– Mark Archon
The arrival of the new California Standards has truly transformed the landscape of education in California as schools make substantial changes to create learning environments and lessons which foster student collaboration, require critical thinking and develop self-direction.
Technology and digital literacy skills play ever-increasing roles in these learning environments, yet the State of California never adopted separate standards for technology. To address this gap, the Fresno County Office of education (FCOE), in a pioneering effort led by the then-region VII CTAP Director Emy Lopez Phillips, developed a Tech Skills flow chart identifying digital literacy and technology skills supporting the new California Standards for K-12. This resource aggregated the technology recommendations from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21), the ISTE Standards for students, and standards associated with the Massachusetts Department of Education. It has been used by countless educators in California and beyond. Long Beach Unified (LBUSD) has adapted the FCOE tool and taken it a step further, aligning technology and digital literacy skills with the new California Standards and developing a scope and sequence for technology integration by grade level. Both the FCOE and LBUSD documents are readily available for educators. Take advantage of them to help ensure student technology proficiency through the grades.
For many teachers, teaching the new standards, along with technology and digital literacy skills, represents a dramatic shift. This shift includes a change in role, resources, and skills necessary for success.
First, the role as an educator is migrating from teacher to a facilitator of learning. Creating inquiry-based lessons which allow students to explore, research, collaborate and create products to demonstrate learning requires a substantial shift in how the teacher interacts with the curriculum and his or her students.
Secondly, the resources that teachers need are quite different from those in the textbook-driven approach commonly used under the former assessment system. A multitude of resources online and in print, technologies, and engagement strategies become the focal point of these new lessons. open educational resources, a plethora of web resources, publisher-generated resources, as well as home-grown lessons and collaborations between peers are all welcome additions in this new educational landscape.
Finally, the lesson design and delivery skills necessary for exemplary standards implementation are varied and many. These include team teaching, peer collaboration, facilitating student engagement, classroom management, proficiency with technology, and an understanding of universal Design for Learning, to name only a few. Ongoing job-embedded professional learning for all teachers and administrators is essential to ensure teachers are learning and using current research-based practices their students need.
Districts and school have spent a tremendous amount of time, energy, and fiscal resources in the past few years to prepare teachers and administrators for this change.
In Fresno County, for example, we see many districts hiring additional staff to provide professional learning for teachers. Titles for these new positions include technology coach, academic coach, or a teacher on special assignment (TOSA). A clear job description is an imperative part of these new teacher support roles, yet not all schools and districts have these in place. What are the expectations for these support positions? How are teachers perceiving them? Will the new support staff coach all teachers, or will a teacher interpret being coached as being an under performer? Are the conversations between coach and coachee confidential? So many questions surface in a school when a support position does not have a clearly defined role. District and site leaders will want to define roles carefully to avoid such problems.
While some schools are hiring coaches, other schools and districts are seeing the value of hiring and using their Teacher Librarians (TL) to provide curricular and information / digital literacy support. TLs are strong facilitators of technology integration in support of student learning goals. The role of a TL is quite unique as teacher credentials are concerned. While technically still a teacher who is charged with instructing students, a TL also is versed in information literacy, digital literacy, and digital citizenship skills that correlate perfectly with the needs of 21st Century learners.
We live in a world in which so many questions can be answered by a Google or other search engine query, and yet too few students are versed in information and digital literacy. TLs are uniquely prepared to instruct students and provide professional learning to staff on effective research and collaboration skills. If our intent is to prepare students for college and career, then helping them become information literate must be a non-negotiable within the K-12 environment, and this instruction must not be something that begins only at the secondary level. It is disheartening to know that California ranks dead last in the nation in ratio of students to TLs, leaving most of our students with the inequity of lacking access to the very instructor best versed in teaching these skills. Perhaps the advent of the new California Standards and the dire need to nurture digital and information literacy in all students will help bring awareness to the need for TLs in all schools.
Of course emphasizing the skills that TLs possess is not meant to imply that technology coaches or TOSAs are not adept at providing support in curriculum and information and digital literacy support, but rather that it is the Teacher Librarian that has a credential specifically identifying these as well as other skills. Moreover, as Petaluma High School Teacher Librarian Connie Williams explains in KnowledgeQuest:
“The presence – on staff – of a dynamic school librarian with support staff has been proven by 21+ state studies to positively affect student achievement by encouraging co-teaching and learning that teaches students how to effectively work in today’s information environment. Skills required by Common Core such as independent learning, reading for, and writing with evidence, creating presentations, and researching effectively are necessary skills that cross all subjects.”
The linchpin behind all successful structures to support effective learning environments is the site leader. This person leads the vision for his or her school and ensures system alignment with clearly identified goals. This person provides a supportive environment so that teachers establish high standards for teaching and learning for one another and for all students. So I will finish with a question:
How might site and district leaders best leverage all available resources to ensure that teachers have appropriate access to necessary support as they navigate these new standards?
Share your thoughts by contributing to the comments.
About the author:
Mark Archon has been in the field of education for 25 years. During this time he was a middle school science teacher for five years and a site administrator for 12 years at the middle school level. He spent several years working for the Madera County Office of Education as the Director of Administrative Leadership Services providing professional development for educators in Region 7. He currently works for the Fresno County Office of Education as the Director of Instructional Technology Services.
Mark has been married to his wife Holly for 19 years and has two daughters: Alexi, 14 and Emily, 11.