FETC speaker shares 5 ways to energize students with ed-tech diversity

"Authors are born every generation and every single day," FETC speaker Rosalyn Washington says
By: | November 3, 2021
FETC speaker Rosalyn Washington says graphic novels are key tool teachers can use to excite students about reading and writing their own stories. (AdobeStock)FETC speaker Rosalyn Washington says graphic novels are key tools teachers can use to excite students about reading and writing their own stories. (AdobeStock)
Rosalyn Washington

Rosalyn Washington

Exciting and engaging students is perhaps the best reason for using ed-tech and instructional technology, says Rosalyn Washington, a digital learning specialist in Atlanta Public Schools.

Washington, who specializes in language arts and literacy, will share her strategies for achieving those goals when she appears as a featured speaker on Future of EdTech Library Media Specialists Track at the Future of Education Technology® Conference 2022 in January in Orlando.

One of her priorities in getting students more invested in learning is broadening the learning materials to which they have access. “It’s a movement that’s been a long time coming to increase diversity in exploring the voices of students,” says Washington, who works closely with media specialists in her district.


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“I’m excited to share ideas about how to excite, empower and engage students with diverse learning experiences and content,” she says.

Here are more of Washington’s tips for energizing learners:

1. Do your homework: Here, Washington means teachers, and it’s not necessarily an easy assignment. Teachers need to spend some time doing research to find diverse texts that cover race, identity and other complex issues.

Teachers should reach out to publishers, who are eager to share new titles. Teachers can also ask students to suggest texts. “Some topics may not be easy to talk about and teach, such as the Civil War,” Washington says. “We have to push past that.”

FETC Live 2022

The Future of Education Technology® Conference takes place live and in-person Jan. 25-28, 2022, in Orlando.

Hot topics in the Future of EdTech Library Media Specialists Track include:

  • Remote learning lessons from media specialists and librarians
  • Building online resources for educators and students to utilize from anywhere, anytime
  • Identify and model the use of digital tools and resources that help teachers and students learn.
  • Digital literacy (critical thinking skills, technology skills, and core social skills)
  • New technologies and strategies for finding, assessing, and using information
  • Strategies of implementing digital citizenship and equitable assess
  • How to manage and utilize technology to communicate with colleagues, parents, students, community
  • Helping staff utilize technological tools from choice boards to AR with students

2. Focus on the visuals: Washington says she grew reading graphic novels, a genre that has gained wide acceptance on K-12 reading lists as educators better recognize the power of imagery—and the highly visual influence of TikTok, Snapchat and other social media.

Educators should take the bold step of relying less on the novels and texts that are traditionally daughter in K-12. Teachers can assign graphic novels that modernize stories like Romeo and Juliet in the same way Hamilton was transferred into a multicultural, hip-hop-driven musical.

Graphic novels may also inspire more students to read for leisure.

“Let’s let go of some of these classic novels and instead use classic themes in graphic novels and diverse texts with non-traditional characters,” she says. “It appeals to students, it draws them, it’s amagnetic in nature.”

Teachers can have students create their own graphic novels to show off their mastery of a wide range of skills. “Authors are born every generation and every single day,” she says.

3. Be even bolder. The ongoing controversy over critical race theory—even though the concept isn’t actually taught at the K-12 level—may intimidate some teachers from covering certain topics, such as the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.

“But teachers who are of a certain mindset will find ways and remind us we have to do this work,” she says. “You can’t tell people not to teach the events in American history that shed light on structures of inequality.”

4. Help students identify reliable information: Most social movements include a substantial youth component, so teachers have to help students evaluate which sources of information can be trusted, she says.

“We are charged with creating critical thinkers, not just children who are just going consume a chapter in a history book,” she says. “Students are very intuitive—you can use trusted sources and help them connect the dots, and you can ask questions. Sometimes the questions we ask are just as important as the answers we provide.”

5. Respecting the work of others: Teaching students about intellectual property rights and how to identify free resources online are more than just legal concerns. For instance, the music on Michael Jackson’s is obviously copyrights while the long-held copyright on the “Happy Birthday” song expired recently.

“In teaching our students to respect the work of others, we’re also telling them that their work deserves respect,” she says. “They can have original thoughts that belong to them—it does not belong to the universe just because we have the World Wide Web.”


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