Pelz (2010) describes effective online pedagogy as using technology with three design elements; (a) Students do most of the work because more time and engagement leads to more learning; (b) Essential to online learning is the concept of interactivity; (c) strive for social, cognitive, and educational presence. These three elements lead to Boettcher and Conrads (2016) emphasizing that pedagogical designs require careful selection of the technology tools to support the engagement and learning objective set by the educator. The early groundwork for understanding these differences between online and face-to-face teaching can only help school teacher librarians better lead educator instructional design efforts.
Researching instructional designs and online pedagogy that relates directly to a K-12 environment is met with a paucity of results. Often books and articles are limited in scope simply discussing the tools of technology without connecting learning objectives with engagement. Green, Donovan, and Green (2020) recognizing that the shift to online learning is difficult within K-12, dedicate an entire unit to the discussion of change. The objective eases the notion of necessary change when developing a foundation and appreciation for technology use within a K-12 school environment. Green, Donovan, and Green (2020) continue by offering various technology integration models and describe the pairing of skills with possible technology resources (p. 68).
School library teachers have always professed that using technology for technology’s sake is not enough. Goodsett’s (2020) study combines the tenets librarian’s value of critical thinking and information literacy within an online environment concluding the use of structured rubric as a method for ensuring the quality of the instructional design. In the new online ecosystem, school library teachers are leaders ready to pivot by integrating traditional services and supports with a new understanding of online teaching pedagogy. But still, what can school library teachers use to better understand online pedagogy as we ready ourselves to lead educators?
Although academic in its origins, Boettcher and Conrad’s (2016) Ten Core Principles for Online Teaching works as a meta-analysis of previous work. In its second edition, the original principles have been updated establishing a foundational guide for academic educators when designing, creating, and teaching an online structured learning experience (p.26). These Ten Core Principles can be adapted for the K-12 online ecosystem. Adapted, the principles for K-12 online teaching become a guide by which school teacher librarian leaders can structure remote teaching and learning instructional design supports. Modification of Boettcher and Conrad’s (2016) ten principles for a K-12 environment may read as:
- Every structured learning experience is learner-centered. The educator guides the learner through learning experiences that guide through knowledge skills students will develop and acquire. While learning objectives and assessment outcomes remain static, student choices for tools and engagements create a variety of experiences.
- Students bring their own individualized and “customized knowledge, skills, and attitudes to the learning experience” (p. 29). Educators provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate learning objectives and knowledge gained. When planning, educators provide opportunities for students to learn course-related concepts and knowledge in a way that appreciates and embraces the diversity of experiences, differentiation, and creativity of each student.
- Educators guide students by giving direction through learning to develop knowledge. In an online ecosystem, the “sage on the stage” is eliminated and the “guide on the side” needs a variety of technology resources that truly engage when paired with a learning objective.
- All learners must learn the identified core standards of the course, unit, or lesson. This principle is especially difficult when face-to-face learning is not an option. When challenged by time, the selection of appropriate resources, and structuring individual learning experiences, choices are made to ensure all students gain knowledge in all core standards. When only the core standards are focused on, educators let go of possible content that made the course unique to their teaching. Overall the goal is to establish a deep foundation of understanding by which a child can continue to grow.
- Learning experiences have to include the environment or context in which the student interacts. This principle goes to the heart of access and outside of school influences that impact a student. Educators have to plan for where, when, and what resources are necessary for each student to complete their lessons. Does the student need additional supports? Will an adult be there to support the learning? Are there circumstances that required synchronous or asynchronous learning opportunities? How will group work be facilitated? Will experiences include different lengths of time to complete assignments? Will there be small incremental assignments to show growth? Are all assessments graded? Can all students access technology and the internet? Is a device needed? All of these questions are necessary because the online instructional design requires the building of interaction between students, students with educators, and students with resources and tools that lead to knowledge.
- Students have a narrow Zone of Proximal Development. The Zone of Proximal Development means not students all are ready to learn when an educator is ready to teach. Building areas into the lesson for students to offer feedback, ask questions, talk with a peer, watch demonstrations and check for progress at a time best for their learning not only supports learning but creates a sense of responsibility of ownership for what is learned. Recognizing this difficult with younger grades educators may incorporate checkpoint routines.
- Students must have opportunities to connect the learning concepts with outside experiences. Educators have long understood that associating background experiences with new concepts help scaffold learning. Pairing those opportunities with the right technology tool that ensures the experience is no different.
- Educators must pair instructional practices and technology tools with the intended learning outcome. Working backward, once the intended learning outcome is determined educators design the practices surrounding the lesson then select the tool(s) that best engages students for maximum results. Always remember, “pedagogy first, technology second” (p. 63).
- Additional time on task leads to additional learning. The adage, practice makes perfect, is not lost when considering the more a student engages with the objective that is being taught the more he or she will master the objective. When paired with Principle 4, practicing with the same technology tool or offering choices to meet the same objective in another way allows a student to demonstrate positively what has been learned.
- “We share our tools and our tools shape us.” There is an understanding that the tools of technology are shaping behaviors. As such, they are influencing how to learn. As part of our everyday existence, instructional designs must use this consideration when planning. Understanding the interactions students have with technology tools can only prepare us better for how the technologies may be used by students.