5 strategies for developing digital literacy in a generation that takes tech for granted

It’s commonplace to be impressed when we hear of excellent test scores and educational backgrounds from top institutes, no matter the type of degree or accolades. However, preparing our kids with test-taking strategies and admission into the best universities is not enough–and will be an extinct ideology with the changing demands of society and global economy.

We need to begin preparing the next generation of learners with appropriate tools and digital literacy to thrive in the Digital Age. So, what should we do to ensure our kids are not operating at a disadvantage?

Related content: 8 qualities of a digital literacy curriculum

1. Stress the importance of coding and basic technology application skills. In today’s world, the “mother tongue”—or, better said, the “lingua franca”–is found in coding and basic tech skills needed to communicate with the devices in the Internet of Things. Any child not equipped to speak this new language of coding will be lost, as if they were in a foreign culture with no cultural language skills.

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So, you want to evaluate a tech tool?

In the world of instructional technology, evaluating a tech tool is widely misunderstood. School districts are under pressure to quantify the impact of technology integration on student achievement.

And that can lead to districts trying to draw a direct line between student achievement and a tech tool. Community members often ask, “Where is the data that shows that this works?” or “How do these devices raise test scores?”

These questions are certainly important, and I understand that parents and school leaders want to see their children meet their highest potential. However, there is this inconvenient truth: That is not how tools are measured.

Let me explain.

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Creating meaningful science experiences with data collection

The science team at North Kansas City Schools (NKC Schools) is always looking for innovative ways to engage students in hands-on, real-world learning opportunities. So, when our district was set to experience the total solar eclipse in 2017, we knew we wanted to maximize this natural phenomenon and create meaningful science experiences by having students participate in a full day of science exploration and a variety of data-collection investigations.

Total solar eclipse

Our district was located in the path of 100 percent totality, meaning our students and staff had the opportunity to experience all the eclipse had to offer. Teachers at all 30 of our schools planned special events for the day, including numerous cross-curricular and technology-enabled data-driven activities.

Related content: How to get students interested in STEM

Leading up to the event, for example, students read cultural explanations of eclipses in social studies classes, read myths about eclipses and wrote their own myth in English classes, and calculated the rate of rotation and the period of rotation for the sun in math classes.

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5 strategies to navigate the future of learning

Advances in smart technologies and the knowledge needed to power them are paving the way for new kinds of educational opportunities–and a new guide offers a look at five strategies that will prove instrumental to the future of learning.

The resource from KnowledgeWorks notes that educators are in a unique position to help students build the employability skills that will support them as they embrace lifelong learning.

Related content: 3 changes that can help the class of 2030 succeed

As educators understand the drivers of change shaping the future of learning, they also should consider potential implications and the kinds of opportunities and challenges they could present. The guide is intended to help educators uncover their ideals for the future of learning, and to identify how those ideals can help stakeholders move forward on a shared vision.

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3 keys to cultivating the maker mindset

When we dreamed of starting construction on a space where teachers and students alike could cultivate a maker mindset, our goals went beyond creating a dedicated makerspace. We wanted to empower our community, assure students that they were valued as individuals, and offer them opportunities to develop empathy and agency as problem-finders and creative problem-solvers.

We knew we could accomplish this with a designated space that celebrated creativity, emphasized process over product, and highlighted the importance of reflection. We set out to design a space where students could not only develop a design thinking philosophy, but integrate this maker mindset into their core studies.

Related content: 9 ways schools can create better makerspaces

What was formerly a conference room turned into a makerspace with plenty of windows and glass doors so anyone driving through our campus can see our space and, more importantly, our students’ creations. Here’s how we’re helping our entire school community develop a maker mindset.

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Why cybersecurity training programs are critical

As more and more schools are implementing cybersecurity training programs, the role of IT leaders in the K-12 environment is changing from a technology focus to a more strategic focus on the enablement of digital learning and digital transformation.

However, this is new territory for most schools, and they feel the need for guidance on how to begin. What questions do educational institutions need to ask, and what kind of opportunities can be achieved after students receive certifications?

Related content: 5 best practices for starting a cybersecurity training program

Changing the cybersecurity training model

In the 2015-2016 global survey of IT professionals by Enterprise Strategy Group, 42 percent of organizations reported a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills. Concern over finding skilled cybersecurity talent has grown every year since then. By 2019, the number had grown to 53 percent.

This concern and the reality behind it are growing faster than traditional four-year colleges and universities can remedy on their own. Though higher education should of course continue its efforts, cybersecurity training needs to start in kindergarten and continue all the way through high school in order to raise up a security-savvy generation – some of whom will become tomorrow’s much-needed cybersecurity professionals.

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30+ new tools and services we saw at ISTE 2019

Another ISTE has come and gone–were you in Philadelphia for ISTE 2019? If not, don’t worry–we’re highlighting some of the newest and most innovative edtech tools we saw at the show.

Coding and robotics (check out our ISTE 2019 robotics round-up), social and emotional learning, and building employability skills were at the top of the many trends and focus areas highlighted during the conference.

It was nearly impossible to see and attend everything the conference had to offer, and many educators who couldn’t attend followed keynotes with the #ISTE19 hashtag (they also threw in a #NotAtISTE tag for good measure).

We’ve rounded up some of the biggest trends, news, and tools to help you organize your post-ISTE 2019 thoughts.

Achieve3000, provider of differentiated instruction, released details about its forthcoming collection of original, differentiated fiction. Designed for K-8 students, each fictional story is precision differentiated and contains five to seven engaging “episodes” to inspire and spark a joy of reading in all students.

Related content: More than 40 new things we saw at ISTE 2018

Age of Learning recently launched ReadingIQ, an advanced digital library for children 12 and under with thousands of high-quality books, all curated by experts to advance literacy. As with Age of Learning’s ABCmouse, ReadingIQ is available at no cost to teachers for classroom use.

bulb Digital Portfolios, a learning tool for students and teachers, announced that embedded Google files will replicate as PDFs and be stored for life in their bulb Asset Library. The company also released updates to commenting, analytics, badging and credentialing. Launching later this summer is bulb’s newest Google integration, which will replicate and store embedded Google Drive files as PDF’s in their bulb Asset Library. It will allow users to keep content after losing access to a school-based Google account.

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Modernizing student evaluation in 3 steps

The Algoma District School Board (ADSB), located in Ontario, Canada, serves a diverse group of 9,400 students across 39 elementary and 10 secondary schools. Through our strategic priorities of achievement, well-being and engagement, we seek to graduate confident learners, caring citizens.

For the past number of years, our district has focused on diagnostic and formative assessment, and how to plan curriculum that implements deeper learning, while ensuring that teachers are equipped with the resources they need to assist every student.

Related content: How we built an immersive learning environment

Our district uses the School Effectiveness Framework (SEF), a tool that is based on best practices, to help us effectively monitor, reflect and gather teacher data throughout our system. In October 2017, we conducted a district-wide (SEF) survey among teachers, and results found that the most urgent learning need was support on assessments.

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How we turned around our disciplinary infraction rate

Demographics

Cordata Elementary School is a 400-student public school serving grades PreK-5 in the Bellingham School District in Washington. The school has the highest percentage of English Language Learners in the district at 33 percent; and 68 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-priced lunch.

Biggest Challenges

A few years ago, Cordata Elementary School was experiencing a high number of disciplinary referrals. Our school was also ranked the highest-need school in the district based on students’ scores on early childhood assessments. The assessments measured areas such as social-emotional learning, language, numeracy, and large motor skills. We knew that in order to help our students achieve academically and reduce discipline rates; we needed to find a way to address students’ non-academic needs.

Related content: How SEL inspired a transformation in my school

Solution

Our solution was to develop an intensive intervention model centered around social-emotional learning (SEL) that would allow us to intervene early with students who needed targeted social-emotional support and monitor their progress over time. The initiative included multiple components including adding staff, implementing training programs, adopting an SEL assessment and using a team approach.

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3 ways to combine trauma-informed teaching with SEL

When trauma goes unacknowledged by caring adults, students can feel suffocated by the burden of their experience. Research shows that traumatic experiences can drastically hinder students’ academic development, and that “children who have three or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are three times more likely to experience academic failure, five times more likely to have attendance problems, and six times more likely to have behavioral problems than those with no ACEs.“

These findings, coupled with the fact that almost half of the students in the U.S. have experienced at least one or more traumatic experiences presents a significant barrier to academic success for a large population of students.

Related content: 3 ways our school is fighting back against trauma

As educators, we work with a diverse group of students, not only in the range of their academic abilities, but also in their various experiences and social-emotional needs. The goal of trauma-informed teaching is to help all students feel known and supported. And the good news is that today, we know that using trauma-informed teaching strategies can benefit all students, regardless of their experiences.

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