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I know that many of you work with families/students who come from poverty. One thing we need to remind teachers is that what we’re really fighting is not “kids not wanting to do the work” but a mindset that is not easy to overcome when it’s being reinforced at home…and now…we do not get to take students away from that and work on a Growth Mindset. A book that changed my teaching practice forever was A Framework for Understanding Poverty – A Cognitive Approach. This book focuses on the mindset of those in poverty and how that mindset affects why they feel that “life is done to them”. That they feel they have no control or cannot control their lives. Therefore, in moments like this when life literally is being controlled by others, they are in a “see told you so” mindset. Then schools tell them they have to do this assignment and that assignment and now school is being done to them without their control. When humans feel like they do not have control over decisions in their life they react in one of two ways. They either fight to get control back or shut down. Those coming from poverty often choose to shut down. No homework, no learning, not trying. Why try when you can’t control it and you can’t control the outcome, so why even try. So what do we hear as teachers “I don’t care, I’m gonna fail anyway”. 

When we give students ownership over their learning, especially the path (choice) of what they learn we give them power. We say “Hey, you get to choose something in your life, even if it’s between these 3 options”. Kids respond, families respond and they start to feel like they have control over something….even if that something is just school work. When we give choice in a crisis situation like we are in now we are not only supporting students but we’re supporting families in giving them back something they can control…in this case..what assignment I can help my child with. 

For those educators who didn’t understand this before this crisis, this is going to be an uphill battle. I did not come from poverty and I struggled to understand this mindset as it was not one I was raised with. I’m lucky that I’m married to an amazing school counselor who constantly made me focus on this fact, made me read that book and it forever changed the way I approach and understand that, it’s not that they don’t’ want to do the work. They don’t know HOW to think about doing the work. Someday ask me to tell you my apple story over a beer-it was when I finally got it.

If nothing else, my hope is that we can help educators see that by giving students ownership over the path of their learning we are supporting all students but especially those that come from poverty and homes that do not have the mindset that is needed to “do school.”

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.

I often start or end may of my parent presentations with:

“Congrats! No parent has ever raised a digitally connected child. You’re the first of your kind!”

It’s true…it’s hard to lean on all those parenting skills that you learn and read about when the rules around play, friendships and hanging out have changed…sort of.

Danah Boyd’s great research paper “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” (PDF, Book, Audio Book) is some of the best research I have seen in helping all of us understand the new complicated lives of Networked Teens today.

If you read the research, you start to understand how 10 students had their acceptance from Harvard rescinded recently. How does something like this happen? It’s complicated for sure but it starts with understanding and education. My own fear about this recent Harvard news; there are parents out there that will take the social networks away from their children. That’s not the answer and in some cases can make things worse. It’s time we all come together; parents, teachers, schools to understand and educate ourselves about the new connected world these children are growing up in and how we can support them in making the right choices that will lead them to great possibilities.

Over the past year Kim Cofino and Chrissy Hellyer have been hard at work to put together resources for parents to first understand the new social lives of children today, and then help them support their children through this new digitally connected landscape.

Throughout the next month Kim and Chrissy will be holding Facebook Live sessions for parents as well as giving away some great resources they have created to help parents understand and educate their children. Kim’s first Facebook Live session was last week where she focused on helping all of us understand the new learning landscape these children are now growing up in and why and how we must embrace this in our homes and schools.

Here is the full schedule of Facebook Live Events:

June 1: Kim Cofino: How is learning today different from when we were in school? (above)

June 8: Chrissy Hellyer: Technology Never Sleeps: Managing Our Many Digital Devices

June 15: Chrissy Hellyer: Staying Safe Online: Helping your child build good “digital habits”

June 22: Kim Cofino: Social Media & Your Child: Connecting, sharing and communicating with others

June 29: Kim Cofino: Overexposed: Helping your child to navigate and manage what they see in a media rich world

July 6: Chrissy Hellyer: Is your child learning while they’re playing games online?

We have created a calendar that you can easily add to your own calendaring system. Just click on this link and follow the prompts to add our Eduro Live Events Calendar to your own calendar.

Free Resources:

Along with the Facebook Live sessions each week, you will also get access to the free resources Kim and Chrissy have created. Here’s a list of the freebies you can get.

7 Things All Parents Need to Know about Kids and Technology

Top 10 Tips for Managing Screen Time

Conversation Starters and Family Media Agreement Template

Parent’s Guide to Instagram, SnapChat and YouTube

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Helping your child navigate a media rich world

A Parent’s Guide to Minecraft

Each resource will be released during the Facebook Live session on the Eduro Learning Facebook Page. Or if you sign up for the Eduro Learning Newsletter you’ll get access to them in your inbox as well. We do ask for your email to receive these free resources. It’s our way of tracking which resources are most popular so we know what to create for you in the future.

As we approach the end of the school year we feel the summer months are the perfect time for parents to both learn and implement some of these strategies to help their children become amazing digital citizens. I hope you will help us spread the word among the parent communities at your school.

We also offer in-depth Online Courses that parents can take on their own or that a school/district can purchase to use with their school community. See our Parent Courses for more details.

Most tech coaches end up in the role of tech coach or Tech TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) because they are good at using tech and integrating it into their classroom. That’s how I got into the role and pretty much everyone else I know as well. However, once you are in the role of a coach things change. Your job isn’t to use tech with students, rather it’s to support teachers in using technology with students and supporting teachers is a whole new ball game.

I was lucky enough when I worked at the International School Bangkok to work with 6 other coaches and the school gave us time together to work on and learn coaching strategies. Ways to support teachers in their own journey of integrating technology.

Do you work with the willing or do you work with all?

It’s a question that, as coaches, we need to continually ask ourselves. It’s easy to work with the teacher that wants to integrate technology, that sees the power in it. It’s a whole different ball game when trying to work with a “closed door” teacher. How do you get into that classroom? What approach strategy can you use to get in that door and support those students as well?

Related Eduro Blog Posts

3 Pathways to Coaching Conversations

Everybody Needs a Coach

Co-Constructing a Coaching Protocol

Top 5 Strategies for Your Coaching Toolkit

Starting the Year Off Right: 5 Tips for New Tech Coaches

When administrators are hiring coaching positions all to ofter they focus on whether or not the educator has the “tech skills” or the “math knowledge” to be in a coaching role. I would argue that is only half the formula to being a good coach. Being an effective coach has more to do with building relationships and interpersonal skills then it does tech knowledge. You can have all the technology knowledge in the world. You can be an Apple Distinguished Educator or a Google Certified Trainer….that’s all great! But if you cannot relate to people, if you cannot form relationships all that know-how is worthless.

Tracy Brown from Enumclaw School District recently wrote a blog post on the power of specific coaching PD that Kim Cofino gave on behalf of Eduro Learning a few months back. As coaches, many of us never get the opportunity to learn coaching strategies. Many of us are the only Tech Coach in our districts or schools. Making it even harder to connect with and learn from other coaches in a similar role as we are in.

First, I was reminded that building relationships with the teachers I work with is the foundation of being able to coach. I am a relatively new coach in my current district so building relationships is paramount to my work with teachers. ~ Tracy Brown

It’s because of this that one of the first courses that we created at Eduro Learning was a Coaching from Theory to Practice course, and why today it is still our #1 course. On February 6th, we will be running another facilitated cohort. While you can take the course for the self-pace option, the facilitated course gives you an instructor and a community as well as a timeline for completing a course. Something that not only students need but it turns out adult learners as well. If you have more than one coach at your school or in your district, take the course as a team. This is by far the most powerful way to do any PD. When you can learn in a blended community that is both local and global at the same time is very powerful and allows you to support each other within your school or district.

We’re excited to start another facilitated cohort in a few weeks time and hope you can join us for what we believe is the key to becoming a successful tech coach or TOSA.

Last week I had the pleasure of running a lab site in an Enumclaw 5th Grade class as part of my work with the district over the past couple of years. It’s a lesson that I first taught in 2009 and is still as relevant today as it was then.

The students were working on opinion writing. They were writing in Google Docs which made it easy to have students peer edit with their editing partner. At the same time, there was an opportunity to have them experience commenting not just on someone you know and are in class with, but also learn to leave a comment on someone you don’t know and probably will never meet. That is a whole new level to commenting.

So here’s the lesson….it took about an hour:

  • Have students share their opinion writing with their editor buddy giving them “comment only” rights to their document. (Students in this class had shared their writing with their partner before….this time we change the permission to be “comment only”).
  • Take time to read your partners writing and leave comments on their work.
  • Now close your computer and have a discussion about the difference between a compliment and a comment.

What a great conversation to have with students. We started listing what makes a compliment and what would be a good comment. The image to the left shows what the students came up with. We then talked about how you might give both to someone. Everyone likes compliments but they don’t really help the author with their writing. But if you make a compliment/comment sandwich you can do both! So we practiced in table groups what a good compliment/comment sandwich might sound like.

An example:

“I really enjoyed reading your post. I am wondering if you could add more details when you talk about the house. I couldn’t quite see it in my head. I really like the way your story ended, it made me laugh”

The day before the lesson I went to Twitter and did a search for #comments4kids 5th to find 5th grade classrooms that were blogging and looking for comments from others. In no time at all, I found the two following classes:

We took the links from the tweets and put those into Google Classroom for the students to have. Once we finished our conversation on compliments and comments we had the students open their Chromebooks, click on the links and practice writing compliment/comment sandwiches on other 5th graders writing. This lead to some more great discussions:

  • What do you put in the name field and why using your first name only is OK when leaving comments.
  • If you don’t think their writing is very good what do you do? What do you say? Or do you not say anything?

My favorite part of the day was as we were debriefing the activity, I asked the students what it was like to leave a comment on someone you have never met before?

“Weird” was the best we could come up with. We unpacked weird to be not knowing the person, not being able to explain yourself, and you didn’t want to hurt their feelings because you don’t know them.

A compliment/comment sandwich isn’t new. In fact, it’s a strategy for writing emails as well. I’d even call it a digital literacy strategy that can be used whether you are leaving comments on writing, on others blogs or any digital writing where someone can’t see you physically. It’s a great strategy to start teaching kids. Again…nothing new here I know….just thought I’d share my lesson for others.