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Literacy in the Digital Age: A Resource Guide

August 5, 2015 / by Steve Figurelli & Natalie Franzi

Literacy in the Digital Age

Editor's Note: Teaching Channel has partnered with Student Achievement Partners on a blog series about digital literacy tools and their effective use by educators.

As practitioners, our commitment to dynamic pedagogy should consistently be renewed. The digital revolution and Common Core State Standards have provided an unprecedented opportunity for schools to redefine curriculum, instruction, and assessment in the modern classroom.

Over the next four weeks, as part of a series we're calling Literacy in the Digital Age, we will explore several digital tools to enhance literacy instruction in the 21st Century classroom. These tools will target various elements of English-Language Arts (writing, informational text, text complexity/vocabulary, and speaking and listening) and aim to increase the productivity of teachers and move students from simply consuming information to producing content. Each week we will present tools associated with a specific theme, provide a short explanation of each, and, most critically, share potential applications in the classroom. Tools alone aren’t the solution; however digital tools, implemented with precision and purpose, can be transformative.

New And Exciting Ways to Engage Learners

Both the digital age and the Common Core have created conditions that empower teachers to develop new and exciting ways to engage learners by putting students in the driver’s seat and leveraging a global community. Digital tools help support the heightened demands and expectations placed on the modern educator and afford several opportunities to reinvent instructional practices. First and foremost, digital tools promote efficiency and efficacy.

The Common Core State Standards have broken down proverbial walls between classrooms and schools. Teachers are working toward similar goals. Standards- and skills-based instructional materials are ready made and available to target specific learning outcomes. Additionally, digital tools have amplified collaboration, allowing teachers easy access to colleagues in their school and across the nation. Through video conferencing tools like Google Hangout or virtual field trips, teachers have the opportunity to leverage the expertise of authors, scientists, mathematicians, museum curators - the list is nearly endless - to provide a context for learning that extends beyond the walls of the classroom.

Digital tools also create various avenues for teachers to provide immediate feedback to students. Countless studies have shown (reiterated by John Hattie’s seminal work, Visible Learning) feedback is one of the most powerful factors that affect student learning. Technology enables teachers to provide real-time feedback to students on performance while the learning is ongoing… not simply after the culminating assessment. Teachers are able to differentiate instruction and curricular expectations to provide children with experiences specific to their abilities, interests, and learning style.

Future Ready

Technology will not replace a good teacher, but when implemented purposefully, it will enhance instructional practices to promote Future Ready skills and augment student engagement.

Today, content is at our fingertips. Students no longer need to go to school to "sit and get." Instead, students need school to help them make sense of the information surrounding them and apply that knowledge to various transdisciplinary contexts. Technology is a vehicle that students can use to empower personal growth that is both engaging and meaningful.

Infusing digital tools affords opportunities for personalization that target student interests and abilities. Further, digital tools offer opportunities for collaboration. Students (and teachers alike, for that matter) are able to connect with others around the school, the country, and the world to share and grow together.

Technology also amplifies student voice, affording children the opportunity to share their stories with the world. No longer are kids simply publishing or creating for the bulletin board outside their classroom. In the words of Rushton Hurley, "If your students are sharing their work with the world, they want it to be good. If they're just sharing it with you, they want it to be good enough." Students now have a global audience at their fingertips.

Springboards for Conversation

To set the stage for our series, we'd like to share two overarching tools that will serve as springboards for future conversations.

The first is Graphite's Common Core State Standards Explorer, which has been assembled by educational experts. The tool provides a database of apps and websites that can be easily navigated via grade level and the specific Common Core State Standard.

The second resource is Remind, a free and safe communication tool that helps teachers connect with students, parents, and other educators instantly. Remind allows educators to send alerts to recipients via text message or email. If you haven't checked it out yet, we highly recommend you do.

In fact, we have created a virtual class via Remind to share a new resource each and every week throughout the school year! The digital tools we highlight over the course of the next month are just the start of the conversation. Our class on Remind will serve as a means of continuing the learning beyond the blog series.

To join our class, Digital Tools for TCHrs, please text @4TCHrs to 81010 from your mobile device.

We look forward to sharing and exploring dynamic digital tools that can help transform your practice!

Topics: Technology in the Classroom, Literacy, Resources, Media Literacy

Steve Figurelli & Natalie Franzi

Written by Steve Figurelli & Natalie Franzi

Natalie Franzi is part of the Middletown Township Public School leadership team as an Elementary Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction. She has previously taught middle school reading and special education in an inclusive elementary setting. Natalie is involved in EDCampNJ, EDCamp Jersey Shore, EDCamp Leadership, NJ/PA ECET2, and NJASCD. She is also a Student Achievement Partner Core Advocate and Google Educator. Follow her on Twitter: @NatalieFranzi. Steve Figurelli serves as a Supervisor of Elementary Education with the Public Schools of Edison Township in New Jersey, overseeing the district's K-5 Science and Gifted & Talented programs. In addition to his work at the local level, Figurelli also serves on Remind's Teacher Advisory Board, is a guest contributor for ASCD, is a co-author of StuVoice.org's Student Voice In A Box, co-organizer of EdTechNJ, and is a member of the steering committee for the NJ/PA Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) conference. Follow him on Twitter: @SteveFigurelli.

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