Saturday, December 5, 2020

Compliance vs Engagement

 It is December. December 2020. We look behind us at a Spring emergency closure and then look to the present fluid educational situation of hybrid, remote and this rollercoaster ride we are on in education. I've said several times this is a fluid situation. It's hard to predict what will happen, especially with surges of the virus and exposures leading to quarantines and the rearrangement of schools either moving classes around to provide supervision or the decision to go fully remote.

During this time we hear a lot about engagement. How do you engage students remotely? I just don't feel my students are engaged, and even if they are I don't know unless their cameras are on. More and more you see the word engage in professional learning titles, and on faculty meeting agendas.

Don't get me wrong, engagement has always been important in education. But I want us to make sure we aren't getting engagement and complaince mixed up.

I have found myself asking this question a lot during my coaching sessions. 'What did engagement look like before Covid in your classroom?' Of course as teachers are all different, this answer is often very different. Some talk about the wonderful problem based learning they did, having students explore concepts with hands-on, minds-on wonder. Some talk about walking around their classroom monitoring students in groups talking through a lesson/activity. Some talk about looking up and seeing students working on whatever they gave them to do that day.

I will argue that we have to be careful of not confusing the two... In face to face teaching it is easy to see compliance, and easy to get most students to comply. You give directions, hand out the assignment and students work on it then hand it in. Many students understand how to 'play school' they know that this is how it works to get through. When students are in front of us it is easier to get them to 'engage' with the work. To comply.

Enter remote and hybrid learning where you don't see students, they aren't in front of you so you can talk them through work. They aren't right there for you to redirect them when their mind wonders off, looking outside the window.

Let's not forget, our goal is minds-on engagement, working towards something that is worth learning, that the student believes is relevant and interesting to them. Compliancy is not enough. I don't want complaincy, I want eyes wide-open wonder. I want excitement that comes when students figure out something they didn't know before, come up with a solution to a real-world problem, or publish their writing to an authentic audience.

There are many smart people out there having these same conversations. Now is the time for us to break out of our past old thinking of what school looks like. Now is the time to think about what engagement looks like. Barbara Bray interviewed Chris McNutt in November and talked about Humanized Pandemic Teaching. I highly recommend you listen to this podcast. They talked about the difference between compliant and engaged.

How do we create this engaged, human-centered classroom? As an educator start by asking yourself: 'What does engagement look like to you?' What are the students doing? What are you doing? Are you giving students a voice? Are they invested in the learning? How might this look like in your content area?

Let's start with these questions, and then we'll be able to start the conversations with our colleagues. I don't believe any teacher just wants compliance. So, how will you engage your students?

More to come as we look further into what we want our 'new normal' or 'new now' to look like.

Another article worth reading:

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Hybrid Lesson: A Possibility

 As we try to juggle this new hybrid classroom I get asked a lot about what this might look like. Going from totally in-class teaching and learning to hybrid and remote with the added technology components to manage it can get confusing. Many teachers are simply having a hard time wrapping their heads around it all. I've proposed several possible logistic arrangements in this Jamboard. But here I will give you a scenario of how a lesson might go.

Before we start, let's look at what would be needed for this lesson to happen totally as-is: (realizing you can easily substitute depending on what you have available to you)

  • Hardware: Desktop computer hooked up to a presentation screen, Chromebook, webcam (whether stand-alone or Doc camera used as a webcam), and a mic
  • Software: Zoom, Nearpod

Classroom Set-up:

Teacher process:

  1. Log into Zoom on desktop as host (mic and camera facing the front of the room)

  2. Log into Zoom on Chromebook as co-host (mic and camera off)

  3. Open up Nearpod on Chromebook and start Live Participation Lesson

  4. Students log into Nearpod on their own device (both in-class and remote) In my room the link would be pushed out through Google Classroom.

  5. The teacher teaches from the front of the room to start (both in-class and remote students can see them) then rotates around the room

  6. The teacher drives Nearpod from a mobile device (in this case a Chromebook)

  7. All work is available via Google Classroom. For total remote students who do not attend via Zoom they would complete a student-paced Nearpod posted via GC.

You may notice that in this scenario there really isn't a need for an interactive presentation screen being on in the classroom. Students are interacting in Nearpod, and the teacher is monitoring student work through Nearpod, as well as walking around the room checking on in-class students (and chat via Zoom for remote students). No need for the teacher to be stuck at the front of the room!

There is also no need in this scenario for monitoring software as the teacher is monitoring student work via the Nearpod dashboard. Students that aren't producing work can then be checked individually as needed.

Other Options:

  • For some questions, or interactive media in Nearpod, the teacher can put students in pairs (in class or with breakout rooms on Zoom) to discuss and work together, completing individual Nearpod to submit. In this scenario, the teacher is moving from group to group and/or monitoring work via Nearpod view.

  • The teacher wants to demonstrate? No problem: screen share Nearpod and go into student view then complete (I do), next problem students do on own or in pairs in breakout rooms (we do), then students do the next problem independently (You do). In this case, the teacher would screen share and demonstrate via the desktop so that students zooming in can see it and the in-class students can see it on the interactive whiteboard in front of the room.

Software alternatives: You could easily do this via Google Meet and using Peardeck. The set-up would be slightly different for Peardeck but the same idea with the teacher driving it from their mobile device by opening up the Peardeck dashboard.

What do you think? Add your additional ideas below in the comments!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Seeing Through the Fog

 This week we kicked off our Google Classroom Camp for 125 educators and leaders. On the morning of our first online session, I took my usual walk with my dogs. This morning's walk was a little earlier than usual as I wanted to complete some finishing touches to the online portion of our camp.

When I passed the first overlook this was my view:

No view... just fog. (and the sun trying to poke through) Now, if I was new to this view I wouldn't know what was on the other side of the fog. But I'm not new to this view. I walk here basically every day so I know what is on the other side of the fog.
Here's the next overlook on that morning, and on another morning:

On this foggy morning, I stood out and thought 'this is where we are right now.'  We are in the fog. As educators the situation is fluid, changes being made daily, new information coming at us hourly.

We are in the fog.

But here's the thing. We are educators. We know what is on the other side of that fog. (just like I knew what was on the other side of the fog that morning) We know because we are educators. We know that our students are on the other side of that fog. We know what learning looks like. We know what creating a safe and engaging learning environment looks like. We've seen it. We've celebrated in it. We've laughed in it. We've been there, we've seen what is on the other side of this fog.

Although things are very different than what we've experienced in the past, the bottom line is we know what to do. We know we need to support and nourish (both academically and social emotionally) the students who will be in our classrooms this fall.

So, give yourself a break and breathe.

Make a list of ways you make students feel welcome in your classroom.

Then brainstorm a list of how you can do the same things in a virtual environment. ie do you have a morning meeting? How about on asynchronous days you post a short good morning video and introduce a question that students will answer and have other students respond to as well online? If you are hybrid with different cohorts post the question everyday and have both your in-class students and home students engage together. This could be our morning routine.

Now, make a list of the routines and procedures that you have in your classroom.  
Do these current routines work well? Can they transfer to a virtual/hybrid environment? How would they look? How can you teach these to your students?

Start with one area of content at a time and follow these steps. (identify how you did it before, think about how it can be adjusted or changed to suit your new environment)

Start planning for simple lessons to get you started in the year. Think 'getting to know' procedures (getting to know each other, getting to know the procedures, getting to know the digital workflow)

Start with what you know- good teaching and good learning, and welcoming students into your learning environment.

Remember: your attitude and mindset will set the stage for your climate and for your environment. 

See through the fog to what you know.

We've got this because we are teachers.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

What do we do now?

I know there is a lot of uncertainty right now with how the fall will look. I know as a teacher I always had a plan and goals for the summer. It might be things I wanted to explore, or a unit I wanted to make more engaging. So what about this summer?

Even though, as of today, we haven't heard what the fall will look like- I believe for those teachers who want to prepare for it, there is something we can do now.

Here's the thing- we know we will need some form of online learning platform set-up. So how about doing that?

I believe we will be looking at some sort of hybrid environment. Even if you live in a state that has said you will be going back 100% face to face, you have to take into account the students whose parents will refuse to send them until they feel comfortable. You will also have to take into consideration students who have immunodeficiency disorders who won't be able to return. AND you still will want to prepare for the possibility of hearing on Friday that you will going virtual on Monday for a 6 week period, or other designated timeframe. One thing we learned is that we don't want to be caught unprepared like last time. With all this in mind, why not create that platform and start planning for having it ready to go in order to build in procedures and routines on its use and the digital workflow right from the beginning of school?
Also, let us not forget integrating technology into your learning should be a goal no matter what environment we are in next year. We need to not forget that this is the world we are living in and it is in our best interests, and that of our students, to integrate the use of technology so they can harness its power to make a difference in this world and be successful.
Here's what I think it could look like:

I realize that this is a simplified view, yes there is so much more involved in the learning environment than I added. But think of this as the big picture.
So with these scenarios you can see we can start planning now and get your virtual environment planned out. Depending on your district requirements, what platform will you use? Take the time now to learn more about that and start setting it up now so that no matter what we find out in the next couple of weeks we'll have that ready and then can focus on the rest of the decisions that will need to be made.
As always, I wish you all well-- we will get through this-- and as educators we will do it well, but more importantly, we don't have to do it alone. Now, more than ever, we need to rally together and help each other.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Virtual Coaching, the same as it ever was

This past three months, the last three months of the 2019-2020 school year for us in upstate New York (and throughout much of the world), has been unprecedented for schooling, for education and for learning. That is what we have heard for the last three months... it's unprecedented, that's unprecedented.... you get the picture.

Being a Technology Integrator Specialist, edtech coach, I wondered how it would look for me.
  • Could I maintain my relationships with teachers virtually?
  • Would I be able to identify and troubleshoot issues teachers were having and then support them as they move through these challenges?
  • What about new teachers that I never worked with before the closure? Could I create those initial critical relationships that build trust virtually?
These were all of the questions that popped into my mind.
As it were, the answer ended up being a resounding YES!

Virtual Coaching, although certainly different from 'face to face' coaching in the logistical sense turns out to be exactly the same in the relationship realm.
Relationships Matter
We all know it boils down to relationships and trust. What I found out is that when you treat teachers with respect, these relationships can and do get built virtually.  Here are my big takeaways from coaching virtually:
  • Listen and reflect: Start every virtual meeting with time to find out how they are doing. Show that you can and do listen and allow them to reflect on what they are going through. Also take some time to find out how they teach, how did they engage students prior to this moment. What worked in the classroom? (think procedures and routines) What would you like to try? It is key to establish a starting point, and by listening this often begins about that starting point.
  • Let them know you understand. In this specific scenario, it was important to let teachers know that none of us signed up for this. We are basically doing the best job we can for our students. We all are in a vulnerable situation that no one knows all the answers, but the fact that we are asking the questions makes us truly courageous.  To quote Brene Brown: 

  • Start where they are. Once you have listened and gotten to know them (content they teach, how they engaged students before the closure) then develop a plan together. This plan should start with something that is familiar. If they had a morning message every morning for students to engage with, continue that virtually.
  • Once you have an idea of a plan: chunk it. Start with one step that they can take to make them feel confident. Start simple, but go for a big win to get the trust and confidence rolling. This step often includes them sharing their screen with you so you can talk them through how to do something. Ending the meeting with one thing accomplished, or on its way to being accomplished will go a long way.
  • I'm here for you. It may not be easy, but I'll be there to support you throughout it all. Admit that this might be challenging, but that support is here, and my goal is to provide that support throughout. Always end with 'we are in this together', 'You are doing a great job, and you can do this'.
  • Make plans moving forward. Before leaving that first virtual meeting (and sequential ones) repeat what you will be following up with and what they will be doing and if possible set up another meeting. I often followed up a meeting with an email providing needed links or step by step tutorials as needed. If a follow-up meeting isn't planned then make a note to send a quick email out to them to see how things are going.

So, turns out Virtual Coaching was 'the same as it ever was'... (to quote a famous Talking Heads' song)
It comes down to listening, respect, trust, and celebrating together along the way.
It also totally comes back to not being the expert, but rather teammates...being 'in this together'. I learned something from every teacher I worked with this past school year. Every. Teacher. Some I knew before the closure, some I met through Zoom meetings, some I met with every week, some I only met once but continued coaching through email. All of them made me a better coach and educator. Many of them I hope to one day go out to coffee with, I think we'd have a lot to talk about and a few laughs.
But, until then, virtually will need to be where we meet and learn, and I'm ok with that because we are in this together... and we are stronger together.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Virtual Coaching Office

As we start to plan for the summer professional learning sessions I put together my virtual coaching office. One of the things we have been discussing is the need for both a physical office/classroom and a virtual one. Since we don't know what the fall will bring being prepared for both is vital, especially since it probably will involve some sort of blended environment-- or at the very least a need to have a virtual classroom set up to support technology integration projects! To help me plan for this 'new now' I put together the virtual office below so teachers that I work with can connect with me and check out what I'm reading.

I'm looking forward to continuing my work with teachers this summer. The focus will be on setting up their virtual learning environment so they will be ready to hit the ground running in the fall. I'll be posting my progress as I go through the summer here, as well as resources you can use.
Kudos to all the educators out there that have finished their school year! You did a great job caring for your students. Now let's take time to reflect and plan for a new year of nurturing relationships and learning!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Be Present Virtually by Creating Your Virtual Classroom!

As we finish up the school year and look to the fall we have a lot of questions: What will the fall look like? Will we be full virtual? Will we be in a blended environment? Will our classes be down to 50% present at one time, with the other completing assignments virtually? Or will it be a combination of any/all of these?
We just don't know, and may not for a while. 
At this point, I believe we should plan on setting up our virtual classroom because no matter what happens you will be able to use it with students. Having a physical classroom and virtual one set up will allow your students, and their parents to have access to you and the learning no matter what happens during the 20-21 school year.

Here's an easy step by step way to create your virtual classroom:
  1. Set up Google Sites as your main 'portal' to your virtual classroom. Making sure this site is accessible to anyone with the link will also allow this portal to be accessible to your parents, as well as the students.
  2. On the main page of your Site embed your bitmoji virtual classroom. This classroom will contain links to your weekly plan, websites that students will need, and other important documents/websites that are needed.
  3. Create your weekly plan (or unit choice board) that includes all the assignments the student needs to complete for the designated timeframe. Any assignments that require something to be created, answered, or uploaded, would link directly to the Google Classroom assignment. This will allow all your turned in assignments to be in one place for each checking, grading and offering feedback.
  4. Create assignments in Google Classroom and link directly back to your weekly plan.
Other possibilities include having a parent page off your Google Site with parent/student 'how-tos', or other assistance. Other pages can include links directly to virtual building sites or other team teacher sites.
Here are some video tutorials to help you create this new learning vision!

Be Present Virtually! (Video showing steps to create your bitmoji virtual classroom)

Creating a Weekly Plan/ Choice Board:

Stay tuned for more tutorials on creating your Google Site Portal!

New Vision, New Blog

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Moving forward we need to be mindful of how technology is a part of learning. Mindfulness about purpose and role will be key as we move forward with the learning and teaching in this new now. 

    From 2009-2020 my blog existed at Technology Chatter using the edublog platform. Due to various reasons I have decided to move my blog over to this Blogger platform starting now (June 2020). It seems fitting to make this transition now as we are just finishing up 3 months of virtual learning brought on by the closures due to COVID-19. Priorities that existed pre-March 2020 have shifted as we have discussions on what the 'new now' will look like. What hasn't changed is how students learn. Now more than ever, whether we are physically in a school building or in a virtual classroom online, we need to engage students in authentic, real-world problem-based, and project-based learning. That is the base of my new blog title 'Mindful Edtech'. 

Sit back, grab a cup of coffee and let's be mindful about where we are going and how we are using Edtech to advance and extend learning!