Teacher Earns Digital Literacy Award

POCOMOKE – An innovative approach to teaching earned a Pocomoke Middle School educator recognition from a global organization this week.

Brian Cook, a sixth grade English language arts teacher at Pocomoke Middle School, was named a regional recipient of the Technology and Literacy Award by the International Literacy Association.

“It’s a very fitting award,” Pocomoke Middle School Principal Matthew Record said. “He’s an innovative teacher. He looks at literacy as a life skill.”

Cook, who’s been teaching for nearly a decade, received the award July 16 during the International Literacy Association’s annual conference in Florida. The award, he explained, resulted from his digital literacy work at Pocomoke Middle. At the urging of an educator who’d heard him present on the topic at a state conference, he applied for the honor, describing in detail his digital collaboration efforts that began more than two years ago when he joined the staff at Pocomoke Middle.

“When I came in I saw success but at the same time I saw some kids not highly motivated to come to school,” he said.

Recognizing that his students had been in school with the same classmates for years, Cook reached out to a Frederick County teacher with an idea. He wanted to use the school’s new Chromebooks and Google Hangout to enable students in Worcester County to communicate with students in Frederick County. Cook had students read a text in their Pocomoke classroom and then discuss it via digital video chat platform with their peers from across the state.

“When you connect with someone who’s not in the classroom it brings a different perspective,” Cook said.

He added that collaborating via platforms like Skype and Google Hangout was something adults in the business world did regularly. He hopes in exposing students to that type of technology they’ll be better prepared for the future.

“This builds that digital competency that allows them to go beyond Pocomoke,” he said.

While the word literacy is most often associated with books and reading, Cook stressed that the speaking and listening skills his students practiced when they communicated via computer with other students helped “unlock the powers of literacy.” He also believes it’s important to incorporate technology into education, particularly as today’s children are accustomed to it.

“When schools target for 21st century learners there’s a lot more excitement,” he said. “It’s really just taking the devices that have been given to us and enhancing the use of them.”

Record praised Cook’s initiative and his willingness to collaborate with other teachers.

“Brian puts kids first,” he said. “He shares his ideas and innovations.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.