Evaluate and Curate!

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’:

  1. Integrate digital content into your instruction.
  2. Ensure the digital content is high-quality.
  3. Use digital activities such as high-quality graphics, games, virtual labs and robust math and science challenges to motivate students.
  4. Build students’ vocabularies with a variety of different digital resources such as videos, animations, and images.
  5. 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.
  6. Close the “belief gap”.
  7. 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!

Resources:

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/

Coaching the Community – becoming comfortable and courageous with digital education

ISTE Coaching Standard:

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.

3c – 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.

Before digital tools and resources can be implemented into a classroom, trust around the use of these tools and resources needs to be established. Technology Coaches have a complex role because there are many stakeholders in the school community which results in many perspectives on technology use in the classroom. Fellow teachers, administration, district leaders, parents and caregivers within the school community are all in the same position in regards to the rapid advancement of digital tools and resources, it is fairly new to us all and there are varying levels of comfort and understanding.  It can feel overwhelming as we evaluate and create new best practices within our education system and if we are actually using digital education in the best way possible – to benefit student development, learning, collaboration and ingenuity. Since the digital education revolution began, it is natural that this new style of delivering education results in uncertainty. It is important for Technology Coaches to invite and involve all stakeholders into the conversation in order for our educational communities to grow and thrive together.  This leads me to my question surrounding the ISTE Coaching Standard 3a and 3c:  

How can I model (for other teachers) and explain (to the parent/caregivers community) how we use digital tools and resources in the classrooms at our school and lead them toward seeing the difference between passive consumption of digital tools/resources versus active learning, collaboration and real world application that students come away with after engaging with their learning in this way?

Pushback around screen time in the classroom is a common trepidation that parents and teachers experience around using digital tools and resources in school. This is a rational feeling and one that should not be dismissed but instead openly discussed and respected.  What do people mean when they say ‘screen time’? What are they visualizing? How much time are they thinking students will be looking at a screen? Does it matter if the time is broken up into small chunks and/or while collaborating with other students? Would this change how they feel? Is all screen time equal no matter what the end goal – learning from a video, passing the time watching a TV show, reading a digital book, being a penpal online to learn about another culture, doing math problems, video conferencing, researching a question one wonders about, exploring google maps, time playing Minecraft, and the list goes on.  In the article, The Problem is Wasted Time, Not Screen Time, Tom Vander Ark speaks to the importance of how a screen is used, the agency students can develop with their learning, and the important role educators have in making smart decisions when using technology in the classroom.    

“Are today’s students spending too much time in front of computer screens? The more important question is: are students engaged in powerful learning experiences and, whenever possible, given voice and choice in what, how, and when they learn? Digital technology can powerfully facilitate this process, if thoughtful adults deploy it wisely. Otherwise, it can be mind-numbing, or worse.  The emerging generation of educational technology has the power to accelerate learning productivity in ways we can scarcely imagine. If we can ensure that students are connected to it through the help of teachers, a natural balance between online and offline experiences will develop.” – Tom Vander Ark

The important role educators play in deploying digital education for students students may be why it feels unnerving for many educators to start incorporating digital education within their classroom. There is a traditional way of teaching that educators are used to – how they were taught growing up, how they learned to be teachers and how they have developed as teachers over the years.  Yet, our students backgrounds are quite different from the previous generations because of the technology revolution and this change is here to stay…and here to revolutionize teaching, if educators embrace it. With this change, there needs to be new ways for teachers to learn about and gain access to digital education professional development in order to feel comfortable and courageous. This same push toward educator understanding would also be beneficial for the parent/caregiver community to help all stakeholders understand the difference between passive consumption and active learning with the support of screen time, tools and online resources. 

Anthony Rebora wrote about a K-12 teacher survey in the article, Teachers Still Struggling to Use Tech to Transform Instruction, Survey Finds, and the survey results show that there is a struggle to find the right use, balance and purposeful application.

Lack of training and using technology regularly for drills, reviews and practice exercises shows why there is a mistrust of digital education use – it can be so much more purposeful! This hits upon the heart of what ISTE Coaching Standards 3a and 3c mean to me which is the importance of modeling how and why using digital education supports our students, educators and families, if done thoughtfully. Focusing on how to shift towards regularly using technology for collaboration, research and group projects instead of skills and drills practice. Focusing on how to move from passive to active use of tools, platforms and resources. In order to get there, trust must be established first and foremost with the school community as a whole.

Below are ideas connected to this ISTE coaching standard to help begin positive dialogue about digital education learning opportunities for all the stakeholders in the school community. 

  • Professional Development (PD) for teachers AND Community Development (CD) for families
    • Leading hands-on CD workshops for families at school – focus on having students and adults work together to learn the tools, introduce new platforms and have multiple hands-on experiences with the formats. Make a short video to send to families that cannot come to school for the workshop. Here is a resource to use to start planning these CD experiences – Technology in the Classroom: Running a Parent Class.  
    • Have students make a how-to video to share with parents about the digital technology they are using, what they enjoy about it, what they are learning from it, the collaborations and partnership work with their peers, etc.
    • As a coach, develop PD for teachers (and parent allies, PTA members, etc.) that uses suggestions from these two Cult of Pedagogy articles – Tech for Teacher Trainings and OMG, Becky PD is Getting So Much Better. 
    • Share about equity and mindfulness around digital resources and tools – it is important to remind families that their child may have screen time at home but other students may not have access in the same way. Yet, most importantly, the screen time in school is often very different than screen time at home. Focus on how students use technology to learn and explore, not as passive entertainment. 
  • Mentor not Monitor
    • Introduce the idea of the adult community being mentors for students on balancing digital use instead of monitoring use as if students can not learn to have self-control, mindfulness and balance. This is an area that adults and students need support with because with the rapid increase of technology use, the fear and monitoring can trick people into feeling that we lose control when using technology and cannot actively learn to be aware of when our use is purposeful vs passive consumption. (Here is an interesting Mentorship Manifesto to look over from a parent perspective) Older students could then become mentors to younger students as time goes on.  The younger students are when they learn this balance, the more equipped they will be when they have more unrestricted access to technology as they grow up.  
    • Educate the school community about the importance of teaching students how to be aware of their tech use – the why, when and how digital tools and resources are used and how technology can aid in peer collaboration within the classroom and in a global context.
    • Digital Etiquette – talk about what this is, how can we extend it from online etiquette to etiquette toward the world around us while we are engaging in digital education.  I have been thinking a lot about how some of the uneasiness around technology use is based on the way people tune out to the world around them…Should this be addressed as simply as how we teach basic manners to children?  How to pause your technology use when someone is talking to you, putting your device down and focusing on eye-contact, clear expectations around how to clearly disengage and reengage appropriately and with thoughtfulness in group settings.  
  • Evaluative frameworks
    • Share with stakeholders how  SAMR, TPACK or Triple E can guide teachers in the process of decision making when it comes to deciding what digital resources deepen student learning, engagement and interest. These same framework ideas can be applied to how families decide what their students engages with at home, also. Click on the links to dive into more about each framework!
  • Allies in your community
    • Find your parent community allies and work alongside them as a partnership so that many perspectives are represented and not just the teacher perspective.  Parents are looking to each other for what seems appropriate and collaborating with the PTA, room parents and any other supporters in the school can help level the playing field without it seeming like the teacher is trying to have it their way.  Most likely, an educators perspective is different from the perspective of the parents yet having many different vantage points can help ease the minds of those who feel they are totally against technology use in the classroom. 
    • Find educators in your school or district to partner with and build learning communities around digital education. Reach out and offer opportunities of observation for educators who may be hesitant to use digital tools and resources. Show them what you have learned – not just what you ‘know’ – and invite their ideas about your own use before moving into conversation around their own use. Model first, and then second and then third and on and on until they show interest in wanting to try it out themselves. Be patient, be kind and listen to what their needs are, don’t just wait to tell them what you think would be best for them to start doing with digital education.
  • Guiding Principles for Use of Technology with Early Learners
    • Incredible resource from the Office of Educational Technology to help Technologist Coaches facilitate discussion with the school community on guiding principles when looking at educational technology.  This is a key resource for understanding the balance of digital use and how to have success and purpose for all stakeholders. Highlights are:
      • Guiding Principle #1: Technology—when used appropriately—can be a tool for learning.
      • Guiding Principle #2: Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
      • Guiding Principle #3: Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children.
      • Guiding Principle #4: Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.
    • Introduce the Three C’s to your professional and school community 
      • Content—How does this help children learn, engage, express, imagine, or explore?
      • Context—What kinds of social interactions (such as conversations with parents or peers) are happening before, during, and after the use of the technology? Does it complement, and not interrupt, children’s learning experiences and natural play patterns?
      • The individual child—What does this child need right now to enhance his or her growth and development? Is this technology an appropriate match with this child’s needs, abilities, interests, and development stage?

This is not an exhaustive list of how to begin implementing ISTE Coaching Standards 3a and 3c but through my research on this topic, I feel more equipped to begin the conversation. To begin putting together a basic workshop, to begin reaching out and asking questions and helping to find answers that may put all stakeholders more at ease with our changing educational setting. Overall, I feel ready to continue the conversations, build community around this topic and be courageous enough to learn alongside my colleagues, my parent/caregiver community and my students – much like our technology revolution, more will come and there is much more for us all to learn and share. 


Resources:

Gonzalez, J. (2016, March 20). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/

Gonzalez, J. (2018, March 4). OMG, Becky, PD Just Got So Much Better. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/pd/

Hamilton, Erica R, Rosenberg, Joshua M., Akcaoglu, Mete. (2016, May 28) he Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: a Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11528-016-0091-y

Heitner, Devorah, PhD. Riasing Digital Natives. The Mentorship Manifesto. Retrieved from https://www.raisingdigitalnatives.com/mentorship-manifesto/

ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Murray, Jacqui. Tech Hub. Technology in the Classroom: Running a Parent Class. Retrieved from: http://www.teachhub.com/technology-classroom-running-parent-class

Office of Education Technology. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/earlylearning/principles/

Rebora, Anthony. (2016, June 6) Education Week. “Teachers Still Struggling to Use Tech to Transform Instruction, Survey Finds”. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/06/09/teachers-still-struggling-to-use-tech-to.html?tkn=SUNF3xA1W22FFtjNlbjUg5JOX4Y8vP7i4W5T&intc=es#charts

TPACK. Retrieved from http://tpack.org/

Triple E Framework. Retrieved from https://www.tripleeframework.com/