Expert Learning in the Digital Age
This week’s episode with Melanie Acevedo focuses on the use of UDL outside of the core content. Melanie is one of four digital literacy teachers in her school district of about 4,000 students. Having identified that number of digital literacy teachers speaks to the Melrose Public School’s commitment to guiding learners toward thriving in our digital age. Melanie and her colleagues use books, videos, and online tools to help their learners gain these skills and they also turn to resources like CommonSense.org/education/ as a source for lessons, assessments, and ideas. The lessons are research-backed, aligned with standards, and created by an organization that wants to create a digital world where children can thrive. Common Sense carries this out by informing parents, teachers, and the general public through videos, articles, books, recommendations for apps, lesson plans, and more. Melanie and her colleagues, though, take that additional step of viewing all of it through the UDL lens.
The analogy of the lens is very popular in the UDL community, but I want to add an additional component. Very early on in my position as the UDL Coordinator in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, I was asked to provide a training to the staff of the Northside Middle School. I remember using the analogy of a 3-legged magnifying glass.
Just as the magnifier is balanced on all three legs, as we look through the lens of UDL we need to balance our environments and lesson via the three principles. When we do that, we are moving toward providing greater access, flexibility, and equity. When we do that, we are more likely going to provide our learners with opportunities to move toward becoming expert learners. But, what does expert learning look like when students are putting into action digital literacy? Here are just few examples:
- Purposeful – learners choose the digital tools and information they need to reach their learning goal.
- Motivated – learners challenge themselves to continue learning about a digital topic (e.g., coding) even when it challenges them.
- Resourceful – learners actively and consciously use evidence-based decision-making skills and steps to seek out reliable digital sources.
- Knowledgeable – learners connect prior learning about privacy and security when choosing apps they believe will help them meet a goal.
- Strategic – learners utilize digital tools to improve the quality of their products rather than using them as a distractor to accomplishing a goal.
- Goal-directed – learners identify what they want to accomplish through the use of digital tools and continue working toward that goal.
We are in the midst of the digital age and our learners need support to move through it. We must remember, though, that not all learners will gravitate toward digital tools or sources. Not all learners will want to use them as a primary source. This is why UDL is invaluable to us as we design our digital literacy lessons and environments. UDL reminds us that all learners are variable and we need to provide different types of opportunities and options so our learners can gain these skills and all learners can become expert learners.