“Please remember – This assignment is unique to you, your circumstances, and your organization so you need to keep in mind who your audience is, why and how they will use this information, and what impact you are looking to make.”
Thus began the instructions on every single assignment I’ve completed in the past year and a half for the master’s degree I’m about to finish. I have been thinking about how powerful those words have been. Just yesterday, I was talking with my co-workers about how some teachers are still so reluctant to allow their students choice and voice in the way they complete assignments, and I was reminded of how empowering it has been to be able to think about an assignment and formulate my response in the way that made the most sense. Sometimes that was a formal paper or a report; more often, it was a blog post, an infographic, or a video – or some combination of tools. Why, my colleagues and I wondered yesterday, are some teachers still reluctant to give students a choice in how they demonstrate their learning? If the learning is really the significant thing, then we should be challenging all students to be Creative Communicators, with ISTE (2016) Student Standard 6a as our guide: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
Back in February 2016, I started this journey in the Digital Learning and Leading master’s program at Lamar University, which uses the COVA model for its class design. COVA is an acronym that stands for Choice, Ownership, and Voice in Authentic assignments. This was not a “turn in a 15 page paper and I’ll grade it and hand it back to you” kind of degree plan! Almost every class was designed so that we could take the required learning and apply it to our own personalized innovation plan, and I see now how “personalized learning” could really happen in a classroom because of what I’ve experienced. I also see how I was able to meet every single ISTE Student Standard in multiple ways.
My first class in the DLL program was about principles of technology integration and developing a professional learning network. I felt very confident in that class, since teaching others about appropriate technology integration is a major component of my job. I wrote a manifesto about teaching. Although my professional learning network has grown considerably over the past year and a half, I started with a reasonably good list that I compiled here. I have become even more of a Global Collaborator and continue to use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds (ISTE Student Standard 7a).
As a good Digital Citizen (ISTE Student Standard 2), I began early in the program to cultivate and manage my digital identity and reputation. An early assignment was a Sway about my strengths in digital learning and leading. I also began the creation of my ePortfolio, which has had several iterations over the course of fifteen months, from nancywtech.blogspot.com to multiple versions of nancywtech.com. Later on in the program, I was enrolled in the class titled “Digital Citizenship,” and I solidified my understanding of Student Standard 2, as I reviewed the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world.
Within the first few courses in the DLL program, I began to formulate my plans for my
plot to take over the world innovation project, which I referred to at the time as “Improving Digital Literacy through Student Created Content,” or IDLTSCC – now with the significantly easier-to-say name of CLICK. I posted my 50,000 foot plan of my original goals for CLICK on what was my blog at that time, and I completed my first literature review of the topic. As I look back over the year and a half, I’m somewhat pleased to see that I have been able to iterate on my original plan even though the main goal of CLICK is the same as it’s always been. And re-reading my original plan, I can see that some of the same ideas and concerns that I had early on continue to challenge me. Through my innovation plan, I have practiced and wrestled with all the indicators of ISTE Student Standard 4: Innovative Designer as I attempted to solve the problem of a lack of digital literacy skills by creating a new, useful or imaginative solution.
Over the next few courses, I learned to define and commit to a “WHY,” to accomplish disruptive innovation, to become an influencer, and to facilitate organizational change. I learned more about applying design thinking to education and further developed my learning philosophy. I created lots of acronyms: a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (the BHAG) and a Wildly Important Goal (the WIG) for IDLTSCC, and I pulled everything together in this infographic. As I learned about all of these unfamiliar terms and concepts, and as I synthesized a host of information about my innovation plan into additional literature reviews, I became an Empowered Learner as I took an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in my learning goals (ISTE Student Standard 1) and a Knowledge Constructor as I used digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for [myself] and others (ISTE Student Standard 3).
Professional Learning in technology integration is a big part of my job, so I appreciated having learned more about the backward design process as I created my first online course. A longtime member of Learning Forward, I felt that I already knew a lot about the principles of adult learning and what makes for effective professional learning, but I increased my understanding about creating meaningful professional learning experiences. ISTE Student Standard 5 – Computational Thinker? Check! In order to create an online class, I definitely had to break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models.
At every turn in the program, I was encouraged to articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes – in other words, to meet ISTE Student Standard 1a. I am an Empowered Learner! I so appreciate having had the opportunity to experience the Student Standards from the learner’s perspective, and I feel that I am a better educator now for having done so.
I hope that you, too, will have an opportunity to experience such authentic learning, and that you will provide similar opportunities for your students.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). Standards for students. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students