In this class, I have learned that it is not technology alone that determines 21st-century learning, but rather that technology allows the collaboration, production, and higher-order thinking of 21st-century learning to occur (Tucker, 2014). Therefore, my further use of technology will hinge on how such modern tools can help me design a learning environment promoting knowledge construction, or Web 2.0 (Vance, 2016). Additionally, technology lets me connect with teachers and field experts to learn and, more importantly, to share as educators are more and more being expected to contribute to the growing gathering that is social media (Veletsianos, 2013). In essence, I am seeing, as Thornburg describes, that I must not just do things differently in my classroom, but do different things there (Laureate, 2015c).
This course required me to use a Twitter account, create a blog, implement an RSS feed, experiment with digital book-marking, and use a wiki to guide student learning. Looking back, I see that learning to use each technology put me through a series of predictable affective stages: excitement, frustration, and mastery. At the same time, I was building unique skills as I mastered the specific tools of each platform and collaborated with peers to create products.
Tucker (2014) uses the term ecosystem to describe this environment where participants learn through these types of organized interactions. Going into more detail, Darling-Hammond, Zielezinski and Goldman (2014) posit that technology in such a digital learning ecosystem allows learners to gain cognitive and behavioral abilities that they would otherwise be unable to without technology in a well-designed learning context. As a scholar-educator, I need to continue to evolve my teaching so that I am planning rich, collaborative lessons within such an ecosystem, replacing, as Richardson (2010) recommends, tests with mastery as displayed in student productions.
One way to apply these changes in my English language arts classroom is through the use of student blogs. Not only would students’ blog writing allow for constant formative assessment, but allowing students to choose topics would result in a level of engagement and skill improvement that could transfer to more scholarly productions (Lampinen, 2013). Additionally, students who write in such a public forum as a blog pay more attention to the fact that they are writing to an audience and develop more of a voice (McGrail & Davis, 2011). Blogging can be more than plain text, incorporating links, embedded audio and video, and graphics, helping students become what the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)(2016) calls innovative designers. Increasingly, career writing includes video, audio, and graphic elements, so such creative blogs are preparing young writers for the future (Moore & Grisham, 2015).
Sadly, my students do not have enough access to computers to blog frequently since our school building lacks the broadband necessary for one-to-one computing (Citizens for Fremont City Schools, Inc., n.d.). Like other poor school districts, I share computers with other classrooms because the district cannot justify purchasing a computer for each student when lack of broadband causes them to lag badly when turned on all at once (Darling-Hammond, Zielezinski and Goldman, 2014). When this class first began, I was very active in lobbying for passage of a local bond levy to support the building of new elementary schools which would be able to support the technology our students need. The voters turned it down. As a leader in my community, I plan to continue to share my vision of how technology impacts learning in an effort to support students through my continued involvement in future levy campaigns, a reflection of the ISTE’s fifth standard for teachers (ISTE, 2008).
Two goals that I have for transforming my classroom are: a) By August 2017, begin using one technology tool on at least a weekly basis to effectively and efficiently monitor formative assessment of student writing and use the data to communicate learning with students, and b) by August 2017, incorporate into the fifth grade English language arts curriculum, as evidenced by unit plans, lessons that help students learn how to evaluate Internet sources for accuracy and bias. With the plethora of information on the Internet, students and workers alike needs to be able to judge whether or not a source is credible (Laureate, 2015b). Furthermore, when we allow students to pursue research topics that engage them, they need to be able to synthesize in writing the information that they find, just like adults in the workplace putting together a proposal (Laureate, 2015a).
Richardson (2015) explains how I and teachers like me will be able to attain such goals: We need to rethink education. Instead of being a teacher planning an expansive lesson on the writing process, I need to allow my students to write and to evaluate others’ writing. Instead of giving my students a list of proven Internet sources, I need to let them discover what is out there and weigh sources against each other. Instead of expecting students to look to me for what is right or best, I need to provide a digital ecosystem where they can fail and succeed in collaboration, connect with experts, and create products valuable to themselves and those they meet along the way.
Citizens for Fremont City Schools, Inc. (n.d.). Facts about Fremont City Schools 2016 levycampaign. Retrieved from http://fremontbondlevy.weebly.com/uploads/4/4/4/8/44486789/9-23-2016_levy_fact_sheet.pdf
Darling-Hammond, L., Zielezinski, M., & Goldman, S. (2014, September). Using technology to support at-risk students’ learning. Retrieved from https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/scope-pub-using-technology-report.pdf
Lampinen, M. (2013, April 8). Blogging in the 21st-century classroom. Retrieved December 19, 2016, from Technology Integration, https://www.edutopia.org/blog/blogging-in-21st-century-classroom-michelle-lampinen
Laureate Education (Producer). (2015a). The changing role of the classroom teacher: Part 1 [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2015b). The changing role of the classroom teacher: Part 2 [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2015c). The emergence of educational technology [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
McGrail, E., & Davis, A. (2011). The influence of classroom Blogging on elementary studentwriting. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 25(4), 415–437. doi:10.1080/02568543.2011.605205
Moore, M., & Grisham, D. (2015). The effect of digital technologies on the culture ofliteracy. The California Reader, 48(2).
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rded.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Richardson, W. (2015). From master teacher to master learner. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Tucker, S. Y. (2015). Transforming pedagogies: Integrating 21st century skills and web 2.0technology. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 15(1). doi:10.17718/tojde.32300
Vance, N. (2016). Web 2.0 in the schools. Retrieved December 19, 2016, fromhttp://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/45827561/web-2-0-schools
Veletsianos, G. (2013). Open practices and identity: Evidence from researchers and educators’ social media participation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4), 639–651. doi:10.1111/bjet.12052