Monday, July 1, 2013

Common Core Standards, Digital Learning…and ELLs?

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

More on the Digital Divide

Written by: Tammy King



  1. I am preparing my ELL students to be 21st century learners. With new immigrants that come to the USA the digital divide is even more wide spread than ever. It is a war with the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.I hold a M.Ed. in ESL and finishing a M.Ed. in Educational Technology. I have built ELL WIKIs, WebQuests with WIDA standards, Diigo, Moodle and many more ways to engage my ELLs. But until we are held accountable as teachers, have AYP for not implementing technology it will not happen. All you need is one teacher who is not afraid to reach students at their level of engagement. I have heard from so many teachers that they are too old to learn. I am a grandmother and have to be a step above the students. If I can learn and push myself for a M.Ed. in technology, not to change careers but be the best ESL teacher , than anyone can.

    1. Dear Renee,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences and desire to be a lifelong learner on behalf of your students! What are some of your favorite resources, websites, etc? Can you share a tip (or two) on how our readers can incorporate more technology when working with ELLs?