English/Language Arts Education
This study examined the types of online resources preservice teachers used when planning for their literacy instruction and whether the identified resources are research based. An online survey was distributed to preservice teachers enrolled in a literacy education course. Results reveal that participants (N = 77) use a mix of research-based professional resources, popular search engines, and content-sharing networks. Reasons for use included accessibility and convenience, content variety, visual aesthetics, literacy content, and source credibility. This research has implications for teacher educators and associate teachers, who are often the first to disseminate information to preservice teachers about effective literacy practices.
National standards and frameworks for mathematics, computer science, and technology emphasize the importance of teaching all children computational thinking (CT) skills. These skills are important for preparing citizens that are literate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and for participation in a society that is rapidly changing with emerging technologies. This paper describes a 72-hour summer institute for grades 6-8 middle school mathematics teachers (n = 22) with a comprehensive approach to professional development, including training in computer programming with Bootstrap Algebra and Lego® Mindstorms® robotics, mathematics content sessions, and mathematics pedagogy sessions. Results of an assessment used to measure content knowledge and CT skills as well as the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge survey yielded statistically significant increases. Participant reflections revealed they valued opportunities for collaboration within grade-level professional learning communities and integration of CT strategies through both programming and robotics. Based upon participant feedback we recommend choosing either the use of Bootstrap Algebra or Lego Mindstorms within shorter timeframes to better prepare teachers for classroom implementation. These middle school teachers were receptive to mathematics-specific content sessions focused on developing conceptual understanding of mathematics they teach as well as grade-level appropriate manipulatives.
The lack of a definition of the T in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) acronym is pervasive, and it is often the teachers of STEM disciplines who inherit the task of defining the role of technology within their K-12 classrooms. These definitions often vary significantly, and they have profound implications for curricular and instructional goals within science and STEM classrooms. This theoretical paper summarizes of technology initiatives across science and STEM education from the past 30 years to present perspectives on the role of technology in science-focused STEM education. The most prominent perspectives describe technology as the following: (a) vocational education, industrial arts, or the product of engineering, (b) educational or instructional technology, (c) computing or computational thinking, and (d) the tools and practices used by practitioners of science, mathematics, and engineering. We have identified the fourth perspective as the most salient with respect to K-12 science and STEM education. This particular perspective is in many ways compatible with the other three perspectives, but this depends heavily on the beliefs, prior experiences, and instructional goals of teachers who use technology in their science or STEM classroom.
Social Studies Education
Elementary pre- and in-service educators increasingly rely on online instructional resources to supplement their curriculum. As social studies instruction has received progressively less attention in elementary classrooms, prospective teachers have fewer opportunities to observe powerful and purposeful elementary social studies pedagogy. To develop critical analysis of instructional resources found on for-profit marketplaces like Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, students in a Midwestern teacher preparation program completed an assignment that required them to analyze online resources with a critical media literacy tool. In this qualitative study the authors conducted a content analysis of 10 of these assignments, all related to Martin Luther King, Jr., Black History Month, and the Civil Rights Movement. Through cycles of coding, the authors identified resources with problematic historical narratives, student assumptions about creator expertise and resource credibility, and the challenges of relying on a checklist for critical analysis. While the critical media literacy tool was helpful in directing preservice teachers’ attention toward meaningful social studies content, it was insufficient as assigned. The authors found that the tool failed to deeply contextualize racial platform capitalism and the need for critical race media literacy in assessing lessons about Black history.
Some K-12 social media celebrities, or influencers, have begun to enact influence at a massive scale, possibly shaping the teachers who follow them, while seeking individual profit in the process. In this qualitative study, the authors explored the content edu-influencers share on Instagram, which is an understudied yet increasingly popular social media site, where influencer culture runs rampant. The authors coded publicly available Instagram posts (n = 310) and stories (n = 115) shared by 18 influencers comprising the popular and racially diverse K-12 collaborative, Teach Your Heart Out™. They observed activity across 4 weeks during the 2019 back-to-school season. Edu-influencers’ content encompassed four themes: promoting products and themselves, motivating teachers, soliciting engagement, and advocating for classroom approaches. On one hand, edu-influencers sometimes facilitated teacher networking, provided motivational messages for teachers, shared resources with teachers, provided authentic examples of classroom practice, and promoted social justice orientations. However, some influencers’ activity was overwhelmingly promotional, lacked thoughtful explanation, or missed an opportunity for connection to critical social issues. Findings shed light on the phenomenon of educator influencer culture, highlighting the need for critical digital literacies among teachers who use social media for professional purposes.