In the ISTE standard 3 for teachers, it is important for teachers to “exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society” (ISTE, 2015). In this standard, teachers need to be able to demonstrate fluency in technology systems and use that fluency in the transfer to new situations, collaborate with peers, parents, and community members with digital tools, and communicate relevant information using technology, (ISTE, 2015). The fourth part of the ISTE standard talks about using digital tools for finding, analyzing, and using information resources to support research and learning, and this is what I chose to focus on this week. For this standard, my guiding question was:
In an increasingly technology-rich world, how can I use common digital tools for collaboration between community members, teachers, parents, and students so that student learning is enriched with local and global resources?
During this course, I have been very interested in how I can incorporate technology into my classroom without putting an enormous strain on some students while making it much easier for others (for example, with the digital divide as a big factor). There is evidence to suggest that in many cases, students may not have access to computers but they do have access to smartphones and the internet (Goodman, 2013). So for my question about ISTE standard 3, I wanted to find something that was accessible by more people, allowed for communication, and also enriched student learning in an impactful way.
My solution was a tool that many people don’t think of as very educative: Skype. Largely used for communicating, Skype doesn’t appear to be very useful to a classroom at first glance. However, as a member of my learning circle suggested, there are many useful ways to incorporate Skype beyond what I was imagining, making it a wonderful tool for collaboration, connection, and learning (Marshal, 2015). One of the ideas I liked best from this resource was that parent-teacher conferences could be held via Skype. Although this may not be possible or practical, it gave me the thought that rather than worry about parents getting emails or newsletters, if I needed to speak directly with a parent, I have another outlet that may be easier and more personal than a note or phone call.
Skype can also be used to enrich student learning. In a study on transferring familiarity with new technologies to educational environments (Kumar & Vigul, 2011), one preservice teacher commented on online videos used in classes “to see real examples of teachers teaching in real classrooms using different methods being talked about. While it’s always an option to read about teaching and talk about teaching, the videos provide a real life example to see implementation of practice.” This same thought can be transferred to much younger students, who are learning about local or global topics. If a class is having a unit on tectonic plates, then what an amazing way to demonstrate the power of the earth’s movements by contacting a tour company in Iceland to take you on a “field trip” to Thingvellir and Silfra, places where the diverging North American and European tectonic plates are visible from the surface. Not only do they get to see what it’s like, but they can interact with their field guide and ask questions, share what they know, and make connections between their learning and a place halfway across the world. In addition, Skype can be used to connect two classrooms. In my classroom, I plan to have “pen pals”, except I would like to use the practice as a way to get my students to practice typing. I can enrich their experience by including occasional Skype calls with the classroom we write to, allowing students to experience what school is like in other parts of the world. One concern with this is the time differences, making it impossible to have conversations with some regions, but I feel that the benefits of speaking even to a classroom across the country can greatly improve student communication and learning.
Though not a tool for everyday communication between parents, teachers, students, and colleagues, Skype is a wonderful addition for enriching student learning and experience. It allows for collaboration between classrooms and teachers, offers an alternative way of communication that may be more personal for some parents, ensures the teacher is staying current with communication technologies, and allows for potential virtual field trips and visitors to enhance learning on a topic.
Goodman, J. 18 August, 2013. The digital divide is still leaving Americans behind. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2013/08/18/digital-divide/
ISTE (2015). ISTE standards: Teachers. Retrieved from: http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_ISTE_Standards-T_PDF.pdf
Kumar, S., Vigil, K., (2011). The net generation as preservice teachers: Transferring familiarity with new technologies to educational environments. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27(4), 144 – 153.
Marshal, J. (7 February, 2015). ISTE Standard 3. [Comment 3 on Meghan Welsh]. Message posted to: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/111058430962704146204/stream/c08ea841-0e78-4ca8-b2f4-3d5c3fb4ae2c