Slice of Life: New Literacies Consulting

Yesterday after school, I dashed to my car and drove to another school district in the area, where I am beginning to do some consulting work around the integration of technology and New Literacies ideas in an elementary school setting (this is all through the Western Massachusetts Writing Project). This district received an Innovation Grant from our state and is doing inquiry around how they can better use technology for student engagement and learning.

I was brought in yesterday to chat with a committee of teachers, parents, School Committee members, and the principal about the venture. I’ll also be spending an entire day there in late April, doing some demonstrations in classrooms and then working with the staff in the afternoon. It’s exciting to be part of this school’s push forward, and I hope I can help them do it in a meaningful way.

Our meeting yesterday was pretty informal. I presented some of my views around technology:

  • Helping student make the shift from consumers of media to creators of content
  • Using the backwards design model so that technology is just a tool to get where we need to be, not the focus of the instruction itself
  • Making sure teachers have time to play and investigate and reflect on technologies in a safe, nurturing community
  • Moving away from the isolated Computer Lab model to a more integrated model of technology right in the classroom
  • Valuing the technology literacies of students outside of school
  • Understanding that online communities provide important professional development opportunities
  • Reaching the “middle group” of teachers who are ready to make a shift, but need a path forward

One of my suggestions is that the school consider a “theme” for its move forward, and so we talked a lot about digital storytelling and its power to use voice, image, multimedia and writing across various age levels. My demonstrations will focus on digital storytelling in the various grades, although it will be only a taste (in a limited time).

In the meeting, there were questions around a lot of topics already, including:

  • Differentiated instruction and reaching all students with technology
  • The potential value of 1-to-1 computing environments
  • Ways to consider digital citizenship as part of an instructional unit
  • How technology can create pockets of collaboration
  • The potential of publishing for students
  • How does an ICT position (the lab teacher) transform into a technology coach position
  • How technology use might look different in the lower grade levels (and what that might look like)

I have to admit, I felt pretty honored and humbled to have been invited into this role. While I know I do a lot with technology with my students, and I am invited to give PD at various times for other districts, I’d love to see this consultant gig emerge into a partnership with this school where I can provide resources, advice and learning experiences for the teachers there in a way that makes sense for them. I want to value their school culture in our work. I see the role of consultant in this way as more of a partner, and guide, than the “expert.” My hope is to learn from them, as they learn from me.

Peace (in the sharing),



  1. This is so cool, Kevin! Good luck.

    I try to use tech whenever I can, but the obstacles of signing out a cart ahead of time (and so needing to know EXACTLY when you’ll be ready for the task) and the various scare tactics about what can and can’t be put online – and where… it’s all so intimidating.

    I think the best part of 1-1 is the fact that the tech is always there, ready to be pulled into any lesson. We’re far from that in my elementary school – though I think the high schools are starting to do BYOD to help move in this direction.

  2. Congratulations. The digital storytelling sounds enticing. You left a comment on my blog about listening to a poem I heard. Then someone mentioned an audio QR code. Well yesterday I tied to figure out how to do it. I only got as far as recording on garage band. Then I got lost. But I wanted to let you know through your comments you have enticed me to try new things. You will be great in this new project.

    • I’m glad to hear you tried something new, Ruth, and am sorry it did not quite come to a finish. In Garageband, you can “export” your file and then choose it as an MP3, if that helps. Then, you have the poem as podcast.

  3. Technology has become an important tool for everyone and helping move it into the classroom with backward mapping is a vital part of this change. I use a class wiki and class blog with my fifth graders. We also create short movies, writing scripts and filming, finally sharing them with our online community. It’s wonderful that you are able to share your insight and ideas with this school. I’m sure everyone will learn a lot. Enjoy!

  4. Kevin, I am planning a presentation for early that will help some of our teachers get started in integrating more tech, & in early May so they can set some goals to experiment over the summer. Thank you for this summary of what you are doing & some of the ideas for your approach “more of a partner, or guide, rather than the expert”. You are so thoughtful in your words!

  5. I wish I lived in Massachusetts and you were coming to my school. This is exactly the kind of PD I need to help me move forward with technology. Thanks for this window into your work!

  6. How wonderful for the school that you’re doing the p.d. in! They’re going to learn so much from you.

    I like that your first bullet point was focused on moving from consumers to creators. That’s so important!

  7. Thanks for coming to Crocker Farm, Kevin! We appreciated your presence and expertise in our discussion re: the integration of technology into our practices. It wet our appetites for your visit next month!

  8. Kevin,
    It sounds like an awesome position…a lot of cutting edge stuff going on. I would love to hear more about how you use technology with your current students. I am always wanting learn more about techie stuff!
    Thanks for sharing,

  9. Fantastic move for you. Your thoughts are so well organized – I see how I am still myself such a consumer and not yet a creator of content. It may be that my kids will lead the way for me. I need to get out of their way though. Somehow.

    Can you ever see yourself out of the classroom and doing this work full time?

  10. I am sure you are the best person for this job! You have been my techno-idol from a distance for a while and now you are sharing the wealth of your knowledge with a larger, very lucky audience. Congratulations to you all!

  11. The issues you addressed are just about exactly where I am as I look to next year. How fortunate for that district to have a community to process it with and someone to come along side and help them on their way.

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