I have been a first grade bilingual teacher in a self-contained classroom since August of 2015. So when I stopped and thought about my past in digital leadership, my mind went blank. But then I thought about my last two years at the University of Houston-Downtown where my courses were more explicitly focused on becoming a Texas educator. Although none of them incorporated the use and practice of technology, I got a glimpse of how I could implement it in the classroom-slowly, but surely. I mostly used applications by Microsoft. PowerPoint presentations were my specialty. I created presentations for reflections on scholarly articles, chapters in textbooks, sample classroom assessments such as vocabulary games like Jeopardy, classroom showcases, and a cumulative e-portfolio. Few presentations were also created in Windows Live Movie Maker. These consisted of virtual fieldtrips, digital story narratives, and content-based information. Unfortunately, very few of my technology-based assignments were as interactive as I had imagined and hoped they would be. Although I would consider some to be digitally learning, none I would consider digitally leading.
As I reflect on my present digital learning and leading, I use the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Teachers to assess myself. These five standards consist of (1) “facilitating and inspiring student learning and creativity,” (2) “designing and developing digital age learning experiences and assessments,” (3) “modeling digital age work and learning,” (4) “promoting and modeling digital citizenship and responsibility,” and (5) “engaging in professional growth and leadership” (ISTE, 2016).
The first standard emphasizes an importance in “creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness,” “exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems,” “using collaborative tools,” and “model[ing] collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning…with others” (ISTE, 2016). My school campus heavily promotes the use and integration of technology in the classroom. Consequently, I have explored and utilized Google applications such as Google Drive, and Google Docs for the storage of school-related documents. I have also utilized Kahoot!, Discovery Education, Flocabulary, YouTube, BrainPOP Jr., and other technology resources integrated within lessons-none of which are truly interactive. Within the use of these applications, there is some “facilitation” in student learning but little to no “inspiring student learning and creativity.” For this standard, I would assess myself as a beginner, especially since I am a first-year teacher and lack the years of experience, practice, and innovation.
The second standard relates to “design[ing] and develop[ing] digital age learning experiences and assessments” (ISTE, 2016). In my classroom, I use I-Station to assign tasks (but not design or create them) and assess my student’s learning. Every month, I use that data to determine their strengths and weaknesses in language arts and reading in both Spanish and English. Through I-Station, I am able to explicitly see the progress my students make and what tweaks I have to make if there is none. This second standard asks teachers to “design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources” and to “design or adapt relevant learning experiences, develop technology-enriched learning environments, customize and personalize learning activities, and provide students with multiple and varied…assessments.” For this standard, I would assess myself as intermediate because of all the technology-enriched resources I adapt to my lessons or “learning experiences” (this is what my principal likes to call them).
The third standard encourages teachers to “model digital age work and learning” (ISTE, 2016). For this standard, I can only think of my use of the application called Remind which used to be Remind 101. Through this application, I “communicate relevant information” to parents. They receive that information via the Remind application or SMS. I pat myself on the back because not only am I modeling the use of technology, I am also promoting the use of it.
The fourth standard asks teachers to “promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility” (ISTE, 2016). I can say that I have explicitly taught social studies lessons that teach “safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology” to my first grade students. I have integrated digital citizenship and responsibility in my language arts lessons where I model sending and receiving emails to another teacher. I have addressed the moral and ethics of information and communications via the Internet by integrating it in several lessons-many times improvised but effective.
The fifth and final standard has teachers “engage in professional growth and leadership” (ISTE, 2016). My first step in mastering this standard was creating a Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter. I use my professional Twitter account to “continuously improve [my] professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in [my] school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.” Not only do I have a PLN, I have also enrolled myself in a master’s program that will eventually lead me to be a well-taught leader in digital technology in education. And, I share all of this with my students. This allows them to see how an individual can voluntarily decide to grow both personally and professionally. This standard, I think, I have mastered and will continue to do so.
According to UNESCO’s ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (2011), the “successful integration of ICT into the classroom will depend on the ability of teachers to structure the learning environment in new ways, to merge new technology with a new pedagogy, to develop socially active classrooms, encouraging co-operative interaction, collaborative learning and group work.” When I reflect on my future digital learning and leadership, I think of how “different [the] set of classroom management skills” I will need in order to set and accomplish my goal of being an efficient and effective digital leader. For this goal, I am relying on the preparation that my master’s program will give me to further develop, model, and design technology-based educational practices.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE Standards Teachers.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2011). UNESCO ICT
COMPETENCY FRAMEWORK FOR TEACHERS. THE PRINCIPLES (pp. 6-8). Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002134/213475e.pdf