One day in the future I will sit with a group of new teachers...
and I will tell them about the beginning of concurrent teaching. About the forced innovation that COVID-19 brought into education. About the amount of strife and controversy and political upheaval that occurred as the old education system was stretched and pulled in ways that was never meant to before. I would share about the struggles and about the solutions.
But right now we are in the mix. Where there is no more standard for how education should exist. Depending on what part of the world you live in, you are wading through governmental and organizational policies that are supposed to create better learning solutions.
This is not the point of this post (or future posts)
It's time to live in the future and think about what changes we can make to impact our students now and in the future.
We are teachers. By definition this does not give us the right to lecture our students on topics that we are more well versed. Moving into a Concurrent classroom, everything that a teacher had to manage multiplied, causing an overhaul of responsibilities and expectations. The reality is that this is not the environment for a lecture. Even if you had a top of the line camera system that followed you around, recording every word and motion, the engagement of all students will be low.
If you flip your lesson, create videos that all students can watch and rewatch, you have duplicated yourself. Everyone is getting the same content, and you are able to bring new creative ways to introduce that information to your students.
Think about it...
Our students now are a Youtube generation. How can you use the types of videos they watch as inspiration for the lessons you create? Hint: It isn't just a screen-casted google slideshow from loom.
Gail Goodwin is quoted, "Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater."
Get goofy, create memories, and make your learning sticky by becoming less of a lecturer and more of a Youtuber!
According to Google:
Producer- "a person, company, or country that makes, grows, or supplies goods or commodities for sale."
Consumer- "a person or thing that eats or uses something."
This is not a new strategy or idea. Are you designing your learning to set up your students to be producers or consumers? At the end of the lesson, who is more satisfied with the outcome? The students because they have made a new connection and understanding of what is happening within your subject? Or the teacher because they delivered the best lecture ever?
How are you designing your learning experiences, no matter the platform you are communicating through?
More and more we need to be focused on the students and how they are responding and connecting what is being taught.
Differentiation is a huge part of this, but differentiation has in some ways been thrown out the window because of the online element. F2F students might have more opportunity for personalized learning, but if they are online, they are on their own.
Differentiation is a mindset, not a structure. Differentiation is a choice of support and creative planning, not a requirement by an administrator.
Check out this video to think about differentiation and how it can apply to creating producers in your learning environment.
So the classroom is 60% F2F (face to face) and 40% online. What do to? There is no logical reason for a teacher to create two different learning experiences or lesson plans for each group of students. In the same regard, it is tough to create a fully online learning experience and require students that are face to face to fully complete it.
What about creating hybrid groups that work interactively online. That in a group of four, 2 are online and 2 are in person.
Doing a hybrid group project students can:
-Build varied and different jobs centered around the project. What advantages or abilities to students at home have vs. students in the classroom?
-Creating a culture of clear communication both f2f and online. Working through a variety of platforms of communication is a key still that is going to always be needed. Let's build that into our students.
-What could our students develop in this model? We have a lot of unanswered questions and experiences in our current field. Why not let the students experiment and create something amazing instead of micro-managing their learning to fit the teacher's comfort level.
Be more like this teacher and let the students explore:
Think about the best connections that you have with friends or family. Typically it is because you have gone through an experience(s) together that have build a strong bond. What are the actions you are doing in your concurrent classroom to build the bonds over wifi? How are you making opportunities for each other to grow and develop no matter the location?
It could start simple: Show and Tell
I'm not focusing only on our elementary level students, but middle and high school students love to share about themselves too. What if there were elements of show and tell for both your online and f2f students, allowing bonds to be built over the internet.
We could get more advanced: Gamified Learning
Think about the movies or video games where the main character has a voice in his/her ear. The guy in the van monitoring the camera feeds and being the "eye in the sky" as the mission is being completed. What if you created a learning experience where the students that are online are the "mission control" and the students in the classroom are the boots on the ground. Communication, collaboration, instruction, connection, all come into play with a common goal in mind.
Think about a breakout room where the cluse are hidden around the room but the lock is digital and only the student that is online has access to the locks? There has to be significant communication about what the lock says and how that translates into a classroom (that the online student might not be familiar with!).
Redefine, Innovate, Transform: Insert the big idea here that you have always been scared to try.
Jo Boaler says it best in a simple tweet (which leads me into my final idea:
When the pandemic hit...we had to go simple.
The learning curve and changes that were happening were overnight, and the goal was simply to get to summer, controlling as much damage as we could along the way.
We are beyond the politics and diving into a new learning. A forced innovation where teachers have to take on the role of pioneering. Seeing that the traditional practices and policies are not working, the creative minds that mold the future of our world need to step up, humble themselves, and make a change that will stick.
Teachers- make a mistake WITH your students in the name of learning.
Administrators- fight for your teachers' creativity. Create a new puzzle to solve where the requirements and the innovation can work together for your students.
Politicians- humble yourselves to see that school is not the way it was when you were a student. Understand that learning will never be the same. Trust that you DON'T have all the answers, and push those you lead into a growth mindset that the future is worthy to accept.
How will these ideas grow you into being the teacher for our students today? We should stop writing off 2020 and start leaning into the struggles in order to make better solutions that we had seen before!
I was fortunate enough to present a webinar on transitioning to Online Learning for Teach-Now. Check out the different parts below as well as the Wakelet of my notes from the presentation!
Conversational Feedback is More important than Grades...Always: 4 Practical Ideas for Distance Learning
Conversational Feedback is the idea that the feedback that students are receiving from their teachers are centered on detailed, student specific comments. With our current situation with Covid-19, the red pen on the paper with a "good job" is not going to cut it. Grades will not determine the success of your students moving forward. Words, relationships, and conversation with students are going to set the bar for your students success.
Conversational Feedback is the new grading system. The sooner you dive into this process the more success your students will experience. Below I have 4 Practical Ideas that will make your Conversational Feedback flourish.
Idea #1-Be Consistent!
Create 2-3 consistent arenas where feedback is available. An example of this could be a Class Questions Discussion Board, your Office Hours in Zoom, and feedback on any specific assignment that you are requiring submissions. Within most LMS solutions like Google Classroom and Canvas have the ability to provide private feedback to students when you create an assignment. Consistency is Key!
Idea #2-Communicate when the Feedback will come
Create a rule/norm that you can hold yourself accountable about feedback. For example, "all activities will be graded and returned with feedback within 48 hours of submission." "Any comments on the discussion board will have a response within 24 hours."
*Sidenote-- With this being said, set your hours and be clear about them. You all have lives outside of your online classroom. Make sure your students know that you are there to support them, but that you are only available during certain portions of the day. Obviously, if there is an emergency after hours, you can support, but the danger with online teaching is that the door to your classroom never closes throughout the day. Be selfish and generous with your time at the same time!
Idea #3-Let Students Speak Into Your Planning.
Open yourself and your activities up to feedback. Empower your students to speak honestly about the learning experiences that you are creating...let your stakeholders (students) speak into their experiences and make changes to your activity creation based on the students' feedback. Then take it up another level...give credit to the students when you take their ideas and implement them into their learning experiences!
An example would be to create a Flipgrid or Google Form where students can give honest feedback about their learning experiences, life, etc. Give it a fun name that will encourage honesty and interactions about what is happening..."TBH This Activity..." This can help your online classroom environment grow and evolve with the students as they grow into learning online.
Idea #4-Create Opportunities of Learner to Learner Feedback
Provide your students with clear feedback rules and structures to allow for the students to discuss, reflect, and give feedback to each other as the activities continue in your online class. This is something that can grow with time and practice, but if you create strong norms and expectations, as well as sprinkle some freedoms in there, you are giving another communication outlet to your students.
The school year has completely shifted. The expectations that were on you as teachers and on your students as learners are gone. They have retired for the year and these new fresh streamlined expectations are upon us. The beauty of online learning is that you are going to be able to experience growth and forced innovation like nothing before. If that makes you feel queasy or anxious, good! Lean into that feeling because you are going in the right direction.
Chip and Dan Heath wrote in their book, The Power of Moments, If a group of people develops a bond quickly, chances are its members have been struggling together. One study found that when strangers were asked to perform a painful task together...they felt a greater sense of bonding..." Create moments of connection with your students. Make fun spirit days, have events (like Gif Tuesday, Joke Wednesday), the content is important, but allowing space for students to engage and be in conversation (both academic and social) is going to bring together a group that you might not teach the likes of again.
“Your legacy as an educator is always determined by what your students do. You change the world by empowering your students to do the same.”
― John Spencer, Empower: What Happens When Student Own Their Learning
Around the world there are a variety of strategies being implemented to keep students engaged and reintroduced into learning. From sending packets of worksheets home to creating virtual classrooms with a strong recipe of Zoom and an LMS, add a side of school lunch and we have "pandemic school". However, the reality is that the conclusion of this school year (like every other event around the world) must look different than it ever has before. Your classroom and school hallways will never be the same.
I see this as an opportunity...
Not only should we be creating moments of Empowered Discovery for our students, but also for yourself as a teacher. For the longest time, the education world has been one that overall has been very stagnant. Since the inception of the blackboard, there have been changes to the structure of the classroom but the practice has been very similar for decades. There are an inspiring group of teachers who have written books and present at conferences about the innovative ideas of how they challenge the status quo of education, but it is to a small population. It's time for a global change. This is forced innovation.
Empowered Discovery is providing a pathway for the students to embark on. A journey of learning where the goal is the experience rather than the grade. How can we empower our students to own their learning and discover new and radical ideas?
We can easily focus on the challenges, but it’s time to stand tall and discover new ways to entice learning from our students through your creativity and planning.
Erwin McManus is quoted saying, “ True creativity does not come easily; creativity is born of risk and refined from failure.” -The Artisan Soul
There has been an avalanche of tools for teachers to use in this new form of education. The tools exist for teachers to stretch beyond the creative constraints that traditional education has given. Now is the time to create interactive, empowering learning experiences for their students. What if you could accomplish multiple standards with a single discovery activity vs. a packet of worksheets? Now is the time scratch that creative itch that has been moving through the back of your mind this past semester. Maybe it’s a new tool, maybe you have learned about App Smashing, maybe it is a strategy that you read about, or an original idea that you were just waiting for permission to unleash.
Now is the time!
Empowered Discovery is opening the door for students to dive into learning with a fresh perspective. Please don’t plan on sitting your students in front of a screen for 6 hours a day. What can they build, create, investigate, and question around their house that can connect to your social studies lesson or your science lab? How can you illustrate math in the real world, with what is happening, rather than on a textbook?
If you were a student, unable to hang out with your friends, what would be an engaging learning experience that you would be interested in?
Empowered Discovery is Messy!
Mr. Rogers is quoted saying, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
Let the Empowered Discovery be influenced by Play. Messy in nature, and simply a door for our students to walk through as they learn in this new environment.
Discoveries can change the world. Why not empower our students, the gatekeepers of the future, to do that now?
Taylor currently serves as a Coordinator of Innovative Learning for a mid-sized school district in Texas. He is a speaker, writer, and coach for all who are in conflict with the status quo.