Posts Tagged instructional design
As students and teachers continue to have increased access to digital tools and resources, there is a shift in the traditional instructional practices that have been used for teaching and learning. Textbooks are no longer the primary source of information, and students can fact check their teachers with the devices in their pockets. Also, content has to be more than just digitized textbooks and documents. Students must interact with digital content and produce new ways to show what they have learned. Here is my list of ten strategies for teaching with digital content, but please share your original ideas.
1. Develop a learning community.
I know that I talk about this process throughout my BYOT Network blog, but developing a community is essential to any digital age learning environment. Students and teachers want to feel a sense of belonging within schools and classrooms. Teachers have to maintain high expectations for student behavior and performance, and students will strive to live up to these expectations. By modeling and supporting digital citizenship, teachers can help students internalize the responsible use of technology tools. As they work collaboratively to solve authentic problems and share their original projects with others, students begin to realize a purpose that sustains a learning community.
2. Have an instructional purpose.
With all of the demands of being a classroom teacher, it is understandable that teachers sometimes need to engage student learning with digital content. However, it is better practice to have an instructional purpose for the video being shown to students within a classroom. Teachers should consider why they are utilizing particular digital content within their planning and use it intentionally to make a difference for each learner.
3. Preview all content.
As with all forms of media being shared with students, teachers should carefully preview all digital content to be shared with students. Teachers should consider the particular needs and expectations of their learning communities – the age of the students; the learning standards; the values of the parents – before utilizing digital content for instructional purposes.
4. Scaffold understanding.
Within the design of a lesson that incorporates digital content, teachers have to scaffold understanding. How are those resources being used to engage student learning? Video should be used purposefully and with short clips (less than a few minutes) to stimulate questions and critical thinking. Directions need to be clear, yet minimal, so that students are able to use their thinking to solve problems. Finally, there should be a variety of types of formative and summative assessments so that students have multiple risk-free opportunities to demonstrate learning and ensure success.
5. Plan for interaction.
After students view video or another form of digital content, they should be encouraged to interact and collaborate with each other to construct new meanings from that information. Students can participate in a backchannel discussion using technology tools to pose new questions and ideas about their learning. Teachers can use digital content to help students compare and contrast new concepts in collaborative groups, and students can create authentic products to demonstrate their learning. There is a need for students to become producers of new digital content rather than just being consumers of information.
6. Incorporate digital age skills.
Teachers can support digital age learning by incorporating the 4 Cs – Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity – within their classrooms. By collaborating with others through online discussions and assignments, students practice and learn the appropriate netiquette for communication in the digital age. By using critical thinking to build a personalized playlist of digital content, they can learn or review information. Finally, they can create original projects to show what they know and upload them to share with others as new learning objects.
7. Consider the lesson design.
As teachers plan for instruction with digital content, they are able to consider effective lesson design. Beginning with an essential question, teachers are able to prompt critical thinking about the standard or concept. They can show a video segment that encourages student learning and then link to an interactive assignment that supports student creativity as they work collaboratively to solve authentic, real-world problems. Finally, the teacher can utilize another form of digital content along with questioning techniques (involving student response) to provide opportunities for formative assessment. There are so many choices with digital content that enable teachers to be lesson designers in a dynamic learning environment.
8. Utilize a variety of content.
One of the benefits of digital age learning is that students can access a variety of content types with technology tools. Audio, images, video, interactive websites, applications, and text can all be integrated to provide students with multiple opportunities to choose how they will learn. However, one reality is that students will eventually have to learn using different modalities, and teachers should carefully plan how to develop students’ skills to make meaning from diverse types of content. Focusing on the needs of the students and their learning goals can help teachers make wise choices about how and when to use particular digital content.
9. Personalize learning experiences.
Students have unique talents, abilities, and differences that can pose challenges to the one-size fits all classroom. By personalizing learning experiences, teachers can help students identify the pathways that meet their individual learning needs and interests. A teacher could begin helping students identify their strengths through a learning style inventory or interest checklist, but digital content can also be used meaningfully to differentiate learning experiences. This personalized approach provides voice to students as they show what they know in ways they perceive as relevant.
10. Encourage multiple devices.
With the tools in their pockets and backpacks, as well as the ones provided within their schools, students sometimes have access to multiple devices, and teachers should encourage their use. Students can use a handheld device to quickly communicate or access content, but there may be times when they need to use resources from the school, such as desktops, interactive whiteboards, or 3D printers to create other products. Knowing how to choose the right device, at the right time, to interact with digital content promotes the critical thinking that students need for academic success in the digital age.
For many of us, the teachers that we remember as being the most effective were those who had an innate understanding of how to help their students develop a sense of belonging in their classrooms while simultaneously maintaining high expectations for learning. I recently worked with a class of fourth grade students and their teacher for six weeks to design an online learning community that supported their face-to-face instructional activities. Based on our experiences, I compiled this list of ten strategies for developing online learning communities.
- Teach Netiquette at the Onset of the Implementation. Teachers and students have to negotiate and establish the rules of communication and etiquette that determine how an online learning community will function. As students become more comfortable communicating online, they are more likely to form a class community. With clear expectations about appropriate interaction, teachers can assist their students feel an acceptance that can motivate collaboration.
- Incorporate Time for Social Discourse and Conversation. One of our first online activities was to communicate through discussion forums. We quickly noted that the students had some initial difficulty participating in online discussions about academic content. However, when students described their Spring Break activities within an online discussion forum, they were able to relate and connect to each other’s posts in the discussion. According to Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder (2002), the sharing of common interests is necessary for operating within a community of practice, and it can lead to collaborative problem-solving and the development of shared understandings. By incorporating social discussions we were able to establish and nurture communication that led to greater personal understanding, acceptance, and tolerance and eventually supported academic discussions.
- Encourage Opportunities for Student Collaboration. As the students worked with each other to develop original projects and products related to their learning standards, they were able to learn more about the content. From the onset of this design of the online learning community, the students requested opportunities to interact with their peers in collaborative work. This entailed less risk because they were able to help each other while collectively developing an understanding about a topic. In turn, these shared learning experiences strengthened the bond among the students within the online learning environment.
- Provide the Students with Choices. The students expressed that they wanted to make choices about the types of activities that they had to complete online. They also wanted to decide how they should organize their collaborative work on their projects. When we developed activities for the students to complete online, we had to consider that new projects had to be explored, choices had to be incorporated into the design, and the students had to have opportunities for collaboration. Students were able to use multiple modalities to show what they had learned, and their choices provided additional opportunities for differentiation and success.
- Encourage Asynchronous Participation. A benefit of our online learning community was its asynchronous nature. The students communicated with each other, worked together on projects, or used links to locate information or complete activities. The asynchronous work had an influence on work within the face-to-face classroom in that the students had large portions of time dedicated to online collaboration. Whole group lessons became shorter and were usually reserved for providing directions or sharing strategies. Therefore, the students practiced and developed additional skills in self-directed learning and self-motivation.
- Have Teachers Model the Learning. The role of the teacher began to shift during the design of the online learning community. She began to assume a more facilitative and less directive role in instruction, as she became a participant in the learning process. She encouraged student interaction by asking questions and responding to their posts in online discussion. She was a mentor who suggested alternatives and possibilities, and she was an organizer who developed activities that engaged the students.
- Practice the Technical Skills. It was more complicated for the students to complete a new project or product when they had no previous experiences with the skills needed to complete that project. As the online learning community was continually modified and we introduced new opportunities for collaboration, we realized that the students needed practice time in order to utilize the new technology tools effectively.
- Utilize Student Experts. Online learning included some new challenges for the teacher and the students as the focus of instruction began to become more student-centered. The participants were learning technical skills related to learning online that involved using new tools including features of the learning management system (LMS) as well as personal technology devices that they used to access the online learning community. We utilized the students and their willingness to help each other as they learned how to work together. This sharing of expertise helps to shape the online community of practice (Wenger, White & Smith, 2009), and as the members support each other, they develop new social bonds to assist in further collaboration.
- Develop Understanding through Discussion Forums. An important feature of the online learning community that encouraged collaboration and interaction was the purposeful use of discussion. Through online discussion, the students expressed information that they wanted to know more about. As the students interacted and communicated with each other online, they were able to develop new understandings from these social practices.
- Explore Personal Interests. Throughout the implementation of the online learning community, the teacher and students began exploring and sharing their personal interests. This communication helped to build the community, as students made meaning from their personal experiences and shared them with others (Wenger et al., 2009). In addition, the students were enthusiastic about bringing their personal technology tools to school to facilitate their own styles of learning as they accessed the online learning environment. The students were so knowledgeable about their devices and so willing to share this understanding with others that this small Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative caused the interaction and collaboration among the participants in this community of practice to develop rapidly.
I am astounded by the determination of teachers and students to develop effective learning communities in spite of all of the obstacles that they face each day. The challenge of maintaining one’s individuality while effectively working as a member of a group is a reality of life and making that connection is a key ingredient of lifelong learning (Thomas & Brown, 2011). Collaborating and interacting within an online community facilitated support for learning; furthermore, these practices enabled the students to feel satisfaction as they explored their personal passions and interests.
Thomas, D. & Brown, J. (2011). An new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. LaVergne, TN: Createspace.
Wenger, E, McDermott, R. & Snyder, W. (2002) Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Wenger, E., White, N. & Smith, J. D. (2009) Digital habitats: Stewarding technology for communities. Portland, OR: CPsquare.