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Digital Literacy in the Elementary Classroom

Professional Development for Kindergarten Teachers


Paper with Companion Blog,
http://digitalliteracyintheelementaryclassroom.weebly.com/
Caroline Tritschler
LLED 7110E, Fall 2014

My Project Objective/Purpose and Description of Participants:


Throughout this semester, my professional readings and
discussions with peers have led me to be more passionate about the
importance of digital literacy in the early childhood classroom. For my
final project, I have decided to create a professional development
opportunity to teach my colleagues about the ways that digital
reading, digital writing, and social media should permeate the
elementary classroom. This paper will help provide evidence for my
belief that we as teachers must take advantage of the opportunities
that we have to educate our students for the future. If we are busy
preparing students for the past, our work is essentially useless. We
must become passionate about preparing our students to learn in
environments that provide opportunities for them to learn to be digital
readers and writers of the 21st Century.
As a companion to this paper, I have created a blog that will be the
outline of my presentation to my peers. The goal of my paper is to
provide my thoughts as to why preparing our students through digital
literacy is a must, using my insights into professional readings of this
semester. Then, my blog will provide instruction to my peers on the
use of tools/apps/programs, to teach them the ways that they can
easily and effectively integrate technology into their literacy
classrooms.

Through this professional development project, I hope to further


develop the digital literacy skills of my early childhood educator
colleagues. It is my hope that they will incorporate what they learn
about digital literacy in their classrooms. My three main focuses for
professional development will be ways to integrate digital reading,
digital writing, and social media in the elementary classroom using a
variety of tools, apps, or programs.
My blog is outlined so that it explains the different ways that one
can use different types technology with elementary-aged students. I
will use my blog as the guide for my presentation to my peers. My
focus will specifically be for the kindergarten classroom, and my
instruction will be provided based on the tools that I have used with my
students. The student learning objectives, teacher learning objectives,
and the resources needed are also outlined in each section of the blog
pertaining to that particular tool that I explain.
My presentation to my kindergarten team will occur during a
team meeting. I originally anticipated the professional development
opportunity to be one hour, but as I gathered all that I wanted to teach,
I realized it might take several meetings to introduce all of my ideas to
my team. Ideally, I will introduce something to my team each week,
and then allow them to use it in their classroom. Then, we will come
back together for a discussion/troubleshooting session each week. I
have organized my blog into 5 different sections/pages: Listen to

Reading Center- Digital Reading, Haiku Deck for Digital Writing,


VoiceThread for Digital Writing, Popplet App- Mindmapping for Digital
Writing, and Twitter- Exploring Social Media. I have organized it so that
I can introduce each page or section during a weekly team meeting.
This way, I will have five weeks to teach my peers and allow time for
their own exploration of these tools in the classroom. All tools are
outlined for use in the kindergarten classroom, but I think they could
easily be adapted to work in any elementary classroom. The subjects
on which I will focus will be reading and writing.
I will begin my professional development presentation by
presenting to 9 other colleagues on my kindergarten team. We teach
at a private elementary school that begins at age 3 and goes to 6th
Grade. The students come from a variety of cultural backgrounds, but
most are from middle-upper class family backgrounds. My school fully
supports the use of technology in the classroom, and most teachers
are relatively proficient in technology. My school is a place that
believes in the importance of professional development and always
being constant learners. I see this project as a way to teach my peers
new ways to integrate technology effectively into their classrooms. I
do think that my colleagues are relatively proficient in technology,
some more than others. There are certain areas of technology that we
all must know how to use because it is an expectation from
administration, such as the use of Evernote for digital portfolios, the

use of classroom blogs, and the use of educational apps in the


classroom. However, the tools that I have chosen are tools that I know
others on my team have not yet used.
Many colleagues use Twitter as a professional tool to connect
with other teachers and share news with parents, but no one has used
it as a digital writing experience with their young students. From my
knowledge of my colleagues and the constant learning environment
of my school, I feel that most will welcome this opportunity to learn
about new ways to incorporate technology in literacy. As I become
more comfortable suggesting ways that technology can be integrated
at other grade levels in addition to the one I teach, I would later like to
offer my experiences and knowledge with other teachers at my school
at other grade levels.

My Definition of Digital Literacy:


It seems that today, as an adult, I most often read and write
digitally. Whether it is on the phone, Kindle, laptop, or iPad, reading
and writing is no longer something done with just paper and pencil. As
the future progresses, our students will only read and write digitally
even more than they do today. For this reason, it is critical that our
students learn in a way that best prepares them for their future. I have
learned through this course that we must seek to understand ways that

digital literacy can enhance our students learning and help them to be
informed producers and consumers of their worlds.
In their extensive review of research about technology, learning,
and literacy, Warschauer and Ware (2008) explain that our digital world
is growing at a rapid pace. Our perspective should recognize the
emergence of new digital literacies that focus not only on the
foundational skills of reading and writing, but also on the skills,
knowledge, and attitudes that enable complex ways of getting and
making meaning from multiple textual and symbolic sources
(Warschauer and Ware, 2008, p. 215). Foundational skills in reading
and writing are so critical for our students in the elementary years, but
I have also seen how reading and writing does not just mean paper and
pencil anymore. Rather, students of all ages are reading and making
meaning of words combined with images, video, audio, etc. It is never
too early for our students to gain exposure and experience of the types
of reading and writing that they will need in their futures. I will be the
first one to tell you the importance of foundational early reading and
writing skills. These skills can be learned in traditional ways, but also
through digital media. Understanding the importance of digital literacy
in the lives of our students today cannot be ignored in the classroom.
In his forward to Hicks (2013) Crafting Digital Writing,
Christopher Lehman explains that technology is an integral part of
strong literacy teaching and learning (Hicks, 2013, p. vii). Being

digitally literate students today means being able to be engaged in


digital reading and writing forms that surround our lives. Vasquez and
Felderman explain that it is crucial for educators at all levels of
schooling to take charge of reshaping curriculum and pedagogy in
relation to technology (2013, p. 97). If we leave technology out of our
students learning by not giving them opportunities to be digitally
literate citizens, we are preparing them for a past in which they will
never live.

The Rationale for Digital Reading and Writing in the Elementary


Classroom:
Through reading and writing, students begin to form their
identities and seek understanding of the world. We know that the
teaching of reading and writing of yesterday requires some of the same
skills of teaching digital reading and writing today. However, some
new skills are needed so that our students are able to participate in
their digital world. For example, teaching our students to pay
attention to how we pay attention, especially when we are online, is
skill that is not inherently there (Hicks, 2013, p. 33). Hicks says that
the question is no longer whether we should use technology to teach
writing; instead we must focus on the many ways that we must use
technology to teach writing (Hicks, 2013, p. 2). However, we as
teachers must be cautious to not use technology in our classroom just

for the sake of using it. Like with anything we teach, we must make
deliberate decisions that are best for our students. Thinking about the
learning outcomes for our students is something that I am careful to do
as I think about the goals I want to achieve through each learning
activity that uses technology. In their research about using technology
for building early literacy skills, Northrop and Killeen (2013) explain
that technology needs to be used in a careful and deliberate way to
ensure learning and development of early literacy skills (2013, p.
531). While the tools we use to aid our teaching of reading and writing
may have changed, the job of the teacher to be supportive, engaging,
and deliberate in his/her teaching has not changed just because of the
use of technology.
The use of technology to enhance our students writing not only
helps them become more engaged in their learning, but Hicks also
says that Now more than ever the options for creating web-based
presentations allow students the kind of variety they need to both
differentiate instruction and employ a variety of multimedia sources
(Hicks, 2013, p. 61). We should be excited about the tools that can
enhance our students voice as a writer. While more digital writing
may occur at older grade levels, we cannot keep it from happening in
early elementary classrooms. Vasquez and Felderman explain that
with technology, there continues to be a resistance to its use in early
childhood settings (Vasquez and Felderman, 2013, p. 11). I would

definitely agree that it can be difficult for some teachers to embrace


technology in the classroom. For this reason, I really like the idea of
opening up each PD session by asking my colleagues discussion
questions about the ways that they (or other educators that they
know) have resistance or fear about the use of technology in young
classrooms. You will see these discussion questions outlined in each
section of my blog. I think that discussing why teachers think these
fears exist will be helpful to break down barriers before we go on this
journey of learning about how to incorporate technology in the
kindergarten classroom. Some may argue that digital reading and
writing is not traditional school reading and writing. Some might
have fear of the unknown or of learning something new. Some might
argue that social media can be unsafe for our students. Some might
argue that the youngest students need to start with just paper and a
pencil. I think that this professional development opportunity will allow
teachers to see the ways that technology can help our students grow
as successful, engaged, and authentic readers and writers. We know
that even our youngest students can thrive through digital writing and
digital reading.
In addition to engaging our students in digital writing to keep up
with the ever-changing technology in our worlds, teaching them to
read digitally is equally important. Previously in this class, I had to
think about my understanding of digital reading in the elementary

classroom. I came to the conclusion that all students, regardless of


age, must learn effective digital reading skills for the 21st Century. All
readers bring prior experience, background knowledge, and skills to
the digital reading process. Skills such as decoding, fluency, and
comprehension are needed for the digital reading process, and
students need practice with the skills by interacting with digital texts.
Digital reading should begin with early literacy learning and should
continue through the end of schooling and beyond.
Through the use of ebooks, iPads, and laptops, we can scaffold
our learners to be digital readers of their worlds. Whether adults agree
with it or not, young people gravitate to digital media (Hillman &
Marshall, 2009, p. 260). Reading digitally can keep readers engaged,
help them to build their identities, and even help struggling readers
succeed. I agree when Hicks tells us that Today, many forms of media
surround us and, in various ways, invite us to read, listen, view, click,
as well as---with the advent of smart phones and tables---tap and
touch (Hicks, 2013, p. 104). Providing opportunities for our students
to read and comprehend digital texts is critical at all grade levels. On
my blog, I outlined the use of the following tools/ideas to help my
audience engage their students in digital reading and writing:
Resources for students to listen to digital reading, Haiku Deck,
VoiceThread, and Popplet.

The Rationale for Social Media in the Elementary Classroom:


When doing my Tool Review project this semester, I wanted to
dive deeper into ways to use social media in the classroom. I had
personally used Twitter to network with other teachers, parents, and
friends. However, I wanted to find ways that my young students could
use it too. Teaching our students to read the world critically through
social networking, as well as develop their identities and share their
ideas with others can be adjusted to fit the needs of a teacher and
his/her students. As students learn to communicate and understand
the world around them, I believe tools such as Twitter can be useful in
many ways as they become fluent in digital literacies. Because our
students live in such a connected world today, Hicks explains that the
ways which we invite students to use social networks to share their
own work and communicate with others matters a great deal (Hicks,
2013, p. 137). There is no doubt that our students will be connected to
others through social media. Thus, it is our job to help them become
responsible digital media citizens.
Our goal should be for students to have opportunities to engage
in the same types of reading and writing activities inside of school that
they will engage in outside of school. If school is not a safe place to
learn responsible ways to use social media, where will our students
learn? I learned that social media is the way that our students
communicate with each other; therefore, we can help students be

more intentional in the ways they employ these tools to link to online
resources, comment on others status messages, and contribute to the
wider discourse on what they value on their lives (Hicks, 2013, p.
139). There is no such thing as starting too young, as we think about
ways that our students will contribute their ideas to the larger world,
connect with others, and read critically. Hicks reminds us that As we
think about how to help students participate responsibly, represent
themselves ethically, and develop and overall online persona, social
networking can be one part of the broader digital writing process
(Hicks, 2013, p. 139). Reading and writing through social media in the
classroom is an authentic task that provides an opportunity for literacy
learning even for our youngest students. You will see on my blog that I
included a session in my professional development to help teachers
think of ways to use Twitter and social media in their classrooms with
their students.

Instructional Plan
(http://digitalliteracyintheelementaryclassroom.weebly.com/):
On my companion blog to this paper, you will see the resources
and ideas I have gathered to use to teach my colleagues about
integrating technology into the elementary classroom. They are things
I have learned through this class and things I have learned in my own
teaching. I will present this information through the blog. I chose to do

it this way so that it is a resource they can always go back to as they


continue to teach. With the instructions for using each tool, you will
find the resources needed for each activity idea as well as the student
learning objectives for the technology used. Like I mentioned
previously, I have decided to open up each session by asking one or
two questions about the use of technology. I hope that these opening
questions will encourage dialogue and self-reflection about the use of
technology in the literacy classroom, before we dive into learning
about a new technology tool or idea. I have also included iSTE-T
standards for teachers as a way of self-assessing our work during this
professional development. Please find the next section of this paper
at my blog address:
http://digitalliteracyintheelementaryclassroom.weebly.com

Assessment and Conclusion:


I am hoping to present my ideas to the other Kindergarten teachers on
my team when we return to school in January after winter break. We
will work together in each meeting to explore a new use of technology
that can be used to teach literacy in the classroom. I do not anticipate
any concerns from parents about the use of these technology tools. I
have talked to administrators previously about our policy when it
comes to the use of technology and social media. For example, I know
that our parents have all signed documents that allow students to be in

photographs on social media. Also, our teachers understand that


names cannot be used in open, social media accounts. In order to
assess the information, I will have my team members play with the
new technology and explore in their own classrooms with their
students. I will encourage them to come back to each meeting with
feedback, questions, and ideas to share with other teammates. I
anticipate that with technology, there will always be times when
something is not working the way we had hoped. Also, when learning
new technology, there can be a fear of the new and unknown.
However, the great thing is that we will be learning together and
exploring new ways to help our students become digitally literate
students. I am hopeful that my opening discussion questions will
encourage authentic dialogue among my colleagues about the use of
technology in our classrooms. I am looking forward to learning about
the ways that my peers take their new uses of technology and apply
them in their classrooms. Although I included some iSTE-T standards
for teachers on my blog, I think the true assessment for this
professional development is the way that my peers take what they
have learned and apply it to enhance their own students learning. We
are all in this together as we prepare our students for their futures.

Resources

Hicks, T. (2013). Crafting Web Texts. In crafting digital writing:


Composing texts across media and genres. Portsmith, NH:
Heinemann.
Northrop, L., & Killeen, E. (2013). A framework for using iPads to build
early literacy skills. The Reading Teacher, 66 (7), 531-537.
Vasquez, V. & A. Felderman C. (2013). Technology and critical literacy
in early childhood. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Warschauer, M., & Ware, M. (2008). Learning, change, and power:
Competing discourses of technology and literacy. In J. Coiro, M.,
Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. J. Leu (Eds.) Handbook of research on
new literacies (pp. 215-240) . New York: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates.