Blended Learning Tips and Tricks

“Learning is always rebellion…Every bit of new truth discovered in revolutionary to what was believed before.” Margaret Lee Runbeck

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Last week I discussed picking the right model for your blended learning classroom so it is only natural that I now offer some tips and tricks for running a blended learning classroom. 🙂

  • Focus on the lesson or content skill and let the technology be the tool or guide.
  • Start small and in one subject area.
  • Rearrange your classroom so that when you are working with your small group,  the students screens are facing you. (You want to be looking at the back of the students heads) This way you can see if they are on task by looking at their screens.
  • Plan the layout and procedures of your blended learning classroom before you begin.
    • Put students in charge of putting them out and away, letting them take ownership will help them value the use of the devices as well.
    • When the devices are out and you need the student’s attention, say 45 and have the students put their screens to a 45 degree angle like the above picture (not closed so it will have to start over or lose what they have done) or flip it over for devices such as phones.
    • Know what learning management system (ex. Google Classroom, Edmodo etc) and other web tools you plan on using.
  • Be flexible and understand that students might need to be scaffold info this type of environment.

Misconceptions:

  • Blended Learning = 1:1 environment. Not true: a great blended learning model can use only 10-15 computers. (Ex. Station Rotation Model)
  • Blended Learning = No Teacher. Not true: It is critical for a teacher in any learning environment and blended learning allows teachers to have more one on one time with students to help them grow as learners.
  • Blended Learning  = Babysitter. Not True: Students should never be just sitting at a screen but using higher order thinking skills or working with an adaptive learning program like Dreambox or Compass Learning.
  • Blended Learning = Everyday. Not True: You do not need to do blended learning every day, many happen to do it everyday because they like the time it gains them to be with small groups of students focusing on individual needs. I have seen lots of teachers only do a blended approach a few days of the week, while the other days they are doing more Project/Inquiry based learning.

I would love to learn more tips and tricks of a blended learning classroom. Please share in the comment section.

Effective Assessment Retaking Solutions for Mastery Learning

“Mistakes and failures are precisely your means of education. They tell you about your own inadequacies.” By Robert Greene

Retakes

My district has rolled out a new grading system that allows students to retake assessments and I am very excited about this. Some naysayers say this doesn’t teach students responsibility and is not ‘real world’ but I disagree. Not only does it teach responsibility but also strengthen students depositional thinking skills such as perseverance and resilience. There are many assessments that we are allowed to retake in the ‘real world’ such as driving tests, SATs and even the BAR exam. Allowing students to retake an assessment also show true mastery of learning; however if only done effectively.

What does effective assessment retake look like? Below I have shared some of the problems I see and how we can overcome them so we are being purposeful and meaningful when allowing our students to retake an assessment.

Problem #1 : Tests are on Friday because the pacing guide says so. Retakes are on Monday, you have the weekend to learn it.

Solution #1: Learning goals do not depend upon every student reaching the same level of proficiency on the same day. Learning goals DO depend upon every student mastering the goal. Allow students to take the assessment when they know the material, including the retake.

Problem #2: Teachers allow students to retake without any corrective actions in place.

Solution #2: Have students create action plans or steps on how they are going to master the material. This holds them accountable for their learning as well. We don’t learn from our mistakes, we learn from correcting our mistakes.

Problem #3: Teachers teach the material the same way when reteaching.

Solution #3: Albert Einstein definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We need to teach the material a different way in order to help our students.

Rick Wormeli’s Redo’s and Retakes Done Right is also a great read with practical strategies to use in the classroom. I would love to hear any effective tips and tricks you use in your classroom that allow for effective retakes, please share in the comments.

Pixar Pitches in Education

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.” By Joss Whedon

This summer I learned a new way to present information in a quick manner called Pixar Pitch. The concept is that if you only have 60 seconds (elevator speech) to ‘sell/tell’ your idea, you need to know the key important information. To help condense your story into a single paragraph, Daniel Pink, the author of “To Sell Is Human,” suggests using this  6 sentence formula original created by Emma Coats.
 

Pixar Pitch Formula:
– Once upon a time…
– Every day or year…
– Then one day…
– Because of that…
– After That…
– Until Finally…

 
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Here is an education example that I created. The topic: Personalized Learning.
 

Once upon a time…we wanted to maximize student academic achievement in the 21st century through innovation.
Every day…we took notice that the world was changing. We were preparing our students for jobs that were not even invented.
Then one day…we realized we needed to make an instructional shift and personalize the students learning.
Because of that…we created a cohort of schools that would focus on an instructional design that requires a fundamental shift from a traditional teaching model, to a classroom that empowers and nurtures the social, emotional, academic, and developmental needs of each self-directed 21st century learner.
After That…the schools focused on the whole child, student ownership, mastery learning and paces, playlists and pathways.
Until Finally…we changed the classroom experience and raised student achievement.

 

Here is another example by Jay Connor from his blog. The topic: The community is seeking to dramatically improve early childhood reading outcomes.

 

Once upon a time there was … an education crisis haunting our schools and communities across North America.
Every day … large percentages of our children were not achieving proficiency in vital literacy skills to the point that some in our community even doubted whether they ever could.
One day … we developed a simple and shared definition of what children had to know to be ready for school.
Because of that … our early childhood centers and parents became better at helping all children enter kindergarten ready to learn
Because of that … teachers were free to work more on skill development for each individual child.
Until finally … every child, irrespective of ethnic or economic circumstance, became a proficient reader by the end of third grade.

 

I would love to hear your examples of using Pixar Pitches in education. Please share in the comments.

Key Ideas from #ASCDL2L Keynote: Jerry Weast

“Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s only way to work, really. Everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board.” By Antony Starr

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This week I attended one of my favorite conferences, ASCD Leader to Leader (#ASCDL2L). This conference is one of my favorite because it is different. It is invitation only and there are educators from all over the world and from different aspects of education. You sit in groups verse rows and have lots of time to collaborate and discuss topics that you are interested in. These groups are mixed up of superintendents to teachers and everything in-between but you never know who does what (unless you ask) as everyone is treated equally and there is no “ladder” or status hierarchy. This year we had Jerry Weast as the keynote. Mr. Weast is a long time educator and served in all different facets and is now retired but continues to practice his knowledge with Partnership For Deliberate Excellence (P4DE). Below are my key ideas from his keynote:

  • Lead by dancing rather than pushing, work together not against one another
  • What is the problem you are trying to solve, whats getting in the way of your progress? What are the conditions necessary to solve it?
  • Change the culture of learning and teaching
  • What must I do to move this organization/school/work?
    • Know you will be a target and it hurts but it is worth the pain for change
    • Run toward the problem….not away from
    • Quality vs Time – what can you do to bend the curve so you get results?
  • Study Human Behavior as it explains a lot
  • Stages of Change : Organization Maturity Model to Increase Performance
    1. Discover Existing Condition
    2. Commit to Predictive Gateways
    3. Evaluate Effectiveness
    4. Engage and Empower
    5. Innovate and monitor
  • Make sure your cost effort is equaling the impact or scrap it
  • Have effective benchmarks
  • Before asking what to add for the change to occur, ask what you can off-load to move a school to change.
  • When managing complex change you need to have five things:
    1. Vision
    2. Skills
    3. Incentives
    4. Resources
    5. Action plan
  •  If you don’t then….
    • No Vision = Confusion
    • No  Skills = anxiety
    • No Incentives = gradual change
    • No Resources = frustration
    • No action plan = false start
  • Start looking in the mirror and develop yourself and your leadership skills, because you can’t make a difference if you don’t know yourself.
  • If you don’t get the outcomes, what are you going to do differently?
  • Somehow it seems the world is having more effect on me, then I am having on the world…don’t let this happen.
  • Four themes to develop for effective leadership: Trust, Culture, Listen to Understand and Clarity.
  • Books he recommends to read: Nudge, Tribes, Improbable Scholar

 

Design Thinking and Challenges

“It’s no longer enough simply to outperform the competition; to thrive in a world of ceaseless and rapid change, business people have to out-imagine the competition as well. They must begin to think-to become-more like designers.” by Roger Martin

Design challenges uses the design thinking process to find a solution to a challenge. Design thinking takes on a problem solving mindset. Design challenges create real world opportunities for students  be innovative and creative while using their higher order thinking and 21st century learning skills. Design thinking and challenges provides a student centric learning experience to happen in the classroom. Below is the design process that Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (all rights reserved) uses:

Design Thinking Process

Design Challenge Ideas for the Classroom:

  • How might we create ways for younger students to better understand how important digital citizenship is?
  • Create an app that would help you solve a problem you encounter daily?
  • Knex: Design Challenge
  • Design a clothing product that allows for heating and cooling of materials for different sports. (Example of standards based Design Challenge – Science: 5.P.3)

Other resources on Design Thinking and Challenges:

Museum of Science, Boston Design Challenges

Design Challenge Lessons from The Tech Museum: Museum of Innovation

A Design Challenge to Students: Solve a Real-World Problem!

Design Squad – PBS (Great for 3-8th graders)

Real World Design Challenges (HS Level)

Threadless Design Challenge – Real world application

K12 Lab Wiki for Design Challenges

Design Thinking for Educators

IDEO Design Thinking

Great article by Forbes: Design Thinking: A Unified Framework for Innovation

I would love to hear design thinking and challenges ideas from your classrooms.

Book Review: The One Thing

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather less to do.” By Francine Joy

One of the books for my summer reading was, The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, and it has been a game changer for me. I read the book in a matter of a few days as it is a very easy read. I haven’t highlighted and placed post-it notes all over a book like this in a long time.  Watch this quick clip to get the essence of the book.

Why game changer? It hit home with me and offered practical advice and tips. I have now completed the book for about three weeks and I have seen a significant difference in my life.

1. I have more time, not because I am doing less work but I am making sure my choices have purpose, meaning and significance.

2. Instead of saying, “yes I will do that” – which like the book stated was my default mode. I am thinking about what I would be saying no to.

3. I am not multitasking anymore as I see how I am not truly as effective. I am ‘time blocking’ and seeing how much more productive I am.

I learned a lot more but these are the three takeaways that I think have been the most significant. Check out The One Things You Tube Channel as they have some great resources as well.

Other Reviews:

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Good Reads: The One Thing

I hope you add it to your summer reading list and enjoy it as much as I have!

 

No Summer Slide Using these Resources

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” By Sherman Alexie

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What happens when young minds sit idle for three months…it’s known as the “summer slide”. How can we prevent the summer slide with our students? By informing our parents about what it is and giving them resources like the ones below to help them. 

Reading Lists:

Scholastic Keep Kids Reading All Summer Long: Book List By Age

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading List for Kids

Teacher Vision Summer Reading List

Summer Reading Logs:

http://www.reading-rewards.com
https://www.biblionasium.com
https://readingglue.com

You could also use Google Docs and the students nor parents would need an account. What you can do is create a Google Form, then make the spreadsheet public with link- to do this you click the box at the end of the form that says make public for all. They could see what others filled out plus themselves. You could also make it into a competition and see who reads the most books, pages and/or genres etc.

Other helpful resources:

Ink Think Tank (Great free non-fiction!)

Collaborative Summer Library Program (Libraries nationwide)

What Can Families Do to Keep Children Reading Over the Summer?

Summer Reading Tips From Librarians

 How to Make Summer Reading Effective

Please share any sites that you use with your students or parents to prevent the summer slide.

Edulum’s 2nd Annual Conference

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” -Scott Belsky

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It is hard to believe that Edulum‘s 2nd Annual Conference registration has begun! This years conference theme is: Get Personal! Cultivating Ownership Through Personalization. We have amazing presenters from all around the Carolinas! The conference is at UNCC in the College of Education Building on August 1st from 8:30-4:00 and it is only $30.00!

Eventbrite - Edulum's 2nd Annual Educators Conference

How can a Principal not send you, as usually education conferences are hundreds of dollars! Bring a friend and make this your summer professional development! Check out our Google document with the session schedule, descriptions and names of our presenters.

Our keynote speaker is, Deborah Brown, who holds a BA in English from Regis College and an Ed. M from Harvard University. Currently, Deborah teaches high school students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. Deborah, a NC Teaching Fellow, has recently presented a collaborative teaching idea at a TEDx Charlotte ED event. She has worked with The Girl Scouts as a troop leader, an adjunct writing professor at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, a freshman evening advisor for the STEM program at Johnson C. Smith University and a Parent University presenter with Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. She is also an author of the book, 6 HABITS of Success: A Practical Guide for Girls. Her keynote is titled: Positive Discipline: The 2/10 Theory.

 

You can like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Hope to see you at #edulum14!

Using Consultancy Protocol to Ignite Change

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” by Barack Obama

Using  a consultancy protocol is authentic learning at its best. A consultancy protocol is a structured process for helping an individual or team think more expansively about a particular dilemma or barrier.  I believe this format is a great way to ignite change in a school and/or classroom, as it allows teachers and students voices to be heard. (Norms would have to be set and most take place in a safe environment.) Holding consultancy protocols helps build better school and classroom environments because it builds trust and relationships. Instead of listing problems and complaining like at a typical meeting, everyone becomes part of the solution and time is well spent. This could easily be done for students during morning meeting/class meeting or during a staff meeting for teachers.

Final Hands

Below is the process to hold a consultancy but know there are different variations out there as well. I adapted this one from a Bill Gates Convening I attended. Below are approximate times but I have done “mini” versions of this in 30 minutes. There are different roles and responsibilities for each person participating:

  • Presenter:  Person who brings the dilemma or barrier to the group and whose work is being discussed by group (Staff Member or Student)
  • Facilitator: Person who facilitates discussion and moves group through the Consultancy Phases (Facilitator can also participate in discussion) (Principal or Teacher)
  • Consultancy Group: Group of individuals that discuss the problem and provide the Presenter with feedback. (School Staff or Classroom of Students)

The Consultancy Process

Step 1: Presenter Overview  (5 – 10 mins)

The Presenter gives an overview of the dilemma or barrier with which s/he is struggling and frames a question to the Consultancy Group to consider  A write-up of the problem may be shared as well but the problem must be presented orally. Here are steps in writing about the dilemma or barrier:

  • Step 1: Consider the Dilemma This should be an issue with which you are struggling, that has a way to go before being resolved, that is up to you to control, and that it is critical to your work. It is important that your problem is authentic and fresh – that is, not already solved or nearly solved.
  • Step 2: Write about the Dilemma Here are questions to guide your writing:
  1.  Why is this a dilemma or barrier for you? Why is this dilemma or barrier important to you?
  2. If you could take a snapshot of this dilemma, what would you/we see?
  3. What have you done already to try to remedy or manage the dilemma or barrier? If so, what have been the results of those attempts?
  4. What do you assume to be true about this dilemma or barrier, and how have these assumptions influenced your thinking about the problem?

The framing of this question is key to the effectiveness of the Protocol. The focus of the Group’s conversation will be on this dilemma and barrier.

Step 2: Clarifying Questions (5 – 10 mins)

The group asks clarifying questions of the Presenter, that is, questions that have brief, factual answers. Clarifying questions ask the Presenter the “who, what, where, when, and how” of their problem. These are not “why” questions, and generally can be answered quickly and succinctly, often in a sentence or two. These questions are not meant to fuel discussion, but rather to make clear any important points of reference.

Step 3: Probing Questions (5 – 10 mins)

The group asks probing questions of the Presenter. These questions should be worded to help the Presenter clarify and expand his/her thinking about the dilemma or barrier presented to the Consultancy Group.  Probing questions get to the “why” of the Presenter’s problem. These may be open-ended inquiries, requiring answers based both in factual detail and the subjective understanding of the Presenter. The purpose of a probing question is to push the Presenter’s thinking about his/her problem to a deep level of analysis. The Presenter may respond to the questions, but there is no discussion by the Consultancy Group of the Presenter’s responses.  At the end of the 10 minutes, the Facilitator will ask the Presenter to restate his/her question to the Group.

Step 4: Group Dilemma Discussion (15 – 20 mins)

The Consultancy Group analyzes the problem while the Presenter moves back from the circle, remains quiet, does not interrupt or add information, and takes notes during the discussion. Possible questions to frame the discussion:

  • What did we hear?
  • What didn’t we hear?
  • What assumptions seem to be operating?
  • What questions does the dilemma or barrier raise for us?
  • What do we think about the dilemma or barrier?
  • What might we do or try to do if faced with the same dilemma or barrier?

Members of the Group sometimes suggest actions the Presenter might consider taking.  However, they work to define the issue more thoroughly and objectively.

Step 5: Presenter Reflection (5 – 10 mins) 

The Presenter reflects on what s/he heard and on what s/he is now thinking. S/he shares with the group anything that particularly resonated during the Consultancy.

Step 6: Facilitator Debrief (2 – 5 mins) 

The Facilitator leads a brief discussion about the group’s observation of the Consultancy Process.

This format allows issues to be addressed and solutions created. It allow students to use all their 21st century skills (Communication, Collaboration, Critically Thinking and Creating) no matter if they are the presenter or in the group. If you have done a consultancy protocol in your school or classroom, I would love to hear what worked and what didn’t, please share int he comments.

 

Musings on Mindset

True philanthropy requires a disruptive mindset, innovative thinking and a philosophy driven by entrepreneurial insights and creative opportunities.” By Naveen Jain

This weekend I finished the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. I believe this is a must read for all educational leaders as the concept – moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset – is a way of building students to be self-directed life long learners. With that being said, I don’t think it should be a ‘summer read’  or book  study for an entire staff.

I think the concept of mindset should be taught to all educators but using a variety or resources and through modeling.  These resources below I have found have helped educators and  their students move from a fixed to growth mindset. I showed this video, Hackschooling Makes me Happy, to my students and it made for an excellent argumentative writing prompt, debate and teachable moment.

Resources:

Carol Dweck on Struggle

Famous Failures (Helps Students See Famous People Struggle too)

Even Geniuses Work Hard

Creating a Growth Mindset in Your Students

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

Disrupting Education 

The Science of Character: Developing Positive Learning Traits

Studies Offer Practical Ways to Bring ‘Growth Mindset’ Research to Schools

Extreme Mindset Makeover: How to Remodel Your Thoughts 

Mindset Works: Student Motivation through a Growth Mindset

It has been said by Jeff Raikes, CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that, “Growth Mindset is a key to closing the achievement gap.” I would love to hear any ideas/resources etc that you have used in your classroom or with your staff to help them with their mindset.