Encouraging Teachers to Open the Door to Digital Literacies in their Classrooms

Last week I had written about the need for teachers to adopt strategies into their classrooms that would allow for students to have the opportunity to build a proficiency in ‘new’ literacies that will undoubtedly be an asset in their future education, as well as in a workplace environment. (See: Four Strategies Every Teacher Needs…)

The best part I felt about Kist’s list was that all the strategies he recommends do not require any teacher to jump blindfolded off a cliff in the hopes something will catch them from plummeting into a techno-distopian pit of stress and uncertainty, because, as you all know (you’re all teachers reading this right??) teachers have reservations towards everything. And rightfully so.

That pit is deeeep….

I think teachers like to question 1) any new initiative being brought in as to whether how successful the new strategy is in terms of students actually benefiting, and; 2) “How much extra work is this going to add to my plate?”  The second reason sounds so selfish compared to the first, but honestly, this happens. And it’s not so selfish when you think about how much work every teacher is putting into their lessons, classrooms, students, extra-curr., etc. I can’t think of a single teacher, except for Harry Wong, who doesn’t stay before or after school to finish work, and still brings things home to work on later that evening.

Rant aside, teachers have been burned in the past with board initiatives that don’t mesh with their own teaching style, or are a passing fad that doesn’t have the same positive effect as a different approach.

I recently attended a screencast presentation where, due to technical glitches, much of the presentation was unintelligible. During the presentation, the screencaster had mentioned that the following day he would have an updated version and a step by step pdf available on his website that anyone has access to. This experience had me wondering, is this something that those attending mandatory tech PD are likely to experience? Woudn’t it have been better to make a more polished version the first time around, offer the pdf, and not hold a specific time, often outside of school hours?

The great thing about our current tech is that we have the ability to offer PD on anyone’s own time, without the restriction of place. This keeps teachers in the classroom, but opens up the debate as to whether this new freedom also places further pressure on teachers to use more time outside of school hours to commit to learning new strategies; time which is likely already allocated into PLC times, or PD time during school PD days.

True dat…

Here’s the viable option I came up with. Thanks to the flexibility of webinars and screencasts, instead of locking teachers into a specific time that doesn’t fit into an already busy work schedule (which undoubtably breeds contempt towards the new pd being introduced), why not instead offer pre-made tutorials that teachers can access and interact with during times that are set aside for them? As my major project I have taken on the responsibility of rolling out the digital citizenship curriculum for my school. As part of this, I have started creating a series of screencasts that will allow for the different PLC pods in my school to learn how to set up tools like Google Drive and Google Classroom in their own classrooms. I have started at this point because, going back to Kist’s article, integrating digital literacy into the classroom needn’t necessarily rely on technologically savvy individuals; rather it should be something that is easy to implement, while at the same time supporting the more ‘traditional’ literacies that are already the focus of classrooms everywhere.

Giving teachers the opportunity to try out these new classroom tools, in a straightforward way, in a way that fits with their schedule will hopefully provide a stress free way for teachers to try and see that the tech isn’t as intimidating as possible.

The first tutorial I made was on Google Drive. This has recently become very easy to access, thanks in part to RBE synching up our work webmail accounts with Google. Suddenly, getting students (and teachers) to memorize TWO user names and passwords isn’t a problem; anyone logging into Drive only needs to remember the one password that gets you into the RBE network. In the past this has been the biggest hesitancy with teachers, as it used to be a huge pain to try and get every student logged into their accounts. I made the screencast as streamlined as possible, and purposely tried to keep it brief, only showing the basics, along with some editing options. Since sharing it with my staff, I have had some positive feedback from teachers who haven’t tried using it in their classroom, and said that the tutorial made it a lot easier to understand, and that they will try using it as well.

The second tutorial was around Google Classroom, and again was short, streamlined, and catered to teachers. I focused on how to set up your Classroom, and how to set up assignments, along with some of the benefits I have found since using this tech in my classroom.

The next tutorials I will be making will be a screencast on Read & Write for Google, as well as a easy to understand video for teachers about the SK Digital Citizenship Curriculum.

Through the making of the screencasts, initially I felt very uncomfortable, but slowly have come around to it’s use. I think that, going back to getting teachers to buy into incorporating these tools, and the curriculum, videos are going to be the best bang for my buck. Throwing on a video seems to offer more interest, and it’s condensed nature will allow for more teachers to give it a try, even if while they watch it while marking, or multitasking in the ways teachers are best at.

Would you prefer this over a set meeting? Would you still buy in and do the PD? Let me know what you think!


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