HACKing Disciplinary Literacy in TE 930, CTL Mini-grant Spring 2016

Instructor: Marva Cappello, Teacher Education

Summary: In response to the School of Teacher Education community stakeholders’ call for increased technology preparation for student teachers, Professor Cappello’s TE930 Literacy Methods class for teacher credential candidates integrated HACKS, an app smashing pedagogical innovation enabling multimedia responses to readings and course content. She found that HACKing successfully replaced more traditional assignments, such as quizzes and essays, in addressing SLOs to engage linguistically and culturally diverse students through a variety of instructional strategies. HACKing worked on multiple levels, as her students were required to include technology as a tool for literacy instruction, as well as engage their own students to use technology to demonstrate learning. Success was measured by the results of the assignment rubric, along with pre- and post- surveys.

Final report

What I Did

I adopted HACKS in TE930, my literacy methods class for teacher credential candidates.

In order to meet my student learning outcomes, my use of HACKS also engaged students in app smashing to creating mash-ups (Lucking, Christmann, & Whiting, 2008) where multiple technologies are combined to create a unique learning outcome.

I first learned about HACKS at CTL’s Digital Pedagogy Learning Community Showcase in May 2015. Linnea Zeiner conceived of HACKS for her course redesign of History 110. Zeiner “designed digital assignments that were intended to replace traditional quizzes and encouraged students to engage with their world around them in a 21st century way.” Learning products were student created multimedia responses to readings and course content. In Zeiner’s case, her students hacked history.

Like, Zeiner, I included HACKS to “accommodate the creativity and abilities of the students.” I also believed HACKS would improve my practice because as my students create multimedia texts that model 21st century and critical thinking they will have strategic models for in their K-6 classroom practice. This is especially appropriate in San Diego, where many students are English Learners because these assignment products will also capitalize on the strengths of varied communication systems to create education experiences where “our language abilities do not define the limits of our cognition” (Eisner, 2002, p.12). I was also interested in adopting HACKS for my practice in response to the School of Teacher Education stakeholders’ call for increased technology preparation for our student teachers.

My HACK Technology and Corresponding Lesson Plan assignment requires students to use technology for both RECEPTIVE and PRODUCTIVE literacy purposes. In other words, they are required to include technology as a tool for literacy instruction AND their students will use technology to demonstrate learning. Students have the option to work in grade level pairs to meet the assignment goals.

HACKS addressed the following SLOs as listed in the course syllabus and aligned to the Teacher Performance Expectations (the standards for the profession):

  1. To guide students toward an understanding of effective instructional strategies which meet the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse students.
  2. To engage the learner in making critical decisions about content, structure, and assessment in language arts classrooms.
  3. To offer students the opportunity to explore a variety of instructional strategies and determine their useful application in differentiated instruction.


How It Went

An analysis of the assignment rubric in the original proposal (and developed by the students) demonstrates student success. All students scored at the expanding or exemplary levels as indicated against the criteria in the rubric. Additionally, nearly all students scored exemplary on alignment with Common Core State Standards and creation of mash-up where multiple technologies were included.

An additional evaluation tool was employed in the form of a pre- and post-education technology survey. An analysis of those data reveals gains in student knowledge of the use of technology as an instructional tool and for students to demonstrate learning. Students’ post responses shifted from the disagree to agree side of the continuum.

However, there are two areas where improvement (measured by the shift above) was not satisfactory: familiarity with the SAMR and TPACK models. Although both of these approaches were covered in assigned reading, the results indicate I need to do more with the models to support student understanding.

The final analysis taken from the surveys indicate students’ increased awareness of education technology tools. This is no surprise given students learned what was taught.

What I Learned

Students were engaged and eager to try out new technology for instruction. I believe students were successful because: (1) this was an innovation, something outside their regular practice, (2) students believed they could be better teachers by using the tools taught, (3) I invited guests to support learning throughout the semester, and (4) students measured success against the rubric we created together.

However, given the chance to teach this unit again (potentially for Spring 2018) I would be more specific about unpacking the SAMR and TPACK models for instructional technology integration. The data shows assigned reading wasn’t enough to support students’ critical understanding of these models.