< Back
FelGeo's picture
Collection by
Felicia George
Published
Mar 14 2011

Resources in this collection

5 Resources in this collection
Through video and text we learn what a northern California school district did to bring its teachers on board with technology. Supported by a grant written by Area 3’s tech specialist and teacher consultant, Gail Desler, teachers in Elk Grove schools received hardware, software and professional development. Because of the community effort individual teachers were able to pursue interests in using technology and discover the value of the digital medium for strengthening writing practices. Area 3’s approach to implementing the grant is illustrated by this quote: “Helping students become better writers was at the center of every workshop,” explains grant coordinator, Gail Desler. “All the EETT teachers were eager to learn new strategies for improving student writing. But for many, taking technology beyond multiple-choice programs and learning new tools such as Movie Maker 2 or VoiceThread often seemed ‘overwhelming.’ Out of respect for the teachers’ expertise, we invited them to experiment with and implement new tools as their comfort levels grew and as best fit their individual classroom projects.” (from Elk Grove video gallery at http://www.secctv.org/video/?p=759) Although the video and text don’t describe the process of preparing these teachers to use technology the sense that they didn’t do this on their own comes across. Several teachers make reference to the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grant as making what we see in the video possible. The emphasis here is on what teachers and students learned through using technology and how writing was enhanced. Even though the teachers talk individually and we don’t see how they learned this as a group, it is clear that the school campus was transformed by this program. Each teacher was a part of this larger program and in that way became a community engaged in technology. In looking at the expanded resource there are links to several other pages that provide a full picture of the program. The text and videos on some of those pages offer a view of Gail Desler’s supportive role as professional development provider. Her presentations for using particular tools and workshop design are models for what other tech leaders who want to support a larger community of teachers might emulate. Read about Gail's thoughtful workshop design used to introduce teachers to filmmaking in the resource A Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom.
Meeno Rami, a high school English teacher, is exposed to the power of Twitter at a New Teacher Camp (a one day professional development event co-sponsored by ntcamp.org and WHYY in Philadelphia). After participating in the Philadelphia Writing Project's summer institute she decides to begin her own Twitter chat for English teachers. Meeno brings the community in on the project from the start asking for guest hosts to assist her in leading the weekly Monday evening Twitter chats. Like most of us, Meeno has “worked and lived in the dichotomy of benefiting from social media tools on the web but being limited in [her] use of them with [her] students.” The creation of this Twitter chat has allowed her to do her “small part to help teachers who are just now discovering the power of this medium.” #engchat is not just a space for instant conversation but also an opportunity for ongoing inquiry about the impact of technology on one’s teaching as Meeno poses questions about this venture that include: how to share the value of #engchat with others who are not regular users and is #engchat encouraging deeper discussion and reflection?
Karen Chichester, high school English teacher, describes how she learned to use Twitter to connect with colleagues who helped her learn about technology. Karen’s clearly written article details the dilemma of the individual teacher alone in a professional community that doesn't ahare her desire to explore the new and unknown. Karen leans that the ability to reach across time and space allows you to build your own community of like-minded colleagues who can support you in your quest for innovation. Karen’s story is not as much about her use of technology in the classroom as it is about her using a particular technology tool for her own professional development. It is a step by step description of how twitter worked to helped build her knowledge and competence with technology. And, as she grew in knowledge her leadership within this community also grew. She discovered the key to being part of a Twitter community, not very different from being part of any community, is being an active contributing member not only eager to receive help but equally willing to give it. Not everyone who uses Twitter becomes a national leader but everyone has the potential to contribute as Karen learned.
My own favorite approach to using technology, a fifth grade teacher uses her classroom community to bring technology instruction into her work. Angie Bunday, a fifth grade teacher, employs her students' knowledge of technology to create a classroom community that not only provides peer support but illustrates a bold step for getting started and joining your students in the technology learning process. Angie begins by addressing two common fears for many teachers that they “don’t know enough about tech to teach or use it in [their] classrooms” and maintaining classroom management. Angie’s approach involves engaging other students as peer “educators” sharing specific skills and knowledge with classmates who don’t have the same experience with technology. This approach also reinforces other basic believes about effective educational practices such as the value of experimentation, freedom to make mistakes and collaborative learning. All of these practices can and should happen even when technology is not present. When teachers are using tools with which their students have more experience, the opportunity to give over the control for one’s learning to students is increased.
Moving back and forth between learning online and learning with teachers face-to-face, the Connected Learning Principles proposed by the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative help me make sense of these discoveries and changes I see happening with schools and learning.

Getting Started: Finding a Community

Philadelphia Skyline McKeehan Alliance for Young Authors and Writers

Your decision about where to begin will and should hinge on several factors – your own interests and passions, the learning goals you have in mind, your comfort level with technology, your students' access to and comfort level with technology, your students’ interests, and other factors that may not be immediately apparent. Choosing the best way to get started, however, may not be as important as finding others who can support you. But just as with writing, getting started is the key.

So, how did other teachers start? What encouraged or impelled them to begin to use technology in their writing instruction? Where did they go for support? There are other Digital Is collections which share the stories of how particular teachers started with technology and why. The focus of this collection will be on how being part of a community can support you in your process of learning and using technology for your own and student learning. Highlighted here are several different types of communities that lend support to someone starting out and continuing to grow in her knowledge and use of technology.

We begin with the efforts of a Writing Project site that provided support for teachers in its local school district to learn and use technology. The opening video features teachers talking about the value and impact of this support. This is followed by a description of a session on filmmaking led by the tech leader, Gail Desler, responsible for bringing a grant and training to these teachers. Starting locally with teachers you know and who can provide immediate face-to-face support is a great benefit for anyone who doesn't feel confident about exploring new technologies. For many of us, it also provides the "push" we need to engage in new learning. What does your district, local writing project or school offer to teachers who want to use computers, cell phones, recorders and other digital tools in instruction?

Next, we hear from three teachers who create their own personal communities for continued technology learning. The first is a teacher, who with the experiences of a writing project summer institute and local technology professional development behind her, takes on the leadership to create her own community of English teachers who use Twitter for professional "conversations." Next is a high school English teacher who begins to use Twitter to connect with colleagues so that she can learn more about using technology for teaching. And we hear from a teacher who looked to her students as a tech community to support her and each other in the learning process. Finally we hear from an instructional coach at a large urban public school district explore the ways connected learning helps him make sense of what he sees happening in schools and learning today.

As with the tools, the communities are varied and ubiquitous. Through the resources collected here, you may find your way to a community that can help you pursue your goals digital literacy and connected learning.

Creative Commons Licence