Wordle by A. Smith
In the spring of 2016, I made a conscious decision to apply for a teaching position at a school in our district that was focused on inquiry and technology. The moment was both exhilarating and frightening at the same time. Although I had been teaching with an inquiry mindset for several years, I considered myself a newbie when it came to technology. I had piloted BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) with my Gr. 5/6 class, dabbled with Google Classroom, used FreshGrade (e-portfolio) and Edublogs with my students, and yet I still felt I needed to learn more. Nevertheless, I applied for the job because I wanted to throw myself into the unknown and learn new skills.
The job description detailed the technological expertise required:
- Proficient with Google Apps for Education, e-portfolios and blogging;
- Experience utilizing digital tools that span the SAMR model of digital tools.
Also, teachers must be able to:
- Demonstrate leadership with implementing/embedding the use of digital tools into student learning;
- Promote digital literacy authentically and purposefully by integrating technology into curricular areas;
- Demonstrate a willingness to explore ways of developing effective digital citizenship in their students.
In September, I quickly immersed myself in the new school culture at Caulfeild Elementary and found myself learning, along with my Gr. 4/5 class, how to navigate all of the online offerings: Google Classroom and Google apps, IXL, Mathletics, and Khan Academy (Math), Currents4kids and Newsela (Reading Comprehension), Duolingo (French), Typing Club, Scratch (Coding), Discovery Education (Science), Prezi and Google Slides (Presentation), World Book Online (Research), and all the ERAC databases. These resources replaced textbooks and were more engaging for the students.
However, I discovered that students had little knowledge on how to effectively search for information online. Almost all students just typed in questions or keywords into the Google bar and then looked at the top 2 or 3 websites. Clearly they needed to be taught how to find age-appropriate, relevant, and accurate information! This topic continues to be important to me. As a future teacher-librarian, I feel very strongly that I need to teach students how to use more advanced techniques such as using Google search operators, analyzing websites, and developing critical thinking skills.
As I have now been at the school for nearly two years, my focus is also turning to global digital citizenship. I want our students to expand their learning outside of our school to collaborate and connect with others. So many of our Inquiry Units focus on larger issues, such as environmental stewardship or empathy for others. These topics should be explored on a global level by students so that they understand the diverse issues that affect others around the world. Through greater understanding, my hope is that our students become change-makers and take action to help solve the problems facing our global community.