Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Tech-Savvy Educator: 6 Areas Of Development

These are truly incredible times to not only be a learner but an educator as well. The access to information we have is unlike anything we’ve had before. And the tools we have to create a learning environment where all students can succeed are ever increasing. While these are incredible times, it can be quite daunting as an educator to look across this ever-changing technology landscape and feel unprepared.

Using the ISTE Standards for Teachers as a guide, it is important for students to have educators who create learning environments that allow them to innovate, invent and create in ways that are only possible through the use of technology. Educators must also be prepared to continuously move forward, always seek out the best pedagogy and tools to create learning environments students need and deserve.

Being a Tech-Savvy Educator doesn’t have to be either daunting or complex. It doesn’t mean completely changing our practices or abandoning what already works. It means looking to the tools of technology to supplement those strong pedagogical practices already in place.

There are six areas of development every Tech-Savvy Educator needs to focus on:
  • Collaboration with Students
  • Collaboration with Colleagues
  • Innovative Communications
  • Effective Productivity
  • Reflection
  • Formative Assessment
Making improvements through the use of technology in each of these areas can reap huge returns on student learning and understanding and make the overall job of teaching easier, better and more innovative.

The Tech-Savvy Educator: 6 Areas Of Development

The “Why”
Sample Tools

Collaboration with Students
Collaboration with students in and out of the classroom is a building block of being Tech-Savvy Educator. Learning is a social process and should be promoted amongst students. Collaboration comes in many forms from allowing students to work together to solve problems to fostering an environment where students can build off the learning of others.

Collaboration with Colleagues
When educators collaborate it’s proven to:
  • Increase Job Satisfaction
  • Lower Rates of Turnover
  • Promote Positive School Culture
  • Promote Distributive Leadership

Innovative Communications
It is essential for Tech-Savvy Educators to build effective School:Home Communications. Using innovative tools you can meet parents and the community where they are and share the amazing stories that happen in the classroom every day.

Effective Productivity
Tech-Savvy Educators need to work smarter not harder. Having workflows in place streamline the day-to-day demands will only serve to make life easier and better.

Reflection is something Tech-Savvy Educators do on a regular basis. It is also something that is promoted amongst students as well. Reflection comes in many forms and can happen a variety of ways.

Formative Assessment
Tech-Savvy Educators understand the need to know where students are in their learning as soon as possible. Through the use of formative assessment we can best understand not only how students know what they know but how our teaching can respond to individual needs.

There are so many more tools that can fit into each area of development. And some tools definitely overlap. Want to learn more? Grab a copy of the Tech-Savvy Teacher presentation and download the resource guide!

Download The Graphic

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

3 Essentials for Success in a Blended [Literacy] Classroom

This post is sponsored by ThinkCERCA, an online platform designed to empower teachers to personalize literacy instruction across disciplines.

The use of digital learning spaces has exploded in use in classrooms nearly everywhere. Through Learning Management Systems (LMS) many educators are moving to put content online and extend learning beyond the four walls and beyond the school day. This Blended Learning approach is both beneficial but its definition can be tough to nail down. Blended Learning is different than merely integrating technology into the classroom. It provides all learners the ability and opportunity to contribute both openly and differently than they would in a traditional classroom. Simply putting a lecture online and calling it blended learning doesn’t cut it. Students need opportunities for collaborating with peers, creating new ideas, and formatively assessing their knowledge, all taking place in the digital environment.

When done correctly, any classroom can benefit from the blended approach, literacy classrooms especially. Literacy learning is unique in that there are both concrete and abstract concepts that work well in face-to-face teaching and in the digital space. We believe there are 3 essentials for success in any blended literacy classroom.

1. Maximizing Physical and Digital Space - In a blended literacy classroom, success is partly attributed to identifying the “best” practices in both the traditional classroom and a digital space and blending them together. Whole class literacy instruction is best done face to face. From the modeling of the teaching point to the scaffolding of the active engagement, a physical space in which students can gather and learn is preferred. Co-constructing anchor charts and a quick formative assessment during the active engagement provides educators timely information in which to inform instruction. On the other-hand, enrichments for learning, differentiated content, and substantive conversations may be best in a digital space in which the teacher can support student needs on a larger scale and students can personalize learning anytime and anyplace.  When one considers student needs in both a physical and digital space the list looks similar:

Instructional Practices
Physical Space
Digital Space
Whole Class
Purpose: Gathering area to learn and share as a whole class, direct instruction
What it Looks Like: A carpet or rug, open area to accommodate students, transition or movement of bodies/tables for older students
Purpose: Shared digital space by all classmates and teacher(s)
What it Looks Like: A forum or class-stream where everyone can view, post, and comment. A repository of accessible resources, information, and tools that students can utilize during learning.
Purpose: Student area to work, learn, and create on their own

What it Looks Like: A desk, table or flexible furniture, storage space, materials

Purpose: Student area to work, learn, and create on their own

What it Looks Like: Individual student logins, profile page or virtual “locker” to store materials, information, creations
Small Group
Purpose: Area designated to work as a small group of peers or a teacher working with a small group

What it Looks Like: A table; grouping of desks, chairs, or pillows; flexible for student needs and task intent
Purpose: Area designated to work as a small group of peers or a teacher working with a small group

What it Looks Like: A breakout room, group room, or other digital space language that designated a spot for students to work together. It may also include a way to assign and share resources peer to group or teacher to group
One on One
Purpose: Area designated for partner work, peer conferencing, or teacher and student conferring

What it Looks Like: Conferring table, flexible seating, teacher moves to student
Purpose: Similar to small group with the addition of private peer to peer feedback, teacher to student feedback, messaging

What it Looks Like: Space used can be similar to small group. Ability to target and differentiate messages and feedback to individual or privately. Private assessment and gradebook

2.  Fostering Collaboration and Communication - Although most of our students do not know a world without the internet, collaboration and communication in a digital space does not come naturally to them. In a blended literacy classroom students are sharing their writing, participating in literature circles, creating multimedia projects in small groups, and providing feedback to each other. A blended environment asks educators to not only support student learning in content areas, it also requires special consideration on how best to grow and support students in a healthy and safe reading and writing community. These skills are often overlooked but essential for success in a blended literacy classroom. To do so, we must foster digital communication and collaboration skills that will impact not only their current learning but their digital footprint as well. One of the best ways is to co-create and establish norms for the blended literacy classroom. Digital space expectations would include communication, collaboration, sharing, messaging, appropriate use, etc. Here are a few to get you started:
  • Communicate effectively when in a digital space.
    • ALL CAPS = Shouting
    • Know your peers/partner/audience, is text lingo appropriate?
    • 3 before Me - have 3 other people read before you publish
  • Recognize all voices in group and peer to peer spaces.
  • Be careful when using jokes or humor online, it is hard to convey meaning through text alone.
  • When providing feedback to peers address them by name, use the PQP Strategy (Praise, Question, Polish), be specific, and sign your name at the end.  
  • During a class discussion on the forum: Be Engaged, Be Active, Be Reflective

3. Accessible Texts and Materials - Finally, recognizing the capability of differentiating content based on student needs in a blended literacy classroom is an essential component for success. With the access to information and support from platforms like ThinkCERCA, blended learning should not limit student choice to one particular text or resource. In fact, through collaboration with the librarian or media specialists, student choice in what they read should increase exponentially. An digital text that is linked to an LMS (Learning Management System) is not blended learning. Blended learning in a literacy classroom includes multiple texts and information that are high interest and available at all independent reading levels. The Common Core State Standards are end goals that are scaffolded and applicable to any content which is see in the expert reader. Expert readers apply similar skills no matter what they are reading. These transferrable strategies are what we intend to fill our students’ toolboxes with and are done so through text in which they can independently access. And just like the fluidity of student interests, so too is their independent reading level. It can change based on prior knowledge, motivation, or interest. When students have endless access to information and texts everyone wins. Fill your blended literacy space as you would a classroom library; full of books, informational texts, articles, media, and audio at all levels and interests!  

These 3 Essentials for Blended [Literacy] Learning help to maximize the digital space to support all young readers and writers. Intentional virtual spaces, scaffolding collaboration and communication, and surrounding students with high-interest, accessible texts promote literacy learning and help to raise student achievement that will last a lifetime.

Want to learn more? Check out the Administrator Guide to Personalizing Literacy Through Blended Learning from ThinkCERCA! There is also a great webinar on crafting Scalable Blended Literacy Programs worth a watch as well.

Shaelynn Farnsworth is a Digital Literacy Expert in Iowa. You can follow her on Twitter @shfarnsworth

Steven W. Anderson is a Digital Teaching and Relationship Evangelist. You can follow him on Twitter @web20classroom.