Taking stock of teaching practice at the onset of COVID-19

Emma Whewell

Emma Whewell

Drs. Laura Teichert and Susan Piazza from Western Michigan University in the United States reflect on K-12 teachers’ experiences shifting to remote learning during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic in their recent TPEA journal article: “Taking stock of teaching practice at the onset of COVID-19”

As the world closed down in 2020 to ‘stop the spread,’ many teachers in the United States were tasked with shifting their pedagogy and instruction swiftly online. Teachers felt unprepared for online teaching and expressed an inability to meet their students’ needs. Teachers’ concerns focused on digital access inequalities, a desire for support to build digital pedagogies, particularly to enhance student engagement.

The Four Dimensional Model of Digital Literacy

The four-dimensional (4D) model of digital literacy has frequently been used to examine young children’s experiences using digital technology. The model is made up of the concepts of operational, cultural, critical, and creative dimensions. The operational dimension of digital literacy includes elements needed to competently communicate and create meaning using digital and multimedia texts in various contexts (e.g., knowing how to use a digital tool/software). The cultural dimension of digital literacy includes understanding literacies as cultural practices wherein different modes require different cultural signs and symbols, which varies by context or environment. The critical dimension requires analysis, questioning and reflection around practices that employ digital content and digital technology (e.g., the intended audience of a website or video). And finally, the creative dimension, which includes digital agency and the ability to use digital technology in transformative and innovative ways (e.g., creating multimedia products) (Colvert, 2015; Kumpulainen et al., 2020; Sefton-Green et al., 2016).

Using the 4D Model to Examine Teachers’ Digital Literacy

In the article, the 4D model is used to investigate teachers’ beliefs about their teaching at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings point to a responsibility to support digital pedagogies across pre-service and in-service contexts so that, at minimum, teachers can operate efficiently. For greater educational equity and outcomes, teachers need to be able to build competencies to facilitate communication, critique and creative expression across contexts, digital spaces, media and for multiple purposes.

Laura Teichert is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies at Western Michigan University. Her research examines young children’s and families’ digital literacy practices in their homes and communities, family literacy in homes and communities, and pre-service teaching and learning in virtual contexts. Previously, Laura worked as an elementary school teacher in British Columbia and an early literacy specialist in Ontario. 

Susan Piazza is the Chair of the Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies Department and literacy professor at Western Michigan University. Her research interests are in the areas of literacy learning, teacher professional development, and issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion within literacy contexts. She conducts critical and pragmatic research to inform anti-racist, equity-focused and socioculturally sustaining pedagogies. Her participatory action research takes place within underserved communities and school districts. 


Colvert, A. (2015). Ludic authorship: Reframing literacies through peer-to-peer alternate reality game design in the primary classroom [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University College of London.

Kumpulainen, K., Sairanen, H., & Nordström, A. (2020). Young children’s digital literacy practices in the sociocultural contexts of their homes. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 20(3), 472–499. http://doi.org/10.1177/ 1468798420925116

Sefton-Green, J., Marsh, J., Erstad, O., & Flewitt, R. (2016). Establishing a research agenda for the digital literacy practices of young children. A White Paper for COST Action IS1410. European Cooperation in Science & Technology. http:// digilitey.eu