My mother-in-law calls me the tech-gadget-geek of the family. Every year I ask for the latest technology invention to find its way under the Christmas tree. When my thirtieth birthday was approaching and my husband asked what milestone gift I wanted, I replied, “A robot.”
Technology has always come easy to me, and so when I began teaching, it became ubiquitous in my instruction. Units of study were designed around virtual field trips, blogs were created as reading reflection journals, parent communication apps were a primary connection between school and home, and students regularly brought in new ideas and technologies that they felt could support our classroom culture. I’m not saying I utilized the best practices in integrating technology, but I wasn’t scared to mess up in the process of finding what worked. I shared the same fearless approach to technology as my young students, and in reflection, I believe we all benefited.
Fast forward to the present. I’m no longer in the classroom; I’m now a district technology integration coach and have the privilege of visiting classrooms of varying grade levels and content areas. I have the opportunity to see a lot of technology in use, and every day I learn not just new tools, but new approaches to instruction and new perspectives on how technology can best support our diverse learners of today. Transitioning into this role was both easy in terms of learning new technology, but also difficult as I realized the need to further develop my own understanding of technology’s potential. This is when fate intervened and I was introduced to the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island in July 2017.
Digital literacy was a relatively new term to me when I heard about this opportunity for professional learning. The same colleague who introduced me to the Institute had also recently exposed me to research and resources supporting digital literacy and I was already overwhelmed. Somewhere between new literacy, digital literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, information literacy and more, I managed to focus long enough to pack my bags for the week ahead. With each item I placed in my suitcase, I questioned if I would find a place in this world of digital literacy scholars and practitioners. Who was I to tackle the question of, “What is digital literacy?” I honestly nearly backed out several times. I was still developing an understanding of print or traditional literacy practices, now I wanted to add another layer of cognitive confusion for myself?! But I forged ahead into the unknown, and I’m forever changed because of that decision.
The week spent in Providence, surrounded by researchers and practitioners of all levels and backgrounds, not only brought about a deep understanding of digital literacy, but also a rich appreciation of the need for diverse approaches and perspectives as we continue to learn more about how digital literacy is changing the way we interact with our world. My voice was not lost or diminished, but rather it was brought into the fold and valued as equal alongside the published experts and leaders in the field.
In Part 2, I’ll share the struggles and tensions I encountered enacting what I learned as a result of attending the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy and how perspectives matter.
Megan Jones is a technology integration coach in Citrus County, Florida, supporting in-service teachers with digital literacies and classroom technology integration. She earned her Masters in Reading from the University of South Florida and is currently enrolled in University of Rhode Island’s Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy program. Follow Meg on Twitter @MrsMJ1218