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Calls to Transformation: What Will It Take to Become Future Ready?

By Vicky Zygouris-Coe
 | Jul 29, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-87597520_x300Lately I have been reflecting on the disconnect between educational initiatives about the role of technology in literacy and learning and the realities that exist in some schools.

The past five years or so have been characterized by major educational shifts brought about by new policies and educational initiatives. A common characteristic of all of these initiatives is the importance of pedagogy for preparing 21st-century literate students, not just for integrating technology in the classroom. Tools alone do not teach, teachers do.

The Common Core State Standards include expectations about using media and technology and developing students’ digital skills. Embracing multimedia, reading multimodal texts, and using digital tools in classroom instruction are necessary for students to become college and career ready.

Future Ready Schools, a recent U.S. Department of Education initiative, is designed to provide guidance and support to school districts about making technology infrastructure, technology integration, and professional development decisions.

The 2016 National Education Technology Plan provides a framework for reimagining the role of technology in transforming student learning. It calls for equity, accessibility and connectivity as well as resources that can make learning for all students possible all the time, anywhere. The plan also promotes active use of technology and highlights the role of technology in assessing student learning.

The 2016 ISTE Standards position technology at the heart of teaching and learning. The standards also call for the development of an educational framework that redefines learning in a connected world; prepares students to become literate, creative communicators and digital citizens, critical and computational thinkers, collaborative problem solvers, and lifelong learners; empowers students to take ownership of their learning and construct knowledge; and equips students to compete in a global economy.

In terms of sample realities, these are perspectives of four educators I have been working with about their experiences with digital literacies and learning:

  • “I am an assistant principal at a Title I elementary school. Although summative assessments require the use of a computer, most of what happens in the classrooms involves paper and pencil and very little technology. I have two concerns: (a) How can I close the digital divide for students who do not have access to technology and the Internet at home? The digital divide affects the literacy achievement gap. (b) Many students struggle with navigating the digital environment when taking assessments online. How can we best prepare students both in content and in digital literacy skills?”
  • “I am a writing coach at an elementary school. For the past couple of years, I have been supporting teachers’ and students’ writing needs. I know that digital literacy involves one’s ability to use a variety of tools for reading and writing. But how can we help teachers integrate technology in their writing instruction in strategic ways? I think we need protocols for best technology integration use. Digital tools can help students brainstorm, share and evaluate each other’s writing, and collaborate in project-based learning.”
  • “I am a literacy coach at an elementary school. I struggle with how to help teachers to be digital readers and writers. Literacy coaches play a key role in shaping teachers’ literacy practices and creating a common language about literacy. We can model innovative literacy pedagogies but we cannot do it alone. We need principals and teachers to collaboratively create a vision for future-ready teaching and learning.”   
  • “I teach seventh-grade intensive reading at a digital school. My students and I are using a digital curriculum. All students at my school have a tablet they use at school and at home. Although technology is present throughout our day, many of my students struggle with reading and comprehending digital texts, navigating digital contexts, and developing critical thinking skills. The digital curriculum provides me with strategies and resources but I need professional development on how to develop my students’ digital literacy skills and abilities. The curriculum alone is not enough for teacher and student success. I have a lot of questions about what teaching and learning looks like in other digital schools.”

Leading, teaching, and learning in the digital age require engagement at many levels. We have to come together as literacy educators, researchers, policymakers, and community members to collaboratively problem solve about making digital literacies and learning a priority in preservice and inservice teacher education and in digital leadership. To impact student learning, we will need to collaborate with all stakeholders to develop digital ecosystems that support innovative pedagogies for preparing 21st-century learners.

Vicky Zygouris-Coe is a professor of reading education at the University of Central Florida.

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

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