|The KEEP Toolkit as a New Academic Genre in Teacher Education|
by Tomás Galguera
Context of working with KEEP
Tomás Galguera teaches in the Teachers for Tomorrow's School teacher education program at Mills College, a liberal arts women's college in Oakland, California. His main responsibility is preparing teachers to teach English learners (almost 25 percent of all K-12 students in California are English learners). He also has recently taught courses for credentialed teachers returning to Mills to finish their Master's degrees.
Deciding to use KEEP Toolkit with Students
Tomás has been using the toolkit ever since it was created, in the summer of 2002. Though he initially used it to document his own Scholarship of Teaching and Learning work and research , he soon realized the potential for use in his courses with students. This was especially true in his language development methods courses (one for secondary, the other elementary), where a major goal is developing students' awareness toward the forms and functions of language and the implications this has for teaching practice. It took some time to figure out how to use the toolkit for this purpose. Tomás explained, "Initially, the toolkit provided me with the means to build upon the collaborative nature of most course assignments. If nothing else, the toolkit eliminated the need to photocopy class sets of research papers for students to learn from each other's inquiry."
Building on Student Collaboration
Tomás initially was motivated to use the KEEP Toolkit in his course as a way to make tangible his nebulous idea to have his students make their work accessible to each other, rather than only to him. A similar motivation was behind his decision to begin using a collaborative Web group space (aka Tiki) to manage Wiki pages, in the form of a collaborative group space.
"Eventually, I realized the potential in Web pages as a new medium of communication and representation of knowledge as well as a different genre, not familiar to most students."
Challenging Students' Use and Knowledge of Academic Language
In the last two years, Tomás developed a unique pedagogy for using the KEEP Toolkit to develop language awareness among his students. "The toolkit has allowed me to enhance my ability to develop in my students an awareness of genres and form in using language for academic purposes. Most of my students are quite successful academically, a fact that interferes with their ability to notice what they do as highly proficient users of spoken and written language. Developing the language awareness of my students is therefore an important goal in my class, awareness they will need in order to think about curriculum and pedagogy that will lead to greater language proficiency among their students." Tomás used knowledge of his students to effectively engage the toolkit with his curriculum. Armed with the knowledge that most of his students are familiar with navigating Web pages but less familiar with creating one, and that they are experienced as writers of essays and other academic genres, he challenged them to use what they know to learn a new genre. This situation is similar to the experience of students who are familiar with and proficient in listening to and reading vernacular versions of English but not at producing spoken and written content in accordance with academic norms and genres—both must be learned and can be based on the foundation that students bring. He explained, "It is in this manner that the toolkit has allowed me to build upon the experiential approach that I favor, especially in my language development courses." The following are examples of snapshots created by a 2006-07 multiple subjects and a 2005-06 single subject credential student.
Exploring Different Classroom Uses of the Toolkit
In line with his approach to learning a language based on experience, Tomás developed templates for students to use to document their work. The templates guided students' documentation of aspects of their student teaching placements as well as on the use of the KEEP Toolkit for web design. He developed the version to the right for single subject credential candidates.
Once students complete their snapshots, he builds galleries for students to access each other's snapshots. Doing so has allowed him to change the nature of the discourse in class by expanding the audience of his and students' work. (He provides students with links to his snapshots, as well.) He provides opportunities for students to reflect on feelings of vulnerability related to language production in a public setting, a common experience of many English learners. And by opening everyone's work and efforts, he has been able to discuss with students the importance of pedagogy that fosters a caring community in a classroom as a critical context for language development.
The courses in which he has used the toolkit for this purpose are semester-long and intended for multiple and single subject credential students. He also has used the toolkit in other courses, though the goals have been different. For instance, he has used the toolkit in a research seminar course for Masters students to provide them with a medium to publish their findings in an accessible manner. The snapshots his students created provided a different way to assess their research (besides presentations and research papers). He has also been able to use these snapshots as content in subsequent research courses he has taught. Unfortunately, he has been unable to assess the extent to which former students have used their snapshots for purposes and contexts different from his course or even whether they visit them on their own.
In addition to the first snapshot he created for SoTL work, he also built a stitched group of snapshots to document his inquiry-based approach to practice as a member of the Goldman-Carnegie Quest project.
Tomás has worked with the KEEP Toolkit for over 5 years, tried various iterations of the toolkit and combined it with other technologies to make the most of his classroom teaching and pedagogical documentation. He has recognized the benefits of the toolkit to his work and provided feedback to the KML for various tool upgrades. Here are some of his thoughts:
The Toolkit has allowed me to (1) change the culture in my courses and foster greater inquiry-mediated, student-student interactions and (2) provide my students with experiences in writing and using written language in a medium and a genre unfamiliar to most of them. Both of these outcomes are central to the experiential approach I have adopted for the English language development courses I teach within the teacher credential program at Mills.