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Preparing Preservice Teachers in the Digital Age Through Real-World Classroom Connections

By Katie Kelly
 | May 10, 2019

preparing-preservice-teachersTeacher education programs have a responsibility to prepare candidates to effectively incorporate instructional technologies in the classroom. Although considered tech-savvy, many preservice teachers’ expertise remains in social networking. Thus, preservice teachers need frequent opportunities for experiential learning with instructional technology to design purposeful use of technology for learning outcomes.

In my literacy education courses at Furman University, I embed technology practices into assignments to expose preservice teachers to meaningful real-world interactions with students in addition to their required face-to-face classroom field experiences. For example, we have used a variety of platforms such as Lino, Edmodo, and Kidblog to engage in digital book clubs with elementary learners. This real-world experience provided the preservice teachers with opportunities to practice assessing readers’ comprehension. Using a digital conferring approach, preservice teachers facilitated online conversations to nudge children to deepen their thinking about text. This experience helped them differentiate instruction based on formative assessment practices and tailor support for individual learners.

More recently, we have used FlipGrid as a platform to confer with young writers. After learning about the importance of making books with emergent writers, kindergarten teacher Cynthia Thompson created a FlipGrid for her students to share their first published books with an authentic audience. Not only could the children listen to their peers reading their writing, but families could also listen to the children sharing their masterpieces.

Additionally, by viewing a wide range of published writing in Ms. Thompson’s class, my preservice teachers deepened their understanding of the individualized nature of writing. They learned that the kindergartners wrote on a range of topics such as lost dogs, kindness, being thankful, and Batman of course. They also became aware of the wide range of abilities within one given class. The FlipGrid provided the preservice teachers with an opportunity to practice conferring with emergent writers. They analyzed the writing samples, considered instructional implications, and recorded a personalized video response for each child to give them feedback about their writing and development as writers.

As one preservice teacher said, “We were able to connect with students in a different state and help them build confidence in their writing through video. This not only helped us learn about giving feedback to students but allowed these students to share their writing. They were able to work on presenting skills like projection and fluency in reading, and they really enjoyed hearing our responses to their work.”

There are endless possibilities for the use of FlipGrid in the classroom including book talks, retellings or think-alouds about text, sharing steps for solving a math problem, and conducting a science experiment. Preservice teachers enrolled in my content area literacy course used FlipGrid to share book talks to help expand their peers’ repertoires for use of children’s literature across the curriculum.

In each of these instances, the preservice teachers learned how digital platforms can be used to leverage formative assessment practices and individualize instruction while increasing their motivation and confidence for embedding technology in their own future classrooms.

In order to prepare preservice teachers for today’s digital landscape, it is essential to embed authentic technology-enriched learning experiences throughout teacher preparation programs to expand learning through meaningful hands-on application.

Katie (Stover) Kelly is an associate professor of education at Furman University in Greenville, SC and coauthor of From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools to Transform K-6 Literacy Practices (Solution Tree), Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3-12 (Corwin), and Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Children Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action (Heinemann). Follow her on Twitter @ktkelly14 and her blog at bookbuzz.blog.

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

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