The Digital Hub



In the fall of 2016, the Faculty of Education began piloting an initiative meant to support the development of students' emergent professional digital presence. Called The Digital Hub Strategy, the initiative is informed by current research on digital literacies teaching and learning (e.g.,Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek & Henry, 2013), particularly among pre-service teachers (e.g., Carpenter, Tur & Marin, 2016; Colwell & Gregory, 2016, Hundley & Holbrook, 2013). It is also informed by accreditation standards set by the Ontario College of Teachers, and by the general understanding of UOttawa Teacher Education Faculty that our pre-service teacher candidates would benefit from an opportunity to build a positive professional digital presence for themselves, with support, during their initial professional preparation program. 

Some scholars call this type of project Domain of One's Own. Others call it an ePortfolio. We like the idea of a Digital Hub because the metaphor of the wheel fits with foundational frameworks of continual professional inquiry and reflection that are central to our innovative teacher education program. For us, the pre-service teacher candidate is the hub of the wheel. The spokes are the experiences, the work, the digital spaces that our candidates create, and choose to inhabit as they build their professional identities. In a single online space, each candidate curates a unique collection of spokes (i.e., web pages, blog posts, social media feeds, course projects) that represent who they are and what they can do as a professional teacher. 

During the 2016-2017 academic year we gathered information from graduating pre-service teacher candidates who created and curated digital hubs for themselves. Those findings, shared in the presentation below, were presented to the Faculty in spring of 2017. 

Key take-aways include: 
  • More students interpret this as an exercise in self-promotion for the acquisition of permanent employment than as an opportunity to reflect, over time, on one's growth and development as teacher 
  • Students struggled with what to put on their Hub -- some wanted more guidance, and some wanted less.
  • Students have many questions about social media, whether to use it, how to use it, why to use it
  • Students often felt nervous "putting themselves out there" as they developed new skills, and a new identity as a teacher 

Digital Hub Strategy




Based on what our graduating teacher candidates told us, we have revised the strategy and have decided, starting in Fall of 2017, to formally integrate the Digital Hub as a programmatic expectation for all candidates. All teacher candidates beginning their professional preparation program will be introduced to the digital hub during orientation and will begin to build their own digital hub during their first semester. All second-year students will be expected to create, or continue creating, a digital hub during their second year of the program. For Y2 students, the digital hub will replace the physical portfolio that students have traditionally submitted to their professors in PED 3151. 

Along the way, Faculty will support students' questions and concerns by creating open spaces for dialogue and authentic resolution of questions such as: 
Should I have a professional social media account? 
How do I document my learning process without feeling like I'm a shameless self-promoter, or without fear that I'm somehow compromising the identities of the children and school communities I serve? 
What rules should I impose on my digital presence so that I can model digital tool integration effectively for my students, but also protect myself from the potential down-sides of being a (digitally) public professional?

Fundamentally, this program is about creating a framework that allows faculty to scaffold students' technological pedagogical content knowledge (for more information about this construct, see tpack.org), and that supports students' development as public intellectual workers. Certainly, there are many ways for preservice teacher candidates to learn to use a range of digital tools in pedagogical contexts, and many ways for them to become skilled in digital creation and participation for a range of professional purposes. The institutional vision for this program is articulated on the Institutional Vision Page. We recognize that every teacher candidate will find his or her own value in this work and that what has value will differ for everyone. Every candidate will develop something a little different and indeed, we HOPE this is the case. This should be authentic work that allows every candidate to acquire new understandings of the complexities of digital literacies, digital citizenship, digital leadership so that they can THEN model and mentor digital skills, strategies, habits and mindsets for children, adolescents and adults in their careers as professional educators. 

This website has been designed to support students' development of their digital hubs -- no matter where they are in the program, and no matter how "technie" they believe themselves to be.




References

Carpenter, J. P., Tur, G., & Marin, V. I. (2016). What do U.S. and Spanish pre-service teachers think about educational and professional use of Twitter? A comparative study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 131–143. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.08.011

Colwell, J., & Gregory, K. (2016). Exploring How Secondary Pre-Service Teachers ’ Use Online Social Bookmarking to Envision Literacy in the Disciplines. Reading Horizons, 55(3), 62–97.

Hundley, M., & Holbrook, T. (2013). Set in stone or set in motion? Multimodal and digital writing with preservice english teachers. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(6), 500–509. http://doi.org/10.1002/JAAL.171

Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J., Castek, J., & Henry, L. A. (2013). New literacies: A dual-level theory of the changing nature of literacy, instruction, and assessment. In D. Alvermann, N. Unrau, & R B. Ruddell (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (6th ed., pp. 1150-1181). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.