Embracing Digital Possibilities Within The Common Core

When I first perused the Common Core State Standards, I was frustrated by a perceived lack of emphasis on digital literacy skills.

When I first perused the Common Core State Standards, I was frustrated by a perceived lack of emphasis on digital literacy skills.  After all, the standards are, for the most part, more challenging versions of previous literacy state standards, grounded in traditional English skills with little nod to the changing literacy landscape, in which students should be expected to compose online, create multimedia texts, and engage in online discussions and social media productively.

But then I got around to reading the standards more closely. There are openings to more relevant “21st-century” instruction, teaching students both technology skills and traditional English.

For those teachers out there who are wondering how to embrace the digital world while still covering the new standards, I recommend utilizing Google Drive and Schoology in the classroom.

First of all, here’s an open-ended standard that gives us more-than-enough leeway to make decisions to positively embrace the old and the new:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

Talk about empowering teachers to seek out and implement possibilities!  My go-to tool is Google Drive.  Two weeks ago, I helped every student set up an account, and we’re now in the midst of using Google Drive to share, collaborate, and turn in work.  My juniors are mostly behind grade-level, and I’ve found Google Drive to be a great way to engage students and students while we review writing fundamentals.

Too often, the pressure to coach “high-needs” students leads us to ignore teaching digital skills in favor of prepping kids for paper-and-pencil exams. But we’re selling students short with such strict adherence to exam formats.

Below, you’ll see a screen shot of an early assignment, as the student has color-coded her sentence types as she works on independent and dependent clauses, compound and complex sentences, and serial commas.  I’m also able to use the comments feature, in addition to students utilizing the tool to peer-review each other’s work.

Believe it or not, we’re ostensibly still required to collect hard copy portfolios of student writing during their four years.  So be it.  Students will have a collection of work in the cloud, and we can print if necessary after the students produce both paper and digital writing samples.

Here’s another standard that we’re foolish to ignore, especially given the possibilities to collaborate online:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.

While I certainly hold “old-school” discussions in class, Schoology.com has been a great tool to set up course web pages and host discussions to require participation from all. Although our school district has encouraged using Edmodo, students who have used both Edmodo and Schoology seem to prefer the latter, due to it’s friendly interface.

Below is another screen shot of the discussion page from my digital storytelling course:

There’s absolutely no reason not to extend discussions outside of our classroom walls, all while teaching the new standards, by utilizing digital resources.

As the year moves on, I’ll surely experiment with other platforms.  For now, we’re off to a great start.

Teachers, what other digital tools have been handy for you in teaching the Common Core?  Is it worth your–and the students’–time to integrate digital literacy skills into your content area?  

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.