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Digital Development

 | Nov 18, 2011

by J. Gregory McVerry

Dust covered digital video cameras, forgotten and abandoned. Ipod carts, untouched, and wrapped in plastic. Two thousand dollar bulletin boards, once thought to be Interactive Whiteboards-but now covered with handouts, hang in classroom across the globe. Unfortunately these three scenarios unfold too often in today’s classrooms.

As the majority of educators clamor for computers, clickers, and cameras some schools never unlock the potential of transformative technology. Such calamities and wasted resources arise because districts invest more time and treasure in purchasing rather than professional development.

When educators view technology as new tools instead of texts that require new proficiencies to participate in online spaces, they often exacerbate the problem by not engaging in effective professional development. This paradigm must shift. In fact the digital development of educators must focus on the long-term transformation of teaching.

Massachusetts New Literacies Institute
The 2011 Massachusetts New Literacies Institute is a collaborative project with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative (LPVEC), and the West Springfield Public Schools. The institute is lead by teacher leaders who attended last year’s New Literacies Institute and built on the foundation laid by leaders in the field of New Literacies.  The success of the program lead to the state of Massachusetts being recognized by the Partnership of for 21st Century Skills as a 21st Century Awardee.

Blended Learning and ePortfolios Initiative
The efforts of the Connecticut Technical High School System represent another model for ongoing digital development. The project is designed to support the development of New Literacies among students , enabling them to be successful either in career or college by using blended learning environments and ePortofolios to focus on “learning to be” a career pathway instead of “learning about” a career pathway. Through the use of Moodle for and Mahara as a social network for portfolio development 10,400 students who represent extreme social and economic disparities in our state and country will be connected in new and collaborative ways.

Boston Commons: Common Core, Common Writing, Common Technology
The Boston Commons project focuses on improving content area writing while aligning the curriculum with the technology components of writing outlined in the New Massachusetts Framework for Literacy and Language Arts. During a year long blended learning institute teachers receive training in research based writing methods, pilot the use of iPAD carts for writing, and engage in inquiry projects. Teachers attend full day institutes in the summer, engage in dialogue on a Moodle course, and will create anchor sets of annotated student writing to train other faculty.

Keys to Success

These professional development programs share three keys of success:

1. Focus on Pedagogy
Online tools shift faster than students grow up. No professional development model can be successful by simply focusing on the skills required to use a specific tool. Instead a pedagogical must be identified and then a variety of tools that enhance this pedagogical goal can be thoughtfully embedded.

2. Embed Studio Time
Curriculum writing takes time, and as literacy educators we know the practices employed by good writers. Still many professional development models do not offer workshop time for teachers to collaborate and create. Each of the three highlighted projects focused on developing teacher created products.

3. Utilize Human Capital
The greatest resource schools have are teachers. These three professional development efforts focused on building capacity to encourage growth long after the professional development providers have left. In each project a system was in place for one cohort to train the next.

J. Gregory McVerry is an Assistant Professor at Southern Connecticut State University.

This article is part of a series from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).


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