Learning, First & Digital Tools, Second

Teachers are experts. We work on our craft, we study our content in depth,  and many of us are fortunate enough to teach the same grade or class year after year, perfecting the content lessons with care and detail. Within the current learning realities we need to move past the ‘on the page’ learning to support and propel our students for the world they will live and work in. 

TPACK  speaks to the merger of the Technical Knowledge, Content Knowledge and Pedagogical Knowlege. When all of these converge you have a learning environment that supports the 21st-century learner. 

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As educators, our new goal should be to focus on the learning first and the digital tools that are going to get our students through and to the learning second. This type of thinking will require us to think differently about our perfected curriculum and instead encourage us to apply some flexibility in our classroom and learning management systems (LMS) used to facilitate learning. 

ISTE specifically addresses these needs in Coaching Standard 3: Digital Age Learning Enviroments.3a: “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”, giving teachers the control over how to manage the classroom environments within the complexities of the school resources and outside digital world realities.    

Professional development (PD) is paramount to the success of our educators in this ever-changing environment. Could PD be designed to support teachers as they evolve within the rapid changes of learning that often feel impossible to keep up with?

AVID Center has presented a Digital Integration focus on the instruction of learning. The Digital Teaching and Learning (DTL) Strand/Path to Schoolwide training addresses these very issues while focusing on the 4 A’s of Learning First and Digital Tools Second.

The 4 A's Visual

I am fortunate to be one of the staff developers who will support the learning of educators this summer during AVID Summer Insitute. ISTE coaching standard 3c builds on the realities of today’s classrooms by explicitly asking that we  “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”. This is what I hope to do for all my learners this summer. 

What do teachers want from professional development? (K. Johnson, 2016) states, “A growing body of research is singling out two kinds of PD with the potential to check all these boxes and impact student achievement: coaching and collaborations”. The reality is that in order for the PD to be meaningful it must have more structure than teachers sitting around dreaming about what digital tool they could use or worse hearing a horror story of the one time a colleague used a digital tool only to have the entire lesson fail due to lack of resources or ability to meet the digital glitches that often come with the risk-taking. When this happens, teachers often go back to the lesson plan they polished through years of hard work and leave the technology integration for the next guy.

The 4 A’s is not a continuum, instead, it is a pedological focus that meets students and teachers within the specific realities of the classroom and LMS environments. The DTL  course design embeds opportunities to experience and supports the premise of a focus on consistent and constant learning instead of always knowing the one and only answer that students will come to after memorizing a lecture or reading a chapter. Yes, this takes away some of the ‘expertise’ we love to own as a teacher but I hope it engages and empowers future thinkers to design and test solutions to the problems we continue to experience through the freedom to become an expert as a student. 

No one can say that they will be an expert in all areas of the digital world of education. Instead, educators should approach the facilitation of their learners as co-creators and learners. When teachers build on what has worked in past learning environments with the freedom to modify to meet the needs of the current learners the end learning goal remains the same while the path towards success is ever changing. Over the next two weeks, I hope I am able to coach my learners to use the 4 A’s in their classrooms. May the have a lightbulb moment for the students who they couldn’t seem to reach last year. May they find a digital tool that can propel the learning beyond the objective. May we all learn and grow together and come back energized and excited for what lies ahead during this time of rapid and exhilarating change. 


Digital Integration / Instructional Educational Technology | AVID. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.avid.org/digital-integration

ISTE. (n.d.). ISTE | Standards For Coaches. Retrieved July 10th, 2019, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Johnson, K. (2016, December 27). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them—If Implementation Improves. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves?utm_content=bufferfa66c

TPACK.ORG. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2019, from http://tpack.org/



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