ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.
B – Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments
D – Select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning
F – Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure
With so many digital tools and resources available, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones are best for all students, integrate well into standards/curriculum and are considered acceptable to use by your district and/or school. A survey by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation revealed that teachers rely primarily on recommendations from other teachers when deciding on what technologies to incorporate into their classroom. This led me to the question:
What are evaluative practices that I can use to curate digital resources and tools and where can students and teachers access this curated list easily?
Having a checklist of questions to guide teachers through the evaluation process for digital tools and resources is a great way to start evaluating. This Digital Tool Protocol Overview can be a starting point for how to evaluate the tool or resource you would like to use. In addition, adding questions that focus on culturally sustaining pedagogy, culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally relevant teaching can be added in as a teacher, school community and/or district can fine tune how they want to evaluate digital tools and resources. In the article, Building Culturally Responsive Classrooms With Digital Content, Dr. Karen Beerer states, Cultural responsiveness through “going digital” is about being able to answer yes to these questions throughout all classrooms in your school:
- Is instruction relevant to students’ lives and the world around them?
- Is your teaching preparing students to be future ready?
- Do the instructional resources enhance students’ learning?
- Do the instructional resources reflect the students in any way?
- How is what you’re teaching going to impact or change students’ lives?
Beerer also mentions “…seven ways educators can use digital content to implement culturally responsive teaching effectively’:
- Integrate digital content into your instruction.
- Ensure the digital content is high-quality.
- Use digital activities such as high-quality graphics, games, virtual labs and robust math and science challenges to motivate students.
- Build students’ vocabularies with a variety of different digital resources such as videos, animations, and images.
- Engage students in experiences, such as a virtual field trip to the North Pole, that they wouldn’t ordinarily have, or perhaps may never have, to build understanding of others.
- Close the “belief gap”.
- Know your students and the communities you serve.
Beerer goes into each of these principles in detail, explaining more in-depth how each principle connects to students and the classroom community. Teachers can use these questions and principles as best practices to meet all students in their classrooms, including students with disabilities, under-served populations, students of color, ELL students and neurodiverse students. Including these ideas into tech evaluations is critical to best meet your students where they are at and to make learning accessible to all.
One of the most exciting parts of using digital tools and resources in a classroom is the chance for students to take agency over their own learning. I found this video very inspiring as a reminder of how to tap into the curiosity, creativity, diversity, culture and heart of every student.
Brian Lozenski states, “Diversify the avenues that we offer for students to participate.” I really connected with Lozenski’s idea of ‘reversing the poles’ by focusing on ways of participating versus knowledge acquisition instead of the other way around. It made me reflect on how digital tools and resources could be used to inspire “ways of participating” in education not “just acquiring the knowledge”. A digital tool or resource could help to open a pathway of inquiry, connection to self and environment and in turn, lead to more student driven learning and excitement.
After teachers evaluate the digital tools and resources they want to use, implementation is next. It is important for teachers to give themselves and students time to become familiar with the tool. Re-evaluate the tools and resources as time goes on to determine if what is being used is, in fact, best for students. I like the idea of SELFIE, a digital technology feedback tool that has been put out by the European Commission. Schools can use SELFIE to get feedback from students, teachers and staff about how digital tools and resources are working well or not working. Also, it is anonymous and free making it available to all and participants can feel safe in knowing that they can give an honest opinion.
Then what? If educators generally look to others in the field of education for resources, tools, ideas and insight, how can we broaden the community educators have to draw from in order to start or improve their digital age learning environment? Digital education coaches and educators who are using technology regularly could curate a list of resources to share with other educators – locally and globally. A resource that I have found very helpful this year is Wakelet.
A bulleted list of digital tools and resources is often overwhelming (and boring!). Educators are busy and need a place to go to easily find a tool or resource that works for a specific grade or subject matter. With Wakelet, the curated list can include videos, photos, written descriptions and be broken down into categories that then have multiple resources. This makes the experience more inviting and engaging for those interacting with the content curated. There is also opportunity for students to interact with the tools and resources a teacher has compiled. This opens the possibilities for students to choose what they would like to use which supports student choice and interest. I highly recommend this digital tool because it is easy to use, the opportunity for connecting with others and it is free!
In order to get to the evaluation and curation stage of digital tools and resources, finding the best ones to look more closely at is another task in and of itself. Here are a few starting points so you can start evaluating and curating!
- EdSurge (specifically this article about choosing digital tools)
- Dynamic Learning Project
- Common Sense Media
- Top 75 Education Blogs (2019)
Beerer, Karen. (2017, Feb. 20) Building Culturally Responsive Classrooms with Digital Content. Retrieved from https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/02/culturally-responsive-classrooms-digital-content/
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2015). Teachers Know Best. What Educators Want From Digital Education Tools. Retrieved from http://edtech-production.herokuapp.com/reports
Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
Dynamic Learning Project. Retrieved from https://dynamiclearningproject.com/strategymenu
European Commission. SELFIE. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/education/schools-go-digital_en
Feedspot. (2019, July 5). Top 75 Educational Technology Blogs and Websites for Educators. Retrieved from https://blog.feedspot.com/educational_technology_blogs/
Lozenski, Brian. (2012). Bringing Cultural Context and Self-Identity into Education: Brian Lozenski. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX9vgD7iTqw
Johnson, Karen. (2016, March 15). Resources to Help You Choose the Digital Tools Your Classroom Needs. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-03-15-resources-to-help-you-choose-the-digital-tools-your-classroom-needs
Wakelet. Retrieved from Waklet – https://learn.wakelet.com/