Helping Teachers Go Digital

Helping Teachers Go Digital: New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute Provides Support for Innovative and Creative Teaching


July 12, 2009 – Today’s youth are deeply involved in the digital world. Social networking and video sharing sites, online games and devices such as mobile phones and iPods are everyday fixtures in youth culture. Yet often there is a digital disconnect in the learning environments. Teachers do not know how or when to incorporate these types of new media into the classroom.

The digital world has also brought with it a lot of new terms such as Twitter, Ning, DimDim, and Wordle. What do they mean? How is a teacher to navigate the terminology and the technology?

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation is helping to bridge the gap by launching the New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute from July 12 – 17, 2009. This week-long venture is a collaboration among professors at North Carolina State University, the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island.

The main focus for the 50 teachers from across the country will be to learn how to design innovative lessons for students using emerging educational technology tools.

“We’re providing a technology-rich environment for teachers to design and create project-based inquiry lessons using many of the tools that students use outside of school,” said Dr. Hiller Spires, Senior Research Fellow at the Friday Institute and professor in the College of Education at NC State University.

One aspect of the Institute will be helping teachers understand the instructional implications of reading online.

“Effective online reading comprehension will be central to our students’ success at school and in life. These new literacies require new instructional models, management skills, and assessment practices. The New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute will show teachers how to teach students to read carefully, think critically, and communicate effectively with online resources,” says Dr. Don Leu, professor at the University of Connecticut and research leader in the field of new literacies.

Teachers need time to think, be creative, collaborate, and explore so they can bring fresh ideas into their classrooms. During the Institute, Teachers will learn how to use video production as a way for students to creatively engage content as well as learn how to be critical thinkers. In addition to constant and immediate access to information student have the authoring capacity to create multi-media projects, comment on and edit content as well as communicate with people globally.

“This new landscape requires teachers to redefine their pedagogies when using technology. Teachers can’t simply add technology to a lesson, they must rethink how they teach, what they teach, and which technologies achieve the desired learning outcomes for students, “ says Dr. John Lee, associate professor at NC State’s College of Education.

A key activity of the Institute is that teachers will have an opportunity to collaborate virtually with teachers and students from other countries on joint projects. The Friday Institute is excited to be collaborating with Oracle to introduce teachers to a new technology that will facilitate partnerships around the world.

“In today’s classroom, it’s all about creating learning spaces where students can engage their interests, search for information, critically analyze information, collaborate with others, create new ideas and problem solve,” says Dr. Carl Young, associate professor at NC State’s College of Education.

Another challenge for today’s teacher is learning how to let students be co-teachers in the classroom. Since students are often fearless when it comes to technology, teachers need to become comfortable letting go of the reins and inviting their students to co-design lessons with them.

“Teachers need to make a shift to become coaches, mentors, and even improvisational artists,” says Dr. Julie Coiro, assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island.

In order to transform education to meet the demands of a new age, teachers need to be leaders in many ways. Teachers have to embody the roles of risk taker, problem solver, communicator, and collaborator, by showing other educators what is possible in the classroom with new technologies.

Teachers need time to play with technologies and explore how they can use them to engage students in content. Often teachers attend technology workshops and spend all of their time learning the specifics of the technology and no time thinking about pedagogy and content. The New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute, is designed to show teachers how to put it all together.

According to Dr. Leu, “teachers can change the world when they teach a student to effectively read, write, learn, and communicate on the Internet.” The New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute will enable teachers to acquire new skills to begin to meet and accomplish all of these goals.

After the Institute, teachers will stay connected through a professional learning network site at newlit.org that has been created specifically for the teachers to share ideas and collaborate. Sponsors of the Institute include NC Business Committee for Education and BB&T. If you are interested in learning more about the New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute, visit this site.

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