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The components of a digital-age learner ecosystem

This is a response to an article for my Master's Class.

 “An ecosystem is a system formed by the interaction of a community of living organisms with each other and their environment.” Tim Clark, an advisor to School CIO brings up a valid point about what all is involved in a successful digital learning environment. He came up with the categories listed in the picture below.

Tim’s comparison of a digital classroom with an ecosystem is spot on. The purpose of identifying the needs of a digital classroom ecosystem is to identify what facilitates a sustainable learning environment that endures over time and through adversity. In order to do so, teachers must encourage digital citizenship. Teachers usually model and encourage appropriate etiquette and responsible use of technology tools and resources.

Teachers should design lessons and units that encourage deeper levels of thinking using open ended questions and student based inquiry.  Students should have access to media such as primary source documents and videos as well as have the skills needed to search and sort through information. Teachers must use formative assessments, “Assessment for learning”. Teachers and students should be familiar with multiple tech learning tools and teachers should be using these tools to differentiate learning. The classroom environment must be supportive where students and teachers are collaborating together. Finally, teachers much use strategies that engage students and spark collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

Identifying these needs in a digital classroom is important because without these components, technology may not be fully integrated into the classroom. Out of these categories, the most important has to be having a supportive classroom environment and a sense of community. Students must be willing to work with each other as well as the instructor and feel safe in their learning environment. This is something that is evident in any classroom regardless of technology. Without engaging content, establishing lifelong learning habits will be very difficult.

I agree with a lot of what this article says. It is imperative for people to understand in order to successfully integrate technology into the classroom, it must change the learning environment, not just teaching styles. The focus of making technology a collaborative tool changes the classroom as well. Technology allows unplanned collaborations, something that fortune 500 companies base their company structures on, to allow students to be creative in ways the students might not have imagined on their own.

In District #140, I see this practice being put into place every day. Teachers are using technology tools for formative assessment such as plickers, SMART clickers, NearPod, and Socrative to help students assess their progress and allow them to improve before summative assessments. Many teachers use social media tools such as Twitter and Edmodo to communicate to students and students use these tools to collaborate with the teacher and with other students. At early grade levels we use the THINK model for digital etiquette, helping to establish a sense of community that is supportive and safe for students.

If teachers had to choose which category the district needs to improve on, it would be accessibility,  teaching strategies, and creating captivating digital content. Many teachers would like to see students having their own devices with a 1:1 program so that it is truly ubiquitous. Also teachers have asked for professional development on using digital tools in the classroom and keeping students engaged rather than burnt out on technology.


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