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Teaching Greatest Hits: Tiffany Hamm, Most Engaging Classroom

Teaching Greatest Hits: Tiffany Hamm, Most Engaging Classroom

Melissa Ruiz

Melissa Ruiz

Sr. Event Marketing Manager

Before Kiddom, Melissa managed events for Turnitin and Edmodo, where she learned how much she loved Edtech.

We know teachers have a hard job to do with a limited amount of time. It makes us ecstatic to learn from amazing teachers that go the extra mile to contribute to making the world just a little better, one student at a time.

This is the first spotlight in a series of five, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s inaugural Teaching Greatest Hits series. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our Teaching Community Newsletter.

In a day and age of high stakes testing and ever-increasing accountability, how do we embrace change? How can you thrive for something different, for something better?

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we held this award series for teachers who deserve recognition for their outstanding work in the classroom. We searched far and wide to find the winners of this year’s Teaching Greatest Hits, and see what makes them tick. 

I sat down with Tiffany Hamm, an English teacher at Los Gatos High School in California. She’s been teaching for 27 years and as the winner of the “Most Engaging Classroom” award, she has managed to push for the change she wants to see in the world with amazing grace.

The interview below…

Q: What do you currently teach?

Tiffany Hamm: I have a freshman English class. And then I have a social justice junior class piloting this year. And I’ve been teaching senior social justice for the last three years. They decided to have the juniors start and stay with me for two years. English eleven and in English twelve considered English class towards college credits. And so we’re piloting it have these courageous conversations.

 

Q: What brought you down the path to become a teacher?

TH: Well, I actually wanted to be so many other things. I wanted to work as a missionary for a while, then I wanted to work in the system with incarcerated youth. I thought, “well, I could be a therapist…” and then my mother said, “You know you can do all those things in college education and be impactful in the classroom,” – and she was right. Education has always been something that I just love because it’s never the same day twice.

 

Q: What kinds of connections to the world can your students make with the activities and assignments in your classroom?

TH: We tend to hold tightly to our norms. My students are never seated the same seat twice. This encourages them to talk to different people, and pulls them out of their comfort zone.  I got this idea from a Freedom Writer teacher down in Long Beach, CA. There’s about 500 of us who trained with Erin Gruwell from the Freedom Writer movie. 

 

Q: In your nomination, fellow teacher Liv Johnson told us about the social justice Monopoly game you play in your class. Could you tell us more?

TH: The Monopoly game is a study of inequity, race, class, and redlining. The students will pick who they want to be (with game markers). And by accident, they will have a certain wealth category or not. Some students are impoverished from the start and they never catch up; some will always be in jail. And when they get out of jail, they realize that they can’t afford to live in the world. So oftentimes, they have asked to go back to jail because it’s easier and they don’t make payments. Doesn’t that emulate life?

We’re looking at just mercy and mass incarceration in the new age—how quickly are we to judge people. Some people are living this now.

 

Q: Tell us about the service trips you take with students!

TH: We went to New Orleans and worked in the Ninth Ward, studying inequity of race and also building homes with Habitat for Humanity. We have gone to Peru, built roads for students who did not have access to getting school. This year we’ve talked about going back to Peru, or Mexico to build houses. Something to get them out of their element.

 

Q: In your opinion, what defines an engaging classroom? Have your strategies changed from year to year to improve student outcomes?

TH: I want to give my students a voice, and make them feel comfortable to speak. We cannot really have these conversations about race, gender, and ethnicity if they don’t feel safe in the classroom to have it. These are difficult questions that I’m asking. Before they can grapple with them out loud, suspend judgment, and feel free to make a mistake, we have to work on creating that culture first.

You can never look at a different perspective until you feel comfortable enough to have one. 

 

Q: Can you speak to those structured conversations and how they establish a healthy environment for students?

TH: First, we find our commons. Commons happen a lot. My students don’t think they have anything in common with anyone sitting next to them until they start talking. Right now, we’re looking at our identity and how it shows up, and exploring what they’re willing to share with each other. There’s risk involved but they also need to know that they have boundaries and so they’ve drawn their own personal boundaries.”

 

Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching?

TH: Honestly, I look forward to seeing my students every day. Each of them brings something to the table that’s new—a different outlook on life. I love it when one student doesn’t really think that they’re being seen and then they have a moment like: “Hey, I see you. I’ve seen you all along.” And they don’t know that because I think they see themselves as just one of many in the class.

At the start of the school year, we put up all of the pictures on the wall and everyone has a saying and we look at them and celebrate the fact that we’re all in this together, It wasn’t by accident. And so that’s it— my students really.

I’m very glad I was able to interview Tiffany Hamm in person and see her inspiring classroom. Every inch of it is covered with quotes and utter kindness. She has shown me that if you have passion, you can love what you do every day, inspire students to ensure their success and encouraging them to fulfill their potential.

Recap: What Makes Up Teaching Greatest Hits?

Each of the categories were scored on a different rubric. But as we saw from the nominations (and personal experience), teachers can shine in a myriad stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme of empowering students: 

  1. Fostering inclusivity by supporting and uplifting students of all abilities, cultures, and beliefs. 
  2. Impacting students beyond the perimeter of the classroom, by delivering culturally relevant curriculum, opening doors to new interests, and teaching the whole child.
  3. Upholding equity in education by providing scalable, dynamic, and personalized learning experiences.

Visit the 2019 Teaching Greatest Hits announcement page to learn more about the winners, and subscribe to our newsletter for more uplifting content by teachers, for teachers.

Charter Schools: Leading the Way in Adopting Digital Curriculum

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Kiddom + Open Up Resources: Best-in-Class Digital Curriculum

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Principal Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez: The Collaborative Leader

Former Principal & Superintendent Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez has had a lengthy career of advocating for teachers and using technology to enhance education.

Back to School Checklist: Are You Ready?

Some teachers may be waving a white flag in October, while others decorate it with Sharpie! Find out which one you’ll be with this back to school quiz.

5 Ways to Start Strong this School Year

5 Ways to Start Strong this School Year

Nicole Plante

Nicole Plante

Support Specialist, Kiddom

Nicole Plante is a former middle and high school ELA teacher who received her B.A. in English (U.C. Berkeley), M.A. in English Education (CUNY-Brooklyn) and B.A. in Web Design & New Media (Art Academy, SF). At Kiddom, she is a Support Specialist who uses her experience and skills to support a diverse range of educators and students.

The first few weeks of the school year have always been so precious to me throughout the stages my life, even as the “first days” changed in purpose over time. The air becomes cooler, summer activities wind down, there’s a feeling in the air unlike any other.

For most years, the beginning weeks of school were inaugurated with buying new notebooks, new №2 pencils, “back to school” outfits, reuniting with friends, and seeing whose name was written in the textbook from the year before. Before I was old enough to go to school, my mother would find me staring out the front door as the school bus drove by, holding my child-sized backpack in hand.

When I became a teacher, the beginning of the year was my time to begin fresh. Time to establish a positive classroom culture, to apply effective routines, to learn everyone’s names, plan ahead as much as possible, all while decorating just enough to keep my room welcoming and warm. It was a busy time, but I loved the chance to organize a new year, a new class of students. I accepted conflicting feelings of excitement and nervousness every August.

The start of school setup is absolutely critical to how we as educators feel going into the new year. In working with Kiddom, I’ve gotten to see other teachers set up their classes and navigate new technology with swift and comprehensive assistance. The capabilities through Kiddom make many of these starting steps much simpler and less of a headache for teachers.

I’ve found from my own experience and from others, there is a series of necessary “back to school” steps every teacher takes part of. From getting your student list to deciding what you’ll teach to investing your students early, we know what we need to start strong. As you read, can you relate to these instances of getting back into the swing of things? If so, why wait for another year to come around when you can start saving time now?

5 Back to School Tips for Teachers

1. Create Dynamic Rosters with Kiddom

My student list would inevitably change multiple times throughout the year, especially in the beginning. It was often several weeks into school that student schedules and classes were ironed out completely. I’d have to throw away class lists I’d written by hand, mark out student names that had left, and begin all over hoping this was the last change.

Teachers I’ve been coaching through Kiddom are happy to see how easy it is to edit rosters as their student lists change, deleting and adding students to pre-existing assignments, helping them start the year strong with ease. We can help students feel welcomed and included even when their schedule unexpectedly changes. No more white-out or botched class posters with crossed-out student names.

Teachers have also liked being able to customize their class through their settings, making the class their own, fitting their style. Rubrics that teachers have used for years can be added into their class, attached to any assignment they create. One of our teachers messaged us — “Wow! Thank you! I love the rubric and standard options! Kiddom might combine the two to make my life more manageable!!!” Well, now that you mention standards…

 

2. Attach Standards (State, SEL, or Custom) to Assignments, to Track Mastery Throughout the Year 

I’ll never forget when my school transitioned to Common Core standards; I pored over printed spreadsheets comparing the new Common Core standards to the Tennessee state standards I had just used the year before. Alarming and overwhelming are words that come to memory. But it had to be done! In order to create a yearly scope and sequence, I educated myself.

When our teachers set up Kiddom classes, all of the national and state standards are already there in clear buckets, plus, the ability to create your own competencies are available to you. Phew. One user expressed my thoughts exactly: “Yes! This is what I’ve been waiting for. 😄”

Another teacher added:

“I really like that it includes Marzano alignment since that’s what my school/state uses. I also like that it shows me the status of my students in each standard.”

The scores given to students populate some pretty awesome data for each standard you assess. Keeping these standards options open for teachers who track hundreds of different skills is important.

Even if you don’t use standards-based grading, Kiddom can still save you time and help you reach your goals for the school year. Whether you’re a homeschooling parent or a part-time tutor, you’ll find that Kiddom’s library of over 70,000 resources makes it easy to create lesson plans and assignments that work for you, and share them with your students. More on that below. 💥

3. Find & Save Content for Every Unit

Looking through my oversized content binder for 8th grade Math, a mixture of printed and hand-made lessons, from the year before was a ritual every year. What resources did I create last year that were good enough to deliver again, what could I improve, what needed to be thrown away?

Reinventing the wheel was my specialty. But thanks to Kiddom, it no longer has to be. 😅

To be fair, I created many excellent resources, but I can also attribute hundreds of hours of work doing so. A teacher’s curriculum is their bread and butter; it’s what will carry their class from day to day.

We know this is crucial to starting strong, so teachers can now search and assign content through Kiddom by keywords, grade-level, and type of resource, “I think you guys nailed putting assignments into a system and being able to grade them quickly.” —  after many of our teacher conversations, there will also soon be a curriculum planner, unit suggestions, and even more content partners. This totally would’ve helped me save time. If only.

 

4. Get Buy-In from Your Students

While administrative tasks were taking place, I was also thinking about my kids and the classroom culture they would be part of! How do I encourage positive behavior, track their development, and send meaningful updates home to parents? On top of everything else.

I wanted to invest my kids early. Many teachers I’ve worked with are excited to know that social-emotional learning (SEL) can also be assessed along with academic standards.

Teachers have been educating students all this time on how to work in groups, communicate their feelings, and be responsible — but most have never had a place to see their development progress tied to data and reports.

Now that we’ve partnered with CASEL, you can. One of our users responded to our emphasis on SEL with, This is about time kids learn to be respected, to handle conflicts, to feel safe expressing their emotions and given the tools to do so in constructive ways. Good for you!” We agree that truly, this should be the priority.

 

5. Take Advantage of Focused and Personalized Coaching

Meetings with my assistant principal, curriculum coach, or grade team were too few and far between. There were days I needed help now, but so did everyone else in the building.

My third year teaching, I was blessed with an outstanding Math coach; I only wish every teacher had access to their expertise. Helping educators adapt to Kiddom is something we love doing, and is at the top of our list during the busiest times of the school year.

Whether we are on the phone, at a school, or chatting online, our teaching staff at Kiddom provides an extra hand in getting started. “Whether I’m having trouble with a feature or have a suggestion, someone always seems to be on the other side paying attention. 🙂

More than I can say for a lot of things we pay for!” Yes, our assistance, like our platform for teachers, is totally free and comes straight from us — we even help teachers put on PD at their schools as they begin adopting these tools. It brings us joy seeing teachers improving their classrooms with Kiddom.

Starting the school year strong was non-negotiable for me. Similar to building a house, the structure will be unstable if there is not a solid foundation set up beforehand. It wouldn’t be until the third month of school that I felt like the foundation had been built and we were in a productive, fruitful rhythm.

The longer it takes to reach those rhythms, the less time we have to devote to learning. The faster we can establish the routines, the more my students got to take part in classroom culture and daily wins. Technology should be created with the goal of closing the gap in this process. 

Although the beginning of the year could be busy and overwhelming, it was still, and always will be, my favorite time. Creating a space where students are receiving personalized learning, individual intervention, and feeling motivated was my goal. 

Setting students and teachers up for success is our goal at Kiddom. Start strong, and the rest of the year will follow in its footsteps.

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Teaching Greatest Hits: Meet the Winners!

Teaching Greatest Hits: Meet the Winners!

We Proudly Present “Teaching Greatest Hits”!

Inspired by Teacher Appreciation Week in May 2019, this award series was created with the goal of applauding everyday classroom heroes with a wider audience. We asked learning communities to tell us about teachers who deserve a round of applause (and so much more!).

The Teaching Greatest Hits award series recognizes excellence in four integral parts of instruction: differentiation, interdisciplinary instruction, curriculum development, and classroom engagement.

These categories were chosen to emphasize the many ways that teachers empower students in and beyond the classroom. By crafting thorough curriculum and delivering personalized instruction, teachers invest time, money, and endless effort to ensure that students can get excited about learning. When students leave an engaging classroom that connects them to the world, they are more likely to see everyday experiences as valuable lessons.

The nomination period fell between May 13 and July 30: the perfect time to look back upon the last school year and learn from the most pivotal experiences. For two months, we received inspiring stories from around the world about how teachers strive to make a lasting impact on their community. A special thanks goes out to all of the teachers, students, supervisors, and friends that nominated one of the exceptional educators in their lives. Take a look at how the winners in each category were decided below.

How Were Nominees Scored?

Teachers are the true heroes of every school system. We read dozens of submissions from across the globe, and these words rang true throughout each and every one of them. Needless to say, there were some tough calls to make — so tough that we decided to name TWO winners in the Most Engaging Classroom category!

Each of the categories were scored on a different rubric. But as we saw from the nominations (and personal experience), teachers can shine in a myriad stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme of empowering students:

  1.  Fostering inclusivity by supporting and uplifting students of all abilities, cultures, and beliefs.
  2.  Impacting students beyond the perimeter of the classroom, by delivering culturally relevant curriculum, opening doors to new interests, and teaching the whole child. 
  3.  Upholding equity in education by providing scalable, dynamic, and personalized learning experiences. 

What do they win? Recipients will receive a cash prize, a personalized TGH platinum record, and a featured spotlight in our “Teaching Greatest Hits” series. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter below to catch the spotlights!

And now, without further ado… we present to you:

The 2019 Teaching Greatest Hits Recipients

Most Interdisciplinary Classroom

Janice Jensen is a music teacher at the Tilley School, Alberta, Canada. Nominated by Joan Foote.

“Janice has applied for and won 12 years worth of grants to provide her students with hands-on, real life projects that influence change within the hamlet of Tilley and the surrounding farming community. Her students are always excited to come to class as they don’t know what creative and crazy adventure Ms. Jensen is going to take them on.”

Ms. Jensen’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Excellence in Curriculum Development

Amy Swing is a math teacher at Mossy Creek Elementary, Georgia. Nominated by Jessica Sisco.

“Amy has created the gold standard for pacing guides for our county! She developed the template and pacing for 4th grade curriculum that aligns to our state standards. When a fifth grade teacher proposed a scoring system for summative assessments that would provide data that we can correlate to the state assessment, Amy revamped our entire math curriculum and assessments to fit that new scoring model.”

Ms. Swing’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Excellence in Differentiated Instruction

Nancy Cox is a math intervention teacher at Burns Middle School, Kentucky. Nominated by Dane W. Ferguson.

“Mrs. Cox is a highly skilled and trained teacher who has demonstrated an incredible ability to improve student performance in math. She finds games and activities that engage different students throughout each lesson. All of her students experienced an average growth of more than 6 points based on MAP Growth Assessment data.”

Mrs. Cox’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Most Engaging Classroom

Connie Michael is a teacher at Crow Agency Public School, Montana. Nominated by Connie Michael.

“Crow Agency Public School is on the Crow Indian Reservation. Connie uses a variety of resources to make the curriculum relevant to students. Mrs. Michael has been involved with the Smithsonian American Indian Museum to use curriculum specific to the history of the Native Americans. Teaching from two perspectives allows students to see the world around them from the perspective of their ancestors, not just that of those who wrote the history books.”

Mrs. Michael’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Most Engaged Classroom

Tiffany Hamm is an English teacher at Los Gatos High School, California. Nominated by Liv Johnson.

Tiffany pours her heart and soul into her teaching–creating meaningful experiences for her students that go way beyond the four walls of a classroom. She designed an English 12 (and now an English 11) Social Justice Change course, and her passion for the content is contagious. She is the epitome of a lifelong learner–always seeking new material that is relevant, and deeply connected to creating a better world.”

Ms. Hamm’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Charter Schools: Leading the Way in Adopting Digital Curriculum

Digital curriculum gives schools the autonomy they need to achieve their unique objectives. Here are the top 3 reasons that charter schools are going digital.

Kiddom + Open Up Resources: Best-in-Class Digital Curriculum

We’re excited to announce a partnership with Open Up Resources (OUR) to offer schools and districts best-in-class curriculum delivered via the Kiddom education platform.

Building a Web of Support for Students: What We Learned

Merging data with qualitative instincts should be the standard in education—not a privilege. A visit to Greenville, SC gave us a glimpse into that future.

Principal Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez: The Collaborative Leader

Former Principal & Superintendent Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez has had a lengthy career of advocating for teachers and using technology to enhance education.

Back to School Checklist: Are You Ready?

Some teachers may be waving a white flag in October, while others decorate it with Sharpie! Find out which one you’ll be with this back to school quiz.

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to ISTE Philly

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to ISTE Philly

Teachers and school administrators appreciate the value of a game plan more than most. If you’re heading to Philadelphia next week for the 2019 ISTE conference, these tips will give you a head start on using your limited time wisely.

1. Know the Lay of the Land (and Build Your Itinerary!)

Connecting over 300 companies and developers in edtech, ISTE is the perfect place to visualize what technology can do for your learning community. But with so many exhibitors present, getting lost in the middle of the exhibit hall without a plan could really dampen your experience. 

With 20+ hours to navigate the exhibit hall, you’ll have plenty of time to make several key connections that could benefit your school in the long run. If you have any interest in saving time while lesson planning, intervening in student achievement in a timely manner, and making data-informed decisions about curriculum—Kiddom should definitely be one of them!

Six of our team members (see them below!) will be on the floor to answer all your questions about addressing your school’s needs with one investment. You can find us at booth 327.

2. Grow Your Network at ISTE Philly’s Social Events

Learning the latest and the greatest educational methods and technology is important — but what is process without people?

Make the most of your time by attending social events and actually building connections with other educators who are tackling the same problems as you. There is no greater resource than human experience! 

You can find a list of all social sessions here. Even Kiddom is hosting an event!

More about the ISTE Kiddom Happy Hour

Tuesday, June 25 from 5:45-7:15 PM. Kiddom is hosting a formal ISTE-sponsored Happy Hour in the convention hall. There will be drinks, food, giveaways, mingling, and a Kiddom presentation! Invite only.

3. Enjoy the Local Eats and Sights of Philly!

You’re not confined to the conference halls, you know! Make the most of your trip by exploring some of the local eats and sights while you’re in town. Below we’ve rounded up Philly recommendations from some of the Kiddom folks who will be attending. Try them out and come swing by our booth afterwards to discuss!

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

“I highly recommend you visit the Mütter Museum while you’re in Philly.”
-Abbas

Aditya Patel

Aditya Patel

Product Success Manager, Kiddom

“Top 4 Philly must-sees: Reading Terminal Market, The Rocky Statue, The Thinker (original), and The Gates of Hell.”
-Aditya

Heather Ryan

Heather Ryan

Director Product Marketing, Kiddom

Philly Magic Gardens — really love this place. Highly recommended.”
-Heather

Melissa Ruiz

Melissa Ruiz

Senior Events Marketing Manager, Kiddom

“Cuba Libre is an amazing restaurant. Also recommend Elfreth’s Alley, a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1702.”
-Melissa

At a typical Kiddom school, hands are in the air, there’s a buzz in the room, and teachers and students are energized. Kiddom was designed to help improve teacher retention and increase student performance and graduation rates.

For the first time, the most important parts of teaching and learning are connected and simplified in Kiddom. Curriculum lives in one place and is easily measured and refined, instruction is personalized to meet the needs of each student, and data serves as a powerful system of support for every member of the learning community to keep students on track.

What People Are Saying

“Kiddom is great for assessing data and then assigning appropriate work based on individual student performance. I love that it's very easy to attach standards and rubric to every assignment.”

Jackie Curts, Middle School Teacher

“Using Kiddom has made me stop and ask, ‘Am I just letting this student repeat what they already know, or am I really challenging them?’”

Ann Leghorn, High School Literacy Specialist

“I can see where my class and any student is at any moment in their educational journey. This way, I can take action to assist them to work towards mastery.”

Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher

You might also be interested in these articles:

Curriculum is Culture

Responding to a recent shift from curriculum analysis to culture change, author Geoffrey Schmidt argues that the two cannot be separated.

Data Visualization for Color Accessibility

Data Visualization for Color Accessibility


Let’s talk about color accessibility — the ability to view all colors on a screen regardless of a reader’s visual ability. A crucial feature to low-visibility and colorblind readers, color accessibility can be achieved with good design and attention to color contrast. And it’s important to consider when designing any product, digital or physical — especially if that product relies on data visualization to carry out its purpose.

This is the story of how we addressed the design challenge of visualizing data for color accessibility at Kiddom.

New Product; New Design Challenge

Earlier this year we launched a K-12 school operating system for school and district administrators to measure and act upon classroom intelligence. Academy is our first enterprise product, supporting our free product for teachers and students (Kiddom for Classrooms) by connecting schools and districts to teachers and students on one operating system.

As we began working on Kiddom Academy, we saw an opportunity to define a new visual language. Prior to Academy, our classroom product had been tailored towards teachers and younger students who would be using the products to create, complete, assess, and communicate about assignments, so we optimized the design for these tasks, with some simple reporting and a color scheme that was based largely on the role using the product. For example, teachers had a blue theme, and students had a purple theme.

But, as Academy would stand as the highest-level dashboard for schools or districts to understand what was going on at every level (district, school, class, and student), the newest product would require a greater amount of data visualization.

So the challenge was to keep the visual design consistent and on brand while addressing a functional design change to work with more data — this meant more colors, and those colors needed to be accessible to all. It soon became clear to us that the new product would call for a radical redesign of our existing color palette.

Step One: Analyze the Starting Palette

For the first step, we put all of our color palettes together to analyze the overlap and discrepancies.

This was the palette at the start of our project. As you can see, it’s complex, has tons of overlap, and doesn’t address accessibility for the colorblind.

An overlap example: as you can see here, the colors quickly became muddled in the UI. The primary action color was conflated with the English subject color.

Let’s take a look at reports in the earlier versions of the product. As you see here, there were four colors in the Mastery chart, two of which were already being used in other contexts. There was also no logical progression to the color scheme (red-yellow-purple-green), making it hard to parse at a glance.

It was clear we would need to simplify, and we were beginning to gain a sense of our constraints, but before reinventing the wheel, we decided to check industry standards to see what norms existed in the education technology space.\

Step Two: Study Industry Norms

In our study of industry-specific norms, we would be looking at how others may have handled the color accessibility problem, as well as general color scheme; if teachers expected a particular color for their data, we’d be fighting an uphill battle by changing it.

In normal vision, these charts are pretty clear. The red is bad, green is good. However, turn on colorblind mode, and it’s not clear what each of the slices means. The difference between red and green just isn’t visible.

Let’s take a look at a wider palette that incorporates more colors.

In this example, the middle point isn’t overly obvious, and the ends of the spectrum, although contrasting from each other, are hard to pick out. Upon studying the norms, it became clear there were some common approaches, but no standard. We would have to make the call on what was best for our users.

Step Three: Define Constraints

Thanks to our analysis, we identified two constraints important to us, and a number of action items. As mentioned, our first constraint was color accessibility: Our colors should have enough contrast so that colorblind people can differentiate them from each other. This would be particularly important in any view that shows data reporting.

The second constraint was to reduce color overlap. This was simple enough, as we had a lot of similar colors used for totally different purposes. So, we decided it was clearly time to trim some fat.

It’s time for solutions!

Step Four: Determine Color Overlap

First, we looked at how much overlap we could remove. Let’s take a look at where each column’s colors were used in the product.

These colors were almost the same as our subject palette. Since our subjects were more integrated in the design, we chose to remove the content type.

As mentioned, our original intent was to theme the app depending on which role you were using. The available roles in the earlier products were Student, Teacher, and Parent.

However, with the addition of the Admin in Academy (green), we were adding a lot of complexity to this palette. So we made the decision to simplify by removing the overlaps of each role’s primary color.

Step Five: Improve Color Accessibility

To exemplify how we improved color accessibility for data visualization, we’ll use the example of our Student Mastery scale. On the surface, this design worked pretty well. With the exception of the purple, there was a clear progression. The middle point was extremely visible and the endpoints stood out nicely.

However, when we put our colorblind shades on, you’ll notice the contrast was super reduced. The mid point became almost invisible, and the ends were still visible, but only the “Exceeding” section really stands out. From here, we decided we could do better.

From here, a number of iterations followed. First, we tried red and green with higher contrast. This worked to highlight the ends of the spectrum, so users knew where to focus. The middle point was still obvious, but when we took a look in color blind mode… Sadly, although the middle point was still obvious, the ends of the spectrum were almost identical.

Then we tried an approach with more blue. This was the ‘hot and cold’ concept. And generally worked fine. However, we became concerned with the potential palette overlap with the Interaction Blue our buttons (mentioned below), so we tried a bit of purple. The purple gave us a similar issue, but overlapped with the purple in our Subject palette.

In the end, the teal approach was the most successful. We could have an obvious, contrasting middle point, while still highlighting the ends of the spectrum:

Step Six: Simplify Color Palette

Now let’s move back to the complex palette. Instead of predefining every variant of a color, every tint, every shade, we thought perhaps we could be smarter about the way we define our palette?

So we changed our approach and defined a layering system. There are now two layers: the primary color, and the overlay (tint).

By placing a tint on top of a primary color, we were able to create a consistent result, regardless of the primary color. This meant that Classroom and Academy could use the same system, but only differ by one color.

Of course we still needed a contrasting color for buttons and links, so we included a global ‘interaction’ color. To adhere to our constraints, we went for a loud blue that is AA+ accessible. And here’s the final color palette:

We hope you enjoyed learning about the discoveries along our process as much as we did, and we encourage you to check out our product for teachers to experience it for yourself!


If you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns, please let us know by sending them to info@kiddom.co. We are constantly iterating our product for teachers and for administrators, and your feedback is aways appreciated.

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

More Behind-the-Scenes Articles

Data Visualization for Color Accessibility

Let’s talk about color accessibility — the ability to view all colors on a screen regardless of a reader’s visual ability. A crucial feature to low-visibility and colorblind readers, color accessibility can be achieved with good design and attention to color contrast....

What Makes Kiddom for Android Special? Interview

I'm a developer. I'm a generalist. I bring to the table 15 years of experience packaged as a solid fullstack engineer. A proven record of successful products shipped. Love working with people from different backgrounds. Finding ways to create great systems. Balancing...

What Makes Kiddom for Android Special? Interview

What Makes Kiddom for Android Special? Interview

Guillermo Alcantera

Guillermo Alcantera

Mobile Engineering Lead, Kiddom

I’m a developer. I’m a generalist. I bring to the table 15 years of experience packaged as a solid fullstack engineer. A proven record of successful products shipped. Love working with people from different backgrounds. Finding ways to create great systems. Balancing quality, time and scope.

As many of you know, teachers can plan, assign, assess, report, and more using Kiddom, available via desktop, Apple, and as of earlier this year, Google Play.

But there’s more to our Android product than you might think. This week, we had a chat with Kiddom’s Mobile Engineering Lead, Guillermo Alcantara, to tell us what makes the Android product special.

 

So, what is unique about Kiddom Android compared to other versions of the product?

Guillermo: If you’re using Kiddom on Android you’ll find it is more similar to the web experience than our iPhone app, which often has a different interface, than what you might see online. That’s because we’ve created more custom widgets for iOS, whereas with Android we’re building more for Google’s vision. In other words, because Android’s store is owned by Google, the Android mobile product is more optimized for Google standards.

Kiddom on Android is also more performant; we’ve put more emphasis on making the product work in varied conditions. For instance, if your network is slow or your screen is small, the Android product can be handy in those situations… we have built it from the start with attention to limitations like internet speed, battery life, and smaller screens. Our Apple product, on the other hand, is a more optimized experience for newer Apple devices, in keeping with iOS protocol.

A third uniqueness about our Android product is the ability to be easily translated, which is on our roadmap to release soon. It’s not something we have prioritized, but the entire app is ready to be translated — as many of our users are Spanish-speaking, and we know that could help a lot of schools.

 

 

Speaking of what’s “on the roadmap,” can you tell us more about what is coming soon for Kiddom’s Android product?

Guillermo: Soon we’ll be able to offer a translatable version of Spanish and Chinese. Many developers are familiar with FIGS (French, Italian, German, and Spanish), which is perhaps a traditional approach to translate, but we’ll likely make our earliest translations in Spanish and Chinese.

We are also constantly using our Android app to run tests that help foster a better user experience, so often those roadmap features show up on Android first. Like the Snapshot Roster feature, and the ability to take notes, for instance.

 

Can you speak more on the Snapshot Roster feature?

Guillermo: One feature we’re excited about releasing soon is the ability to add students on mobile in a quick and easy manner. Teachers can simply use their phones to take a snapshot of their student roster, whether digital or in print, and from that list, our product creates a new account for each student using text recognition technology called OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This will save teachers a great deal of time when they need to add a new class or want to switch over to Kiddom in the middle of a semester.

 

…and the Notes feature?

Guillermo: Yes, it provides users the ability to make notes. This feature was first available only in Android and we hope to soon make it available to everyone. That’s because we typically use Android to test new features. If we see that enough people are using the features we’re testing, we’ll roll them out to all of our products for everyone to use.

 

 

Can you tell us about the Student Groups Feature in Android?

Guillermo: Student groups — right now Kiddom assignments are only available for the entire class or one individual student, but what if you have a team assignment? This is a feature being testing in Android right now.

 

In closing, can you share what is your favorite part about the Android app?

Guillermo: I like the Timeline better in Android than in any other client. It’s easier to swipe rather than scroll.

…and that’s all he had time for! (Engineers are busy people, you know.) We hope you learned something new and useful, and as always, teachers, please let us know your thoughts and requests! We are building these products for you. ❤

For more information on Kiddom Android, visit our Support Page, or you can always reach us at support@kiddom.co if you have any questions.

At a typical Kiddom school, hands are in the air, there’s a buzz in the room, and teachers and students are energized. Kiddom was designed to help improve teacher retention and increase student performance and graduation rates.

For the first time, the most important parts of teaching and learning are connected and simplified in Kiddom. Curriculum lives in one place and is easily measured and refined, instruction is personalized to meet the needs of each student, and data serves as a powerful system of support for every member of the learning community to keep students on track.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available content, and how a digital tool can support your learning community.

More Product Articles

Back to School Tips and Tricks for Teachers

Back to School Tips and Tricks for Teachers

To kick off a new school year, the Kiddom Success Team has put together some recommendations to help you start the semester strong. These back to school tips and tricks will help you and your students engage and get ready to tackle another year!

Tip #1: Create a Getting to Know You Survey

Investing time in getting to know your students early in the school year is essential for building strong relationships that allow students to take academic risks and encourage open, honest feedback. What better way than creating a survey that invites students to express who they are, in their own words?

You can also align your survey to any of the CASEL standards for social emotional learning — we suggest the competencies that measure Self-Awareness and Relationship Skills. This will start a dialogue that welcomes students to express themselves early and often.

Create a survey using Kiddom's Google Drive integration

Using our Google Drive integration, you can create a survey in Google Docs and share it with your students in Kiddom. They’ll each receive a private, personal copy organized automatically in a Kiddom folder in your Drive. Our assignment settings make it easy to share this without it counting towards a grade to ensure that students aren’t afraid to be honest.

 

kiddom

Add SEL standards and start a dialogue early

Using Kiddom for Teachers, you can select from the provided CASEL standards, or create your own custom SEL standards to measure SEL progress from day 1. Once students have submitted their responses, you can comment directly on the Google Doc or use Kiddom’s commenting features to start a dialogue that will last all year. 

Ross Wisser

Ross Wisser

School Outreach and Research, Kiddom

Obsessed with talking to schools and districts to find out what they need. Former professional tennis coach/guru. Takes all things related to the University of Michigan and the Detroit Red Wings WAY too seriously.

Tip #2: Plan Backwards — Even for Personalized Instruction

Sometimes we see teachers experiencing burnout from all of the lesson planning in the first few weeks back, especially when it comes to personalizing for students with different learning levels. Rather than do it all at once, you can break this into two tasks to make the process far less exhausting.

First, build out the scope and sequence. It’s good to start with the overarching plan that you can come back to when you have more time to fill in the details. Using Kiddom’s Planner (always free for teachers), you can get organized early with a great view of what’s to come, even if you aren’t ready to add resources or lesson plans yet.

Next, plan multiple levels of resources into each lesson. Early in the school year, you might not know your students well enough to personalize too much yet, but at the very least you can plan ahead with this ability. so collaborators have access to varied resources that they can use to personalize for students. This way teachers can make the call on which might be best to assign for a student, which they can do so discretely and in a manner that wont embarrass students who might receive, for example, a lower-level reading resource than what their classmates receive. 

Build out the scope and sequence

Typically the “scope” is a detailed expectation of what is to be taught, and the “sequence” is the order in which lessons are expected to be taught. Using Kiddom, a curriculum director can build the “scope and sequence” units out into instructional days, and then share this with teachers to fill in on their own. This way they can let their teachers know which standards or content types to use in class.

Save multiple levels of resources into each lesson

You can create an assignment in an Assignment Group. This collection will be saved in your Planner, so you can easily drag and drop your classwork for each day whenever you’re ready to assign, without creating the assignment over and over again.

Within your Assignment Group, you can make an assignment for each day and attach content from the Content Library (or your own… or both!), standards, points/rubrics, and assignment type. Use your Assignment Group to group lessons, resources, videos, assignment types — whatever works best with how you’re organized. 

Nicole Plante

Nicole Plante

Support Specialist, Kiddom

Nicole Plante is a former middle and high school ELA teacher who received her B.A. in English (U.C. Berkeley), M.A. in English Education (CUNY-Brooklyn) and B.A. in Web Design & New Media (Art Academy, SF). At Kiddom, she is a Support Specialist who uses her experience and skills to support a diverse range of educators and students.

Tip #3: Assign Class Roles and Give Yourself a Break!

Clear and consistent routines and procedures can make or break classroom management systems. When I was an 8th grade teacher, I often wished I could multiply myself to get it all done. So I did!

I created a list of “class roles” for students to act on, such as homework recorderoffice assistant, and tech assistant. This gave them the chance to practice taking on more responsibility while freeing me to focus on instruction.

Not only do class roles give students greater agency — if done right, they can be an orderly foundation for your class culture.

How can I implement this in my class?

  1. Think of tasks students can carry out to help the flow of the day or period. You know your class and students best, but feel free to use our resource of possible class roles and descriptions.
  2. Create an assignment for each role in Kiddom. Write out the descriptions in student-friendly language so they will be able to understand the expectations when it is their turn. This could be alternated easily throughout the year by dragging and dropping assignments from your Planner.
  3. Go over the roles and expectations as you would routines and procedures. Depending on your students, you may need to model it, review it mid-year, or have them sign up. Ask them to master it and then teach the next student for you.

That’s it! Enable your students to contribute to the class and give yourself a break.

Create a Playlist of class roles using Kiddom

Create an Assignment Group of class roles that you can drag and drop into your Timeline and assign them to different students throughout the year.

kiddom

Tip #4: Engage Students by Letting Them Choose Their First Assignments

It’s no secret that when we let students choose how they want to learn, they’re often more invested and engaged in the material. Bell work, exit tickets, and other re-engagement activities are a great start, but Kiddom’s K-12 Library lets you quickly and easily find exciting and engaging materials for all subjects that you can save into Assignment Groups using your Planner.

Giving students a varied list of assignments to choose from will help them engage in learning activities. But doing so early in the school year gives the added bonus of helping you learn about your students’ preferred learning styles.

Use Assignment Groups to bundle resources

You can create an Assignment Group to bundle resources within one assignment in Kiddom. This collection will be saved for reuse in your Planner, and you can easily drag and drop your classwork for each day whenever you’re ready to assign, without creating the assignment over and over again.

Within your Assignment Group, you can make an assignment for each day and attach content from the Content Library (or your own… or both!), standards, points/rubrics, and assignment type. Use your Assignment Group to group lessons, resources, videos, assignment types — whatever works best with how you’re organized. 

How to create an assignment from your Kiddom Planner

When you’re creating an assignment in your Playlist, click the Kiddom “K” logo to access our content library. With about 100,000 resources, we have exactly what you need: videos, interactives, practices, and more, for all subject areas.

Simply select your grade level, subject, and if you want, where you’d like to see the resources from or resource type. This will generate all of the content we have for your subject and grade. You can also use keywords like “American Revolution” or “Molecules” to narrow down your search. Preview the content to see if it’s the right fit and then click select to attach it to the assignment.

kiddom

Shannon Doyle

Shannon Doyle

School Success Manager, Kiddom

Dedicated to making the adoption of new technology easy for administrators, teachers and students. Outside work, she enjoys traveling, trying new cuisine and discovering all the unique culture opportunities in NYC.

Tip #5: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel — Collaborate to Share and Refine Your Best Lesson Plans

If you already have a lesson plan you used last year, or you have colleagues teaching the same subject, why not share your lesson plans with them to give them a head start? 

This could be especially helpful for first-year teachers, or colleagues who are new to teaching your subject. But it could also help you refine your own practice, as you pick up tips and suggestions from others teaching from the same plans.

Sharing lesson plans with others helps build your teaching community and ensures the most engaging lessons come to surface, so that they can be repeated and refined, year after year.

Share your saved lessons with Kiddom Planner

Planner is where you plan out your assessments or lesson plans, so this is where all of your assignments live before you assign to students.

Using Kiddom, teachers have the option to give collaborator teachers view only or edit access, so teachers can share their most engaging lessons and lesson plans  — this allows multiple teachers to save their best resources year after year.

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

More Teaching Resources

What People Are Saying

“Kiddom is great for assessing data and then assigning appropriate work based on individual student performance. I love that it's very easy to attach standards and rubric to every assignment.”

Jackie Curts, Middle School Teacher

“Using Kiddom has made me stop and ask, ‘Am I just letting this student repeat what they already know, or am I really challenging them?’”

Ann Leghorn, High School Literacy Specialist

“I can see where my class and any student is at any moment in their educational journey. This way, I can take action to assist them to work towards mastery.”

Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher

My Dinner with Betsy

My Dinner with Betsy

Friday morning, I woke up, fed my kids breakfast, drank a large glass of water and went to the gym. A pretty typical day at my house, but when I walked outside, noticed that it was much colder than usual. On the drive to the gym, the sky was filled with dark clouds, through which slips of red sun peaked through. It was ominous. I don’t know if that was a harbinger of what was to come when I was to meet with the Secretary of Education, or just Fall in Seattle. Either way, I didn’t like what I saw.

In February, Betsy Devos, was appointed the US Secretary of Education, even though she has no background in education, except giving money to organizations that are homophobic, or anti- union, or anti public school, or all of the above. Her big thing is school choice, which is the push for students to be able to choose what schools they attend. While it makes sense that students not be relegated only to the schools in the zip code, her desire for school choice is actually an extension of Jim Crow.

History lesson!!!

School choice has its origins in white supremacy. After Brown vs the Board of Education, many schools in the South still refused to integrate their schools. To get around integration, school districts would use the vouchers that were provided, to send only white students to private schools. The black students would be denied vouchers. In Virginia’s Prince Edward County, in fact, they even managed to close the entire public school system, making it extremely difficult to get an education, if you were black. Black families that had the means to do so, moved to northern states, but those that could not, cobbled together a form of home schooling, or, in most cases, were forced to leave the school system permanently. It wasn’t until 1980 that the private schools decided to allow black students to attend. The Fuqua Academy, as it was called, only did so, so they could keep their non-profit status. The result was that only 1% of the Fuqua student body was black, though the black population of Prince Edward County was almost 40%.

In 2013, the black student body still only made up 5%, or 17, of the 363 students. Virginia was not alone, and during the 50s and 60s, white students left the public school system, to enroll in private institutions, using federal and state vouchers. In 1990, Alabama was recognized as having the greatest educational inequities, disproportionately impacting black students and students with disabilities. It was to be resolved in the state courts, but was blocked by the state attorney general. That person is now the US attorney general, and his name is Jeff Sessions. The same Jeff Sessions who reversed a policy to allow transgender students to use the school bathrooms that fit their gender identity. He also says the Department of Justice will no longer protect gay or transgender students from workplace discrimination, and that he will not seek federal oversight on police departments suspected of abuse.

But I digress…

Today, the school voucher system, promoted by Secretary Devos, targets low income students, yet some districts place no barrier on financial means. Of the students receiving school vouchers, 60% of them are white, while only 12% of students receiving vouchers are black. In 2013, those numbers were 46% and 24% respectively, so the gap has actually widened. As reported by the Century Foundation, the students that benefit mostly from school choice, are the advantaged students that are eligible, whom tend to be middle class and white. The voucher system has effectively made economic segregation increase, which is the exact opposite of its intentions, yet it is where education reformists, like Devos, tend to hang their hat.

Friday afternoon, I took my kids to the playground, in the hopes of letting them blow off steam. Also, I was afraid they were going to kill each other. There was no school and they were getting a little cabin feverish. At the playground, they had fun, and I enjoyed watching them play, in a way, only children can play: without abandon. It was still chilly and overcast outside, but I was looking forward to my dinner with Devos.

The 1000 seat dinner was to be thrown by the Washington Policy Center(WPC), a non-profit, think tank that promotes sound public policy based on free-market solutions. The WPC has been around for years and they have a large base of supporters, that come from across the entire state of Washington. The WPC focuses on solving problems with the environment, agriculture, healthcare, education, and more. The one commonality is that all of their solutions are free market based. Free market is another word for capitalism, and, as we know, capitalism is all about making that “skrilla.”

My kids and I walked back home, ate some snacks, and then I changed clothes. The dinner was labeled as “business attire,” so I had to break out my flyest gear, and put on a tie. Looking like the black Mr Rogers, with a deconstructed Afro, I jumped in my car, turned up the Led Zeppelin, and drove to Bellevue. Where else in western Washington, but Bellevue, would someone attend an event honoring Betsy Devos?

I arrived at the Bellevue Hyatt, to see several hundred people protesting the arrival of Secretary Devos. Signs ranged from the punny “IKEA has better cabinets,” to the plaintive “Fully Fund Education.” I also a couple signs that were basically just expletives. I understand their sentiments, but they lacked originality, or focus, which ended up taking away the potency of the protest.

 

New Secretary, Who Dis?

 

I took a few pictures, fist bumped some protestors, and headed towards security. To my surprise, I entered the hotel and walked to registration, without any trouble. I was repeatedly asked if I was here for the event, by different police officers, but when I told them, “yes,” they pointed me in the right direction. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the venue was that this was a very well organized event. I got my name tag and table number within seconds, with clear signage for the bathrooms, coat check, and beverages. The second thing I noticed was that the beverages were cash only. The least expensive ticket was $350, and for that amount of money, I would have liked a complimentary Coke. But, like I said, it’s about that skrilla.

I was on the early side, and walked around to read some of the literature. There were pamphlets discussing the need for transparency in how the state uses money for transportation related issues, and the need for us to reduce carbon emissions to create a greener environment. I read about the need to protect our agricultural workers and the need for more local control of government spending. I read many statements that rang true and fact based articles that supported the positions espoused by the WPC.

An hour passed while I was reading, and no one spoke to me. To be fair, I also didn’t seek conversation with anyone else. As I was taking notes about what I was reading, a woman walked up to me and asked me if I was a reporter. She didn’t say hello, or greet me, in any way. She just abrasively asked if I was a reporter. I told her “no, I’m an educator.”

“Oh. Ok. I just wanted to see if you were a reporter.

“….nope.”

“Have a good day.”

“Ok. You too.”

I don’t know what to make of that interaction, but I’m happy she spoke to me. It made me look up from my reading, to notice that more people had arrived. As I looked around, I noticed that I was one of three faces of color. This is Bellevue, but I was still a bit surprised. I kept walking around and began to examine the other attendees. They were mostly people of my age, or older. Definitely white and definitely middle to upper class. There were some young people present, that were members of the Young Americans group, who were to attend the dinner in the next room. Devos was to speak to them after speaking with the older folks, like me. That dinner was for those under the age of 39.

“Are you also alone?”

“I’m sorry? Oh, yes, I am”

A gentleman of about 65 and his daughter approached me and we began to talk about how we didn’t know anyone at the event. They were a nice twosome and quite friendly. During our conversation, they asked why I had never been to an event before. I told them I had recently moved from New York, and was relatively new to the Washington Policy Center. The gentleman looked at me, and asked about rubber rooms.

“Well, they closed I think.”

“Still, the fact that they existed makes no sense!”

“I agree.”

“Why they can’t fire teachers that are useless, is beyond me.”

It was at this point that I realized why the anti union argument was gaining traction, with WPC and organizations like WPC. Rubber Rooms were rooms that teachers, that have been, or will be disciplined, must go to, while they are waiting for a decision about how to handle their cases. The Rubber Room is basically a purgatory sentence for classroom teachers, and to my knowledge, only existed in New York City. The teachers receive a full salary, must sit in that room for an entire school day, without leaving, save for lunch and bathroom breaks, until a decision has been made, on whether or not, they can go back to class. That may be a week, a month, a year, and some cases, close to a decade. If a teacher is accused or misconduct or incompetence, they go to the Rubber Room. This practice supposedly ended years ago, but I can see why it frustrates most people. I also understand how this practice is associated with teachers’ unions. However, many teachers are exonerated, and the process is supposed to be less than 30 days. It is equally important that we understand that this happened in NYC and is not representative of all teachers or unions or all school administrations across the country.

The gentleman’s daughter left for the bathroom, and he told me that his grandchild, his daughter’s kid, suffers from seizures. The seizures prevent the girl from attending a public school that can meet her needs, so she attends school online, which is supported by school vouchers. His complaint was that Washington state doesn’t do enough for parents. Whenever school choice is debated, I hear stories like this family’s story. I get asked how I can be against charter schools and vouchers, when I hear stories like this one. My answer is simple:

I am not against school choice.

A parent or guardian should have every right to choose the school that best fits the needs of their child. Zip code or wealth shouldn’t dictate the educational tract of a person. It is a choice that a family makes for their family. The government, nor I, nor anyone should make that choice for anyone else. In my many years as an educator, I have worked at traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, and religious- based institutions. Although I may like some places more than others, it was always about the students and responding to the culture of the youth being served. The question we should be asking ourselves is not “is school choice the answer?” The question is: “why are people so invested in school choice?”

Economics Lesson!!

The Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000 provided tax incentives to businesses that are located in, and hire residents of, economically depressed urban and rural areas. Most charter schools are in lower income neighborhoods serving mostly students from that area. Businesses that invest in charter schools can double their investment in seven years. The number seven is important because the tax incentives last for seven years, before they expire. In order to keep receiving tax breaks, businesses diversify their portfolios by building more and more charter schools in those areas. Of course with the influx of money, comes the prestige associated with money, which leads to gentrification, which leads to why more wealthy white students go to charter schools, than the students that are meant to be served. In effect, charter schools are one of the leading cause of gentrification, and wealth disparity.

All about that skrilla.

The doors open and I sit down at my table, next to an older white couple. We greet each other and I also say hello to the other 7 people at my table. Everyone is white, except me. They are all smiles, so I smile back. The older couple to my left ask what brings me to the event.

“I wanted to hear Devos speak.”

“Do you like what she has to say?”

“No, but I’m willing to listen.”

“What do you do, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“I’m an educator.”

“Oh…”

“Yourselves?”

“Retired police officers.”

Of course, I would sit next to two police officers, at a Betsy Devos event, surrounded by 900 white people.

“Why don’t you like school choice?”

“I’ve got nothing against school choice, but it’s not the answer to solving the problems with education.”

“Yes, we need more teachers working on the bad behavior of students. Those kids won’t learn any other way.”

“….”

“Don’t you agree?”

“Absolutely not, the answer isn’t discipline. First we must understand the needs of students and meet those. If we look at the maladaptive behaviors of young people and blame them, because their maslovian needs aren’t met, then our education will continue to operate a system with opportunity gaps. We must look at the teacher training programs and how teachers are prepared to teach. We teach them in a 20th century modality, ignoring the 21st century world, in which we live. The curriculum doesn’t reflect the students being served. I don’t just mean students of color. I mean all students will benefit from having subjects taught in a manner more accepting of different cultures and perspectives. If we end white supremacy, we can solve education problems.”

“Well, I’m sure you know more than I do, about education.”

I apologized for my rant, and she said she appreciated it. It was the rare time I was able to speak with someone, in real life, that had completely opposing views than I. She began talking about her friend, who was a teacher, that was underpaid. She spoke about how Washington was great because it was so welcoming. It was a good conversation.

“Hello and welcome to the Washington Policy Center Annual Dinner!”

The evening’s emcee came out to wondrous applause. He made a joke about the hippies protesting and a joke about the Huskies. I didn’t understand what he was talking about, so I started to eat my salad. When I looked up again, everyone was standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. I stood up, clasped my hands behind my back, and looked at the 100 foot wide USA flag, that was the backdrop for the stage. When the Pledge finished, we all sat down. Then the emcee asked everyone to stand for the National Anthem.

I did not.

My table mates looked at me and then turned their heads. Everyone else sang the song, with hands over their heart. When I could see the stage again, Secretary Betsy Devos was standing at the podium, and addressed the audience.

I wish that I could say that she said something amazing, or that she said something completely onerous, but she did not. She spoke her speech and smiled, in a way only the very wealthy can smile: without joy. She spoke about three students (all of them were of color) that were able to choose their school. One of the three made a video that told the typical sob story of being poor, black, and uneducated, until she was given the opportunity to attend a charter school, where her life changed. She now works with Devos at the Department of Education.

The crowd roared with praise.

Secretary Devos spoke about how school choice saves lives and is the way to go. She said there was no “one size fits all” model for education, then she said school choice will improve education. Then she left the stage and went to the room next door, to speak with the Young Americans.

My cop neighbor table mate asked if I changed my mind about her. I told her I agree that there is no “one size fits all” model, but that school choice is wonderful for those that have the resources to choose a school. School choice is a band aid that only some people can have. The rest of society has to find other ways to cover their wounds.

Somehow, we started talking about police violence and she said that that doesn’t really happen, where she lives, in Kent. I looked at her wondrously. I asked her if she thought Black Lives Matter is anti-cop? She said yes. I talked about how black people were killed by police and we were only saying that our lives also matter. She said, again, that that wasn’t an issue in Washington. I spoke about the several police cases, in Washington, where cops have killed black people. She stared at me. It was at this exact moment where I felt like everyone in the room was also staring at me. My other table mates kept their backs to me, and I went to take a bite of my fish. Before I could a woman came onstage, to say a prayer. She was black which surprised me, but then I remembered how “we shole is gud at chu’ch,” and sat with my hands on my lap.

When the prayer ended, I took a bite of my food, looked at my watch, and excused myself from the table. Not one single person acknowledged that I was leaving. As I walked out, I heard the emcee talk, again, about hippies, but this time it was referencing how the Huskies were losing to those “hippies” at Berkeley.

When I got in my car, my shoulders relaxed. I drove out of the parking lot, playing an old A Tribe Called Quest song.

“Oh my god, yes oh my god

Oh my god, yes oh my god”

I couldn’t have said it better, Busta.

I got home and watched Dave Chapelle’s newest comedy special. I hugged my kids and kissed my wife. When I woke the next day, I grabbed my bag to head to the airport. Today was Saturday, and 45 youth and I were headed to Arizona for Macklemore’s concert.

But that’s another story…

 

 

 

By: James Miles

More Digital Teaching Resources at Your Fingertips

More Digital Teaching Resources at Your Fingertips

You might have heard that we recently tripled the teaching resources available to teachers in Kiddom’s Library. Not only are we excited, but we’d like to share our team’s favorite content providers. So without further ado…

 

Liz, Curriculum Specialist

 

Zearn: Elementary Math

LizAs an educator I am always looking for resources that are made with the student in mind. Zearn is that resource. They understand things about young children that a lot of us take for granted. The imagery is straightforward and easy to understand. The lessons are fun and engaging. They encourage student interaction, check for understanding and give corrective feedback so students can learn from mistakes. There are no flashing distractions or unnecessary components. The language used is student friendly and always has read aloud options. Zearn can be used as a full adaptive math curriculum that meets the students at their level or as targeted teaching opportunities to supplement a variety of other programs.

 

Kashon, Teacher Advocate

 

NextLesson: Math, ELA, Science, Social Studies K-12

Kashon: NextLesson is a great addition to the Kiddom Content Library. From the student’s perspective, you can select from a wide variety of subject matter that interest you, and share this with your teacher for more personalized assignments. From the educator’s perspective it’s a great tool to gauge a student’s personality type and find resources to engage them. You can also search lesson plans by aligned standards, giving teachers the ability to develop a child’s skill set within the parameters of their interests. They have great project based assignments that bring learning to life.

 

Amanda, Community Partnerships

 

IXL: Math & ELA PK-12, Science & Social Studies: 2–8

AmandaI can’t wait for teachers and students to experience what IXL brings to the classroom, catering to kids learning at different paces and on different levels. I was fortunate to find IXL in my third year teaching 6th grade Math. Students ranged in their mathematical ability from the elementary to high school level and I was determined to provide opportunities for kids who needed remediation andkids that needed a challenge. Incorporating IXL work-time in my classroom engaged my students at their appropriate level. I would select a number of lessons or topics for my students to explore and the IXL program monitored their progress, prompting students to move forward once mastery was reached or to practice more if they needed help. As the facilitator, I could see progress on each skill and provide small-group instruction for those students that got stuck within a concept. IXL provides immediate feedback, standards-aligned lessons, and more time for me to support students one-on-one.

 

Melissa, Professional Development

 

Listenwise: ELA, Social Studies, Science 6–12

MelissaAs a high school English and Social Studies teacher, it never made sense to me that students were only asked to analyze print texts on state exams. As an adult, I get news and entertainment across so many forms of media, including podcasts and audiobooks, and I deepen my understanding of new ideas through debate and discussion with friends and colleagues. That’s why I love Listenwise for using public radio podcasts to bring my students current events in an accessible, engaging format. It’s often hard for students to connect to faraway events they read about, so the varied perspectives from podcasts and interviews encourage empathy and critical thinking as students learn. Using audio sources also allows all of my students to access the same ideas and content, regardless of their reading levels, making it a great tool for differentiation. Listenwise also pairs graphic organizers and comprehension questions with their podcasts so that you can assess critical listening skills in addition to their silent reading comprehension. Easily keep your curriculum up-to-date with in-depth news stories and help your students become informed citizens.

 

Jessica, Curriculum Specialist

 

Everfi: Healthy Relationships, SEL 6–9

Jessica: I love a lot of content but I am very excited about Everfi because they offer resources for subjects and topics that are underrepresented in the digital world. I used the Healthy Relationships interactive modules in my health class to support students who struggled with conflict resolution, communication, and making decisions. The comic book style made the “true-to-life” scenarios more approachable for students who were not interested in role playing the situations in class. This resource is also great for people interested in covering Social Emotional Learning skills which have been in high demand. The greatest part is that this is all free. Soon, we also hope to share some of their other great life skills courses on Kiddom.

 

Shabbir, Support Analyst

 

TEDEd: Multi-Subject

Shabbir: I’m a visual learner with a variety of interests across all subjects and I could not be happier about the addition of TEDEd to the Kiddom library. TEDEd has videos curated for a wide variety of subjects, mostly geared towards an older student audience. TEDEd videos have a knack for being informative, but what makes them stand out are their engaging animations, pacing, and delivery. Maybe most important of all, many TEDEd videos have special guest speakers with expertise on the topic- so not only do students get exposed to information in a fun way, but now they are familiar with with some faces in the subject’s field. With TEDEd on your Kiddom utility belt you can assign engaging, personalized assignments, thoughtful remediation, and lessons that spark discussion and thoughtful dialogue.

 

Abbas, Chief Academic Officer

 

Desmos: Math 9–12

AbbasAs a former high school math teacher, I recognize it can sometimes be challenging to find opportunities to translate what’s being learned in the classroom to students’ lives. Sure, if we had more time to plan, we could probably come up with a plethora of creative projects and activities that help students understand how their daily lives are impacted by the mathematical concepts covered in class. Unfortunately, we aren’t always privileged with time to plan like this for every topic. Enter Desmos. Desmos connects a rich graphing calculator to engaging, real-world activities. These activities can instantly help your students engage with and connect more meaningfully with mathematical concepts. And don’t hesitate to roll your sleeves up and play along, they can get challenging.


We hope you’re able to find resources that support your classroom needs and love them as much as we do. If there’s a resource you’d like to see available in the Kiddom Library, let us know by tweeting at us or emailing us directly. Happy Teaching and Learning!

Written By: Jessica H.

4 Ways to Differentiate Instruction

4 Ways to Differentiate Instruction

Planning curriculum is a complex, ongoing project — teachers arrange their learning targets for the year into a scope and sequence, write daily lessons to scaffold instruction, and find content resources that align to the various levels and interests of all students. That’s a lot of heavy lifting.

Finding the right teaching resources online can be particularly challenging. There’s an endless supply of content and curriculum providers, and teachers have little time to comb through it all. That’s why we’ve been researching, vetting, and adding thousands of new resources to our library: to save teachers time. You already know teachers using Kiddom can access a comprehensive library of free resources and assign them instantly to students. Today, we tripled the size of that library, adding more content for more subjects across more grade levels. Yippee! 🤓

As an added bonus to teachers, resources assigned from select partners automatically transfer scores to your reports in Kiddom. That means more teachers will spend less time with data entry. Student progress will be imported into Kiddom, and your reports will be up-to-date.

Our library of teaching resources now includes a wider range of standards-aligned multimedia content and lesson plans. We’ve added a plethora of resources from new providers (IXL, LearnZillion, PBS LearningMedia, Newsela, and Desmos to name a few), and we’ve also added more resources from legacy providers (CK-12, Khan Academy, and CommonLit).

Of course, what good are resources if they aren’t supplemented with implementation strategies? Here are four ways to use these resources.

1. Remediate or Extend 🚀

Content providers like IXL, Khan Academy, and Desmos offer excellent practice videos, problem sets, and challenge problems for math skills across grade levels. Create a playlist of instructional videos from Khan Academy or practice sets from IXL for students who are struggling with a specific skill-set. Send challenge activities from Desmos to students who are ready to apply new skills to real-life problem sets and move them up Bloom’s taxonomy to higher levels of thinking.

2. Offer Multimedia Perspectives 🎧

With Listenwise, you can support literacy instruction and listening comprehension through audio resources. Listenwise has a library of podcasts that cover current events with depth and a range of perspectives to help students draw connections between themselves and the world. Pair these podcasts with articles on the same topic from Newsela to meet multiple learning styles. Newsela’s articles are available at multiple reading levels to ensure all students have access to the same information. Create rotating stations and have students read articles from Newsela, listen from Listenwise at each one ahead of a class discussion, or have students choose their own station based on learning preferences.

3. Integrate Social Emotional Learning 💛

Incorporate Everfi’s Healthy Relationships course into advisory, counseling, or homeroom to support your students in developing positive, appropriate relationships with peers and adults. This course is self-paced and interactive, including authentic videos with diverse perspectives. Use them in an advisory setting to guide discussions about community values and shared norms, or weave them into a literature unit to give students language to discuss interpersonal conflict in the stories they’re reading.

4. Mix and Match 📝💻

Curriculum is rarely one-size fits all — use our content library to find the best of the bunch for your students. Both Zearn and Khan Academy have resources and materials aligned to EngageNY modules. Pick the ones that work best for your students and build out a cohesive sequence of lessons. Search “EngageNY” in Kiddom’s content library to find Khan Academy’s EngageNY-aligned units labeled by module number and topic letter. All of Zearn’s materials are aligned to EngageNY — you can see an overview of their curriculum map, organized in the same way, here.

 


 

 

By: Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

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