English Teacher as Researcher

Digital technology, the internet, has transformed our lives. Regardless of which side of the debate you are on, globally, the impact can not be undone. Here, a report by UNICEF, we can gather key facts and ideas about ‘Children in the Digital World’. Youth is the most connected age group. Digital technology can offer vast opportunities to our individual lives that increase connectivity, more so than what would traditionally be available. On the flip side, it can exacerbate the worst from human nature. From this report, I note it is important to mitigate the harms and harness the benefits digital technology can bring to young people’s lives.

According to UNICEF, “Taking a ‘Goldilocks’ approach to children’s screen time – not too much, not too little – and focusing more on what children are doing online and less on how long they are online, can better protect them and help them make the most of their time online.”

As an English teacher, the core of what I do is all about the art of storytelling. Exposing students to the stories of others while empowering them to believe in their own. I am concerned about preparing literate, critical thinking students, who are well-prepared for the everchanging future. Some of those goals are standards-aligned while others may not be.

I’d like to see more emphasis placed on digital literacies in the Common Core State Standards: ELA standards and feel the need to supplement curricula if I want to prepare future-ready digital citizens. I’m impressed with the DQ Framework for outlining competencies: Global Standards for Digital Literacy, Skills, and Readiness.

Digital technology has transformed youth but also the way I teach and facilitate learning. Below are some of my current go-to’s and all-time favorites.

Useful Links:

Cult of Pedagogy: One of my first encounters with a teacher who created content to support other teachers, packaged in her blog, podcast, videos, and store.

The Moth: Engages young people in storytelling and the story-listening process. They offer free K-12 curriculum resources for signed up teachers. I signed up recently and look forward to adding The Moth teacher community into my PLN.

myShakespeare: Has transformed the way I teach Shakespeare. It offers full-text, interactive editions of his plays with multimedia resources for the 21st-century student.

Book Creator: This is a simple tool to create e-books. Students can add audio, video, text, and images individually or collaboratively.

Purdue OWL: Longstanding favorite online resource for all things writing, anti-plagiarism and citation.

Global Oneness Project: Aims to explore cultural, environmental, and social issues through multimedia stories. Lesson plans and discussion guides are also available.

Does the current curriculum standards you work with place emphasis on digital literacy? Does your current school [culture] fully harness the benefits of digital technology while mitigating the risks?

Wholehearted Digital Citizen

While lurking through Eduro Learning’s Kim Cofino’s blog post, with bold confidence, she states, ” the person I am online is the real me.” That struck me and left me reflecting on how I construct my own online identity. Could I say the same: the online me is the real me? Can I be my authentic self and express all of those intricacies, online? I recognize that this is a complex matter and I spent a lot of time reflecting on these questions. At this point, I will say up front that I’m left more unsure than sure.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What do I know?

  • I, mostly, aim to stay private but within reach.
  • I spend about 95% of my time lurking.
  • I don’t have any friendships that are purely virtual, with whom I’ve met and maintained connections online.
  • I tend to compartmentalize aspects of my identity as per site. For example, Facebook is for old friends and family. Instagram is for cute photos of my life but mainly of my kids.
  • I worry about how the expression of self, online, impacts the way potential employers view me professionally.
  • I have used social media, especially Facebook, to grow and form new connections.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, in order for me to become less of a consumer and more of a creator I need to come to terms with how I value the digital self and being secure within my own digital self and being secure within my own online persona, taking me out of the depths of lurking.

“Vulnerabiltiy is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” -Brene Brown

Starting COETAIL is the path I chose to live out my educational philosophy, as a 21st-century teacher and learner. The digital divide is real and I want to always stay relevant for the new generation and to help others do the say. This is my journey toward being a wholehearted digital citizen.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Learning Goals

If I’m being honest, I learned about COETAIL a week ago today. I ‘discovered’ the community the same day I committed to the certificate. This is after months of searching for master’s programs, applied to one, was accepted, but decided to opt-out. I’m not indecisive. I just rack my brain with every if/then scenario possible while also paralyzing myself with anxiety planning the future. It’s a thing. With that being said, I’m fierce about growing as an educator. And as cliche, as it sounds, I want my classroom to model 21st century teaching and learning.

Integrating technology into my teacher toolkit is wonderful catalysis to enhance my practice. After looking at the ISTE standards for educators, I chose a few I’d like to focus on below. There are a lot of great ones and it’s hard to narrow them down. I found this digital poster which makes the process more accessible, in my opinion.

ISTE Standards in Focus:

3a Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.

3b Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.

4b Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.

5b Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.

6a Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.

7b Use technology to design and implement a variety of formative and summative assessments that accommodate learner needs, provide timely feedback to students and inform instruction.

For stackable certificate options, I selected COETAIL & GET. I hope this program will help me design learning activities and assessments that are authentic and engaging. As I feel more efficient in applying the standards in my own classroom, I’d like to help other teachers and school stakeholders do the same.

Learning Communities

In reflecting on my connections, my top 3 learning communities have been current and previous jobs (employment), Teach-Now and Facebook groups. 

I like collaborating with my school community for planning and bouncing ideas off of others. I recently switched schools and I’m the only English language arts teacher for upper secondary. I’m missing the opportunity to co-plan units with other English teachers. 

I turn to FB groups often to pick up new ideas, teaching strategies, resources, etc. I read testimonies from teachers and I imitate what I think might work for my students. Last year, I worked as a college and university counselor. It was new with many responsibilities. Seeking help, I joined a professional membership (IACAC) which allowed me to access their private page. It’s filled with all the resources needed to find the right answer. 

Teach-Now has also built a strong learning community. In Ulaanbaatar, I know 4 other teachers who have gone through TN to earn their teaching licenses. It’s been a community within a community, we are bonded with the common experience. 

Surprisingly, my undergraduate alma mater doesn’t show up as a big learning community. 

But, why COETAIL?

Hi, Brittany here. I’m an American and I call Greensboro, NC and Mongolia home. After graduating from UNC- Greensboro, I joined the Peace Corps in 2012. It was absolutely my dream job at the time and it led me to Mongolia. I found myself working in a village school in the Gobi. It was tough in the way any quintessential Peace Corps experience should be. That began my journey in international education. Fast forward 8 years, a husband, 2 daughters, and 3 schools later, I work as the high school ELA teacher at the American School of Ulaanbaatar.

I’m thrilled to find Cohort Online 12. COETAIL reminds me of the Teach-Now teacher preparation program I completed a few years ago. TN is also a cohort-based model, preparing tech-savvy teachers with a truly global feel. During that program, I started a Twitter account that I admittedly don’t keep up with, yet.

I saw a COETAIL alum being congratulated online for a new leadership position, which led me to research more. Instead of starting a master’s, I’m doing this. The thought of only reading academic articles and writing essays as “online learning” doesn’t appeal to me right now (or ever), but COETAIL does. I hope this community of learners will inspire me to be more innovative and design authentic and engaging experiences for my students.