Jessica Parker - Tech-Savvy Teachers

parker.jpgProfessor Jessica Parker says we are the brink of a profound moment in education as we watch what it means to come of age in a digital world.

Digital media presents powerful tools for engaging students in developing critical thinking, collaboration, and other 21st-century skills.

But, she says "we know that just because there are cool gadgets out there it will not be as simple as: "insert technology, and out comes student learning."

Parker is the author of Teaching Tech Savvy Kids ( and an assistant professor in the Curriculum Studies and Secondary Education Department in the School of Education. She directs the Masters in Education program with a Educational Technology emphasis.

"We are experiencing an incredibly moment in terms of the learning environments that are available outside of school and the really rich opportunities for kids to collaborate, be creative, and geek out around shared interests," she says.

At a Technology Showcase last December a number of projects were on view showing the extent of the educational technology landscape.

Some examples included:

A middle school science teacher using Google Earth to map numerous elements on the periodic table.

A high school history teacher employing a Flickr gallery to analyze Russian propaganda during the Cold War.

A middle school English teacher relying on blogs to stimulate student discussion about students' outside reading books.

We asked her some questions about what the future holds.

How prepared are elementary school students in using the tools now available? We keep hearing they are online all the time. Is this really true?

Even if kids are introduced to digital tools, this doesn't mean that they understand some of the etiquette, norms, and expectations of the technology. And there is a consequence of thinking that all students are digital natives. Teachers tend to think that they don't need to teach how to search on the Internet.

Just as we were taught how to find books in the library, students now need to be supported as they search for information. They need information literacy skills and media literacy skills. The generational labels assume too much and then we don't have discussions about what support students do need in this digital era.

Here are great discussions about the generational labels like Net Generation, Digital Native, iGeneration, etc. that generalize and assume too much:

What are the emerging trends you are excited about for the future in the classroom?

I'm excited for teachers to think about different ways to meet learners needs and engage students in deep participatory learning. I think open source software and systems like Moodle offer another way for educators to create specialized learning environments and also share their understanding with educators across age and grade level.

Marin County is using Moodle, Sonoma County is piloting it, and of course, SSU is using it along with the SRJC. This allows educators across the North Bay and the CSU system to share, collaborate, and discuss how best to create online learning environments and provide supplemental support for projects, assignments, specific courses, and even for opportunities outside of school.

I am also excited about augmented reality in which smart phones and tablets can allow educators and students to engage with their physical environment in meaningful ways.

An excerpt about this can be seen on the PBS program Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century.

Blended learning, Flipped classroom, and Khan academy are interesting ideas as well.

Three shifts in particular are unique and supportive of this environments: relatively cheap and portable hardware with a low barrier of entry, peer-based learning environments in which we can be a producer and a consumer, and deep participatory learning in which kids and adults are immersed in interest-based activities.

These characteristics (along with others) guide the informal learning environments outside of school. There is an opportunity to bring aspects of these environments into school-based learning and create unique learning environments that provide a space for inquiry, collaboration, creativity, and media creation and analysis.

For more information about the Educational Technology emphasis in the Masters in Education, visit

Jessica Parker completed her undergraduate and graduate work at U.C. Berkeley. She has a BA in media studies and an MA and PhD in education.

Search Newscenter

Subscribe to SSU NewsCenter