It's time to chase Innovation instead of reacting to the status quo.
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.