Express Yourself!: Comparing Frameworks to Foster Creative Communicators
When I first formulated my research question for this module, my intention was to explore digital tools for students to communicate their learning that would also help ease teacher workload especially for the current remote learning environment. This seemed appropriate for our Module 4 focus which is connected to ISTE 6 Creative Communicator. I do love learning about new digital tools or considering how others use the same tools in different ways for effective teaching and learning. However, I feel like there are already plenty of resources online that already explain what a tool is and how it can be used. I then struggled mightily to formulate a question that wasn’t so tool focused for this particular ISTE standard.
I started to read Carol Ann Tomlinson’s work about the differentiated classroom, Katie Novak’s writing on Universal Design for Learning, and the Danielson Framework for Remote Learning and noticed strong connections between the three. Each promotes designing flexible learning pathways that address ISTE 6. This helped me generate a meaningful question which focused on pedagogical design rather than tool summary.
My Question: How do Tomlinson’s differentiated instruction, UDL, and the Danielson Framework for Remote Learning support student learning of ISTE 6?
ISTE 6 Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
- Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
- Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
- Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
- Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
Developed by Charlotte Danielson, the Framework for Teaching is an evolving framework that outlines a roadmap for effective teaching. After the pandemic hit in 2020, The Danielson Group reevaluated their framework to fit the environment of remote teaching and learning. The Framework for Remote teaching has a focus on fewer components, updated components and elements, and no rubric. In addition to the components, the group also designed a recommended pathway to implore users to gain a deep understanding of students to build responsive learning environments in order to plan and facilitate engaging instruction to meet students where they are at. Component 1e of the framework concentrates on designing learning experiences that provide flexibility and are student-centered. This includes tasks and activities that encourage student agency, create authentic engagement opportunities, and are tailored to individual student needs (The Danielson Group, 2020). This component is directly aligned with ISTE 6. Designing opportunities for students to choose platforms and digital tools that suit their needs and interests empowers student agency while also creating learning tasks that are authentic and engaging to the individual.
Katie Novak’s advocacy for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) also emphasizes choice and flexibility when designing learning experiences. UDL is an educational framework that is intended to create learners who are purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-directed. At its core, UDL emphasizes student-centered learning experiences that embrace learner variability. Kim Schiefelbein, a guest blogger on Novak Education, stresses educators to focus on key learning goals or standards when designing lessons for remote learning (Schiefelbein, 2021). When a clear target for assessment is in mind, educators can design more opportunities for students to communicate and express themselves that is meaningful to them. Schiefelbein offers reflective questions for teachers to consider when designing a remote learning lesson with UDL in mind:
- What are the key takeaways for the lesson?
- How will all students express they met the goal of the lesson?
- What methods and materials will be used?
These questions are important to ask when considering which digital tools to utilize in a lesson or unit. In the words of Novak, “students have choices… [a]nd those choices allow all students to access rigorous, standards-based curriculum” (Novak, 2021). The patterns of choice in UDL can show up in goal settings, methods for instruction and learning, materials, and assessments. This correlates to ISTE 6 by affording students to use digital tools creatively to fit their learning needs and lesson objectives throughout the learning process. Novak specifically calls out designing multiple means of action and expression that allow students to use technology to express knowledge which cuts to the core of ISTE Creative Communicator.
Carol Ann Tomlinson’s ideas about differentiation also adhere to the standards of ISTE 6. Tomlinson explains that students in a differentiated classroom “have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn. In other words, a differentiated classroom provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products so that each student can learn effectively” (Tomlinson, 2017). Another way to consider this is differentiating by:
- Content – input or what students learn
- Process – how students go about making sense of ideas/information
- Product – output or how students demonstrate what they have learned.
Therefore, learning in a differentiated classroom must be student-centered. The connection to ISTE 6 again is clear: leverage digital tools to allow students choice in the content and product of their learning. Teachers can offer different tools for different approaches to what students learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate what they’ve learned or this can be designed by the students themselves.
The common thread amongst these authors works is student agency and choice. By designing multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression, students can then think creatively for how they wish to communicate their learning. We can even promote students to design their own learning experiences when there are clear learning targets and aligned assessment rubrics. In order to support ISTE 6, we must build learning partnerships with our students. We must get to know our students to better understand their readiness, interests, and learning profile. This information can then be used to design richer learning experiences universal for all students, differentiate to respond to student differences, and prioritize effective teaching practices for remote learning. Doing so allows students the freedom to be creative communicators.
The Danielson Group. The Framework for Remote Teaching. Danielson Group. https://danielsongroup.org/what-we-do/framework-teaching.
Novak, K. (2018, December 11). What is UDL? . Novak Education. https://www.novakeducation.com/blog/what-is-udl-infographic.
Novak, K. (2021, February 25). Million Dollar Question: What Does UDL Look Like? Novak Education. https://www.novakeducation.com/blog/million-dollar-question-what-does-udl-look-like.
Schiefelbein, K. (2021, February 3). Remote or Not, UDL Lessons Still Apply. Novak Education. https://www.novakeducation.com/blog/remote-or-not-udl-lessons-still-apply.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2017). How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms. What Differentiated Instruction Is-and Isn’t. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/117032/chapters/What-Differentiated-Instruction-Is%E2%80%94and-Isn’t.aspx.