How Tech Can Support Learner Diversity

For the last month, I’ve participated in a book study around Effective Digital Learning Environments by Jo Williamson, Ph.D as part of the ISTE EdTech Coaches Network. Williamson not only introduces the reader to the ISTE Standards for Coaches, she provides an extensive set of examples for the standards’ supporting elements and relates each to the coaching rubric. Each day the network participants respond to a prompt using the hashtag #ETCoaches on Twitter. This is the first extended slow-chat that I have participated in, and I’m really enjoying the flexibility.

This week the book club is focused on a topic near to my little edtechie heart, Digital Citizenship.  And today we are looking specifically at the third element (c below) of standard 5 in order to answer Q27: How can tech support learner diversity?

5. Digital Citizenship :  Technology coaches model and promote digital citizenship.

a. Model and promote strategies for achieving equitable access to digital tools and resources and technology-related best practices for all students and teachers
b. Model and facilitate safe, healthy, legal, and ethical uses of digital information and technologies
c. Model and promote diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness by using digital age communication and collaboration tools to interact locally and globally with students, peers, parents, and the larger community

I wanted to share the standard because it helps to see the question in context.  Here we see the focus is less about diversity in learning style preference and more about cultural responsiveness. Because 140 characters wasn’t going to be enough, I thought my slow-chat response could take the form of a blog post. So here we go…

A27: In thinking about today’s question I went back to some of my guiding resources around culturally responsive teaching. The book shared some valuable resources and to those I would add Equity Alliance and this post from Cult of Pedagogy (especially if you like a simple visual). And then if you want to immerse yourself, check out Edutopia’s Five-Miunte Film Festival on the subject.

One of the key elements of culturally responsive teaching is to anchor your curriculum in your students’ everyday lives. Technology provides so many ways for educators to do this. Having been a secondary educator, social media immediately comes to mind.

  • Invite students to share images and videos that demonstrate learning: Snapchat was the focus of April’s #digcit challenge, but if that’s a bit too intimidating, there’s still Instagram and Twitter.
  • Encourage students to curate YouTube playlists and engage others in comment thread.
  • Establish a hashtag to organize learning across multiple platforms.
  • Challenge your students to build their own PLNs. Whether it be for a formal Genius project or be an non-assessed passion project, students can identify experts in their area of interest and make connections. (Don’t tell my 15-year-old, but this will be her “summer school” project this June. We don’t expect her to know what she wants to study in college or even where to go just yet, but we want her to start forming some direction and this will be a first step.)

The other key element that I will mention is universal–actively engage your students in learning. Since I’m already cheating by extending my 140 character response, I’ll will expand on that another time. (Stashing some material with the intention of being more consistent about blogging.)