As an elementary technology specialist, I believe in integration, professional development, digital citizenship instruction, the value of teachers, and the importance of digital access for all learners.
Five Core Values:
Digital education is most meaningful and effective when it is integrated into the general education classroom and into foundational content areas. Our students see technology as a vital part of their lives, not a separate interest or activity. In order to prepare students for secondary education, college, careers, and life we need to provide them instruction and practice on how to use technology to become “wise” students, employees and digital citizens. There can be a place for general technology skills as a separate class in elementary schools and for speciality technology skills classes in secondary schools and colleges, but the vast majority of technology skills and digital education should be integrated into what teachers are already doing in their classrooms. Using technology in our classrooms can result in a variety of positive outcomes: Students can be given instant feedback on assessments, research can be more authentic, student accommodations can often be provided without notice from peers, and engagement can often be piqued when we use technology to teach our “digital native” students. The ultimate goal of education is to prepare our students for their futures and to give them the tools they need to be successful contributors to society. Marc Prensky states, “In the unimaginably complex future, the unenhanced person, however wise, will no longer be able to keep up with an enhanced human. That, I think, is the real reason to introduce technology into our educational system — in the future our young people won’t have the necessary competitive wisdom with it (Prensky, 2013).”
Teachers work extremely hard and they have so much to do: learn, plan, teach, grade and communicate. Integrating technology into the classroom can make teachers’ jobs more efficient. But educators need practical, effective, and ongoing professional development to learn how to integrate digital learning into their classrooms to make this goal of increasing teacher efficiency attainable. Teachers need training on devices and also training on how to utilize technology in accordance with their curriculum. “It is essential that instruction on how to incorporate the technology into lesson planning and lesson delivery activities is part of any professional development efforts (Chapman, 2016).” After initial trainings, teachers need follow-up coaching, mentoring, and support. “This richness of training equips educators to reap the benefits of technology as they are able to explore how to incorporate the technology into their teaching practice (Chapman, 2016).” When districts make large technology purchases the teachers should be involved in the decision making and the training opportunities because “deciding what technology or suite of technologies will best support particular learning objectives must be an intentional act (Chapman, 2016)”. Students are most successful in schools where teachers collaborate, share ideas, and plan together. Technology makes this collaboration much easier.
Digital Citizenship Instruction
Teaching young students rules, social skills, and emotional strategies is a large component of primary education. Before our students can learn the academic concepts we are teaching, they must feel valued, safe, and know what is expected of them in the classroom. We teach these skills early, we teach them often, we teach them explicitly; we teach them by modeling and scaffolding. Digital citizenship education should follow a similar course. ISTE’s digital citizenship standards state educators should “model and facilitate safe, healthy, legal, and ethical uses of digital information and technologies“. Gradually, digital citizenship should become fully integrated into “regular” citizenship and social skill lessons because our students’ social lives and ethical and moral frameworks are not separate from their digital lives. Digital citizenship instruction should begin in Kindergarten and be frequent, engaging, and applicable. Social media and blogging should also be included and these skills should be taught before we anticipate our students joining the social media and blogging communities. We want our students to learn these skills when they are being monitored and supported by parents and teachers. We want them to make mistakes when the stakes are low and they have opportunities to reflect on these mistakes with an adult supporting them. Schools have a responsibility to “keep up” with evolving digital participation use by our students and should adjust and update their digital citizenship curriculum as our students’ needs change. Students learn best by example and modeling our own practices as digital citizens is key to their success as emerging members of the digital community. Ribble and Miller (2013) summarize this thinking well: “Educational leaders must make sure that they are modeling digital citizenship, that students within their schools are safe, and that students learn the skills to live and thrive in a digital world.”
Value of Teachers
With the rapid advancements in technology, open educational resources, and access to tremendous quantities of information, some might start to think that the role of the “teacher” is not crucial. Selwyn states, “The centering of learning technologies around learner-centered and learner-managed forms of educational provision have long been taken to pose serious challenges to the need for the physical presence of the teacher.” However, the teacher, as we currently understand the term, can never truly be displaced. Education is about so much more than information transfer. Teachers bring a culture of engagement, emotional safety, and build community in their classrooms where students feel respected and valued. Teachers use both formal and informal formative assessment to guide their instruction and to differentiate based on student needs. These are things technology is not able to do. Technology should not replace personnel, it should enhance what the “teacher” is doing in the classroom. We need warm bodies in schools more than ever. Social interactions are changing and students come to us with intense and varied emotional needs; most of these needs can only be met by a person. “If you ask people where their love for learning comes from, they usually talk about an inspiring teacher. The most powerful learning takes places in a relationship (Turkle, 2015).”
Equity of Access
Inequity regarding access to technological devices and information is one of the most pressing issues in digital education. “Model and promote strategies for achieving equitable access to digital tools and resources and technology-related best practices for all students and teachers” is one of ISTE’s standards concerning digital citizenship. We can separate access into two categories: access to devices and access to information. Access to devices, where the digital divide has made tremendous progress in recent years, is typically related to geography, economics, and culture (Jones & Bridges, 2016). Access to information and the discrepancy in this access among students has a tremendous impact on learning because “there is little argument that increased access to information has a positive impact on learning (Jones & Bridges, 2016). Open Educational Resources (OERs), which are created by groups or individuals, are educational resources that are freely shared online and available for anyone to retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute (Jones & Bridges, 2016). The internet has given us an opportunity to have a more connected and collaborative global community where we all benefit by utilizing the power, knowledge, and experiences that result from having more members. By working to provide access to devices and information for all citizens of our digital world, we can achieve one of ISTE’s digital citizenship standards which is to “model and promote diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness by using digital age communication and collaboration tools to interact locally and globally with students, peers, parents, and the larger community.”
Chapman, R. (2016). Diversity and inclusion in the learning enterprise. The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology (287-300), Ed. N. J. Rushby & D. W. Surry. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Jones, M., & Bridges, R. (2016). Equity, access, and the digital divide in learning technologies: Historical antecedents, current issues, and future Trends.The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology. (327-347). Ed. N. J. Rushby & D. W. Surry. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Prensky, M. (2013). From digital natives to digital wisdom. From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays from 21st Century Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA. 201- 215.
Ribble, M., & Miller, T.N. (2013). Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137-145.
Selwyn, N. (2016). The Dystopian Futures. The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology (542-556). Ed. N. J. Rushby & D. W. Surry. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Turkle, S. (2015). How to Teach in an Age of Distraction The Chronicle of Higher Education 62(5).
ISTE coaching standards (retrieved December 11, 2017) http://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
SPU OER webpage (retrieved December 10, 2017) http://spu.libguides.com/oer