://dyslexiaida.org/

 

ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, June 21) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

 

Hamman, J (2018). “Accommodating Students with Dyslexia”. Edutopia.org Website (Retrieved on 2018, August 1) from: https://www.edutopia.org/article/accommodating-students-dyslexia?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4a3F16zA3AIVRIF-Ch0cMwcmEAAYAyAAEgLFVvD_BwE

 

Redford, K (2014). “Kids Can’t Wait: Strategies to Help Struggling Readers” Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/educators/instruction/kids-cant-wait-strategies-to-support-struggling-readers/

 

Shapiro, L (2018). “How Technology Helped me Cheat Dyslexia” (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from: https://www.wired.com/story/end-of-dyslexia/

 

Developing Evaluation Criteria for EdTech Tools

Digital tools in the classroom is an asset to learning. According to the U.S. Department of Education, technology in the classroom ushers in a new wave of teaching and learning that can enhance productivity, accelerate learning, increase student engagement and motivation, as well as, build 21st century skills, (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.).  The offerings of technology tools for the classroom are plentiful as priorities shift to support a more integrated education. Educators now have several options for cultivating digital tools to better engage students, promote active learning, and personalize instruction. But choosing the right tools can be challenging especially considering that educators face a seemingly overwhelming array of options. How would can educators filter through all of the options to select the best tool(s) for their classroom?  

Enlisting the help of a technology coach who can systematically break down the selection process to ensure that the most appropriate tools are used is part of the solution.  In following with best practices, the third ISTE standard for coaching (3b) states that in order for tech coaches to support effective digital learning environments, coaches should manage and maintain a wide array of tools and resources for teachers, (ISTE, 2017).  In order to cultivate those resources, coaches themselves need a reliable way to select, evaluate, and curate successful options. Much like an educator may use a rubric or standards to assess an assignment’s quality, coaches can develop specific criteria (even a rubric) to assess quality of technology tools.  

Tanner Higgin of Common Sense Education understands the barrage of ed tech tools and the need for reliable tech resources, which is why he published an article describing what makes a good edtech tool great.  The article seems to be written more from a developer’s point of view on app “must-haves”, however Higgin also makes reference to a rubric used by Common Sense Education to evaluate education technology. He mentions the fact that very few tech tools reviewed receive a 5 out of 5 rating which makes me assume that Common Sense Education has a rigorous review system in place. I was curious to learn what criteria they use to rate and review each tool and/or so I investigated their rating process.  In the about section on their website, Common Sense Education mentions a 15-point rubric which they do not share. They do share, however, the key elements included in their rubric: engagement, pedagogy, and support, (Common Sense Education, n.d.). They also share information about the reviewers and how they decide which tools to review. This information serves as a great jumping off point in developing criteria for selecting, evaluating, and curating digital tools. Understanding the thought process of an organization that dedicates their time and resources for this exact purpose is useful for tech coaches in developing their own criteria.  

Continuing the search for technology tool evaluation criteria led me to several education leaders who share their process through various blog posts and articles.  Reading through the criteria suggestion, a common theme started to develop. Most of the suggested criteria fit under the umbrella terms defined by Common Sense with a few modifications, which are synthesized in figure 1.1 below.

Infographic with suggestions on evaluation criteria
Figure 1.1 Digital Tool Evaluation Criteria Suggestions

There is consensus among the educational leaders who placed emphasis on engagement and collaboration features of the tool. Tod Johnston from Clarity Innovations noted that a good tech tool should allow for personalization or differentiation of the learning process that also allowed the instructor to modify the content as needed for each class, (Johnston, 2015).  ISTE author, Liz Kolb added to this by stating that tools that allow for scaffolding help to better engage differentiation, (Kolb, 2016). Both Edutopia and ISTE authors agreed that sociability and shareability of the platform was important to engage students in wider audiences, (Hertz, 2010, & Kolb, 2016).

While engagement was a key element of selecting a tech tool for the classroom, even more important was how the tool fared in the realm of pedagogy in that first and foremost the technology needs to play a role in meeting learning goals and objectives, (Hertz, 2010).  Secondly, the tool should allow for instructional best practices including appropriate methods for modeling and instruction of the device, and functionality in providing student feedback, (Hertz, 2010 &, Johnston, 2015). Another pedagogical consideration is the ability of the platform to instill higher level thinking rather than “skill and drill” learning, (Kolb, 2016). Specific rubrics on pedagogy such as the SAMR and TRIPLE E framework models has been created and can be used in conjunction with these principles.

Support and usability was among the top safety concerns for evaluating these tools.  Cost and the desired features accessed within cost premium was among these concerns particularly when students needed to create an account or needed an email was a concern, (Hertz, 2010). Hertz called this issue free vs. “freemium”, meaning that some apps only allow access to limited functionality of the platform while full functionality could only be accessed through purchase of premium packages. If the platform was free, the presence of ads would need to be accessed,  (Hertz, 2010). In terms of usability, coveted features such as easy interface, instructor management of student engagement, and seperate teacher/student account were desirable, (Johnston, 2015). Along with cost and usability, app reliability and compatibility with existing technology was also listed as important features, (Johnston, 2015).

The evaluation process itself varied from curated lists of the top tech tools, criteria suggestions, even completed rubrics.  If those don’t quite apply to a specific evaluation process, a unique approach would be to convert the rubric into a schematic like the one shared from Denver Public Schools  where each key evaluation element could be presented as a “yes” or “no” question with a “yes, then” or “no, then” response following a  clear decisive trajectory for approval or rejection.  

What I’ve learned through the exploratory process of developing evaluation criteria for tech tools is that It is not important or necessary that a tool meet every single criteria item. Even the educational and tech experts reviewed in this blog emphasized different things in their criteria. In his blog, Tod Johnston suggests that there is no right or wrong way to evaluate technology tools because this isn’t a cookie cutter process.  Just like all teachers have a different style and approach to teaching so would their style and approach to using tech tools. The key to evaluating tools to to find the one that best fits the teacher’s needs, (Johnston, 2015).

Resources

Common Sense Education., (n.d.). How we rate and review. Available from: https://www.commonsense.org/education/how-we-rate-and-review

Hertz, M.B., (2010). Which technology tool do I choose? Available from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/best-tech-tools

ISTE, 2017.  ISTE standards for coaches.  Available from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches.

Kolb, L., (2016, December 20). 4 tips for choosing the right edtech tools for learning. Available from: https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=870&category=Toolbox

Johnston, T. (2015). Choosing the right classroom tools. Available from: https://www.clarity-innovations.com/blog/tjohnston/choosing-right-classroom-tools

Vincent, T. (2012). Ways to evaluate educational apps. Available from: https://learninginhand.com/blog/ways-to-evaluate-educational-apps.html

U.S. Department of Education., (n.d.). Use of technology in teaching and learning. Available from: https://www.ed.gov/oii-news/use-technology-teaching-and-learning.

Personalized and Independent Digital Tools for the Kindergarten Classroom

Technology in Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a time of tremendous transition and growth. It is many children’s first formal educational experience and the Kindergarten year sets the foundation and tone for a student’s educational experience.  Students this age are creative and are striving for independence. The are learning to take initiative and collaborate with their peers both socially and academically. Because we are working to embrace and cultivate creativity and social interactions at this age, it is crucial that we are intentional with our goals for the use of technology is the Kindergarten classroom.  When technology is implemented thoughtfully “it is one more outlet for them to display their creativity and learning.” (NAEYC.org, 2012)

Independent Centers

A component of many early elementary classrooms is center time.  During this portion of the day students rotate through a variety of stations with each station or rotation focused on a different activity. Often during this time, the teacher is pulling small groups of students aside for individualized and focused instruction. There might also be some support staff or parent volunteers in the class working with small groups or assisting with the students working independently at centers.   

To be honest, this time in my classrooms has often been a struggle. When it flows well and all students are engaged and independent it is such a magical time in the day. But, more often than not, the students rotating through the centers have issues with engagement or need assistance regardless of how much teaching, modeling, and practice has been done ahead of time.  This is where I think technology can be used effectively and with intention in primary classrooms. This is also a time when students can be given choice in their work and activities can be easily differentiated.

Personalized Learning

Every classroom has learners at different academic levels with varied strengths and challenges, and different previous educational experiences, but in some ways a kindergarten classroom has the greatest learner diversity.  All students enter kindergarten with different previous educational experiences and at the kindergarten age (5 and 6) students will different birth dates can be 20% older or younger than their peers, which is a large range developmentally.  With all of our classrooms, but especially classrooms with large discrepancy among and between learners, differentiated learning must be part of the curriculum planning. Taking this a step further is involving students in their learning plan, often coined “personalized learning”.

The North America Council for Online Learning published an article in June 2018 titled, “A National Landscape Scan of Personalized Learning in K-12 Education in the United States”.  In the introduction, authors Gross, Tuckman, and Patrick define personalized learning as “an approach to a school’s pedagogical strategy for optimizing supports for each student, drawing on research about learning, motivation and engagement. Schools that personalize learning call on students to be active co-constructors, making choices in how they learn, co-creating their learning experiences and pathways through learning, progressing through content as they demonstrate competence, and engaging in their communities outside the school. This stands in contrast to prior expectations that all students should progress along a set curriculum at roughly the same pace, and significantly advances more recent differentiation work by placing student agency at the center of the process (2018).”

Choosing Digital Tools

Because digital apps, websites, and programs are constantly changing and being updated, adults that are selecting digital tools for students must frequently evaluate the programs being used and be on the look at for new or updated tools that might fit with curriculum and goals.  One of my favorite places to look for reviews of digital tools is Common Sense Media. There “top picks” lists are reliably packed with great resources and helpful reviews. Check out these “Best Apps” for kids, there seems to be a category for every learner: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-lists.

In her article on the Edutopia website, Tara Jeffs (2014) provides this list of key elements for technology use in Kindergarten classrooms:

“Whether you are using apps, computer software or interactive websites, look at the elements of motivation for learning. The following characteristics are crucial for obtaining and sustaining interest and extended play for young children:

  • Developmentally appropriate content: not so easy that it is mastered quickly, and not so hard that it becomes frustrating or feels impossible.
  • Fresh content: the app updates as the user plays (i.e. is multi-leveled or has stages).
  • Wait time: not too long and not too short between levels or games.
  • Humorous activities: having fun and laughing are part of the digital experience — the sillier the better for some of our early learners.
  • Incentives: provides a reason to play and explore (i.e., stickers, levels or collections).
  • Goals: children and parents should agree that there is a reason or goal in mind to motivate further play.
  • Socialization: offers parental/adult involvement or playmate opportunities.”

 

Sources:

 

Common Sense Media website. (Retrieved on 2018, July 22) from: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-lists

 

iNACOL. Org website (2018). (Retrieved on 2018, July 22) from: https://www.inacol.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/iNACOL_ANationalLandscapeScanOfPersonalizedLearning.pdf

 

ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, June 21) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

 

Jeffs, T (2014). Edutopia.org Website (Retrieved on June  20, 2018) from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/preschoolers-in-the-digital-sandbox-tara-jeffs

 

NAEYC.org website (2012). Retrieved on 2018, July 23) from: https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/technology-and-media/preschoolers-and-kindergartners

 

Culturally Relevant Learning Environments- Examples in Nutrition

How you learn is built in to the larger part of who you are, embodies your collective experiences, norms, beliefs, and values; it is a part of your culture. Building community in the learning environment, whether on- or off-line, establishes safety, facilitates collaboration, and can help cultivate sense of self and role in the community. The ISTE standard for coaches calls coaches to “create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students… by model[ing] effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments”,(ISTE, 2017). In order to maximize these resources for learning, we need to establish a technology environment that engages students’ cultural background and understandings.

Building community can be particularly difficult in an online environment where social cues, particularly non-verbal ones, may be more challenging to interpret or oftentimes gets misinterpreted.  This becomes confounded when factoring in cultural languages and exchanges. These exchanges are not limited to ethnic cultures, but also generational cultures where task interpretations may take on different meanings.  For example, assigning students the task of investigating three community food resources may be interpreted and approached differently by students who are very familiar with technology, as opposed to non-traditional students or students that have limited access to technology.  Coaches can help instructors build understanding of the cultures present in a classroom, and implement successful learning strategies through culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP).

What is CRP and why is it important?

McCarther defines culture as an “amalgamation of human activity, production, thought, and belief systems,”(McCarther, 2017). “Culture is fundamental to learning,” (Pitsoe, 2014). Each student brings to the classroom a “fund of knowledge” shaped by their culture that influences who students are, what they believe, and how they think, (Cavalli, 2014). It is easy to understand that students bring all of themselves represented through culture in their learning, but does how they are taught represent them and their culture?  In 1995 researcher Gloria Ladson-Billings coined the termed “culturally relevant pedagogy” (CRP) in response to the fact that students learn best when their ideas and voice are shared and appreciated by the world, (McCarther, 2017). CRP invites educators to create socially just spaces and structure for students to share their voice by using teaching strategies that support the use of cultural knowledge, previous experiences, and unique performance styles that are familiar to diverse students in the classroom, (Cavalii, 2014 & McCather, 2017).  According to Ladson-Billings, student learning success encompasses academic success, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness. CRP is not prescriptive but rather flexible and ever-changing in response to the cultures unique to a particular classroom, (McCather, 2017). Good implementation of CRP in the classroom involve four key components as described by Pitsoe and summarized in Figure 1.1 below.

Infographic of CRP Components
Figure 1.1 Components of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Understanding how students learn, the reality of their world today, and what skills they need to challenge the existing systems is crucial to the implementation of CRP.

Need for CRP in Nutrition

The need for CRP in nutrition education is great. Nutrition is incredibly personal as we all eat certain foods for a variety of different reasons. Most reasons for eating are linked to social and cultural norms rather than a strong connection to health (though cultural eating is linked to maintenance of health).  Nutrition practitioners and educators need to be aware of the delicate interplay between culture and health as new foods and traditions are introduced to the diet. Presenting nutrition information in a culturally relevant manner helps engage individuals by giving them the appropriate context and tools to facilitate change. Below are two examples that help illustrate the need for CRP in nutrition counseling:

In the article, “Culturally tailored post secondary nutrition and health education curricula for indigenous populations”, the authors investigate the types and number of culturally relevant nutrition and health programs offered to students seeking to work with Alaskan natives and studying for an allied health degree.  There is a need for such training as Alaskan natives currently face a disproportionate rate of chronic disease development, particularly when Western diets substitute the traditional diet, (McConnell, 2013). After a brief review, the authors found very limited curriculum related to culturally appropriate/relevant nutrition counseling that included spirituality, respect of elders, and personal relationships with the land, waterways, and animals, (McConnell, 2013).  The information that they found was limited to stand-alone culturally tailored courses that the authors argued were considered “dead-end” trainings that were short term and only offered non-transferable skill-building, (McConnell, 2013). After a more comprehensive search, the authors found limited offerings of post-secondary training that resulted in a mainstream credential. Reasons for the limited availablity were hypothesized to be possibly related to funding, oral culture, researchers available for study, or a mix of the above, (McConnell, 2013).

The authors’ rationale for culturally tailored curriculum is very interesting, arguing that the more effective nutritional counseling approach was not to create courses for the indigenous patients themselves, but rather train future nutritionists/dietitians with additional credentials to tailor teachings that align with the food norms and beliefs of the target population. This correlates with the CRP theory principles in which states that is the role of the instructor to understand the culture of the class/client, not the client/student, as it is more effective to receive education in a context that is culturally familiar and resonates better with clients, (Pitsoe, 2014).  

When considering my own education options, to my knowledge, there isn’t post-secondary continuing education ending in credentials available for nutritionists/dietitians on culturally appropriate/relevant counseling. However, when implemented well, CRP can deliver results.  Another article, “Adaptation of a Culturally Relevant Nutrition and Physical Activity Program for Low-Income, Mexican-Origin Parents With Young Children”, described a community intervention nutrition program designed around the “Social Learning Theory” to help low-income hispanic families decrease rates of childhood obesity.  This 5-year program gave individuals in the intervention group $25 a month to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables while participating in family nutrition and physical activity nights.  As part of the model, the researchers used the “Anchor, Add, Apply, and Away” approach where participants would share food memories from childhood, share stories of life as an immigrant, problem solve by learning to make a new recipe with local foods, and share what was learned at the end of the process, (Kaiser, et. al., 2015). Parents were also asked to provide examples of what they did to promote nutrition and physical activity in their family. This served to give ideas and motivate others in the group.  At the end of the program, parents reported that children spent less time watching tv or playing video games, did more physical activity, and either maintained weight or lost weight, (Kaiser, et. al., 2015). This article explores a patient-centered approach to culturally relevant nutrition education where success was gained not only through cultural food norms and values, but also encouraged the exploration of new foods through the social learning theory.

Implementation of CRP in Nutrition Classes

There is a demonstrated need for more culturally relevant pedagogy in nutrition education, particularly considering that using the same teaching techniques on all students does not set up these individuals for sustainable success when cultural aspects to nutrition are not fully incorporated.  This begs the question: What are some approaches and examples of using culturally relevant pedagogy in nutrition classes?

According to Pitsoe, in order to maximize learning, teachers must first understand the cultures represented in their classrooms and use that understanding into their lessons, (Pitsoe, 2014).  To help with this, the Milwaukee Public Schools offers a list of questions to help teachers gain a better understanding of their students. Figure 1.2 examines these questions.

Infographic of questions building CRP
Figure 1.2 Questions for Building Culturally Relevant Practices from Milwaukee Public Schools

Once the class culture is understood, the next step is to select instruction strategies that effectively engage that culture. Some ways that teachers have successfully implemented this is by using cultural mythology to open discussions about a topic, conduct an environmental study of pollution in local community, or investigate the nutrition status of the local community, (Cavalli, 2014). These strategies could also be expanded to include discussions on the impacts of technology on food culture and generational culture.

A master’s thesis by A.C. Cavalii, provides an fuller example of CRP as implemented  in an urban science class setting. Her approach to CRP involved taking an eleven-lesson unit and blending strategies to incorporate not only direct teaching but also guided inquiry, and community investigation.  A summary of her approach can be found in Figure 1.3 below.

Figure depicts CRP Lesson Planning
Figure 1.3 A. Cavalli’s CRP Lesson Planning Example

By modeling and providing examples for instructors on building culturally relevant lessons, coaches can help teachers better develop online strategies that incorporates cultural relevance to enhance learning and build better online communities.

References

Cavalli, A. C., (2014). Teaching nutrition and health in the urban science classroom- A blended approach to culturally relevant and problem based learning. Education and Human Development Theses, The College at Brockport [website].  Available at: https://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1547&context=ehd_theses

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaches. Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kaiser, L., Martinez, J., Horowitz, M., Lamp, C., Johns, M., et al. (2015).  Adaptation of a culturally relevant nutrition and physical activity program for low-income, Mexican-origin parents with young children. Center for Disease Control [webpage]. Available at: (https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2015/14_0591.htm)

McConnell, S., (2013). Culturally tailored post secondary nutrition and health education curricula for indigenous populations. Int J Circumpolar Health. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3748461/)

Milwaukee Public Schools, (n.d.). Culturally responsive practices. Available at: http://mps.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/en/Families/Family-Services/Intervention—PBIS/Culturally-Responsive-Practices.htm

Professional Development-Improving Digital Literacy through Peer Modeling

It shouldn’t be a surprise that experts support the idea of incorporating technology into new and existing learning models to facilitate deeper and different skill sets than those taught by conventional methods today.  The biggest push for more technology adoption in education is to move the educational system away from antiquated models developed during the industrial revolution to a system that reflects today’s society and workplace. I particularly enjoy Sir Ken Robinson’s argument for changing the education system because we are living an an era where we are trying to meet the needs of the future with old methods designed for a different society than the one we live in now, (RSA, 2010).  Robinson stresses that we need to adopt new models that redefine the idea of “academic” versus “non-academic” and accept differences in thinking in regards to what it means to be “educated”. Part of the reason for this push is that today’s children are exposed to information stimuli which capture attention and change learning needs, (RSA, 2010).  

Incorporating 21st century skills requires introduction, implementation, and use of technology at all levels of education. Considering the importance of developing these skills, it is also important to understand the reasons behind creating a paradigm shift, particularly as we prepare students for the real-world in higher education. The New Media Consortium (NMC) published a report looking into the key trends that would promote and accelerate technology adoption in higher education. NMC identified and classified these trends in terms of length of time needed for implementation as well as difficulty, (NMC, 2017). Figure 1.1 summarizes the six key trends for technology adoption.

Infographic summarizing the key trends for accelerating technology adoption from NMC
Figure 1.1 NMC’s Key Trends for Accelerating Technology Adoption

What’s interesting to note about the trends above is that they not only focus on types of technology, or ways that technology is used in the classroom, but also on important skill sets and new ways of thinking that elevate technology use to a different, more meaningful level.  

Because the primary responsibility of a higher education institution should be to prepare students for the real-world, understanding the technology implications behind each of these trends call us, the professors, to reevaluate our technology use in the classroom. Despite these conversations on the need for technology adoption in higher education, several challenges continue to slow the rate of adoption.  NMC summarized six key challenges that significantly impede the process of the aforementioned trends. The challenges were classified from “solvable”, meaning the problem is well understood and solutions exist, to “wicked” where the challenges involve societal change,or,  dramatic restructuring of thinking or existing models, where solutions can’t be identified in the near future, (NMC, 2017). Figure 1.2 describes these challenges in more depth.

Infographic on the six challenges to technology adoption by NMC
Figure 1.2 Summary of the Six Challenges to Technology Adoption.

While experts look into the challenges that require more investigation and assessment of impact, I’d like to focus on one of the solvable challenges: digital literacy. Digital literacy has a broad definition which include a set of skills that “… fit the individual for living, learning, and working in a digital society,” (JISC, 2014). While mostly thought of as the ability to use different types of technology, the definition expands to include a deeper understanding of the digital environment, (NMC, 2017). Successful components of digital literacy include accessing, managing, evaluating, integrating, creating, and communicating information in all aspects of life, (UNESCO, 2011).  The UNESCO Institute for Information Technology in Education argues that digital literacy is basic skill that is equally as important as learning to read, write, and do math, (UNESCO, 2011). Interesting, when students are taught digital literacy and are allowed to use technology in learning, they grasp math and science more readily and easily than students without this skill, (UNESCO, 2011).

While it is clear that digital literacy is an important skill, during a departmental assessment conducted for another class, digital literacy was one of the biggest impediments to adopting technology. Faculty were only adopting technology only in response to industry need.  Many professors were eager to learn but not sure how to start using new technology, while others simply did not see a value in spending time and energy in implement new learning methods. Among the biggest barriers explored were time, knowledge deficit, and lack of professional development on digital literacy. Therefore, improving digital literacy will prove to be crucial to promote more tech adoption in the classroom. Professional development would need to include a conversation on what literacy looks like for each discipline and should not only include online etiquette, digital rights and responsibilities, curriculum design built around student-facing services, but also on the incorporation for the right technology for each context, (NMC, 2017).  

The ISTE standard for educators (2c) states that modelling is the, “identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning” that can be used in professional development, (ISTE, 2017). So the what are effective methods for modeling and facilitating good digital literacy as part of faculty (formal or informal) development?

Peer modeling has been suggested as an alternative to traditional professional development or inservice. Among the reasons for peer modeling success is the fact that peer modeling is personalizable and actionable.  Faculty can choose the various digital literacy topics they are personally interested in, receive one-on-one training related to their knowledge gap and needs while receiving hands-on application, (Samek, et. al, 2016).  George Fox University piloted a peer modeling project after reviewing key data related to a digital fluency mentorship program that utilized tech solutions and the pedagogy to support tech use). The program was initially developed to address faculty desire for one-on-one training.  From faculty feedback survey, the program developers learned that faculty are more likely to adopt a tech solution if they see it in action (actionable examples) and are given evidence of positive student learning outcomes. Due to the success of the program, the university has expanded its efforts to other collaborative development, (Samek, et. al. 2016).

Learning from George Fox’s example, universities could build resources to offer similar professional development on digital literacy to improve technology adoption. What I particularly like about this idea is that it is a different way to look a professional development where the mentor can be the expert but it could also later transition into a co-learning model to increase ownership and interest in technology adoption. This model goes beyond professional development to focus on the real-time needs of each faculty member and work on existing classroom components. Above all, peer modeling improves digital literacy to increase technology adoption to further develop the 21st century skills of students and teachers alike.

References

JISC, (2014, Dec. 16). Developing digital literacy. [website]. Available from: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies.

New Media Consortium, (2017). Horizon report: 2017 Higher Education. [pdf].  Available from: http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf

RSA, (2010, Oct 14).  Changing educational paradigms [Youtube Video]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U.

Samek, L., Ashford, R.M., Doherty, G., Espinor, D., Barardi, A.A., (2016). A peer training model to promote digital fluency among university faculty: Program component and initial efficacy data. Faculty Publications, School of Education. Paper 144.  Available from: http://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1143&context=soe_faculty

UNESCO Institute for Information Technology in Education, (2011, May). Policy brief. [pdf]. Available from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002144/214485e.pdf