Creating Cadres of Digital Champions

When we talk about mobile technology, and begin to implement it, we must stop treating it like a savior of education. There are no quick-fixes that technology offers, and any positive results that students using mobile devices show are the result of hard work, good teaching and research, just like any school-based achievement gains.
Derek Keenan

The successful integration of technology requires providing educators with the tools, appropriate training, and communities of support for continuous improvement. In Surrey, we are working towards creating cadres of Digital Literacy Champions in each school to help support the integration of technology. In the ISTE review of our district in 2007, it was recognized that lone technology contacts, at individual schools, did not have all the support they needed to help facilitate technology growth among teachers and students.

By creating a team of trained and equipped educators, they can provide leadership in navigating the digital era. These cadres, Elementary Information Media Contacts (IML), Technology Facilitators (TFs) at Secondary, Teacher Librarians (TLs) and Administrators, will have the opportunity to learn and grow together while sharing their expertise with others.

Technology leaders from many jurisdictions have recognized the value of providing the tools to staff months before deployment to students. This approach allows for innovation and creativity to flourish without classroom or school-wide deployment issues, while providing scaffolding of experience for expanded classroom use. Teachers in other jurisdictions have commented: “The availability of this learning tool has also encouraged and enabled teachers to form support networks as they learn to integrate technology.”

Findings from the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) have identified six key characteristics of curriculum for authentic learning:
1.  Involves collaboration and community
2.  Is based on authenticity and relevance
3.  Leverages real-world tools, resources, and methodologie
4.  Incorporates a rich continuum of teaching and learning strategies
5.  Is grounded in rich content with a 21st century context
6.  Creates linkages to the outside world

We do not yet have all the answers about what creative and innovative uses of technology will look like; however, integrating mobile devices will move us to creating a ‘sandbox’ of exploration to expand authentic learning opportunities.

The ACOT study continues, “Those who have successfully created cultures of innovation and creativity suggest that one key is to abandon efficiency as a primary working method and instead embrace participation, collaboration, networking, and experimentation. This does not mean that focus, process and discipline are not important; just that innovation and creativity require freedom, disagreement, and perhaps even a little chaos-especially at the beginning.”

The IML contacts and TFs, along with Teacher Librarians, will form a community of innovative colleagues, similarly empowered with this toolset. Administrators have also been equipped with these same tools. The central question for this team is: How can we use this tool to improve student learning?

How might a mobile device in the hands of educators help push student learning forward? How will it be used? Here are some beginning ideas:

  • Personal learning and communication tool with the idea that they continue to advocate for innovative technology use at the school level
  • Collaborate with the Teacher Librarian as one of the go-to-people in the school to promote innovative teaching and learning
  • Promotional device to promote the ethical creation and consumption of digital resources such eBooks, ePubs, and district databases
  • Students create digital books, comics, graphic novels and movies about content they are reading to promote literacy in the school and community
  • Classrooms Skype directly with international experts
  • Provide groups of students opportunities to create digital stories as an option for assignments
  • Use the iPad as a ‘learning centre’ where students cooperatively interact with books and co-create shared evidence of learning
  • Have students enact self-assessment with the recording and listening features
  • Capture some lesson ideas (created by student or teacher) using tools such as ExplainEverything – that can then be used by students as refreshers

 These teachers are also the experts and soon to be experts to support their colleagues as more mobile technology moves into classrooms and schools – thus laying the scaffolding for wireless deployment and innovation. This is an opportunity to move past the ‘wow’ factor of the iPad within the school, and to begin looking strategically at the broad reaching implications of having a choice of school laptops, iPad carts, and personally owned devices. In addition, we can look practically and strategically at the impact of Open Wireless and iPads on teaching and learning.

As David Warlick emphasized, we are preparing students for a future that we cannot describe. What will learning in the classroom look like in the future? We may not have the answer, but we know that skilled professionals, equipped with the right tools, and provided with the appropriate support, will help us find a path that is centered on improving student learning.


Thanks to IML Helping Teachers Lisa Domeier de Suarez (@librarymall), Kevin Amboe (@amboe_k) and Orwell Kowalyshyn (@kowalyshyn) for preparing this conceptual document. Condensed by E. Carlson (@ECSD36) for the purpose of this post. References are available by request.

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