Triggering Event Question: With a minimal level of digital literacy and technological familiarity, how can I demonstrate knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative educator in a global and digital society?
The third ISTE standard urges teachers to “model digital age work and learning” in their daily interactions with students, colleagues and professional communities. It basically asks that teachers not only find uses for technology as a tool in the classroom in general, but that they incorporate its use in their daily classroom fabric, modeling the practices of an “innovative educator in a global and digital society.” I have to admit, this standard intimidates me greatly. While I am excited to find digital programs that will help me engage students in learning, I am definitely not comfortable with technology use as a daily habit, and I do not have the skills to model digital literacy to students. With that discomfort in mind, I chose to research ways in which non-tech-savvy teachers could still involve technology in their classroom in a way that is accessible and effective for teacher and student alike.
I found four great general practices to follow in this pursuit. The first is to make “easy” technology a daily tool in the more administrative tasks that classrooms do each day. For example, I could use a daily weather app to discuss the day’s weather patterns during morning meeting. I could also maintain an online calendar for the class so that when reviewing the day’s activities, students could access a specific URL to check the calendar. I also found many suggestions for good websites with daily puzzles and activities that could be used for entry tasks or exit tickets. Finally, one great suggestion was to use NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day to initiate some interesting discussions at the beginning of the day and get student’s brain and critical thinking skills moving. (Starr, 2016) This seamless use of technology for tasks that we would already be completing in the classroom helps to model a daily access of technology without taking time from learning in the content areas.
Another resource I found suggested that I spend significant time reflecting on how to transfer my informal use of technology into the more formal setting of the classroom. Kumar and Vigil (2011) highlight that often “digital native” teachers (teachers born after 1984) do not naturally use the skills they have acquired through growing up with technology for more productive, formal purposes. However, through reflection and education, teachers can transfer their familiarity with online forums like Facebook, blogs, or podcasts to be highly engaging classroom tools. For example, teachers can create a Facebook page for their classroom and use it “for group work, to share resources, and to gather information about courses or assignments” (p. 150). With the right privacy settings in place, I can see this being a great motivator for students to stay updated on classroom activity.
One of the best suggestions for a digitally-illiterate teacher to use digital technology in the classroom came from an article on the Social Practice approach to learning. Kalman and Guerrero (2013) encourage teachers to learn new technologies in a social environment, benefitting from the many advantages of social learning (opportunity for verbal reflection, critical discussions, resource sharing, etc). This can easily be translated to a classroom environment when a teacher learns new technology alongside her students. As the authors explain:
While it is possible that [teachers’] students may be more familiar with technological devices and practices than their teachers, it is also very likely that they will be learning to use certain digital technologies together, creating opportunities for learning together, collaborating, exchanging knowledge and know-how, and co-participating in discovering how to use computers for academic purposes. (261)
This modeling of Teacher as Learner is incredibly valuable for students to see that no matter the age or position, anyone can still learn, make mistakes, and grow their knowledge base. It also creates opportunities for Learner as Teacher, giving students the space to be experts and proudly demonstrate their own prior knowledge.
Finally, no matter how many ways I find to use basic technology in the classroom, I will inevitably need to engage in ongoing professional development around technology use for educational purposes. A classmate of mine, Megan Leonard, recommended a great online option for professional development: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These are web-based classes offered by many universities around the world that do not require matriculation or student status. As the following video explains, MOOCs are “a tool for democratizing higher education.”
(The New York Times, 2013)
After exploring several different MOOC options, I found many that are geared toward educators in both their course offerings and their summertime availability. Two courses that seemed particularly interesting were Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology and Online Teaching and Learning in K-12. I am eager to check out more MOOCs, both for professional and personal development!
Overall, reflecting on this ISTE standard has eased my anxiety around using technology in the classroom. Although I do not all of a sudden have a newfound familiarity or expertise in digital literacy, I have learned that there are many ways for me to use digital tools with my students while still continuing to be a digital student myself.