Connected Learning Teacher Inquiry

Essential Elements of the Digital Classroom


Peggy Marconi interviews her colleagues from the Oregon Writing Project about the ways they who embrace an educational philosophy and pedagogy of technology that is digital, seamless, collegial, connected and self-organized to address the issues of teaching and learning digital literacies for today. Note that the original media is no longer available.

Originally published on March 11, 2011

This is the story of a group of teachers who embrace an educational philosophy and pedagogy of technology that is digital, seamless, collegial, connected and self-organized to address the issues of teaching and learning digital literacies for today.

Teachers involved in this project include (in order of appearance):

  • Travis Powell, High School, Child’s Way Charter School
  • Pam Schmieding, Monroe Middle School
  • Jason Erickson, Madison Middle School
  • Kyle Chun, Ellis Parker Elementary
  • Peggy Carrick, Hoover Elementary
  • Jeanie May, Elmira High School
  • Angie Bunday, Corridor Alternative Elementary
  • Sarah Jones, Middle School, Willagillespie Community School
  • Eric Tuck, Seven Oak Middle School

Digital Is…The Choice

It is a question of attitudes, not technology, that drives these teachers. Their classrooms embrace a culture of collegiality where the role of teacher and student are often blurred; where students are often more skilled than the teachers; where teamwork rules. Students are important drivers of learning, and students both produce and evaluate knowledge and curriculum in a context of reciprocity. Real lives have turning points: choice and chance. These teachers share their choices, their attitudes and their journeys.

” …falling in love with different forms of learning”
Travis Powell teaches in an alternative classroom of 25 students, grades 9-12.
He talks about what it means to teach in a “one room” high school.

” …how I approached my fear of technology”
Pam Schmieding dipped her toes into the digital divide and learned lessons from her students that transformed her practice.

The possibilities are limitless”
Jason Erickson thinks, Being tech savvy is a natural part of this digital native and he cannot imagine why educators would not infuse technology in all dimensions of their practice.

Digital Is…Pedagogy of Collegiality

This collegiality, or culture of reciprocity, is not dependent on technology, but technology is dependent on this collegiality to find its place in the classroom. Teachers in these classrooms are courageous, know their content and what they want their students to know and do at the end of the day. And they are partnering with their students holding on for the ride of their life redefining their practice moment by moment.

” …comfortable enough to be wrong.”
Kyle Chun makes a conscious effort to build a learning culture
that supports the use of technology in his practice.

“If your going to touch it, your going to break it…”
Peggy Carrick will tell you she learned more from her ELL students on infusing technology in their lessons, once she began collaborating with them, than she ever dreamed possible.

” …let go and allow students to take ownership.”
Jeanie May has always cultivated a culture of reciprocity in her classroom, and is realizing what a great platform this culture is for infusing technology into her practice.

Digital Is…Tinkering

If children have interest, education happens (S. Mitra). In his Hole in the Wall Project, Mitra discovered that children left on their own with technology will teach themselves and self-organize into groups that support deep learning. When teachers stand behind, admire, question, encourage, ask to see more and request their students to show them, learning is accelerated. This new role for the teacher requires a cultural shift and a certain openness to experimentation and social exploration that is generally not characteristic of schools or part of teacher training.

” …click and learn from trying and making mistakes.”
With time to tinker, Angie Bunday’s 4th grade students explore, share and learn from each other the technologies they use to show what they know and can do.

” problem with motivation.”
Kyle Chun thinks, When children are free to tinker with the technology, teachers can focus more on the content.

“I am all about finishing…”
Travis Powell is all about students finishing projects and then reflecting on the journey. Tinkering, in his mind, is reflective learning.

Digital Is…Emerging Experts

As children explore new technology, experts emerge who are willing and who want to share their new knowledge. If adult intervention is lifted, groups form around an expert. One student on the keyboard, with three other advising, all learn equally because of the advising and talking that takes place. Research suggests there is a photographic recall with sharing that does not occur when a student works in isolation. These groups are recognized by the teacher as hard-working students, that their intelligence matters, that their efforts pay off.

“Technology builds community.”
Students in Sarah’s classroom feel honored as experts and are willing to share their expertise with each other.

“For every problem there is a solution.”
After building the Lego robot in Travis Powell’s classroom, students were not satisfied with its performance. They edited the code to calibrate the movements of the robot for a better performance. This team of students, all advising each other, found the success they were after.

“Students put in the drivers seat to teach…”
Angie Bunday thinks, When you put students in the driver’s seat, experts emerge.

Digital Is…Emerging Technology

Digital is now. These teachers are not preparing students for a digital future, they are preparing their students for now. They do not know what the digital classroom might be like in the future, but they do know that keeping up with technology is like trying to change a tire on a moving vehicle. So they don’t; instead, they focus on important questions and let students explore technology and what it does best: manage information for understanding. An eight-year-old student in India learned how to navigate the internet; he then taught this to his six-year-old sister in less than eight minutes. The computer language was in English and the child had never seen a computer before. This story is repeating itself all over the world.

“Is it worth it?”
Eric Tuck is striving for the paperless classroom. He may not be able to predict what his student’s world will look like in ten years, but he is committed to building a platform that will springboard them forward.

“Have you ever used one (i-touch) before?”
Angie Bunday offers her students the i-touch and then steps back to see what they do with it.

” We are using the i-touch through the document camera…”
In Travis Powell’s class, students are given one period a day to design their own curriculum using apps on the i-touch as a resource. This puts a whole new spin on study hall.

Digital Is…Ownership

Student’s efforts at gaining recognition is directed at peers rather than at teachers or tests. Students take on more grown-up roles and ownership of their presentations. Teachers and students respond in a coordinated and mutually respectful way that honors the expertise of technically sophisticated media literacies.

“…classroom web’s chair.”
Sarah Jones uses her classroom web to publish and celebrate the work of her fourth-grade students.

“What have we produced…how is it relevant.”
Travis Powell reflects on how he keeps his classroom accountable and relevant.

” …a building block for many other things in their lives.”
Peggy Carrick reflects on the work of her first and second grade ELL students as they make digital movies of their new school community.