by Terry S. Atkinson
With the upcoming advent of the Common Core State Standards, professional organizations such as NCTE encourage literacy professionals to share their opinions and expertise as CCSS implementation rolls out in schools across the US. While one might conclude that such collaboration results in literacy professionals helping content area teachers come to new understandings about reading, writing, speaking, listening, language, and vocabulary, the opposite may be true as content area teachers take the lead, especially when technology serves as an instructional tool. One such model content area teacher/student technology collaboration recently took place at North Carolina State University.
Fletcher Arritt teaches NCSU Food Preservation and Food Microbiology courses in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences. During a recent semester, a Food Preservation student converted one of Arritt’s exam study guides into a Google Doc, sent the link to his course colleagues, and asked for their input. When Arritt arrived at an after hours study session, the student-created Google Doc was projected on the room’s LCD screen. While Arritt had heard student “buzz” about the document, his first encounter with the tool morphed into a collaborative exam study session that built on student understandings and led to further clarification and elaboration. Pleased with the outcomes of this initial Google Docs encounter, Arritt now suggests the study practice within his current courses and finds that students inevitably take his suggestion to create and share Google Docs study guides. He receives kudos for this practice from his students who note, not only, increased content understandings, but also additional engagement in the study process through virtual collaboration with peers.
Marc Prensky makes a strong case for teachers learning with and from their students. Particularly when learning to integrate technology into instruction, Prensky questions the notion that Professional Development-PD- traditionally takes place without student involvement…“Let’s talk about how to teach our students our students better, but be sure that none of them are around to participate.” He further adds that few teachers like Arritt have the courage to learn from students who fill K-16 classrooms. Regardless of the subject or the grade level at hand, teachers who learn more about the power of technology from their students have the potential to create classroom spaces that move above and beyond the Digital Native/Digital Immigrant divide.
Terry S. Atkinson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
This article is part of a series from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).