Friday, 14 June 2013

Translating Literacy Development Best Practices to the World of Digital Work Using Hapara's Teacher Dashboard and Google Apps - Part 1

As a lead educator on the Hapara team, inspired by the opportunities and challenges presented by
the forthcoming Common Core assessments in the United States, I am re-reading an ed school classic, Improving Adolescent Literacy, by Fisher and Frey. It occurred to me as I began reading, that for schools making the 1:1 transition, there will be some significant adjustment of our tried and true best practices from the paper and pencil world to the digital one. Consequently, I have attempted here to suggest how some of the research-supported, best practices identified by Fisher and Frey for promoting student literacy in reading and writing might translate into the Google Apps world, supported by Teacher Dashboard.

Not surprisingly, in most cases the translation is quite simple, and the digital workplace offers added opportunities for student engagement and more frequent formative assessment by teachers. I briefly address below how Lewison, Flint and VanSluy's work on critical literacy might translate into the digital world of work in Google Apps facilitated by Hapara's Teacher Dashboard.

Fisher and Frey cite the work of Lewison, Flint, and Van Sluys on critical literacy. According to the authors, there are four dimensions of promoting critical literacy in developing learners. Each of these dimensions takes simple mechanical reading and writing skills a necessary step further to promote thinking at a level that is essential for higher level cognitive function.

  1. Disrupting the commonplace
  2. Interrogating multiple viewpoints
  3. Focussing on sociopolitical issues
  4. Taking action and promoting social justice

The first two of these dimensions can be facilitated easily in the classroom by a skilled educator. The latter two are sometimes neglected simply because they require significant time allocation. Exploring sociopolitical issues in reading and writing, let alone taking action and promoting social justice, require commitment, thought and time to execute. U.S. educators are too familiar with the loss we have experienced in recent years as a consequence of content driven standards that are long and thin. The Common Core may offer an opportunity to reclaim the classroom activity that put us deeply into the territory of the latter two of these four dimensions of critical literacy.

Google Apps and Hapara, in turn, offer educators the opportunity to structure learning time for students that inhabits all four dimensions identified above. Structured internet searches driven by shared docs, sites, or teacher blogs can be a great way to put teacher-curated, current content in front of students. Google forms are a great way to sample student understanding as they react to teacher presentations, or explore articles, videos, interactive websites about a topic that has gravity for them. Student blogs for any age, and Google Plus for high school students are an excellent way for students to socially share their perspective and test their opinions in the court of their peers.

Teacher Dashboard empowers educators to push the limits of what they have been able to do in the world of digital work with their students. ‘Just in time’ feeds of student work in Drive, posts in Blogger and Google Plus, and social commenting, allow teachers to monitor recent and ongoing activity. The dashboards give educators confidence that their students are productive when given the freedom to pursue their own learning in a trajectory and on a time scale that best suits each of them individually. Hapara's Remote Control function allows teachers to monitor the real-time activity of students in their browsers, assuaging fears that they are off task, and facilitating teacher-student collaboration (in class) at a level that simply did not exist prior to cloud-based productivity tools.

This current time in history presents an incredible opportunity for technology to finally deliver on the long held promise of enabling students to learn at a pace that is consistent with their capabilities, and with a focus that is consistent with their interests.

1 comment:

  1. The dashboards give educators confidence that their students are productive when given the freedom to pursue their own learning....

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