What is a connected learner?
A connected learner is a person who is connected through supportive relationships with peers and is also connected through networked and digital technologies (www.lead.nwp.org). Further, “a connected learner has a personal interest in a topic, a supportive relationship with their peers and supervisors, and is given real-world opportunities to expand their skills” (www.oncourselearning.com).
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Connected Learner Standard states that “Coaches model the ISTE Standards for Students and the ISTE Standards for Educators and identify ways to improve their coaching practice” (ISTE). Following, I will provide evidence of my understanding of the three connected learner performance indicators, shown below.
PI 4.2.a: Pursue professional learning that deepens expertise in the ISTE Standards in order to serve as a model for educators and leaders.
Performance indicator (PI) 4.2.a focuses on the pursuit of professional development that enhances proficiency in the ISTE standards, which focus on effective use of technology in schools to maximize student learning. As an instructional technology coach, it is imperative to stay abreast of best practices in teaching and learning utilizing digital technology to modeling best practices to colleagues and ultimately create technology-rich learning environments for students.
Through the DEL program, I have deepened my understanding of 21st century skills, which are closely aligned with the ISTE Standards due to common theme of preparing students to thrive as professionals in a global workplace. I also learned about the Backward Design Framework, which I believe could be considered as a best practice framework for the instructional design process.
In my blog post titled, “Pedagogy before technology: Why the cart shouldn’t be put before the horse when integrating technology into student learning experiences,” I examined the process of coaching a teacher to improve a lesson plan through integration of digital technology to promote student engagement and enhance active learning. I also explored the importance of understanding the intentions for selecting a particular digital tool to incorporate into student learning activities. Additionally, I discussed the importance of the instructional design process in assessing how the lesson plan is designed to meet curriculum/content standards, 21st century skills, and technology standards. The Backward Design Framework (Bowen, 2017) is reinforced as a valuable framework to use during the instructional design process since the learning outcomes and evidence of learning are pre-determined before the development of learning activities, including use of digital technology. Using the Backward Design Framework will enable the coach and coachee to intentionally determine digital tools that are suitable for a lesson plan due to their alignment with learning outcomes and evidence of learning.
Another example of my professional learning that has deepened my understanding of the essence of the ISTE Standards is the concept of voice and choice. Voice and choice in a component of student-centered learning and is reinforced in the ISTE standards as “empowered learner,” “innovative designer,” and “creative communicator.” In my blog post titled, “Voice and choice in a digitally enhanced learner-centered curriculum.” I explored how incorporating student voice and choice in the instructional design process could foster creativity, self-direction, ownership, interest, passion, and engagement in the learning process.
Another topic of my professional learning during the DEL program was my deepened understanding of designing active learning for a virtual professional development learning environment. Instructional technology coaches support educators one-one-one to improve their teaching practices, but they also provide professional development to larger groups of educators in a variety of learning environments. My blog post specifically examined best practices for designing active learning experiences for both synchronous and asynchronous professional development continuing education. I wrote about engagement strategies, digital tools to promote active learning in an online learning environment and provided practical examples of active learning activities appropriate for teacher professional development.
PI 4.2.b: Actively participate in professional learning networks to enhance coaching practice and keep current with emerging technology and innovations in pedagogy and the learning sciences.
Beginning a master’s program in Digital Education Leadership (DEL) during a pandemic offered me rich opportunities to expand my networks as a connected learner. The DEL program’s framework included professional learning communities (PLCs) as a component of its courses, which provided supportive, encouraging peer discussions and feedback. Taking part in PLCs each quarter with changing group dynamics allowed me to broaden my knowledge in digital technology due to the varied professional roles and educational interests of my peers since the program structure encourages students to explore their interests and expand their skills in their professional work. In these peer networks, I engaged in feedback during the early stages of blog post development, which included investigating my peers’ topics and sharing additional research to support their writing. Upon completion of bi-weekly blog posts, I provided encouraging feedback to my peers by commenting on their blog posts and sharing their work to my Twitter network.
Beyond the DEL program, I have expanded as a connected learner in my role as a dietetic internship director. The pandemic caused disruptions in how dietetic internships normally operate, which brought forth a newly formed professional learning network of Washington state dietetic internship directors. As a supportive group of connected learners, we shared our trials and successes with one another, compiled a wealth of resources to use as alternate practice experiences for students who were not able to complete supervised practice in person, and discussed utilization of technology for instruction.
Further, a project I completed during Summer 2021 titled, “Student-preceptor collaboration: Why precepting dietetics students is a “win-win” experience,” is an example of how I designed a professional development class for a school foodservice professional learning network. I highlighted the benefits of precepting dietetics students as a way to expand use of digital technology in their marketing efforts since students would focus on projects that utilized digital technology, (which many food service directors may not be proficient in using). During the instructional design of this conference presentation, I advanced my professional development in many areas that will benefit me when coaching other educators. My deepened knowledge included developing a flipped class format, designing Powerpoint slides, handouts, and recorded presentations that are accessible for a variety of learners, and incorporating multiple types of digital tools throughout the presentation, such as Google Jam Board, Poll Everywhere, and Kahoot, to increase engagement, solicit questions, and assess understanding of content.
PI 4.2.c: Establish shared goals with educators, reflect on successes and continually improve coaching and teaching practice.
The DEL program deepened my understanding of the role of instructional technology coaches and how to develop an effective coaching/coachee relationship. I spent Autumn 2021 in a peer coaching relationship with a colleague who was interested in improving her lesson plans through integration and utilization of digital technology in a university course. In my blog post titled, “Incorporating Knight’s seven principles of partnership into modeling digital instructional design principles,” one theme I focused on was the importance of a partnership with developing shared goals, which is articulated by Knight (2011) as equality in decision-making. Knight also includes reflection as one of the seven principles of partnership as a method to contemplate successes and areas of improvement after introducing new instructional content and/or new digital technology.
Another example that reflects my understanding of PI 4.2.c is my blog post titled, “How can design thinking impact the peer coaching process?” Through my research, I learned that the design thinking framework can be used in a coaching relationship “. . . to more effectively set goals and achieve outcomes that meet our teachers’ needs” (Lewis, 2018). Design thinking also includes a reflection phase after solutions are put into action, which is beneficial to evaluate whether actions were successful in achieving the intended outcomes or whether revisions are needed.
In summary, I have demonstrated how my experiences as a connected learner have enhanced my knowledge and skills in digital technology, which have been shared with peers and colleagues over the past two years. It is my hope that my interest in paying it forward will ultimately benefit students “with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive, grow and contribute in a global, interconnected and constantly changing society” (ISTE).
Author unknown. (2022). What is a connected learner? https://www.oncourselearning.com/resource/connected-learner/
Author unknown. (2020). What is connected learning? National Writing Project. https://lead.nwp.org/knowledgebase/what-is-connected-learning/
Bowen, R.S. (2017). Understanding by Design. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/understanding-by-design
International Society for Technology in Education. (2022). www.iste.org.
Knight, J. (2011). What Good Coaches Do. Educational Leadership, 69(2): 18-22.
Lewis, S. (2018). The “design thinking” approach to coaching. https://blog.teachboost.com/design-thinking-approach-to-coaching