1.2 Effective & Knowledgeable Teacher
Candidates make use of a variety of instructional strategies and assessment tools to design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments in partnership with classroom teachers and other educators.
“What turns me on about the digital age, what excites me personally, is that you have closed the gap between dreaming and doing. You see, it used to be that if you wanted to make a record of a song, you needed a studio and a producer. Now, you need a laptop.” Though he speaks specifically of the music industry, Bono’s words exemplify the dramatic impact that cutting edge technology tools can have on our students. If we as educators work to develop authentic digital-learning experiences, we enhance the relevancy and real-world application of our courses. We inspire our students. As we make strides to achieve an effective twenty-first teaching model, our instructional strategies and assessments are enhanced through our collaborative work with our colleagues. While enrolled in Learning Technologies, I expanded and modified a previously-designed unit on Global Women’s Issues. I had originally developed the unit in collaboration with a high school social studies teacher; the following semester, I updated to the format of a digital learning wiki where my colleague and I could collaborate digitally. Through the collaborative planning process, we created a unit for future implementation that features an extensive array of digital-age learning experiences. We had not had the opportunity to implement the unit prior to making these revisions but hope to put the newly updated unit plan into action.
As a part of the Big 6 research process, the students evaluate websites pertaining to their assigned Global Women’s Issues topic. Throughout the unit, they use four different Web 2.0 tools: Diigo, Creative Commons, VoiceThread, and a School Library Blog. Through Diigo, the students are not only able to bookmark valuable websites but also to function as a collaborative learning community, sharing and benefitting from the work of their peers through the digital learning experience. The use of the Creative Commons search engine to select the images for their VoiceThreads will provide a digital learning experience that emphasizes the ethical use of material. They will be permitted to use an image only if the owner of the intellectual property has licensed it for use by others. VoiceThread itself provides an opportunity for the students to have a relevant learning experience by showcasing their research in an NPR news story type format. Adding their completed VoiceThreads to the school library blog allows the students to share their digital experience with the wider learning community, beyond the students within their own class.
The decision to design a research product with a VoiceThread as the final product was a collaborative one. The Geography course that will utilize this unit plan is only a one quarter elective class. Inherent time constraints make it difficult to plan and write a full-length research essay. My colleague and I also found the traditional essay format to be rather out-moded and wanted the students to create a product that continued to emphasize writing and language skills but would represent a digital-age assessment. In the digital-age, a tremendous emphasis must now be placed on assessing not only the final product but also the students’ success with the digital learning process. For this reason, we included a process self-assessment that the students complete at the conclusion of the unit.
This unit reflects not only a collaborative planning process but also my growth as a school librarian-in-training. When my colleague and I first laid the groundwork for the design of this unit plan, I had not yet taken Learning Technologies. Though the original unit incorporated Web 2.0 technologies, it did not feature nearly as many, and in hindsight, I am glad that we hadn’t had the opportunity to use the unit prior to my exposure to additional technology tools. We had originally planned to have the students create a podcast, but I was exposed to the VoiceThread technology through the Learning Technologies course and was impressed by its simplicity and its ability to associate images with the voice recording. This substitution of VoiceThread for Audacity podcasting software was a clear improvement in my mind. I was also unfamiliar with Diigo and Creative Commons and had only a minimal experience with blogging. I was able to immediately adapt to these user-friendly tools and bring to the collaborative table my own digital learning experiences. This allowed me to reshape my areas of responsibility for the collaborative unit and develop the best possible digital age learning experience for the students. The variety of instructional strategies and timeliness of the assessment tool were greatly enhanced through my coursework.
It truly is remarkable what today’s young people have the opportunity to create with little more than a computer and access to the internet. We do them a disservice as educators if we do not provide them with digital-age learning experiences and assessments. The task of updating unit plans for the twenty-first century learning can be a daunting one. It requires extensive exploration of and experimentation with web 2.0 tools before real planning can even begin, which is why it is so important to design digital-learning experiences and enact new instructional strategies through a teacher/school librarian collaborative effort. In my situation, my collaborative partner was eager to do something fresh with the Global Women’s Issues unit, but as someone without an information literacy background, she was unfamiliar with the technological options available to her. My expertise in school library media was a perfect pairing to her content knowledge. As evidenced by the revisionary process with this unit, I am exposed to new technologies and digital-age learning experiences through my coursework and school library networking community that my colleague would not ordinarily encounter. It is our responsibility to pool our individual areas of expertise to the advantage of our students by working in partnership with one another.
Digital Learning Wiki, Activities and Assessment Tools Page - Collaborative Unit on Human Geography, Special Focus - Global Women's Issues