“I couldn’t wait to get back to normal; and now I’m not sure what normal looks like,” she nervously revealed on the eve of her school reopening after almost a year online.
She isn’t alone. Scores of teachers have asked, “Can we go back? Should we go back?” and even more frightening: “How do we go back?”
My response is always the same: Let’s consider the New Now.
At the core of the New Now is our shared experience of living through a pandemic and navigating it together. While it was admittedly difficult to connect with our students and colleagues in online environments, it was what we had, it was all we had, and the universality of pandemic teaching and learning, I’d argue, forged bonds we didn’t know could exist. Basically, we’ve been in the same boat, trying to find the best way to row it.
Yes, as difficult, draining, and demoralizing pandemic teaching could be, we held on to each other, and that is what will propel us into the New Now: relationships.
When re-thinking instructional design, consider nurturing a relationship in which we allow students to take on more responsibility for the path and pace of their learning, building in more choice, voice, and creativity. In turn, you get to be the facilitator you’d hoped to be.
Assessments, too, could benefit from the give-and-take of relationships. What if we provided more feedback and less points? What if we allowed students to revise, grow, and do-over while we coach them as an invested partner?
As we begin to come together again, it is the shared experiences and the natural human need to connect that I hope will inform our New Now educational practices.
image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I love writing. Mostly because the number of ideas and thoughts swirling around in my brain at any given time resembles that of an overstocked carp pond. (Click here for a visual to explain that analogy.)
Given the number of times I've posted to my blog in the last year, however, I've been reassessing the task I once thoroughly enjoyed. Time is not a luxury I possess in abundance. And to be honest, my attention span isn't what it used to be.
Which explains why I love Twitter so much: 280 characters! Quick information! GIFs!
It got me thinking: am I the only one who feels the same way? How can I continue to share content in a forum that easy, quick, and clickable? Enter microblogging: condensed content for quick interactions.
What is microblogging? According to Sprout Social, an all-in-one social media management platform, "microblogging is a combination of instant messaging and content production...[that] appeals to the mobile browsing community." Popular platforms for microblogging include Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
It makes sense for me to microblog. I could potentially reach a larger audience, as a microblog facilitates greater engagement than a traditional post. And I could do it from anywhere, as long as I have my phone with me. I certainly have more interactions (retweets, likes, comments) when I share something to Twitter.
But I think the main reason for me to slow my roll with traditional blogging, though, is that I'll cease to be wracked with the conscience-crushing guilt that comes from not keeping up with my blog--as if I've abandoned it like a red-headed stepchild.
With that said, I'm already taking too much time out of my day to write this, especially given how much I have on my plate with coaching and designing for distance learning at this historic time.
So, if you're reading this (and I hope you are), you can find me over on Twitter.
I might be back here someday, because I never say never.
Here in Ohio, we're seeing a dramatic and quick rise in the number of universities opting to forgo face-to-face learning due to coronavirus concerns. (My Ohio State sophomore, currently on Spring Break, will be engaging in distance learning until the end of the month.) I suspect it won't be long before our K-12 schools follow suit. No matter where you live in this country, COVID-19 s affecting all of us. Personally, I think it's smart to work towards containment measures, and I'm grateful we live in a time where technology makes working or learning from home manageable. Of course, I'm a digital learning coach, so technology is second nature to me. I realize that not everyone is like me (and the world is grateful for that!).
With that said, I acknowledge that taking kids out the classroom poses some real challenges: What about those kiddos who don't have home wifi access? What about our schools who can't provide a device for every students? What about our educators who are new-ish to the idea of remote teaching?
As we anticipate the rush to find solutions, I've created what I hope to be a very helpful guide in navigating new and unknown territory. While it won't solve the intricate problems of attempting to get our schools online in a hurry, I do believe it will help assist us in making informed decisions. Please feel free to share with your colleagues and staff, and as always, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions--and especially with ideas and updates that could be added to this live document.
You've got this!
I keep a list of all the #edtech tools available for digital learning: apps for assessment, platforms for instructional delivery, tools for collaboration + creativity.
That list is currently at 212. (That is not a typo.)
And those are the tools about which I know. It can get overwhelming, this having to be constantly on top of the ever-evolving, never-stalling educational technology universe. Sort of like this:
image courtesy of YouTube
I'm a fan of simplicity and of having my options limited. Too many choices and I get paralyzed. With that said, when I'm asked to make recommendations by teachers for the must-have tools for their edtech toolbox, here are my go-tos in no particular order:
Want to really know if your students learned something? This is IT. If you don't believe me about this social learning platform in which the teacher poses a question and students provide video responses, then believe the millions of other users who swear by it. This is a very simplistic explanation for an edtech tool that has more uses than a Swiss Army Knife (especially with its most recent updates of camera features and AR), so I suggest you get in there and play around with it yourself. Here's a great guide to get started.
It was a giddy day when the teacher would roll out the giant TV and popped a clunky tape into the VCR. But to be honest, I'd have liked Edpuzzle way more. And you will, too. It's more than a simple show-a-video-to-students tool. Edpuzzle gathers valuable and informative data about student comprehension. In the age of on-demand, pausing, and rewatching, this tool will resonate with your class. Click here if you're a newbie to Edpuzzle.
I have the attention span of a goldfish, so if it takes me a long time to learn something, I'm out. Book Creator's got your back with its 10-minute tutorial. Turn your lesson into your own textbook. Better yet, allow your students to create their own ebooks, comic books, photo books, and journals.
There's a reason YouTube is popular with your students. Watching a video is more powerful than reading text. This screencast recorder allows students to truly show what they know by narrating what's on their screen. Create tutorials for your kiddos for days when you've got a sub, or replace the time-consuming oral presentations with screencasts.
Why not make learning a game? I can't tell who has more fun with this--the kids or me. This collaborative learning classroom game makes your job easier. Do yourself a favor and take the lecturing out of learning with the Live version of Quizlet.
I hope you find this list useful if you're just getting started with 1:1, or even if you've been doing it for a while. What are your faves?
The word “innovation” has been a word casually and sometimes inaccurately tossed around in education the last five years or so. We know innovative educators exist, and I have had the immeasurable pleasure to be in the presence of innovation--many times. As always, I am simultaneously humbled and amazed by educators who relinquish their grip on that trapeze bar, blindly but faithfully extending their arms towards the unknown--educators who practice innovative teaching methods, administrators who support such innovation, coaches who drive that innovation, and presenters who ideate more of the same. However, and upon much reflection, I’ve come to realize that it’s not the innovation that necessarily counts--It’s the inspiration that does. Inspiration leads to revolution; and those who inspire motivate change.
Brene Brown, an author and researcher with whom I’m sure you’re familiar, believes that “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you can’t have both.” Innovation only goes so far; it’s the inspiration which sparks and maintains that innovation within us. Simply put, I am inspired by all of you who continue to change, evolve, learn, fail, do, succeed, and then re-evolve. You might be scared, and sometimes even paralyzed, by the ever-present mandates to change, and yet you still do. You step out of your comfort zone; you allow yourselves to be vulnerable, and in that vulnerability, innovative practices are born. I am inspired by your courage and creativity.
Thank you for that.
Thank you for having the courage to continue to innovate. But mostly, thank you for your continued inspiration. You can’t begin to imagine how far that stuff spreads. (For emphasis, I really, really wanted to use another word for "stuff," but I'm trying to keep it G-rated, here.)
I wish you all happy and productive learning. I can't wait to be further inspired.
image courtesy of MyModernMet.com
Back in the day, before the dawn of the Internet, we looked to our teachers for the answers. We learned via a repeating cycle of lecturing, note-taking, and testing.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
With the Internet, however, everyone has the potential to become a content expert--to access the knowledge that was previously "kept" by our teachers.
With that said, it's time to shift our instructional delivery from "I give, you get" to "I ask, you explore, discover, try, fail, try again, and succeed. Inquiry-Based Learning helps us educators reach learners in the Digital Age.
Next time you feel like telling, try asking instead.
Want to learn more about Inquiry-Based Learning? Start here.
Love baseball? Love math? Looking for an end-of-the-year activity with your students that's fun and educational? I just updated my very popular packaged lesson plan, "Play Ball! Using Baseball to Analyze Statistical Data." It's a happy mix of both educational technology (Flipgrid, Edpuzzle, and Google Apps) and some hands-on creating. Please take a look, share with your colleagues, and let me know how it works for you!
The following is a true story.
As I drove him from school yesterday, my 16 year-old sheepishly announced, "I got a 40% on my test in _______." [Course name deleted to protect the innocent.]
After I corrected my almost-swerve into oncoming traffic, I regained my composure and inquired in a calm voice that masked my inner panic, "How did that happen?"
He responded, "Don't be mad. I got the highest grade in the class!"
I corrected yet another swerve.
He volunteered, "The class average right now is a D."
I gritted my teeth: "There's nothing average about an entire class of students underachieving."
He attempted to assuage me: "Mom, it's okay. No one ever gets an A. Or a B."
I explained, "Maybe it's just me, kiddo, but I don't think that's okay. How is is okay for an entire class of students to be failing? How does the teacher know you're all learning? Because the test would indicate that very few of you can show what you know."
He sighed, "Mom, please don't start with the teacher talk."
So I stopped. And not only because my sons get bored with all my educational reform proselytizing. It's because I think it's totally uncool for me to call out my kids' teachers in front of them. I don't like being all Judge Judy on other educators.
While my son put in his earbuds and tuned me out, I couldn't tune out my brain.
I'm not calling out my son's teacher here; he's not the only one.
I was that teacher. I was renowned for being the toughest grader in the high school English department, and I wore it like a badge of honor. An A was earned in my class--not granted. I believed I was preparing my students for the rigor of college by putting these obstacles in their way.
Doesn't that almost sound like I was setting them up to fail? Wasn't I establishing almost insurmountable odds? How was I doing my job? What were they learning?
We have to meet our learners where they are.
What would happen if a doctor prescribed all of his patients the exact same drug for completely different illnesses? Maybe a minority of the patients will improve--but the majority of them will never, ever recover. Their sickness will continue. And the doctor would be guilty of medical malpractice.
We have to meet our learners where they are. We really have to. And that means making sure we're doing our very, very best to reach the needs of each learner. We can do this when we give daily ungraded formatives (exit tickets in Google Forms, reflections in Flipgrid, or 3-2-1 checks in Edpuzzle). We can do this when we differentiate assignments in Google Classroom based on student needs. We can do this when we offer choice menus. Like good doctors, we should diagnose what each of our patients need--instead of writing them all the same prescription.
Teaching does not equal learning. Let's not be guilty of educational malpractice.
In my coaching, I meet many educators who want to give blended learning a try, but quickly dismiss it because they don't know how to get started. In these instances, I quickly defer to Catlin Tucker, a teacher, author, and coach who literally wrote the book on blended learning. (It's worth checking out.) Recently, Tucker provided some practical strategies for the teacher-led station in her station rotation model. Click on the image below to learn more.
Providing a #TeacherBordered classroom means letting go of controlling the learning. It's difficult, sure, but when we don't allow students opportunities to explore, fall, re-learn, and succeed, then we rob them of the ownership and pride that comes as a result of discovery. Let’s stop feeding information to our students and let’s enjoy them figuring it out for themselves.
Digital Learning Coach in Cleveland, Ohio, sharing innovative technology ideas.