Across the country, classrooms are changing. In some cases, the change is gradual, while in others, it is immediate. And yet, no matter the speed with which it is happening, change is inevitable: technology is changing the way that teachers plan and teach and the ways that students learn.
Instructional tools are shifting from white boards and overhead projectors to smart boards connected to computers and document cameras. Planning tools are changing from paper grade book planners to digital platforms on computers, tablets, and smart phones. As classrooms transform to match the digital world in which we live, students’ technological landscapes are shifting as well. Now, more than ever, students are using computers and mobile devices throughout many sectors of their lives. Students are increasingly using desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones fluidly across the day.
With the advent of an increasingly technological world, teachers face classroom implementation challenges. With the potential benefits and challenges of using technology in classrooms in mind, The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project recently offered a day of professional development designed to fuse proven teaching methods, reading and writing content, and digital tools to build learners for the digital age while enhancing teaching through common classroom technologies. Associate Director, Amanda Hartman, together with staff developers Ryan Candelario, Cornelius Minor, and Maggie Beattie Roberts, held workshops to help teachers address common classroom problems with digital solutions, while grounding these in the structures, methods, and content of reading and writing workshop.
The day began with Cornelius and Ryan addressing the needs of teachers and education staff members to streamline and utilize technological tools for planning and record keeping. While time invested in technologies like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive is heavy upfront, there is a net gain of time saved over the course of a few months after using the services. Cornelius and Ryan broke down how and when educators would use these services, and others, in the context of workshop schools. After listening to the application of new technologies and programs that can aid teachers both during workshop and across the day, teachers dispersed into smaller workshop that covered a number of different topics across K-8 including:
- Raising the Level of Rigor and Engagement in Reading Non-Fiction Texts: Teaching and Using Digital Nonfiction Texts & Media in the Reading Workshop
- Create a Reading Blog, Create a Reading Community
- Teaching Early Reading Skills Using Videos and Other Medias to Foster Enthusiastic Readers and Build Comprehension
- Develop Writing Craft Using Digital Texts & Media as Writing Mentors
- Ways to Support Writers to Grow and Change: A Look at Using Google Docs, Evernote and Other Technologies to Support Feedback
- Establishing the Fundamentals with Early Writers and Enhancing our Teaching Methods Using Technology
- Top 10 Essential Apps You Will Want to Use With Your Readers and Writers
- A Twitter Tutorial for Educators: Expand your PLN Beyond School Walls
- Ways to Share, Celebrate, and Create Carious Pathways for Students to Engage in Reading and Writing School Wide
- Process Today’s Notes and Discuss Ways to Incorporate New Learning into Your Weekly Plans: Linking Digital Literacy to the Common Core
- A Work Group on Creating Digital Bins and Text Sets
Participants attended four workshops of their choice throughout the course of the day, and left with an understanding of how to apply digital tools to planning, record keeping, and teaching to enhance the learning of students in increasingly digitalized classrooms. The ‘Top Ten’ list of questions below is aimed at helping school communities reflect on and plan for technological advances.
Top Ten Questions to Ask Whole-School Communities about Technology and Access
- Do you have a technology five-year plan?
- What is your protocol for teachers to download specific applications, access to websites, or software? How can you develop this?
- What is the protocol for student/teacher online safety? Do you have permissions for videotaping/photographs/online presence? How about the transition to home usage?
- What actual devices do students have access to at school and at home? What usable, in working order machines do you have?
- What training do you have in place for teachers to learn new technologies?
- How do teachers organize curriculum and plans using technology? (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc)
- What is the tech capacity for the building (the bandwidth, the server, the wifi speed, the budget for software, IT person on staff)?
- What is the actual tech training for the kids (typing, computer skills, research skills, etc)?
- Is there interest in starting or nurturing an online presence for the school (website, blogs, wikis, Twitter, etc.)
Of course, the TCRWP is considering these questions, too, and we would be delighted if you would follow us on Facebook and Twitter and join our weekly Twitter chats: every Wednesday at 7:30pm EST.