Creating New Competencies in the Digital Classroom

October 27, 2020

Creating New Competencies in the Digital Classroom

Beth Abeyta is the digital teacher librarian at Two Roads Charter School in Golden, Colorado. Since earning her M.Ed. in Educational Technology from American College of Education in 2019, she’s been applying her digital literacy skills to design engaging, interactive online and hybrid curriculum at her school. She recently shared with ACE her insights on planning, teaching and assessing in the digital classroom.

ACE: As a digital teacher librarian, you already understand the importance of digital literacy, and now we’ve all had to learn it, too. What tools did you learn at ACE that have helped you navigate these recent months?

Beth Abeyta (BA): My ACE instructors helped me be more forward-thinking, anticipate changes and make strategic plans, especially regarding school technology. As I started working through my ACE coursework, I read more and more about blended learning – it was just a lightbulb moment because it fits perfectly with our school.

Two Roads Charter School is a two-campus K-12 school with both traditional and homeschooled students. Our secondary students were already doing some form of blended learning using Schoology, so my coursework at ACE was a perfect fit. It was the first time I took a deep dive into blended learning.

ACE: When we think of “literacy,” it’s easy to think of standard reading and writing. However, digital instruction has opened the door for many new types of literacy. What are some strategies for teaching all forms of literacy in this new setting?

BA: The basic definition of literacy is “competence or knowledge in a specified area.” That can apply to any content area and to the act of remote learning. We’ve digitally modified so many different things this year. We’ve done virtual field trips and campus tours for 11th graders, digital portfolios for our senior summit, discussion forums and quizzes.

Our teachers also use a rubric to create their classes in Schoology. This way, students know every time, regardless of the content area or teacher, what they can expect to see when they enter a digital class. That’s a digital literacy strategy we used with the teachers for the students’ benefit.

ACE: You’re also responsible for directing assessments at your school, but digital instruction often requires a different approach. How can educators effectively assess student progress outside of a brick-and-mortar classroom?

BA: One really easy way to conduct basic formative assessments is by using Schoology’s built-in test and quiz feature. We also use built-in rubrics that, once created, make it very easy to assess progress and redirect strategy as you teach.

We use NWEA Map Growth, an adaptive interim assessment that we normally give three times a year. It provides immediate feedback and high-level numbers for student progress by grade level, school or district, or you can drill down into individual scores. It can also be taken or proctored from anywhere via a Google add-on. After you administer the first test, you can assign individual online skills practice to work on specific needs.

Finally, our teachers have one-on-one Zoom calls or Google Meets and do some quick assessments that way, even with elementary students.

ACE: Once the pandemic is behind us, what changes in digital literacy do you think will be permanent?

BA: The American Library Association Digital Literacy Task Force defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” Our students struggle the most with finding and critically evaluating information, but that becomes more important every day.

One of our district’s biggest challenges is offering families the option to be in the classroom, hybrid or 100 percent digital. A lot of districts are following that rule because they have to, but that’s not going away for us. That piece is now absolutely crucial.

One of the major components of digital literacy is being able to create and communicate clearly. Now, students can only succeed if they can communicate using these digital tools, so we need to make sure they’re able to do that.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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