Using Digital Tools in Your Class

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Ever wonder how some teachers make implementing a digital curriculum look so easy? Have you searched for ways to streamline digital curricula in your classroom? Most of us in the education field would not be surprised to learn of a Gallup Ed Tech survey which showed that 65% of teachers use the digital curriculum in their classroom daily. The survey recognizes what many of us feel whenever we set foot on a school campus: Digital curriculum is here to stay. As we prepare to welcome students into our classrooms, how can education professionals streamline implementing digital curricula and ultimately set our students up for success with greater ease? 

What is digital curriculum?

Let's begin with a broad look at the digital curriculum. A digital curriculum is any website, video, media, or program that conveys learning to students. The menu of choices is daunting, with many school systems purchasing some form of digital curriculum for each subject area. Some digital curriculum is student-facing, some are teaching-facing, some provide a game-like experience, and some provide a library of resources. The streamlining process begins here: Look at the digital curriculum through three truths.

Regardless of the intended user or the presentation of information, the digital curriculum will have three similarities. Across the digital curriculum, teachers can expect to find:

  • Access to immediate and actionable student learning data 
  • A personalized experience for each student based on their skill level and ability
  • A platform for students to engage easily with their school and their learning 

When teachers approach digital curricula grounded in these three truths, the menu of choices becomes less daunting. Instead of looking at the individual program as a standalone digital curriculum, you can focus on how the digital curriculum will come alive in your classroom, which brings us to the next step of the streamlining process. 

Establish your vision

Now that you have developed a comprehensive view of digital curriculum, it's time to create your philosophy on using these tools. If you went through teacher training, you most likely had to develop a teaching philosophy. Completing this process, thinking only of a digital curriculum, is beneficial. 

While you do not need to record your thoughts in essay form, crafting a statement based on your approach to digital curriculum empowers you to feel professional and grounded in your work. To create this statement, envision your teaching context. Identify the elements of your classroom and school that are unique and shape your professional experience. 

Next, articulate your professional beliefs about using a digital curriculum with students. Think about the students you teach and their developmental and social needs. Think about the type of instruction and the amount of digital curriculum you hope to offer. Once you finalize the statement, save it so you can reflect on and refine your philosophy throughout the year.

At Prenda, digital tools are used in collaboration with hands-on materials.

Build a foundation of digital citizenship

At this point, you have done work on how you view digital curricula, so it is time to think of launching digital curricula in your classroom. Take time for meaningful conversations about digital citizenship. Our tech-heavy culture makes it easy to assume students are comfortable using technology. That is not always true. Students come to school with various life experiences, some of which will and will not include technology use. Technology use comes with great power, so classrooms need to take time to learn to engage appropriately in digital spaces. 

Some schools have a structured way of approaching digital citizenship, but for those that do not, there are a couple of ways teachers can approach these conversations. The first way is to examine 21st-century skills, which articulate the life, learning, and literacy processes students need to thrive in increasingly technological work. Alternatively, teachers create their lessons that focus on digital footprints, privacy and security, media and well-being, cyber-bulling, and media literacy. These activities develop a foundation for students to grow. Students do not master these skills before using a digital curriculum, but it is a good idea to cover digital citizenship before beginning your digital curriculum. 

Create Purpose

Now that students have a foundational understanding of digital citizenship, they are ready to jump into their digital curriculum. Teachers should help establish a clear purpose for the digital curriculum. Digital curricula are engaging, with many curricula using gamification methods that present learning in a playful way to students. If teachers miss this crucial step, the game experience feels more important than learning. A part of empowering students is creating purpose, both within and outside the classroom. 

Teachers do this by connecting learning across curricula. Digital curriculum paves the way for classroom conversation. Students also connect learning from offline instructional methodologies to the digital curriculum. Additionally, teachers can establish a goal-setting process that works for their class. Setting goals linked to learning achievement help balance the digital curriculum's game and learning content characteristics. 

Observe and Monitor Students

With students deep into their digital curricula, teachers still play an active role in the learning experience. During the use of digital curriculum, teachers spend their time observing students. Teachers circulate the classroom, pausing to ask questions that extend learning. Teachers ask students to put learning into their own words. Teachers also monitor for frustration and support students 1:1. Teachers look for students who excel in the digital curriculum and create challenges for these students. 

Create a Feedback Loop in Your Classroom

Many digital curricula collect student progress data and display this instantly to both teachers and students. This is a great way to generate a feedback loop within your classroom. The feedback loop begins with a student setting a goal. Students then explore the digital curriculum with the support and guidance of their teacher. During this time, students are steadily working towards their goals. When a goal is achieved, the teacher and student discuss the learning content and how the learning was achieved. During this discussion, teachers and students review the data from the digital curriculum. Students pinpoint areas of strength and areas of growth. Students set new goals after identifying these areas. This feedback loop eventually showcases holistic achievement month to month. 

Teachers use digital curriculum data to track progress across their classes. Progress data from all the students allows teachers to view trends across the classroom. Teachers track comprehension of new information and class gains. Student progress data during collaborative planning or administration meetings. Teachers leverage data to identify students who may need extra challenges or intervention. Teachers leverage data during parent-teacher conferences to showcase student growth. 

Teachers have a long history of trying new, innovative methods to make the most of their classrooms. Are you ready to become a digital curriculum expert at your school? Of course, you are! You now are ready to implement a comprehensive strategy for bringing digital curriculum to life in your classroom. 

Start with you crafting your vision and follow the streamlined steps in this blog and you'll be the digital curriculum expert at your school in no time!