Future Ready is an effort intended to bring about digital learning opportunities designed to prepare students for college, career and citizenship. It provides a framework, resources, training and support. Districts that sign the Future Ready pledge "commit to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their districts" (Dept. of Education). Academy School District 20 is one of those districts.
What does this mean for the classroom teacher? Much of what happens in this effort is behind the scenes in support of our students and the learning experience. To support districts committed to this effort, Future Ready Schools has a created number of programs:
At the heart of Future Ready Schools is a Framework. The framework consists of 7 gears focused around Personalized Student Learning:
At Pine Creek High School we've already taken a number of steps down this road. We have improved our infrastructure; we have established common planning for much of our staff; we have a path to determine if digital resources ensure our student's data privacy; we are developing assessment literacy and digital leaders; our professional learning weaves together our site plan with department needs; and, we are working though our assessment process and honors project. We're already taking great steps forward to be Future Ready and we're just beginning!
Take a risk. That’s a difficult charge. Sometimes it sounds like we aren’t doing a good enough job. Sometimes we wonder why tried-and-true means aren’t good enough. It takes risk to move forward and continue learning. It takes risk to amend or even outright change a lesson, a target, an essential question, or a practice. If we expect our students to continually learn in order to improve, then we must also follow that parallel path and strive to continually improve our own practice (Wennergren 134). The 1:1 environment sets the stage for change in the classroom; the tried-and-true doesn’t always mesh with our current learning environment or the world our students face every day. “This age of exponential change leaves us no choice – we must change or our students will fall behind.” (Tormala). “We will need to consider how to best harness exponential change in order to create equitable outcomes for all learners.” (Swanson)
Taking a risk is hard. Change is difficult. The Law of Diffusion of Innovation says that in order to change, we must take risks, learn from successes and failures, grow with the mindset of continuous improvement, and innovate by finding new ways to solve the challenges we face (Tormala). It’s OK not to know what resources and tools are out there and how they work. We’re learning. The good news is that you have support: department or team learning leaders, instructional coaches, your Teacher-Librarian, your Digital Learning Coach. Additionally, the online world is full of learning communities ready to support and share ideas, too. Edutopia and Twitter chats are just two of the many online resources full of ideas, resources and support for educators.
Reach out. Ask Questions. Collaborate. Co-teach. Take one step at a time. You aren’t alone on this road.
Time. It seems we never have enough of it. Grading, meetings, more grading, more meetings. There’s always so much to do. How does collaboration fit in to this when there are so many urgencies? Why should we give up more time for collaboration?
Collaboration focuses around the collective responsibility to improve student learning by improving teaching (Wennergren 134). “Teachers must apply their learning to themselves as well as their students.” (Wennergren 134) It’s a parallel process characterized by mutual engagement in procedures, tools, concepts, language and different ways of acting.
So we collaborate, because it helps us help our students learn. This time is especially helpful regarding digital pedagogy: what it means, how it embeds into our daily instruction, how it impacts student learning. This time together gives us the opportunity to learn, investigate, create and share resources, lessons and ideas. We have the opportunity to learn together what digital pedagogy is and what it looks like for us, in our teams, in our content area. It is professional learning differentiated for you.
Digital technologies are fundamentally changing our world. Taking advantage of their strengths to help students learn is something best done collaboratively. Technology is not our enemy. With some patience, careful planning, and thoughtful consideration, we will create more skilled students who are ready for the future, while creating a more enriching classroom dynamic where technology is just another tool for building students' success (Doyle-Jones 6). Take the opportunity, take a risk with your team, try something different, and explore the possibilities that digital resources bring to education.
We have access to amazing digital tools in our building. Those tools are here to support learning, to support the instruction that is happening throughout the building, not to replace it. These tools can streamline workflows, organize materials, ease communication, allow for more one-on-one time, differentiate product and instruction, and more. Translating our instruction into those tools, what that looks like for some skills, can be confusing. Notetaking is one of those skills.
Notetaking is essential in many of our classes, but research seems to say that digital notetaking doesn’t lead to retention of material. So what does a digital school do?
A closer look at the research shows that when notes are taken with a keyboard, students tend to retain less than when notes are handwritten (Mueller). Students tend to be more concerned with getting material recorded than engaging with the material. Still, there are those that argue that typing frees us and provides us more time to think (Chemin), but we’re assuming that the receiver is actively engaged with the material.
What can we do, as a digital school, to ensure that our students are really interacting with the material they’re noting? There are strategies that can maximize the tools available as well as notetaking skills, engagement and retention.
As teachers, we have a responsibility to model and guide students as they dive into the online waters. That may spark the question: who is guiding us? Yes, the online world is fast-paced and we may feel like it is zooming past us, but you aren’t on your own. Last year we started offering Digital Citizenship workshop sessions. This year we’re doing that, adding monthly information in this newsletter, piloting a District Digital Citizenship course for staff and offering optional mini-workshops in March and April. We’re reaching out and hopefully catching you in a manner that best meets your schedule.
There are two main resources our building and District reference regarding Digital Citizenship: ISTE and Common Sense Media. Our freshmen are working through portions of the Common Sense Media resources in their Computer Apps courses. I encourage you to explore these resources as time allows. For them moment, I would like to share some “Teachable Moments” from ISTE’s resources as a what can I do in my classroom now piece.
You'll find this complete resource and the ASD20 poster that details these teachable moments based on ISTE's Essential Elements of Digital Citizenship.
Digital Learning Best Practices. That’s a pretty broad topic and can revolve around many aspects of the digital learning environment like teaching, materials, infrastructure, and professional development. For teachers, the focus should be on what do we want students to know and be able to do and how do digital tools help facilitate that. The tools we use exist to support us in instruction and are not the end in themselves. Still, this is a new path for many of us and the question may remain, what are digital learning best practices?
When considering digital teaching and learning best practices, you might want to ask:
There is a digital solution to meet your needs, have you discovered it?
See the “Digital Tool Checklist” in our Google Drive folder for guidance in choosing a tool.
Remember, if you’re using a tool that requires students to create an account (even if it’s free), please follow student privacy guidelines. This applies to clubs and sports, too.
Creativity in the classroom. We want to see that happen, but sometimes it may feel like curricular benchmarks don’t allow the time for that. Sometimes we may think we need to be creative or that creativity itself needs to be taught. Creativity is one of the 4 C’s, the four skills determined as most important to prepare students for our global society by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning and the NEA. It’s a part of our Vision for Digital Learning. That doesn’t mean that we need to be the creative masterminds; we merely need to allow the opportunity and use of the tools which bring out the creativity in our students.
Sir Ken Robinson takes the position that we “teach for creativity.” He says that “the minute you get people to think visually—to draw pictures or move rather than sit and write bullet points—something different happens in the room. Breaking them up so they aren't sitting at the same desk and getting them to work with people they wouldn't normally sit with creates a different type of dynamic” (Azzam). He proposes that we encourage experimentation and innovation, that we don’t provide the answers, but rather provide our students with the tools to investigate and demonstrate their learning.
We have digital tools in our classrooms, in our hands, to help reimagine learning experiences. These tools are the perfect facilitators for encouraging creation, collaboration, innovation and the means for demonstrating understanding.
It’s a busy time and many of us want to focus our attention on those students that are about to walk through our classroom doors. That can make it difficult to connect with the Professional Learning that happens right before that moment. That’s understandable.
Pine Creek’s Professional Learning Program provides our community with ongoing opportunities for learning, not solely isolated ones. It provides us a shared experience to expand our skills and work collaboratively. We learn how to leverage new tools and we work together towards building and department goals. It is rooted in a belief in the value of continuous learning, growth and improvement.
I encourage you to embrace your Professional Learning experience as an opportunity to work toward our building’s shared vision and not a moment away from planning. Base your session choices not only on need and expectation, but curiosity and instructional potential. We have a staff full of rich experiences that they are looking forward to sharing with you. Those experiences are designed according to feedback from you, so please continue to provide that feedback.
But Our Journey is Just Beginning
This year marks the end of our pilot program. Next year Pine Creek will be a full 1:1 iPad school.
During these past three years, we have tried a lot, learned a great deal, succeeded in new endeavors, and failed at others. We started this year introducing the staff to basic iPad skills and core apps. We moved onto workflow in the classroom, managing those day-to-day tasks. We dipped our feet into Digital Citizenship and started to see the power of creation with the device.
We have a good foundation from which to build a school where digital learning, in all its forms, is transformative and is integral to what makes Pine Creek such an excellent school. This is our journey.
Almost every month I say this and I mean it - digital learning takes many forms throughout our school. Students and teachers are partnering to create, innovate, collaborate and demonstrate learning. Share your stories with each other (and with me). Talk in the pods. Visit each other’s classrooms. There are so many amazing things being done with our students. Let’s celebrate these moments!
I am a Digital Learning Coach by title, but lifelong learner by practice. An Apple Teacher, Google Certified Educator and Microsoft Innovative Educator, my goal is to assist educators in investigating, exploring, and investigating resources to embed in their instruction. I also hope to be a part of their journey toward an innovative and transformative practice that empowers learners and strengthens their own craftsmanship. I spends my free time with my family, my dogs and a good cup of coffee.