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Jeff Utecht

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It’s been a crazy March, to say the least. Here in the state of Washington schools have been closed since March 17th and will not reopen until April 27th at the earliest. 

Our state education officials have required public schools to provide an educational experience for students. 

Now, most schools in the state were already doing this or making plans to do this. However, there were a few who were not making plans to provide any educational experience for students, citing equity issues as the justification.

Equity is a lens we must always consider, however, if you have inequities in a virtual school setting, I have news for you, they already exist in your face to face system as well!  

Jeff Utecht

If anything having to move to virtual school might be shining a light on the inequity that always existed within your school system. It has brought these inequities to the forefront, but that should not be an excuse to not do something. 

Not doing anything is far worse than trying to do something!

Jeff Utecht

This is why for years when working with school districts who were going 1:1, I would make sure we promoted that going 1:1 is an equity issue! In 2020, learning must include knowing how to learn on a device. For those school leaders (board members I’m talking to you) who were not willing to look at technology as an equability issue before this happened, hopefully, they are reflecting on this now.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some more thoughts on this current crisis we’re in and HOW we need to think and rethink as educators about what it means to teach in this current crisis. 

Let’s start with what we know students and families are going to need in this crisis. 

Created and shared by @jaydostal

This graphic created by @jaydostal can be used to rethink how we teach in a virtual setting.

Let’s start with what we know does not work: 

PACKETS OF WORKSHEETS: Packets of worksheets do not work for anyone. Whether you have a device or do not have a device, packets of worksheets do nothing educationally for anyone. Years of research on what equates to good teaching and learning show us that packets of worksheets are ineffective, time-consuming, and inauthentic ways to encourage learning.

STICKING WITH YOUR CURRICULUM: No curriculum was ever created for a pandemic. To think you can just keep going in your curriculum is not going to work. Besides, all testing has been canceled for the year. So the curriculum that was based on helping students pass the test is no longer relevant. 

Think about this teachers:

You have been unleashed from your curriculum that you found to be too rigid and state tests that you felt put too much pressure on you and your students. You have been unleashed to rethink what education can look like in this crisis. On some level, I hope that excites you. 

Jeff Utecht

STICKING WITH YOUR TIME TABLE: Sticking with your time table is not going to work. You are no longer teaching 6 periods a day. You’re teaching 120 students all at once. If you refer back to the graphic above you’ll notice in times like these, school is not, nor should it be, our top priority. Notice it says school and not learning. Learning can still be a priority but will only be if it does not feel like school, look like school, and students have all their other needs met. As many of us keep reminding you, students and families coming to terms with their ‘new normal’ can take up to three weeks or more.

We need to make the education we always wanted for our students a reality. It’s time to rethink teaching and learning if for no other reason than we must for our students. 

So here are some things we know are working that are coming out of virtual gatherings I’m hosting with educators who are in the trenches (listen to this SOSpodcast to hear even more):

I want to highlight one teacher’s journey who I feel is doing things the right way. Shannon Cunningham is a 4th-grade teacher in Enumclaw, WA who is sharing her virtual teaching/learning experience on the web for others to see.

REACH OUT TO YOUR STUDENTS AND FAMILIES: Make a video like Shannon did that allows you to connect with your students and families. Not only did Shannon make a video, but she also called each of her students and families to check-in. Every teacher has access to parent phone numbers and if you know there are families that do not have technology, a phone call might be what they need. A phone call! How simple is that? You have the information already you just need to pick up the phone and call. Doing this not only helps with the psychological and safety needs of a family (referring to the image above) but it allows the teacher to ask about the learning environment. Do they have the Internet at home, if not what do they have? Is there a smartphone in the house with a camera? What do parents need from you in the support of their child in this critical time? You want an equity lens? Reach out and ask parents how can you support them. It doesn’t need to be a phone call. Email works too! You have the information, now it’s time to use it. 

CREATE A STRUCTURE: We know learning routines are essential, so you need to set up a structure for your virtual learning. Shannon gives out all her directions on Monday for the week so that students and parents can set their schedules for the week knowing what needs to be done. She is using Google Classroom for this but has also set up a Google Site as well that you can find here. By giving a weekly outline at a time she gives students and families choice over time and place of the learning. 

TEACH AS IF THE WORLD WAS YOUR CURRICULUM: This is the most important part and by far the most difficult part. You have to rethink teaching and learning through a worldly lens. Instead of worksheets, we need to think in terms of real-world applications to the standard and then find ways to make that the learning. In Shannon’s class, she created a “Build a Fort” project where students get to build forts at their home, they then measured the perimeter of the fort, sketch a drawing of the fort, take pictures of their fort, write directions about how to make their fort so someone else could build it, and then research forts in the state of Washington. Of course, this project is going to take multiple days to complete. Shannon is thinking of ways she can cover things she never could before. There is no way in a traditional classroom she could have students create authentic forts in their homes that cover all aspects of their curriculum. But when you think about all the resources that can be found in a home you unlock new potential for learning. What are fun things you did as a kid and what was the learning involved in them? Ask yourself that question, and you start to use the world as your curriculum. You start to rethink teaching and learning in authentic purposeful ways. 

Our goal is to make learning authentic, purposeful and equitable. All things, I would argue, can not be found in a packet of worksheets for students to do. If you want to give students a packet, give them a packet of choice boards that cover your standards. Tyler Rablin a High School English Teacher shared his: 

In the end, we must rethink what teaching and learning can be. We must understand we’ve been unleashed from the daily grind and have an opportunity to rethink teaching and learning. We must continue to ask ourselves “What if the world was my curriculum?” 

NCCE 2020 here in Seattle has just wrapped up. NCCE (Northwest Council For Computer Education) being our regional ISTE sponsored conference with somewhere around 1500 participants coming together each year to share and learn. Being in Seattle and with the COVID-19 spreading throughout my state, Virtual School was a hot topic. 

One of the sessions I ran was titled “Tech Coaches Unite”. This session brought roughly 50 tech coaches together to share and learn from each other I asked how many of them were involved in Virtual School talks at the moment due to COVID-19. Roughly 20 districts raised their hands. 

I have had experience with “Going Virtual School” three times in my career and every time it was similar and yet different due to the technology we had. 

2003 – In Saudi Arabia due to terrorism in the country, I helped my school set up and run Moodle to do Virtual School. 

2005 – In Shanghai I helped to set up, run and train teachers to go Virtual School-though we didn’t end up closing due to SARS.

2009 – In Bangkok, I helped to train, facilitate and oversee Virtual School due to flooding and H1N1 in Bangkok we used WordPress blogs as teacher websites. 

2011 – I worked with Senators and the State Department in Washington DC to help fund a global Virtual School installment for International Schools to use in case of an emergency. 

Each one of these experiences was drastically different due to the technology that was available at the time. For example, the iPhone was only 3 years old and smartphones were just taking off in 2010.

So here are some lessons I’ve learned as well as recommendations I am currently giving schools when they ask me for advice on preparing for Virtual School in an emergency. 

Lessons Learned:

1. You can’t just flip the Virtual School switch. If you did not require that every teacher in the district must use the adopted LMS (Learning Management System a.k.a Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, etc) before now, you’re too late. In most cases, you will not have time to train both staff and students on how the LMS will work or does work before you find yourself in Virtual School. On the other hand, if teachers using an LMS is required in your district and they have been using it and training students on how to use it since the beginning of the school year-congratulations…..you’re gonna rock this!

2. Digital Worksheets uploaded to your LMS for students to do at home are 

  • Boring
  • Frustrating for parents 
  • Frustrating for students 
  • In general, are not good teaching practice
  • Not truly taking advantage of the opportunity you have in front of you

3 . In the two times that I was in Virtual School, we learned that teachers often gave way too much work for students to do at home. Most educators are not trained in online learning, which is different than traditional or even a blended learning format that most teachers find themselves in today. In a fully online learning environment, you must rethink the time you allow students to complete tasks. This was our #1 take away from Virtual School in 2010 in Bangkok. Both parents and students felt they were doing way more “busy work” (see #2 above) and were frustrated….especially at the Middle and High School level. 

4. Every assignment must be rethought. You can’t just take what you were going to do on Monday and do it anyway by just putting it in Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology or whatever LMS you use. 

5. Last but not least…. seize the moment! Both in Shanghai and in Bangkok we turned a negative into a positive by being able to-shall I say-’require’ teachers to “up their technology skills/usage” for Virtual School. Once Virtual School was over, those skills remained and we saw an increase in the use of those skills back in the traditional blended-learning classroom after Virtual School had ended. 

My Recommendations for Virtual School in 2020 if you did not require every teacher to be using the school adopted LMS.

Video, Video, Video we need to stop thinking in terms of “what can students type” and start thinking in terms of “how can students show me what they know”

Start by training every teacher how to make videos for instruction. Use Screencastify, Screen-o-matic or Flipgrid. I don’t care, just pick the one that best fits your system and train every teacher on how to make good instructional videos. What does a good instructional video look like? Here’s research out of Vanderbilt University on what should and should not be in your video. 

  • No longer than 6 minutes max! (3-5 is perfect)
  • Make it casual, make it you, you’re kids like you, they want to see you, they want to feel like they are in class so be you!

K-2 teachers – All you need is Flipgrid

If I was in a school today and we found ourselves quickly going into Virtual School mode I would make sure every K-2….well, every teacher really…but especially K-2 teachers had a Flipgrid account setup, and that parents had the app downloaded on their phone. During Virtual School teachers could pose questions to students via Flipgrid and students could do some investigation and post video responses back to the teacher. Teachers could read to students and ask comprehension questions. Teachers could pose a math question and students could film themselves solving the math problem with homemade manipulative in their house. Honestly, this one app is all you need. For more ideas check out #flipgridfever on twitter where teachers are constantly sharing ways they are using this incredible app. (If you use Seasaw that will work too!)

3-5 Teachers – One subject a day

Have students focus on just one subject a day in Virtual School. 

For example: 

  • Monday is Reading/Writing 
  • Tuesday is Math
  • Wednesday is Science
  • Thursday is Social Studies
  • Friday Specials/20% time

By having students focus on one subject a day you can support both student learning and parents trying to support their students at home. Again, video instruction will be key and whenever possible set-up lessons that allow students to submit video for their assignment. If I was in a 3-5 classroom, I would only set-up one written question-response sort of activity a week that was focused on learning, it would be my writing activity on Monday where I would ask some sort of prompt and expect students to respond to it and to each other. One a week…that’s it….everything else would be video. 

Middle and High School: 

During Virtual School we need to remember that we’re in this situation because something else is going on in our lives. Please DO NOT expect students to do the same amount of work they would have done if you would have had them face to face with you in the same amount of time….it just won’t happen. You’ll be frustrated, students will be frustrated, parents will be frustrated and then you’ve lost them. 

Remember learning, even in Virtual School is about relationships. So check in with your students. Ask them how they are doing, what they might need from you for support. Make sure there is space for everyone to talk about how they are feeling and what is going on in their lives. 

Work together with teachers from other departments not to overwhelm students with work. Again, uploading PDF worksheets for students to do is not what Virtual School is about! Powerful learning can still happen if you take advantage of the technology we have available today. 

I would recommend that each subject only assign things two days a week and make those days back to back so students can focus. So a schedule might look like this. 

  • Monday: ELA and Science
  • Tuesday: ELA and Science
  • Wednesday: Math and Social Studies
  • Thursday: Math and Social Studies
  • Friday/Weekend: Elective, Elective, PE

By making the days back to back you allow for longer larger projects. This gives students space and time to finish projects and allows them to chunk their learning into sizable, manageable pieces. It will also give teachers time to prepare lessons they are not used to preparing and time to assess any work that needs grading. 

Again, video is the key! Teachers making 3-5 minute instructional videos for students, and also requiring students to periodically respond in video would be taking full advantage of the technology we have in 2020 and is best practice today! If appropriate, using Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom video conferencing for real-time interaction would be a huge bonus. Do not make it required, but an optional “Hangout” time with your friends and your teacher would help to make it feel as if school is still really happening. 

Lastly, keep it simple, don’t overthink it-and have fun with your students! Learning can and still will occur. It won’t be perfect, but your classroom is rarely perfect in person, so take advantage of this time with your students. Remember too, that if you are in a Virtual School situation, something serious is going on and kids will be struggling to make sense of things. Be respectful of that, be respectful of families, their time together and their individual circumstances. Just like in the classroom, one size doesn’t fit all.

Good Luck…and let me know if I can be of help or support.

Image: tommypjr

Over the past few weeks, I have had a couple of conversations with teachers and people in the business world that I just want to share with you and let you all tell me what you think about this idea. 

There was…and still is…a push that when we go 1:1 in the classroom that this also means moving towards a paperless classroom…where everything is digital, done on a device and we cut paper out completely. From an environmental standpoint I totally get it. From a learning standpoint, I’m not so sure it’s the right move. 

When we talk about a Blended Learning environment we’re talking about using the best physical stuff has to offer and the best that digital has to offer. It’s not about all of one or the other, but the blending of the physical world and the digital world. Knowing what, when and how to use all the tools at your disposal to create and learn from in the best the future has to offer. 

Here’s what I haven’t found….I have not found one company that has gone paperless. Maybe there is one out there…I’m willing to say I haven’t checked with every company. But I have friends who work in tech and non-tech companies here in Seattle and other cities and not one of them lives in a paperless work environment. In fact, I have had people high up at both Amazon and Target tell me they print off the paper for meetings because people on their devices are A) distracting to others and B) distracting to the one’s self. By printing off the report or research they are working on, they do not have backs of screens between each of them and…get this….paper is easier to read. 

It also reminds me of a story an 8th grade teacher told me a few years ago. She handed out a physical copy of the book the class was going to read and they thanked her. It shocked her that students wanted to touch, feel, and read a real book. 

One of the things that makes me sad to see is when I walk into classrooms and students are reading a book, a report, or any other printed material that has been turned into a PDF for their screen. PDFs as a file type do not allow you to take advantage of an online dictionary and thesauruses. In most cases, they can’t be read out loud to the student. There is very little if any functionality you gained by taking something that was already on paper and turning into something that can be read on a screen that does not take advantage of the technology we have today to enhance the reading experience. 

On the other side, everyone I know, have met or have talked to about this lives in a blended world. I take notes sometimes on my phone, sometimes on my computer, sometimes in my notebook. It depends where I am and what tools I have with me. I have a notebook I use to write down all the notes from each episode of these podcasts. I have another notebook I carry with me and write down all the notes during a meeting with school leaders before I come in for a day of training. 

I start all my presentations on paper. I have a whole notebook full of my presentations before they ever make it to a slide deck. Just like Pixar storyboards out…on paper…ever movie before it’s created. 

Paper and physical things in our classroom still have a place. I want to expose students to all of it. Going 1:1 shouldn’t limit the ways of creation in our classroom, they should enhance it. They should give students more options not fewer ones that are only digital. 

If a student wants to take notes on paper they should have that option, if they want to take notes on a computer, they should have that option. What I want to make sure we do is expose students to all the ways you can take notes so they know how to choose the right tool for them for the right moment. 

In the same way, I want to expose students to different ways of writing today. You can write on paper, you can write on your computer, or you can talk to your computer and it will write for you. Each one of these ways of writing has its advantages and disadvantages and that should be what our classrooms are about. Exposing students to all these different tools different ways to write, to read, to learn. I want students to be exposed to it all so they can choose for themselves as they move through school when is it best to use paper and when is it best to use a computer. 

You can be a paperless classroom or a blended learning classroom but you can’t be both.

This blog post is also released as a podcast on Shifting Our Schools subscribe to get even more insight

Also, on the drive today I was reflecting on another conversation I continue to have with schools, technology directors, school leaders, and educators. That is the idea of student monitoring software. You know…the software that allows teachers to see what students are working on in real-time. Over the years this technology has gone from allowing teachers to see what students were doing on their devices to giving teachers full control to close tabs that students might have open, to see what applications they have on their devices and even lock their screens so they can’t cheat while taking an online test or quiz. 

Now…for years I have had major issues with this software. I understand that many districts need it to comply with state and or federal laws. Yes….if you are in a public school, it is a law that you track students…and employees for that matter. In fact, most businesses I talk to track in some way what their employees do on a business issue or school-issued device. It just makes sense. I get that. 

So first off…let’s tell students that. Let’s tell students we are recording every website you visit every click that you make on your device not because we don’t trust you, but because that’s what businesses do. They track me too. Do students know that? Do students know this isn’t a trust thing…it’s a law thing. I believe it’s important for students to know that….and for students to know this is relevant information for when they are out of school as well. This is transferable knowledge to the workplace. Understand…that if you are on a device owned by a company or cooperation everything you do on that device is probably being tracked. It’s well worth the time to have this conversation with students. 

Next up….educators please stop using this software as a way to punish students. I call it playing whack-a-mole because that’s what it reminds me. Today for example as my training was starting I had three teachers who had this software open on their devices watching their students work on an assignment in their classroom. If a student went off task, aka away from the screen the teacher thought they should be on,…they would just close the tab. No conversation, no follow up, just WHACK! Get back to work WHACK stop going there WHACK! That’s not what you are supposed to be doing. 

Different analysts mentioned further objective facts, which appeared to line up with Fox’s. For instance, Hinds (1987) and Scollon and Scollon (1995) watched postponed presentation of direction in the writings delivered by East Asian authors. On account of investigations of Korean writing specifically, Eggington (1987) depicted customary examples of Korean writing as non-straight, comprising of starting, advancement, alter of course, and closure. Hinds (1987) offered a paired dependent on peruser versus essayist duty. As indicated by Hinds, East Asian writing can be described as peruser dependable composition, instead of author mindful exposition, in that the onus of understanding falls on the peruser, and dark and obscure styles of writing are regularly expected of insightful writing. This is interestingly with Anglo-American writing, he declared, on the grounds that overwhelming accentuation is set on journalists to guarantee that their desultory decisions add to encouraging perusers’ cognizance in Anglo-American writing. It is enticing to accept, in view of Fox’s discerning remarks and resulting insightful exchange, just as the models about Japanese’ danraku’ and the Chinese expository style portrayed over, that components, for example, an absence of clear association and certainty describe commonplace scholastic writing shows in Asia, students even can find more info from australiaessays.info about all the writing traditions in the Asia. In any case, Zong and Li (1998) brought up that the characteristics maintained in Anglo-American writing are called for in many kinds of explanatory writing in China. Truth be told, they accept this is certifiably not another, post-present day pattern as they follow the root to Kui’s 1197 content The Rules of Writing, which is regularly viewed as the principal old style work of Chinese talk. Zong and Li outline Kui’s expository standards as clearness, straightforwardness, and utilization of normal language. Kirkpatrick (2002), in the wake of checking on the guidance given in college reading material on Chinese writing and the sorts of activities students may experience in their national college selection tests, found that such course books educate writers to utilize correct and clear language in argumentations. Kirkpatrick (2004) is persuaded that “it is difficult to presume that Chinese students will go to the undertaking of writing in English impeded by their past learning experience”

Playing whack-a-mole is not a classroom management strategy. Playing whack-a-mole does not change behavior, it does not support learning, it is not a transferable skill. It’s nothing more than a method to say “I don’t trust you!” 

A teacher who plays whack-a-mole needs classroom management strategies to help them in their connected classroom. Every time I see this happening in my trainings or hear teachers talking about how great it is to have this software I can’t help but cringe for those students. 

Put yourself in the student’s shoes…..pretend you’re a 7th graders for a second. What’s going through your mind? How does this behavior break trust and relationship building in your classroom? 

Now…there is another way to use this software, and that is to build relationships with students, to start conversations, to help them with time management…that we don’t teach but somehow just expect students to know how to do. 

In the end, I understand why we have this software. I understand it’s needed and I want schools and educators to protect themselves. But I want this software to come with a caution sticker. 

CAUTION: This software is not a classroom management strategy

Photo Credit: Needpix

As many of you know I recently wrote a peer-reviewed paper with Doreen Keller. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it to you as it’s the foundation, in my mind, how we need to think in a connected world. 

Teaching in a 1:1 classroom is not about the technology or the tools but rather a mind shift that must occur if we’re going to truly use the power of the world’s information in the hands of students. That’s really what this is about. Once we give every student a device we have to rethink a lot of what we do in the classroom and what knowledge acquisition can and should look like. 

Today I’d like to reflect and share my thoughts on the 2nd Connectivism principle of learning that states:

Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. 

I want you to stop and reflect for a second. If you have something around your house that you need to fix. Let’s say the dishwasher is making a noise and instead of calling a plumber right away you decide to try and figure out what’s causing the noise and how to fix it. 

Now…right there we have very distinct learning opportunities. 

1. We must first figure out what the problem is. We call this being a problem finder. 

2. Once we have located the problem we must then learn and try and fix it. 

Both of these are learning opportunities and crazy enough just how we live in today’s world. 

So I’m going to guess you’re going to head to Google and type in GE Dishwasher Model Number 7547 is making a thumping noise when running

You are instantly given a results page that in the crazy world we live is probably has a title of a webpage or a video with that exact phrase!

This is the moment that this principle takes hold. You must now connect nodes of information from different sources to learn something new. You might read a blog post, watch a video or two and all along you are learning. You learn something from this video that you re-read on this blog and then is restated again in another video. You’re watching videos taking the pieces that apply to you and ignoring the pieces that don’t.  You are learning by connecting all this information from different sources and applying it RIGHT NOW to your situation. 

Then when you finally believe you know what the issue is you’re already on your way to solving the problem. You want and read some more, you re-watch some videos, try a few more sources, probably do a new google search that is GE Dishwasher Model Number 7547 upper arm hitting silverware tray. You get more sources of information, some of them the same and some new and you learn more. 

Then you do! Right there at the moment, you do the thing you just learned about. You apply your new learning instantly to a situation and you solve it. 

Then you step back…you look at your work and you’re so excited you run and tell your spouse “Honey! I fixed the dishwasher” he or she gives you a “Great Job” and you feel good about your accomplishment. 

Now….getting the “Great Job” is you getting an A on your assignment. However, that is not where the learning occurred. You get an A on your final project because that’s all your spouse saw. That’s all they wanted and how they are going to assess you. Does the dishwasher not make a noise anymore. 

Now showing results is part of the grade for sure…but if we’re really interested in assessing learning the final project is not where the learning happened. The learning happened in the doing. Doing research, connecting information sources, trying something out, trying again, learning, watching more videos, reading more websites, and doing. That’s where the learning occurred. 

So I ask you: 

Do you assess just the presentation or the creation of the presentation? 

Do you assess the final writing or the rough draft and edits along the way? 

Do you assess the final answer or the steps to solving the equation?

How do you make sure that you are assessing the learning not the product of that learning? 

Again projects are great….they are the results of the creative process and they must factor into the overall result however if we are REALLY interested in assessing learning…that does not happen in the product. It happens in the process of creating the product. 

It happens in the selection of what information to read/watch

It happens in the trial and error of creation

It happens in the re-watching and re-learning of a new skill

It happens in making the connections between a video that someone else made and the actual problem I have in front of me and trying to determine are they the same problem.

This is a great time of year to reflect on how often are you assessing learning vs the product of learning. How might you have to rethink your lesson/unit/approach so that you can gather, or collect something that shows learning occurring in the moment? What might that look like for you? 

If you have great strategies or ways that you gather evidence of learning happening in the process, not the product would you mind sharing those with all of us in the comments below?

Last Saturday we had a thunderstorm move through Seattle…we don’t get them very often around here so a storm with over 2200 lightning strikes is pretty crazy and awesome….but more than that…it was Mother Natures way of calling in Fall. Since then the temp as barley hit 70 degrees if we’re lucky and the low slow clouds with off and on rain tell us that Fall is here. That and the squirrels…there are squirrels everywhere all of a sudden…oye.

Anyway, this week I want to thank Katy McKee for sharing an article with me titled What is engagement in a learning experience?

It was put out by GoGuardian a software company that helps filter and monitor student devices. I know school districts that use it and it is a product I have recommended in the past to schools that I’m supporting. 

However, in this case, I’m interested in this article and research these authors did. I’ve linked the article in the show notes and it’s well worth 10 minutes of your time. Especially if you are a coach like Katy or in an administrative position. 

I love how they try and define “engagement” and what it really comes down to is we know it when we see it and we hear it from our students. 

In trainings we continue talking about student engagement in school with technology. Of course, technology isn’t going to do it but it is a huge part of the recipe for this generation. What we know about this generation and engagement. 

1:  It MUST be meaningful to my life today. 

Question to ask yourself: Can I frame today’s lesson/learning in a way that students can relate to it in their own lives? 

2.  It MUST be purposeful. 

Question to ask yourself: How do I frame today’s lesson/learning to be purposeful to students?

3.  It MUST be engaging (fun). 

Question to ask yourself: Do I think this activity is fun?

I find that if teachers can answer those three questions about any lesson then the lesson will be engaging. I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to teachers and asked them “Do you think doing this worksheet is fun?” and they say “No, but…….” and then comes the “I have to do it” or “they must learn it” or …….

I love that the research they did shows this as well….if you the teacher know this is not an engaging activity, if it doesn’t really have purpose in their lives and it’s not fun….then it’s not engaging and YES…this means you the teacher are going to have to rework, rethink, and recreate learning activities that meet these three questions. 

It all starts with the questions we are asking students. Are we asking big essential questions that allow them to dig in? Questions we maybe could never ask before because we didn’t have access to the information to find an answer…and now we do. 

Here’s something you can do to start gathering data yourself. As you are talking with students through the day ask them these three questions. 

– What did you learn today that you can see applies to life outside of school?

– Why do you think you need to learn this?

– What was the best/most fun part of your day? 

You’ll get a feel for engagement by asking students and reflecting on our own teaching. I truly believe we don’t ask students enough at the end of every lesson “How was this today for you?” because more times then not…we know what the answer is going to be. 

Thanks again to Katy for bringing this article to my attention.  

What are your thoughts on engagement? How do you know if your students are actively engaged in learning? I’d love to hear from you and for you to share your thoughts on student engagement in the comments below.

The idea of long-term embedded professional development has always been a passion of mine. In my heart, I truly feel it is the best type of professional development for educators….or anyone for that matter. Time and time again pre-service and beginning teachers will tell you that student teaching was by far the best part of their pre-service teaching program. Why? It is long-term embedded learning with a Master Teacher. Now you can have the same experience online.

If we know this is the best type of professional development, and we have research that shows time and time again that the traditional PD model adopted by schools; the one-off PD day, the yearly conference, the after-school two-hour session, do not lead to improved teaching or changes in student performance. Then why do we keep using them?

This is the reason when school districts contact us at Eduro Learning to help teachers understand the changing nature of teaching and learning in a connected classroom, the first thing we tell them is: It takes time.

There is no quick fix. Research shows that long-term professional development has a positive effect on technology skills of educators and a deeper integration of technology. However, the research also shows that if educators are not held accountable to try out their new skills, reflect on them and share their learning with others, that their technology skills improve but teaching practices stay the same. This is why the embedded model of professional development works. Teachers are doing the things they learn while they are learning them. It’s that embedded approach that allows for the change to happen.

This is why we are seeing the rise of the Micro-Credential. In a report recently released by the American Institutes for Research, we find that Micro-Credentials are showing to be a powerful force in changing professional development for educators. Although the research around Micro-Credentials continues, the report points to five lessons learned so far.

“The lessons learned offered by these three states fall into the following five categories: ƒ

  • Decide on your purpose
  • Start small
  • Provide choice (but not too much)
  • Keep an eye on the score
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate” (AIR, 2017)

As we launch our Micro-Credentials at Eduro Learning on October 15th I wanted to take time to explain and reflect on how we are addressing these lessons as well as other needs we see from our own lessons learned in providing professional development over the years.

[box] Meet the mentors and learn more about the micro-credentials in this webinar. [/box]

Decide on your purpose:

The purpose of our micro-credentials is simple:

To help teachers utilize the technology they have in their classroom to maximize its effect on teaching and learning.

The passion our team has for students and how technology is changing the way they learn, play, socialize and grow-up is second to none. We are all educators whose focus is first and foremost on students and helping teachers to best prepare them for their future and not our past.

Start Small (Stay Focused): 

On October 15th we’re launching three very focused Micro-Credentials.

The 1:1 Teacher: For those that find themselves in a 1:1 environment or might soon find themselves there, and all the pedagogical and classroom changes that occur because of it.

The Connected Classroom: For those who might not be 1:1 and/or want to learn how to connect your class to the world outside. We hear all the time that technology can “break down the walls of the classroom“. This Micro-Credential will have you knocking down the walls and blowing the roof off as well.

The Coach: All of us at Eduro Learning have been in this role. We used technology well in our classrooms, we were seen as a leader in our school so we became the tech support, the coach, the integration specialist. Yet we had no formal training on what it meant to coach adults not teach children. This course is for ALL teachers who find themselves in a coaching role within their school or district. This isn’t about technology, this is about supporting teachers regardless of the subject.

Not only are we starting small, we plan to stay small. Small and focused on what we do best. Focused on supporting teachers through these changes. Depending on what avenue you pursue you can be in a cohort as small as 5 and no larger than 25. Depending on what you need/want your experience to be. That leads us to the next lesson learned from the report.

Provide choice (but not too much):

Not only are we starting small (and staying focused) we are providing four different pathways for educators based on how they learn best.

Honor Level: For those that are independent learners and just want to go on the journey by themselves. There can be peace in going on a journey by yourself. Whether that journey is hiking through the woods or learning online. There are moments when people want to be alone. We’ll be there to guide you if and when you need help, but really this journey it all about you.

Certificate Level: For those that are independent learners but also want company on their journey. You don’t mind or you want to meet others taking the same journey as you. You want a place to reflect, to learn with and from others, and to bounce ideas off of. The Certificate Level also comes with a certificate of completion and we provide an online community manager to help you dig deeper into your own learning as you reflect and implement along the way.

Academy Level: We have limited this cohort to just 15 participants. We know that small class size makes a different and the same applies to online learning. This is for those who learn best when in small groups and have a mentor they can go to with questions. For someone who truly wants to connect with other educators, to be pushed to new professional heights and to have a unique learning experience. At this level and the next level (Premium), we take everything we have learned from the research plus our own learning which is learning needs to be personal. We know we learn best as adults when the new information is personal to me, my classroom, my school, my situation. With a cohort size of 15, your mentor will mentor YOU not the class. They will push YOU, talk with YOU, and be there for YOU.

Premium Level: Take everything above and then put it in a cohort of 5 people. Add a mentor who has years of experience and more importantly passion in their micro-credential (because they designed it) and you get a personalized approach to learning like you have never seen in an online learning environment. Learning is not about the content you can put together, the videos you watch, the articles you read. You get all the benefits of face to face learning without leaving your classroom or home. You get all the benefits of online learning of flexibility of time, place and pace. There is no research to support this model of blended learning but we know it is powerful, so join us and help us create the research!

[box] Hear just how passionate we are about these micro-credentials in this webinar. [/box]

Keep an eye on the score:

There are micro-credentials for educators popping up all over the Internet. We have actually purchased a few in our research of how we wanted to structure ours and I will be honest with you…some of them are not good…..some downright boring, and others you could tell where “hoops” you had to jump through. We can do better than this!

We have partnered with Heritage Institute to provide continuing education quarter credits for our micro-credentials. Their continuing education quarter credits are awarded through Antioch University Seattle at the 500 level. Meaning all our courses that you can get credit for have a syllabus that has been reviewed by a university. When I read that one of the recommendations of a great micro-credential is “keeping an eye on the score”. Understand that our rubrics, assessments, and techniques have been reviewed by a non-profit organization in Heritage Institute and backed by Antioch University Seattle.

Communicate, communicate, communicate:

Of course, this is the foundation of any good teaching. Be it online or face to face. Our mentors and community supporters know this as well. After all, they are all educators themselves. Most of them still in schools, working day to day with students and educators. We know our role is to support the learner and we are here to help whenever you need us.

Learning needs to be personalized (our own lesson learned)

You won’t find this in the research…or I can’t find research that focuses on the personalized learning of educators in professional development. This has been a focus of ours ever since we started our first micro-credential (even though that’s not what it was called at the time) in 2009. Kim and I, along with others, started the Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy (COETAIL). Since 2009 we have graduated over 1000 educators from this micro-credential and have built a community around the learning that happened through this process. Early on we knew that the number one question every educator asks themselves when it comes to PD was:

“How is this going to apply to me and my classroom?”

What has made us successful is that we keep this question front and center in our minds. Every course we create allows for every teacher to take the knowledge they learn and apply it to their setting. Every school, every classroom, every teacher is unique. Just like every student in front of us is unique. We love…no we thrive…on that challenge of helping YOU wherever you are from in the world, whatever technology you have access to, to put it to use in the best way possible for your students. We want you to be successful, we want to learn from you, and we want to help you teach better. We can all be better, we can all keep learning, and we are excited to be here with you. I hope you can join us on this learning journey. We get started on October 15th and if you have any questions please reach out. We’re here for you.

[box] Learn more about Eduro Learning and the micro-credentials in this webinar. [/box]

As part of the #EduroChallenge leading up to our Micro-Credential program launch, we wanted to pay tribute to the most important educators in a student’s lives…their Parents. Nobody has more influence over a child in their lives than their parent/guardian does…and raising a child today is different.

Digital Parenting is No Longer Optional

It’s a hard realization I find for many parents. Understanding there are things your child may be doing online that you don’t know about, or maybe just don’t understand. The following video is from one of the parenting sessions I did last school year for Everett School District.

This was just the first half of the night. At this point, the students left to do other activities and then I got to have some real heart to heart conversations with the parents in the room. We touched on some of the information I reflected on in this blog post, as well as other information on what children are really doing on their devices and why it is so important for schools to work with parents in helping today’s generation understand Digital Literacy.

Kim, Chrissy and I are so passionate about this subject of helping schools, PTAs and parents everywhere, that we created six online courses for parents around the top concerns we have heard from parents and schools throughout the years of doing trainings. I truly believe these courses might be some of the best we have created so far and are so needed today.

Each course focuses in on a different aspect of things to consider when being a digi-parent. We have interviewed parents from around the world to hear what strategies they are employing for their own kids, as well as readings. There is a private Facebook group that goes with the courses where all parents can share stories, ideas, and strategies that work for their families.

If you are a parent or know a parent these courses are for you. If you are a member of the PTA and would like to have us come and do a PTA presentation or work with you…we’d love to. We can even do a blended learning model where a school or PTA can become a member and we will come to your meeting or school once each course to lead discussions, talk through ideas and help support your community.

As part of our Micro-Credential #EduroChallenge and launch. If you purchase any or all of the parenting courses before October 15, 2017 you can save 15% on checkout using the code: TTSparents

The idea of practice, not mastery has been on my mind a lot these past few days…so it’s only fitting that its part of our #EduroChallenge. I first started really reflecting on this idea of practice, not mastery a few years ago when I started doing yoga. My wife and I had a deal. I would try it five times and after five times if I didn’t like it, I could quit. Well, after the fifth time I just kept going and the more I went the stronger I got, the more flexible I got and the better I felt. I’m now to the point that I can tell when I have not been doing yoga. My body lets me know.

What I love about yoga is it’s called your “Yoga Practice”. There is no mastery in yoga everyone in the room is practicing, getting better, pushing themselves and their bodies in ways that fill right to them that day and in that moment. I’m never going to master the perfect downward dog or crow…..but each day I practice I get a little better, a little stronger. Some days are harder than others, but you have to practice if you want to get better.

One thing I think we need to get better at is talking to students about practice and the importance of continuing to practice. We all look at our heroes and wish we could be like them. They make their craft, whether it be cooking, baseball, soccer, racing, football, etc look so easy. When we watch our heroes in action we get to watch hours upon hours of practice. None of them became the best at what they were over night…what you don’t see when you watch TV or a sporting event, are the hours of practice it took to get there.

I’ll often have people ask me how I went from classroom teacher to consultant to edupreneur. The answer…practice. I forget sometimes how long I have been doing this. Over 1000 blog posts here, over 100 podcasts there. A company here, here and here, and countless conversations, video chats, and trying stuff out in the classroom. I have been practicing this since 2000 and I’m still practicing it today. We call it the “Teaching Practice“. That’s what teaching should be…..we’re never going to master it. We’re always looking for new ways of reaching that child, or that child or trying this new strategy out. That’s what excites me the most about the Eduro Learning Micro-Credentials we’re launching. I get to help teacher practice, practice with them, and be a part of the journey.

My wife and god-daughter running along the Seattle waterfront

This all hit me again earlier this week when I was running. I’m always practicing when I run. I’m focused on my form, on the way my feet land. I know the only way I’m going to keep up with my wife (who out ran me the other day by a minute a mile) is by having better form. According to RunKeeper which I use to track my runs. I have logged 506 runs since I started using the app in 2008. That sounds like a lot of practice and it is. That is why us going for a 3-mile run is a short run, and a 6 mile is standard. That didn’t happen over night. I still remember thinking a mile was a long way, then two miles. Now running 3 miles is just what I do and running 6 is hard…but totally doable.

How do we instill the mindset in students that life is about practice, not mastery? That learning is about practicing and that practice will lead you to know more and practice more. How do we get to a place that practice means do, not try? Practice is what we do, not try to do.

There is nothing better to practice FAIL (First Attempt In Learning) then buying a house. Just about a year ago my wife and I moved into a new home here in Seattle. It was built in 1927 and well….it was built in 1927. It’s been a project, to say the least, both inside and out. Below are pictures from a first learning for me. The first picture is of the hot tub deck that was in the back yard when we moved in. I removed the decking and then raised it all up to one level to make it a functioning deck. The added bonus was reusing all the wood and decking to do it. The only thing we purchased for the deck was new railing and new screws. Building a deck from scratch is one thing, having to repurpose a deck from materials you have was a the first attempt for me. The second picture shows the outcome of the deck with the two wrap-around planter boxes that use to be stairs.

Learning something new like this takes time. The process I went through followed the engineering design cycle very closely. I found myself often reflecting on the work and the process and how it applied to what we want to see students doing in school. Authentic Purposeful Work (APLE: See Kim’s post and resources here). The learning wasn’t easy, there were failures along the way and a ton of learning that I applied to the next project…the upper deck.

How do we help students to understand that your First Attempt In Learning is that just that…an attempt….and from there you learn, grow, and attempt again. How do we change grading systems to allow attempts at learning instead of mastery of learning? Big questions that we need to start asking if we want to truly embrace FAIL in our schools.