In late June, I sat in on a webinar produced by the Alliance for Excellent Education called “Converging Opportunities: Common Core State Standards and Digital Learning.” Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with this organization prior to hearing about the webinar. But I am interested in learning more about the work that they do and the resources that they provide for educators across the nation.
Essentially the webinar consisted of three panelists representing different school districts across the nation. It is now archived here. Each district represented was at a different point in the shift towards CCSS. The first panelist was Lisa Andrejko, the superintendent from Quakertown Community School District.
Lisa started with a well-known quote from Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” She went on to explain that her district made the shift to standards-based instruction and incorporating technology a number of years ago. Therefore, they were not experiencing a paradigm shift in the way other districts might be. In essence, they are only experiencing a shift in the target (new standards = new targets), not in the fundamental ways they think about teaching and learning. Lisa did explain that her teachers had made a shift to Standards Based Grading (SBG) which has required them to move away from things like extra credit assignments towards formative and summative assessments tied to standards. Lisa went on to describe a number of technological tools that are used by teachers and students in her district. Many of these tools have played a critical role in the roll-out of SBG. To name just a few: Google apps, Google hangout, Kidblog, wikis, and Blackboard Collaborate. She mentioned that student assignments are created and submitted via Google Docs (now called Google Drive).
At this point I began wondering what accommodations had her district made to address the digital divide. That is, how do they assist children who do not have access to computers, the internet and/or printers at home? I submitted my question and continued watching the webinar.
The next two panelists shared their perspectives. The second underscored the role that technology can play in teacher collaboration. She stated that approximately 28% of teachers nationwide have 30 minutes or less of collaboration time per week. Yikes! I can see how technology would play a critical role for teachers with so little collaboration time. The final panelist came from a district that was just beginning to incorporate the CCSS. He outlined a process that would likely be interesting and informative to district level administrators. However, I was still waiting patiently to see if the digital divide or ELLs would be mentioned. (As you might have guessed, I also submitted a question about how their districts incorporated the unique needs of ELLs into their plans). Unfortunately, my questions were not addressed. So I took matters into my own hands. A few internet searches later, I am happy to bring you my list of resources related to the digital divide and ELLs. If you have other resources, please share them in the comments section below.
Resources for Incorporating Technology into your ELL Instruction
- Technology 101 for ELLs on Colorin Colorado’s website
- Reading Rockets provides a number of teaching strategies in its article titled "Preparing ELLs to be 21st Century Learners"
- A great article by Jon Schartz called “Using Blogs to Engage ELLs.” It is an inspiring piece complete with some practical tips
More on the Digital Divide
- An easy-to-read infographic from ASCD detailing the statistics related to the digital divide
- Edutopia’s Resource Roundup on the digital divide
- The Internet Public Library’s collection of resources and articles related to the digital divide and how some school systems are bridging the gap
- ReadWrite (a respected tech blog) chimes in on how smartphones are affecting the digital divide nationally and internationally
Written by: Tammy King