Evaluating Blended Learning Classroom Design

At this year’s AISA Educator’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, I had the opportunity to present some of the models that I have used and created to evaluate blended learning classroom design. Much of this work was done alongside Brad Arnold (@leybradly), and was previously discussed in my article, That digital program your school bought will never transform learning.

The format included a short mini-lesson on the need for self-reflection and self-evaluation of C21 learning environments by educators, and ended with enroled teachers using our rubrics to evaluate my own elementary digital courseroom. I was surprised and honored by the feedback that I recieved from this portion of the workshop. Many teachers noticed the quality of the learning experiences that my students have been engaged in this year, and I felt motivated to keep pushing forward with finding better descriptors and observable student actions for this kind of work.

As more and more teachers see the need for authentic technology integration to not only improve achievement, but to transform the learning experience for today’s learners, I hope to be a part of that change moving forward.

– Zach Groshell @mrzachg

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That digital program your school bought will never transform learning

It seems like most teachers and students have access to a paid-for digital learning program. You know the kind – RAZ kids, IXL, Spelling City, any one of those listed in the featured image of this article – and they all promise to raise achievement while making learning “fun”. These CAI (computer assisted instruction) programs can be traced back to  when Skinner first created his “teaching machine”, the original solution for replacing the teacher, pictured below.

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Skinner’s Teaching Machine

The thing is, these “learning” programs have not been proven to be as effective as the edtech industry overlords would like us to believe. In fact, the meta-analysis of John Hattie, which was shared with me at AEC 2017 by Dr. Sonny Magana (@sonnymagana), clearly shows that telling a kid to “go do Mathletics” will not make a sizable difference in the learning of our students.

Let me explain the research:

The Bad News: When technology is used to replace a teacher, it has a very small positive effect size on student achievement. Hattie’s research includes studies on the use of CAI programs across curriculum and contexts, as well as other approaches that mistake the transmission of information for authentic knowledge generation (Powerpoint use by teachers, for example). The graph below indicates with a black arrow the average of all of Hattie’s researched initiatives, programs, and strategies in education to be a 0.4 effect size. When we look at the effect size for how technology has been implemented over the last 50 years, including using computers for passive absorption of information transmitted by a CAI teaching robot, it falls below the average at 0.34. In short, Skinner’s Teaching Machine wasn’t particularly effective and neither is your school’s CAI program.

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“Despite the extraordinary developments in computer technology since the Kennedy Administration, not to mention the vast sums of taxpayer money spent on digitizing classrooms since the 1960s, the average effect of computer technology in education has been stuck well below the zone of desired effects. This is hardly cause for celebration.” Dr. Sonny Magana at #AEC2017

The Good News: When technology is used to enhance proven teaching and learning methods, the positive effect size is off the charts. When you compare the status quo, which is a below-average 0.34 effect size on student achievement, and the 1.6 effect size of a framework like the T3 (see below to learn more about this), it is clear that we need to change the way we facilitate learning with technology.

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Edtech models for transformation of learning

Poke around this blog a bit, and you will see several articles we have written on best practice technology integration. I hope that the theme that all of these articles have touched on is that technology should only be used as a tool to transform and maximize learning. Replacing traditional teaching with a computer is not going to ensure achievement for our learners. The use of a CAI like Mathletics or Spelling City to replace teacher and student-led instruction only gives them automated, rote practice. While this is not a bad thing, we need to refocus our planning so that students are spending more time developing their higher-order thinking skills through producing, inquiring and contributing with technology.

Here are some models that can guide the 21st century teacher away from edtech as a direct substitute to edtech as a tool for transformation:

#1 Early Years Blended Learning Development Guide (Zach Groshell et al)

The first model I’ d like to share is a guide that I created last year, in collaboration with Brad Arnold and elementary teachers at my school, which was subsequently implemented in early years classrooms. It uses 5 common and observable student actions (seen on the left column) and the SAMR scale to measure the level of edtech use. When teachers observe student learning that falls under the examples of modification and redefinition of the learning task, we know that instruction is likely going to have a positive effect size on student achievement.

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Click here to see the whole thing

#2 Blended Learning Development Guide (Brad Arnold et al)

This is another blended learning design model that I helped to develop with Brad Arnold (@leybradly), and it is slightly different from the rubric above as it is less focused on observable student actions and more on the traits of the learning environment. The 7 traits of a learning environment are the observable traits of any learning environment, shown in the left column below, and the top row of the rubric includes the SAMR scale to measure the level of edtech use. This guide is best used to facilitate teacher self-reflection on the effect of educational technology on the learning environment.

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Click here to see the whole thing

#3 T3 Framework for Educational Technology Use (Dr. Sonny Magana)

The third and final model I’d like to share for edtech instructional design is the T3 Framework (see video below). Based off of the body of research and implementation by Dr. Sonny Magana, the T3 Framework is designed to disrupt the current narrative about educational technology by contextualizing its use into 3 stages: Translational, Transformational, and Transcendent. Grounded in sound research and theory, the T3 Framework is designed to support how educational systems measure the ways classroom technologies are used to unleash student learning potential. Teachers seeking to base their instruction on the most effective strategies for student achievement should be looking up at the T2 and T3 stages, and pushing themselves to transform education by having students produce and contribute, and to “transcend” by using technology tools to facilitate inquiry and solve world problems that matter.

 


While the edtech companies may not agree that their expensive math and reading programs have limited effect sizes on student achievement, we should be looking closer at the last 50 years of research on this topic and seeking a better way forward when it comes to edtech use in the classroom.

We need to stop:

  • Using CAI technology to replace teacher and student-led instruction
  • Using technology to fill time
  • Calling the use of CAI programs “blended learning”
  • Thinking that a game or a program can teach just as well as a teacher

And start:

  • Looking at student actions through the lens of transformational and transcendent learning.
  • Considering the traits of an effective learning environment and how we know students learn best
  • Seeking to increase moments of “redefined” or “transcendent” learning  in our own practice

 

What do you think? Could this help to improve your teaching? Comment below with your thoughts on blended learning and keep coming back to EducationRickshaw.com.

– Zach Groshell, @mrzachg

When it Comes to PD, Teachers Need Differentiation

In a week or so, I will be presenting at AEC 2017 about blended learning design and evaluation, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to give my thoughts on the enormous responsibility that we have as trainers and presenters to differentiate for the various levels of teachers that exist in our schools.

I am lucky enough to have worked at schools that take professional development seriously. When done right, in-house PD provides a forum for professional discourse on theory and practice. It is varied, active, and differentiated for the needs of all levels of teachers, and intrinsically satisfies an educator’s craving for learning. When done wrong, in-house “PD” and is little more than a few speakers force-feeding teachers information that they could easily obtain by other means (a memo!), aka Death By PowerPoint.

Like students, not all teachers have the same learning needs. What’s the sense in making a teacher with 30 years of IB experience sit in a meeting about the fundamentals of the IB program? While we all need a refresher now and then, meetings that are little more than training or housekeeping disguised as professional development can really hurt the moral of a professional learning community, and contribute to burnout, turnover and widespread apathy among educators. It also just shows a total lack of respect for the teaching profession, as if teachers are not smart enough to make their own decisions about where they are and what they need to learn next.

This is why I like book clubs

I’ve been running book clubs for teachers at my school for three years now, and I find them to be beneficial on so many levels. One of the most popular articles on educationrickshaw.com has been 5 Books To Start a Book Club for Teachers, which tells me that other educators are itchin’ for professional reading as well. Last week, we started up this year’s first book club on “Never Work Harder Than Your Students” by Robyn R. Jackson, inspired in many ways by my course at AEC 2016. The discussion was the highlight of my week.

The thing about book clubs is that it turns PD into an active exercise rather than a passive one. In the book clubs that I have been a part of, teachers read at their own pace while being guided and held accountable by their peers. Teachers choose if and when they want to attend, and are given chances to contribute to the conversation outside of meeting hours through online forums and journals. Good professional book clubs kind of model how I think learning should take place in the classroom; If students don’t deserve an education where they are merely seen as passive receptacles for dry information, then why should teachers?

 

Make in-house PD worthwhile with differentiation

Clearly there are times when a school will need teachers to be all on the same page, especially if there is a sense that the teaching and learning has become off-mission. But, for the most part, beginning teachers have their needs, experienced teachers have their needs, single subject teachers have their needs and generalists have their needs. It is important that we put as much thought into our in-house PD as we put into our lessons for the students. When teachers’ needs are met, and we begin to treat them as responsible, creative, intelligent theorists who are able to grapple with the latest ideas and trends in education, then we will begin to re-professionalize the profession from the ground up.


What do you think? What is in-house PD like at your school? Do you meet just to meet, or do you meet to learn about things that are important to you? Stephanie and I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

– Zach Groshell @MrZachG

Is it worth becoming recognized as an Apple Teacher?

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As my husband and I have been busy recruiting for positions in the 2018-2019 school year (I know, international schools hire early!) I wanted something extra to add to my CV about integrating technology into the classroom. Although I can say that I work in a 1:1 classroom, I wanted to give schools concrete evidence that I know what I’m doing. That’s when I began looking around for free online iPad professional development courses or certifications and found the Apple Teacher Program.

 

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The Apple Teacher Program

The relatively new Apple Teacher Program aims at giving teachers basic knowledge on how to use iPads or Macs and inspire them with ideas on how to use them in the classroom. Teachers need to gain badges in 8 areas for either the iPad or the Mac: (1) iPad/Mac, (2) Pages, (3) Keynote, (4) Numbers, (5) iMovie, (6) GarageBand, (7) Productivity, and (8) Creativity to earn their recognition as an Apple Teacher. There are then additional badges for Coding Concepts and the Swift Playgrounds App.

 

What Do You Do?

You have three choices for how to learn the content: download a free Teacher Guide, use the iTunes U Course or attend an in-store workshop. I chose to download the Teacher Guides.

All of the Teacher Guides for the iPad and five apps are split up into generally the same sections (which makes it easy to read).

  • Chapter 1: Welcome/how to use this guide
  • Chapter 2: Getting Started with (fill in app name) – the most basic app information
  • Chapter 3: Practice creating a real project that your students could potentially do
  • Chapter 4: Sharing Your Work/Collaborating/Revising
  • Chapter 5: Going Further – ideas on how do use app in different subject areas

As with most everything that comes from Apple, the guides are easy to read and have pictures and videos that make everything very clear to understand. What could have been a very dull read, though, was made much more interesting by chapter 3. In chapter 3 of each guide, you practice using the app by creating a school project. As the guide walks you through building and designing the assignment with pictures and graphs, it describes how to add content and format. This was my favorite part of the guide, because I learned some really useful tips that I hadn’t known about, even for apps I’d already used quite a bit.

The guides for Productivity and Creativity I found less useful, because I’m already using iPads in my classroom and the ideas weren’t new to me. However, for anyone struggling to decide how to use iPads or new to having iPads in their classroom, these guides might be a great starting point.

 

Would I recommend it?

By the time I had gotten about half-way through reading chapter 3 in my first Teacher Guide on iPads, I came to the conclusion that every teacher who has iPads or Macs in their class needs to do this program. This is my third year teaching with iPads and I still learned more from this program. Even more impressively, some of the new features I excitedly showed Zach, he didn’t know about yet either!

Whether you are brand new to having iPads in your classroom or not, I highly recommend gaining your recognition as an Apple Teacher. As schools are increasingly using technology in the classroom and as technology is constantly changing and improving, it is vital that teachers keep up so they can effectively use the tools they are handing to their students.

 

Have you also become a recognized Apple Teacher? Please comment to share your experiences!

-Stephanie

 

 

 

 

In education, words matter.

Many teachers use word clouds or wordles in classroom activities to have students highlighting important words or to show students which words they’ve overused in their texts. One thing I’ve never done before is apply a wordcloud to my own practice, which is exactly what I recently did for the educationrickshaw.com blogroll. Once I made it by uploading our url into wordclouds.com, it was time to start digging into what exactly was going on. Afterall, it’s important to see where our emphasis has been, and how we need to refocus our language in the teaching profession.

Below is the word cloud for our site, educationrickshaw.com, and some of my conclusions.

 

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Students First

Before I made the word cloud, I was sure that “teaching” was going to be the most frequent word. That would make sense, since educationrickshaw.com is meant to be a blog to be enjoyed by international teachers, not students or parents. I was pleasantly surprised to see that “students” is by far the largest word in the word cloud.

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I hope that this is because our articles focus on what students are doing in the classroom, with a decreased emphasis on what teachers are doing. I find that when I think about what I want students to be able to do, I facilitate lessons that more often than not achieve that outcome. When I focus on what I am doing, which I think is a common newbie teacher mistake, the learning suffers as a consequence.

I know teachers and administrators say that they put the students first, and I imagine that most believe that they do. It is a different thing altogether to actually put it into practice. Relying on tradition aka “the ways things have always been done”, ego, and acting in fear over the fallout that can come from putting students first is too often the status quo in education today.

Learning is the goal

Also up there in size is “learning”, which should always be the goal for teachers. If students are the noun, then “to learn” is the verb.

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Now, there are many ways that students learn, and our conversations need to be centered around how students best learn – Not what is easiest for teachers, parents, and administrators. The minute that we go down such a road, we begin to deprofessionalize the teaching profession, and we cheapen the quality of a student’s education. Similar to this is what I talked about in the article “The What vs. The How”, where I argued that we should give less attention to what we are teaching and what we are using for teaching, and focus more on how we are teaching. I suppose another addition should be the “why”, which I’d argue is for learning.

Yes we CAN!

The final big word I want to point out is the word “can”, which is floating somewhere over west-central Africa in the wordcloud.

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Even though I can sometimes lose my optimism, especially when I don’t have enough caffeine in my system, I believe that if we keep our focus on students and learning, we can reach our goal of making a lasting difference in the lives of our kids.

 


 

What do you think? Would you consider putting your comments for your report cards into a wordcloud? Stephanie, who’s name is currently reigning over Madagascar, and Zach (nowhere to be found 😂) would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

5 Luxuries Bestowed Upon Thee As An International Teacher

The typical teacher in their home country is afforded few luxuries. A coffee at Starbucks is seen as a rare treat. A PB&J for lunch is the norm. I remember clearly when one boisterous teacher in my first stateside school’s faculty lounge asked that anyone who had a tarp covering some part of their car (to protect from the rain in Washington State) to raise their hands, or forever hold your peace. Scout’s honor, there were five hands that raised that day admitting the tarp.

While, in my opinion, most international educators are still severely underpaid for what we do, the cost of living in many of our host countries allows for some pretty sweet perks. That coupled with the built-in savings potential that comes with many international teaching contracts (free housing, free flights, etc) makes it so that many international teachers find the benefits of international teaching to be too lucrative to ever want to return to teaching public school back home.

Compared to teachers back home, we have it good. We have teaching assistants. Our classrooms are well resourced. The class sizes are smaller. There is money for PD. These are all things that we experience in the international school classroom. But on this educationrickshaw.com post, we will be looking at 5 luxuries that most international teachers enjoy as they go about their leisurely lives that teachers back home just can’t afford.

Ka-Ching! $$$

#1 Affordable Cleaners

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There’s nothing like coming home to a clean house after a hard day’s work.

Most international educators that I have come across in both Vietnam and Sudan hire a cleaner. Some have them come for a couple of days a week, others have a cleaner come everyday of the week. When I first heard of this arrangement, I initially had uneasy feelings. Aren’t we taking advantage of these poor local women by having them do the lowliest of jobs for measly wages?

While cleaners may be way out of a teacher’s price range back home, the cleaners in many developing host countries do have a small salary in comparison to the American minimum wage. However, all of the teachers that I know tend to pay significantly more than the average local pays their cleaners.  Instead of delving into that here, check out this article on Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty For Having a Cleaner.

#2 Cheap Massages

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Expat Chillaxin’

I don’t know about you teachers, but my back is always hurting after a day of work. You don’t need to read the studies to know that teachers get stressed out, and this can lead to chronic foot and back pain.

While a massage in the US can set you back 60 plus dollars per hour, many expat teachers in developing countries find themselves getting quality massages for less than a third of that cost. Whether you’re looking for a back massage to ease the pain of bending over and getting on kids’ level, or a bizarre Dr. Fish massage served up in murky waters, international teachers have the full range of possibilities within reach.

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This was in Cambodia, and it cost 1 USD and you got a free adult beverage. How about that for a deal?

#3 Security Guards That Do Everything

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My friend, and one of our trusty security guards.

All of the countries that Stephanie and I have taught in have felt safe. But because wages are so low in developing countries, many schools will hire security guards for their buildings. Many large apartment complexes in capital cities will also provide security guards.

 

All of the guards that we have had at our apartments have been extremely gracious with their time and efforts. They will go out of their way to help us translate phone calls and documents, fix popped tires, and alert the school when there is something wrong with our apartment or car. The average security guard in the international setting is part handyman, part electrician, and full-time procuror of all local goods. They’re more often than not the first person to go to when you’re in a bind, and many of them have become my close friends. I can’t imagine going back home and living without them.

#4 Taxis that cost next to nothing

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Vinasun, the omnipresent Vietnamese taxi that has the monopoly in Ho Chi Minh City. CHEAP!

The only time I have ever paid for a taxi in the USA was when I was in a real pickle and had my dad call me one to take me home. I remember that it was 35 bucks back in the early 2000s to go just a few miles from my school to my house. It took the driver over 25 minutes from the time I called him to the time he arrived to pick me up at my school. It felt like a big waste of time and money.

Since I moved overseas as an international educator, I’ve taken hundreds of taxis. Many countries have a taxi culture that allows for affordable rides, even in some of the more expensive cities (Dubai, for example). When Stephanie and I lived in Vietnam, we would leave our motorbike at home if we were going out late, and taxi the whole night long. If our motorbike happened to break down, one of us would take a taxi to a repair shop, hop on the back of a mechanic’s motorbike and come save the day. It was truly one of the most convenient forms of transportation, and it was cheap, cheap, cheap!

#5 Great Vacations Closeby

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Our travel map as of 9/2017 with some funky rickshaws going in random places

I’ve talked before about the importance of maintaining balance in this profession by taking great vacations whenever you have the chance. However, in addition to having low salaries and savings potential in comparison to international teachers, American teachers are not afforded a great geographical location for travel. Just crossing the country to another American city costs as much in airfare as it would take to get me to a whole ‘nother country and culture. Just take a look at the map above; When we were in Asia, we traveled all over Asia. Now that we’re in Africa, we’ve traveled all over Africa. It’s just what international teachers do.  As an international educator, depending on your school and your package, you likely have the time, the money, and a great geographic location to travel.


We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this article. For more on international teaching and learning, keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com! Don’t forget to comment 🙂

EducationRickshaw is going to AEC 2017!

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You may remember last year when both Stephanie and I went to AEC Conference 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. We took some amazing courses by Karen Boyes and Ryan Harwood, tweeted a lot, got our yoga on, and danced, feasted and mingled with some of the best minds in international education.

We at educationrickshaw.com are happy to announce that we will be making our epic return at AEC 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya! We’ll be sure to keep you updated here and on Twitter and if you’re going, be sure to reach out here in the comments below. We’d love to become a part of your PLN!

 

Homework not effective? What about distance learning?

Homework is one of those contentious things that divides teachers as well as parents. John Hattie’s research leads to the conclusion that homework in primary school has an effect of nearly zero.  But the reality is that many schools have policies that require homework to be assigned to students on a daily or weekly basis.

This year, I am experimenting with a theory that primary student achievement can be improved with homework if there is a distance learning tutor available for coaching for every assignment.

What I’m trialing this year:

This year I’ve told all of my students that whenever they need help with their homework, they should shoot me an email. I know, it sounds like a crazy responsibility for me to take on, and I’ll see if I have the stamina to keep up with it throughout the year, but so far it has gone really well!

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“I don’t get this”

Much like my in-class helpdesk, I want my 9-10 year olds to get professional help in a timely and effective manner. I don’t want some parents to help their kids while other kids are left alone to stress about math during their valuable home time. This year, my students were instructed that if they have a problem they should screenshot their math or take a video of the strategies they’ve tried and to send it to me by e-mail. I then respond by either giving them some written or video hints, or by directing them to an available resource such as a Youtube or Khan Academy video.

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“Is this correct?”

 

How’s it going so far?

It has been a very positive experience to start the year off with this model for homework. One thing I have noticed, though, is that the students tend to ask very simple questions without really showing their work or the strategies they tried. I am going to work with students on how to ask for help, and how to get the students helping each other much more often. I am also learning how to give just enough help so as to get the students to figure out the rest of the problems on their own.

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Student created instructional YouTube video on our class channel

I am also incorporating a YouTube channel with student-created instructional videos so that students can refer to a growing library of flipped lessons from their peers. This is in the process of getting put together (so far, we only have three videos) but the students seem very excited about the prospect of sharing their knowledge with each other and the world.

It’s not that much extra work… so far

I am a fan of living a balanced life as a teacher, so taking on a “distance tutoring model” by having kids e-mail me all night long (their limit is 8:00 PM) might sound like a recipe for disaster. But the truth is that I only get a couple of emails per night, and it usually only takes me a few seconds to send back a response with Mark-Up or my laptop’s webcam. Usually just copying and pasting the link to a YouTube video can help them solve their problems. As students become more familiar with this system, and increasingly independent, I hope to teach them to search for their own answers online and to take it upon themselves to offer peer tutoring during the homework hours.


What do you think? Will this strategy help improve achievement, or is it simply homework in sheep’s clothing? Is this plan sustainable, or do you bet I’ll let some student requests fall through the cracks? Comment below! We at educationrickshaw.com would love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

The Three Rs of Summer Vacation

When I first started my summer vacation in June, I committed to an easy-to-remember regimen of goals that I referred to as “The Three Rs”. These stood for Reading, Writing, and Resume. Now that I am officially back at work, and about ready to set some new goals for the school year, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on how these went.

More on goal setting: A Letter to My Student About Goal Setting, Body Image, and Healthy Living

Goal #1: Reading

I didn’t nearly read as much as I wanted to over the course of this short summer. I expected to begin committing to my reading list the minute I lifted off from Khartoum International Airport, but alas, it wasn’t a particularly good reading holiday. This might have been due to my recent addiction to the Nintendo Switch, or to the epic golf tournament that my brother and I played over this summer, which culminated in a close and contentious battle at the U.S. Open-famed Chambers Bay.

I would like to recommend one book in particular that had an impact on me: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie. 

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Why should teachers read it? While not a book on teaching for teachers (See: 5 Books To Start a Book Club for Teachers), this book can really force one to come to terms with what it means to be raised in America in the absolute poorest of conditions. For me, it brought me back to my first teaching position at a Native American Tribal School in Washington State.

Alexie is from Spokane, not too far from where I’m from, and his powerful prose and verse (the book switches between narrative and poetry frequently), puts you frighteningly close to the horrors that he experienced living on the rez. Stephanie and I live in Africa, and we both are familiar with the reservation community that we worked with 6 years ago, but nothing can prepare a reader for the agonizing and often gut-wrenching experience that is reading You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. If you get the chance to read it for a teacher book club, be sure you’re not in earshot of students and parents – this one’s disturbingly honest and profane.

Goal #2: Writing

I planned to write every week this summer. Even though I wasn’t able to meet that goal perfectly, I am still happy with what I managed to write during what was a busy time. I mean, I traveled to Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, and took trips around the U.S. in my awesome van:

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Honestly, I wanted a rickshaw to travel the U.S., but Stephanie forced us to go with the Ford Transit Connect. Retrofitted with drawers, a bed, blackout curtains, and exhaust fans, it does the trick.

Here is a list of all of the posts I wrote this summer: 

Goal #3: Resume

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The one thing I managed to get done just fine this busy, busy summer was my resume. I did a few versions of it using both Canva and PowerPoint. If you haven’t used Canva before for graphic design, I recommend it. The free version gives you plenty of templates and fonts, and it is nice to have all of your projects saved onto the cloud. It’s also great for creating infographics and memes to post on Twitter about education. I actually made the featured image for this post (Summer goals?) using Canva.

Another thing that I did on a whim was create business cards using Office Depot. For $16.99, you can get 50 cards printed on the same day in color. I think they turned out pretty nice:

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I may have been a bit lazy on achieving my goals, but hey, I’m happy with life right now. Maybe if I had worked out some SMART goals like I do with my students for student led conferences, it would would have worked out better. Either way, I’m not trippin’.

What about you? Did you set some goals in your lives that you’d like to share in the comments below? Were you able to achieve them to some degree? We at educationrickshaw.com would love to hear your experience. Thanks for stopping by.

What Does a 21st Century Classroom Look, Sound, and Feel Like?

Part of a technology coach’s role these days is to convince teachers that their job description has changed. The industrial model of education is well past its expiration date, and the generation of students born today are going to graduate into a world that will look completely different than our own. In order to train 20th century teachers to reach the conceptual understandings required for 21st century education, school leaders and tech coaches need to focus on describing what this could be.

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This article tries to describe how I imagine the 21C classroom and I will try to integrate theory on 21C pedagogy throughout. Edutopia’s 10 signs of a 21st century classroom is a good read, as well this tech4learning’s article. To describe the 21st century here, I’ll divide it up into three categories: What can it potentially look like, sound like, and feel like?

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Look Like?

Imagine what the workplace looks like at one of the more hip startups near you. Is it rows of desks and dividing walls? Is everyone sitting in silence? I was surprised to not see Seattle – the city of my university – in the top five on this Fortune list for startup activity in 2016:

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What I picture is couches, colors, and bright lighting that facilitate the collaboration between professionals. I see devices, headsets, and outlets. Take a look at some of the Google campuses that I googled below:

Clearly these two photos have a very contemporary look, but what’s more important is that the space signals to the professionals at work that their knowledge and skills are better harnessed when shared spontaneously and collaboratively. Every part of the space is purpose-built, and there are fewer barriers between inside spaces and outside spaces than what you’d find in a traditional workspace.

In my classroom (above), the setup has changed many times to fit the purpose of the unit, the activity, or the dynamic of the students in my class. We’ve had weeks of free inquiry where students worked without walls, and once we just needed to read and learn in a fort:

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Sound Like?

I’ve talked before about how noisy classrooms are overrated in my article on growing up the child of a Deaf mom and teacher.  My Twitter Feed is always full of teachers and administrators professing a “new” messy and noisy style of learning. Now, while my classroom will become extremely loud when they put on a cardboard arcade with coded games, or a in the heat of a good debate, you can also find my entire class sitting around with headphones while diligently completing a project.

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From CBC slideshow on 21st Century Jobs

Take a look at the photo above. These “custom implant organ designers”, one of the newest jobs popping up in the world our children are graduating into, are all working mostly in silence. However, there are multiple points of contact for face-to-face interaction; They are not limited in their ability to turn and interact with one another. The point is that sometimes students need quiet time to think, and other times, they just need to dump ice on each other and figure out how things freeze (see below). There are many ways to learn, and it is a teacher’s job to figure out the pedagogy that best matches the circumstance.

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My students making a mess at our class Science Fair

Is my class loud? Sometimes. When they are quiet, is it because I have demanded compliance and they are passively listening to me? Not usually. Perhaps they are fully concentrating as they practice something, or are preparing in silence to teach others. It might be because they are writing, or communicating with others on social media or in our online courseroom, and the language-use is intense, but not loud.

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In general, I try to use what we know about retention, such as the pyramid above, to plan and evaluate how my classroom looks and sounds. Now, onto the touchy-feely stuff.

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Feel Like?

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Via http://www.hrreview.co.uk/

It’s time to face the facts that many of the jobs of today will be gone tomorrow (See: 15 jobs that will be gone in 10 years) – this is just the way of the world. According to some, 47 percent of jobs will disappear over the next 25 years. Computers will simply be able to do things more cheaply and effectively than humans.

The students of today will be designing those computers. This is why, in the classroom of the 21st century, technology should feel ubiquitous; It is just as much a part of learning as pencil and paper and it is omnipresent. I constantly work to hone my technology skills (on my couch while watching T.V.), and I fully embrace the technology that I have available at my school.

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One setup I’ve had in my class – students partnered elbow-to-elbow, teacher is “guide on the side”, students can connect to Apple TV for sharing what’s on their screens

The 21st century-ready classroom feels democratic, and behaves much like a democracy. 21st century skills (see below) cannot be developed in an entirely top-down, authoritarian environment. I don’t imagine that the workplace of the future will behave that way either – remember which jobs are disappearing, and which are being created.

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Companies today want our kids to graduate having mastered the 4Cs of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. A child should feel like their ideas matter in their classroom, much like a professional should feel valued for their ideas in the workplace of the future. It is important to give your class back to your students so that they gain the necessary confidence and perseverance to pursue and communicate their ideas when they enter their future careers. If it were up to me, I’d make it a school-wide rule that every child should have access to snacks, drinks, and bathrooms and should be able to choose their clothes. But alas, that sounds like a whole ‘nother article.


 

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and links that try to describe the 21st century classroom. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, check out more about us, and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com for more teaching ideas in motion.