Digital Age Best Practices

This week, I have decided to investigate digital age best practices. What are they? How do they improve student learning? How can I incorporate them into the professional development I am creating?

ISTE Coaching Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation Performance Indicator B: Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

Maybe I should have been aware of what digital age best practices were, but I wasn’t. There are so many buzz words in education nowadays. So, I went on an extensive internet search and found a book called, Improving Achievement with Digital Best Practices by Christopher M. Moersch. I decided to purchase the book on Kindle based on the description and boy, am I glad I did! I hit the jackpot in selecting this book. (I liked it so much that I have ordered an actual copy.)

Moersch explains digital age best practices as addressing collaborative problem solving, differentiated instruction, tech integration, and formative assessment practices. The practices were created based on the following criteria: aligns to the National Ed Tech Standards, 21st century skills, demonstrates significant results on standardized tests, employs existing classroom digital tools and resources, provides results that can be generalized to any k-12 classroom, and allows seamless integration with other “competing” instructional initiatives.

Image self created based on Moersch (2013)

In this section, I am going to communicate the “Critical Look-Fors” (bulleted) that Moersch (2014) describes for each practice. After that, I will give a couple of examples that I came up with, of how this can be incorporated into professional development.

Bolstering Purposeful Inquiry Through Student Questions

  • Student generated questions drive the inquiry
  • Students connect to the content in an authentic manner
  • Presence of critical thinking

This just seems like best practice, getting students to ask questions about the content! One way that I have taught students to ask questions is to teach them how, by sharing question stems with them. These stems are not just handy for students, they help the teacher as well. Teachers who model asking questions, will create a safe space for their students to reciprocate. Another way for students to drive the inquiry is to engage in a Socratic Seminar. In this activity, students learn how to have a conversation with each other and it is generally student-driven.

Promoting Shared Expertise with Networked Collaboration

  • Students are able to articulate a common group goal
  • Individual and group accountability norms are in place
  • Use of digital resources, such as blogs or wikis to promote collaboration between students

Like educators participating in a PLC or PLN, students can can work in learning groups to collaborate with each other. In my class, I had students work in triads. Each module, they would be paired in groups of 3 and they would collectively create norms so that there was a level of accountability in the group. Students could join a group based on classroom, grade level, or throughout the district. Students could meet asynchronous or synchronous, depending on the distance and purpose. Microsoft Teams and email are two ways that I think students could “meet” up with each other if face to face is not possible. During a professional development, teachers could plan to match each other’s class to work on a short research project or discuss a common novel that they are reading. Not only would the students be working in teams, but so would the teachers.

Personalizing and Globalizing Context by Making Authentic Connections

  • Learning connected to one or more 21st century themes
  • Outcomes require sustained investigation
  • Emphasis on multiple interpretations and outcomes
  • Learning possesses and interdisciplinary perspective

21st century themes cover global awareness, financial, economic, civic, health, and environmental literacy. Think of how you could bring these topics to your students. One activity that I discovered in Digital Citizenship in Action (p. 51) was an in-class deliberation over the guiding question: “Should ‘outsiders’ be able to regulate free speech in digital communities?” Students were asked to locate two or three articles that would help them learn about the topic and also serve as support in their deliberation. Students were encouraged to explore the guiding question by coming up with an argument while recognizing other competing viewpoints and understanding that there in no right answer. This activity actually connects perfectly with the first three digital best practices. Students are able to investigate the issue, collaborate with others, and self-select the material in which they will base their arguments on.

Accelerating Individual Growth through Vertical and Horizontal Differentiation

  • Adjustments to the content, process, and or product based on the learner readiness, and interests
  • Presence of learning centers/stations
  • Digital tools and resources adjusted to the needs of the learner

When the teacher differentiates instruction, he or she uses the optimum teaching practices and strategies to create the different pathways for diverse learners to achieve the same academic standards. This practice looks at the students interests as well as their levels. If you are trying to teach a student how to find text evidence to support their thinking, most students are working with the same text. Why not let the students interests drive which text they are using to find text evidence to support their thinking. Learning stations or centers is a great way to differentiate the learning. Recently, I visited a class that was using Microsoft Teams as a digital learning station. Students were paired into learning groups and were given vocabulary tasks based on their levels. Students could use their interests to help build background information. In this 3rd grade class, students (predominantly ELL) were learning about parts of speech. They were given a list of verbs and asked to create a question sentence to share via Teams. For example, one of the verbs was play. Students could think about what the word, “play” meant to them and they could ask another student in their group a question. Some of the questions generated were, Do you like to play outside? What video game do you like to play? Do you play tag with your friends? In this exercise, students were creating meaning from their interests and sharing new ways to develop language with each other.

Anchoring Student Learning with Digital Age Tools and Resources

  • Emphasis is on the process and content skills; not the digital tools
  • Digital tools used in conjunction with clear measurable achievement goals
  • Use of digital tools is purposeful and intentional

When I think of this practice, I am reminded of Liz Kolb’s Learning First, Technology Second philosophy. The likelihood that technology will effectively be used to improve achievement is greater when digital tools are helping students meet the instructional goals of the lesson. (White, 2017) Liz Kolb created the Triple E Framework to help teachers determine if the the technology focuses on the learning goals of a lesson when selecting a tool to either engage, extend, or enhance the lesson. Teaching teachers how to use this framework will help them to integrate technology with learning outcomes in mind.

Clarifying Student Understanding with Formative Assessments

  • Follow-up interventions are timely, targeted, and based on student data
  • Adequate wait time is given for student responses
  • Framed questions apply directly to content understanding
  • Digital tools and resources are used for student feedback

Informal assessments allow teachers to track the on-going progress of their students. (Moersch, 2014) I have been doing a bit of work around formative assessments lately as a digital learning coach. Our district relies heavily on paper Exit Tickets after a lesson. I am learning more about how using Microsoft Forms can can be a great way to create an exit ticket that helps you get immediate organized data on what your students are thinking. One way for students to get peer feedback from each other is to use Flipgrid. Students are able to hear/see what their classmates are thinking and then they can respond to each other. A no-tech suggestion shared in Moersch’s book is called a chain letter. I am actually going to use this in an upcoming professional development with librarians. We have quite a few new librarians that have a lot of questions. My idea is that each librarian will get a envelope and write a burning question anonymously on the outside. The envelope would be passed around the room and teachers would respond with their ideas written on a index card and placed inside. After the activity is over, the librarians will have at least 5 answers from their peers to help them.

Implementing Student-Centered Learning Environments

  • Students talk exceeds teachers talk
  • Emphasis on individual or small group learning
  • Teacher/student negotiate learning opportunities
  • Use of varied instructional materials or strategies

This is one of the most difficult practices to fully let students take control of. There are three domains to the learning process, content, process, and product. The content is what the students need to learn. The process is the way in which students make sense of the content. The product can be thought of a culminating project. It is how the students are able to show/explain what they have learned. Promoting student-centeredness should start small and progress at a level commensurate wth a student’s ability to take ownership for their own learning. (Moersch 2014) If you are looking for more ways to plan for diverse learners, check out this article that explains differentiated learning through the lens of content, process, and product.


Developing professional development with digital age best practices will ensure that student learning outcomes are at the forefront of your instructional planning. Digital Age Best Practices provide classroom practitioners with a balanced approach to addressing instructional practices that have demonstrated “statistical significance,” but of equal importance, have promoted critical attributes of 21st century skills and themes. (Moersch 2014)


  • Moersch, C. (2014). Improving achievement with digital age best practices. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • Mattson, K. (2017). Digital citizenship in action: empowering students to engage in online communities. Portland, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
  • Bloom Question Stems. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • Socratic Seminar. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • White, A. (2017) Retrieved from
  • Triple E Framework. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • McCarthy, J. (2015, August 28). 3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do. Retrieved from

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