The education landscape is undergoing a continuous transformation, something I elaborate on in detail in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms. While not new in any sense, digital tools continue to play an immense role as they are constantly evolving. By understanding how these tools impact teaching and learning, educators can determine which ones to use and how to implement them effectively.
The changing formats and contexts of assignments have necessitated a corresponding evolution in assessment methods. With the online environment’s openness and the integration of game elements and real-time feedback, a wide range of assessment options have materialized. There are many options to create and implement various forms of formative assessment, which measures progress in ongoing learning rather than endpoints. With instant data reporting and analysis, educators can respond more effectively to learner needs.
Similar to how social media has redefined the notion of community, digital tools are also changing the dynamic between students and teachers, affecting how they interact and collaborate. For instance, online platforms for discussion threads and learning management systems (LMSs) alter how students engage in writing and project-based assignments. Collaborative exchanges among peers, teachers, authors, and mentors can turn a simple student writing product into a multifaceted and informative artifact. Moreover, when used appropriately, digital tools can also foster various dimensions of disruptive thinkers by empowering students to be creative scholars, reflective learners, active engagers, self-directed managers, and autonomous inquirers.
Once connected to the Internet, the opportunities to access information and resources are limitless. While projects still require substantive research, relevant synthesis, and audience-oriented approaches, students today can access tools that help them analyze and understand various representations from diverse disciplines and subjects, including texts, data, and photographs, in a world overflowing with information. While acquiring knowledge is plentiful, digital literacy is a must.
Ownership of Learning
John Dewey once stated that activities that truly engage students “give pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking or the intentional noting of connections; learning results “naturally.” The availability of numerous free digital tools now allows students to engage in such activities. By selecting appropriate tools, students can create artifacts that demonstrate their conceptual mastery while acquiring and applying essential skill sets. This process of choice not only increases engagement and authenticity but also adds value to the learning experience. When aligned with personalized pedagogy, harnessing the power of digital tools can help students take charge of their learning and become more self-directed in their education.
Flexible Use of Time
In many cases, digital tools provide an asynchronous response and inquiry platform, which is impossible in traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms. Whether written or video-based, online discussions offer diverse perspectives, collaborative opportunities, and time for contemplation and planning before responding. There is an array of personalized strategies where digital tools can be used to maximize the available use of time, including station rotation, choice activities, playlists, flipped lessons, and virtual courses. To learn more, check out this post.
While this list is not comprehensive, it provides a clear rationale for how digital tools can support and enhance learning in and out of the classroom. Purposeful use by the learner is vital. The Rigor Relevance Framework is a fantastic resource that can be leveraged when planning lessons, tasks, and assessments.
Don’t get caught up where a particular tool in the image is located. While a Word Doc can be used in a low rigor, low relevant way, it can also be used in a high rigor, high relevant fashion. It is how the tool is used to construct new knowledge and demonstrate understanding in various ways that genuinely matter.