Closer Readings Commentary

ISTE13, or What Happens When Common Core Standards meets Digital Citizenship?

The 13th Annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE13) Conference, which met in San Antonio, Texas, last week had some staggering statistics: 20,000 registered attendees, 500 companies in the exhibition hall, hundreds of sessions, thousands of interactions and conversations. So I’m going to have to be selective and just mention a few sessions that seemed especially pertinent for Common Core teachers.

Search, standards, and skills

The dynamic and much in demand presenter Michael Gorman led a fast-paced session, Advanced Searching for Inquiry Meets the Common Core, demonstrating how to put students at the center of their search. Mike’s important strategies were recently featured in Alan November’s newest book, Who Owns the Learning. He demonstrated 12 reasons why using Google Advanced Search teaches students how to think. He also rolled out a clever acronymic for teaching students website evaluation.

The big take away from this session was that educators must make it clear to students that searching is not to just about get the right answer. It is rather an important process that will serve student through future schooling and eventual career.

Kristina Holzweiss, a middle school librarian from Long Island, New York, led “Common Core Conversations: Using Technology to Address the Standards,” exploring of all the free resources available on the Web. Her comprehensive site Common Core Conversation links to every state board of education CCSS resource, as well all relevant free lesson plans sites. (Please don’t reinvent the wheel!) Kristina then led a wide ranging, freewheeling, and eye-opening discussion with the overflow crowd of teachers, librarians, tech coordinators, and administrators about how the new standards are being implemented.

Kristina articulated an important thought that seem to be to be left unspoken during most of the other Common Core sessions at ISTE. While there is some overlap between the Common Core State Standards and National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)—i.e., research and information fluency: critical thinking, problem solving and decision making—there are also more areas where NETS value skills (creativity, innovation; digital citizenship; technology operation and concepts) that CCSS generally ignores. Yet NETS is where most tech-savvy younger teachers and most of today’s students either are or want to go.

In the “session after the session,” Kristina and few teachers talked about how well the National History Day program would fit into both NETS, and CCSS. Not only does NDH program help students to engage with history, but it also helps them develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, research and reading skills, presentation skills, and a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process.

National History Day, ISTE, and the Common Core

EDSITEment’s session, “Using Historic Digital Newspapers in the Common Core Classroom,” was well attended. I was surprised and pleased to discover a teacher from Concordia International School in Shanghai in the audience who brought his students to National History Day. I asked him to explain to the audience how NHD works:

With a teacher’s guidance, students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews, and historic sites. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances, and documentaries. His testimony of the importance of NHD and the value of Chronicling America for this contest went a long way to priming the audience for the EDSITEment presentation.

Kelly Granito (a former middle school teacher and EDSITEment’s intern) and I walked the participants through EDSITEment’s Chronicling America portal. I talked about how so many students want to make “Ken Burns” type documentaries, and how Chronicling America provides an almost infinite resource for that. For example, here is the documentary on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle that won first prize in the senior category.

We discussed CCSS shifts and engaged the participants in a search for articles that could be converted into activities to meet some of them. The results proved useful and interesting. The group searching for articles about Lincoln’s assassination was struck by the powerful emotional expressiveness of these 19th-century pieces, so different from anything one reads in today’s papers. Smaller but significant events that emerged using this database also pinpointed Chronicling America’s unique powers for the classrooms across the nation when a participant suggested a sample search for the “Ludlow Massacre” and a stunning headline “Miners Took Their Oath to Kill Five for Every One Massacred at Ludlow” from the small Chicago newspaper the Day Book immediately emerged.

A number of librarians voiced astonishment that this powerful database was completely free. I was more than happy to use the well-worn phrase “your tax dollars at work.”

The big take away from ISTE13? While education is changing in ways that we cannot imagine, we can feel confident in telling our students that there’s always going to be a job for the person with good “digital citizenship,” i.e., one who has the ability to analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and present knowledge in an effective and engaging fashion through a variety of media.