Month: December 2020

On Digital Literacy Frameworks

Here is how I see the articulation among the following three knowledge constructs we delved into this week in the Seminar in Digital Literacy (Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy, URI). TPACK (Koehler & Mishra, 2008) is the framework, the larger knowledge construct that undergirds the Grounded Approach to Technology Integration (Harris & Hofer, 2009), which is further operationalized into the Technology Integration Planning Cycle (Hutchinson & Woodward, 2014).

What TPACK does brilliantly is capture the complexity of the knowledge of good teachers (Shulman, 1986). It identifies the knowledge components (pedagogical, technological, and content knowledge) but it goes beyond; it explores the intersections among them, which is where good teaching practices are situated. However, TPACK is a theoretical framework which does not serve teachers in planning their instruction. We therefore need to articulate an approach to technology integration, more specifically one that is grounded in content, pedagogy, and how teachers plan instruction (Harris & Hofer, 2009). It proposes five basic steps to planning instruction:

  1. Choose learning goals
  2. Make pedagogical decisions
  3. Select activity types to combine
  4. Select assessment strategies
  5. Select tools/resources

What I found most useful in this approach is the continua of eight pedagogical decisions that teachers need to make to plan a learning event. They are captured in the following questions:

  1. Will the learning experience be more teacher centered or more student centered?
  2. Should students develop similar understandings (via convergent learning) or draw their own conclusions (via divergent learning)? Should the learning be more hands-on or more abstract?
  3. Are students’ prior knowledge and experiences less relevant or more relevant for the learning to unfold?
  4. Do the curriculum standards defined for the learning event require surface comprehension or deep knowledge construction?
  5. How much time will be needed relative to the depth of understanding (4) required? Will it require a shorter duration or a longer duration plan for learning, in and out of the classroom?
  6. Considering all of the above, plus students’ specific and general strengths and challenges relative to the planned activity, is more or less structured learning more appropriate?
  7. What should be the learner configuration(s) to best assist learning in the context the learning event will occur? Will whole-group, small-group, pairwork, individual configs work best for the learning event?
  8. Are fewer, more or no additional resources needed for students to participate in the learning experience? This hinges on step 5, the selection of tools/resources.

Hutchinson & Woodward’s planning cycle (2014) complements and expands on the grounded approach by zooming into a couple of important aspects: how digital tools contribute to the instruction and to the development of digital literacy skills. The authors give teachers permission to opt out of digital tool adoption should they discover, upon reflection, that “using a digital tool will not make a strong contribution to their instruction or if they are unable to locate a tool that will appropriately support their learning goal.” (p.458) Furthermore, they propose that teachers take the classroom environment and routines into consideration when considering the constraints of the tools selected for the learning event. Most importantly their cycle “(…) is specifically aimed at helping literacy teachers consider whether their planned instruction contributes to both digital and nondigital literacy development.” (p.458)

Tech for knowledge building and convergent/divergent thinking in your instruction

This brief post is a reflection prompted by the following questions:

What opportunities do you currently provide to: (a) enhance students’ knowledge building and (b) enable them to celebrate and showcase their knowledge?

What role might technology play in diversifying knowledge building and/or expression in your content area?

Does the idea of promoting students’ divergent thinking about your content inspire you or scare you? Explain and give reasons why you think divergent thinking opportunities should be embraced or avoided.

More than ever, technology plays a prominent role in enhancing students’ knowledge building and expression. Digital texts as well as digital tools have great potential, when effectively integrated into instruction, to enable both convergent and divergent thinking. Rothstein and Santana (2011) refer to convergent thinking as the “ability to analyze and synthesize information and ideas while moving toward an answer or conclusion.” Divergent thinking is “the ability to generate a wide range of ideas and think broadly and creatively.” Metacognition, “the ability to think about one’s thinking and learning”, completes the critical thinking triad, to which the authors refer as being “the three wise thinking abilities.”

Creativity requires “constant shifting, blending pulses of both divergent thinking and convergent thinking, to combine new information with old and forgotten ideas. Highly creative people are very good at marshaling their brains to tap into both kinds of thinking.” (Rothstein and Santana, p.17) Therefore, we need to plan instruction that stimulates and capitalizes on both thinking abilities if we wish to contribute to the development of both critical and creative individuals. Therefore, digital texts and tools have the potential of enhancing the various types of learning activities (Harris & Hofer, 2009) that leverage these thinking abilities, ultimately enabling learners to hit the learning objectives.

Rothstein, D. & Santana, L. (2011). Make Just One Change – Teach Students to Ask Questions