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Individual Rotation and Flex: Blended Learning Models

Individual Rotation and Flex: Blended Learning Models

Jessica Hunsinger

Jessica Hunsinger

Product Manager, Kiddom

Former educator passionate about building human potential. Saving teachers time through interoperability is what currently drives me. 

In the third of our blended learning series, we cover two models that are the best fit for classrooms with central learning labs.

In the first post, view the accompanying infographic to find out which blended learning model is best for your classroom. In the second post, learn about station rotation and lab rotation.

Let’s Start with the Basics.

The individual rotation model, included under the rotation model umbrella, has students rotating between different stations and learning opportunities, but is different from other rotation models in that students don’t necessarily rotate to every station. Each student has an individualized playlist of activities and only rotates to the stations or modalities identified on their personalized schedule, determined by the teacher or, in some cases, an algorithm.

In the flex model, online instruction is the primary mode of accessing content and materials, with additional support from a teacher face-to-face. Teachers share learning activities with students who access them at their own pace, and then teachers use data to intervene in real-time. This model is dependent on self-directed learning and allows for a fluid schedule that is more flexible than other models as online learning makes up the bulk of a student’s direct instruction.  

We grouped these two models together because they require the same technology access and they look very similar in classroom practice. In both of these models, the learning space is designed to have a central learning lab or collaborative space.

As explained in “A Deeper Look At the Flex Model” by Blended Learning Universe, these models “benefit from a larger, open learning space instead of traditional classroom walls. The value of an oversized classroom space is that it allows for students to flow among multiple formats and for teachers to roam more easily among the students.” The main difference is who is in control of the student flow. In the flex model, the student has far more autonomy, whereas the individual rotation is personalized but dictated by a teacher or a data system.   

Choosing the Individual Rotation Model

The individual rotation model is a good choice when you have enough devices for every student to use and you want to use those devices to plan personalized lessons for each student. Data is the main driver of student schedules and materials in this model. With the right tools, individual teachers can manage these decisions, but many schools use a data manager to help dictate the student’s schedule or the stations they rotate to throughout the day.

Students checking out their individual rotation schedule for the day in a Teach to One classroom

One example of an individual rotation model is demonstrated through Teach To One, an offshoot of the School of One model that many schools have adopted. It is a personalized math program that uses the individual rotation model to tailor learning experiences to learning styles and rates of progress. The program includes nine different learning modalities that support a variety of learners. The video demonstrates how having students identify their learning styles helps students take ownership of their learning and advocate for themselves.

If your goal for exploring a blended learning model is to increase student ownership of their learning, you can also create stations based on learning modalities.  At the individual level this may seem daunting, but teachers can use a individual rotation model that does not require a different schedule each day.

At the default station, students always have work to complete online at their own pace. When teachers use the data from the self-paced curriculum they can intervene as misconceptions arise or mini-lessons are needed. You may use a messaging system or classroom display that informs students that they should rotate to offline stations: “You are scheduled for a small group discussion today” or “Rotate to group work station at 11.”

One way that teachers or schools do this is by using playlists. A playlist is a group of related learning activities. With a playlist, students are given a clear sense of the path they are going to take but it is also easy to work student choice in along the way. Heather Starks, a blended learning teacher explains how she uses playlists in her blog piece “Why I am Loving Instead of Hating the Beginning of this School Year”.

By using playlists, you can schedule different checkpoints for students. When students need more frequent check-ins, you can easily differentiate their playlists by including more face-to-face teacher time. Kiddom supports the creation of playlists in the Planner feature, which allows you to create a “Teacher Check-In” assignment, like the one in the image below, that will prompt students to see their teacher.

Getting Started with the Individual Rotation Model

Just like with the other rotation models, you can experiment with individual rotation in your class by choosing a day of the week to introduce the concept to students and practice it to work out the kinks. It would be helpful to decide how you want students to rotate in advance.

Will you use a playlist model which tells students to “rotate” when they get to a certain point in the curriculum or when misconceptions arise? Or will you establish learning modality stations and have students rotate based on their learning preferences? Either way, you can use Kiddom to support this practice.

An important thing to consider when adopting the individual rotation model is how to incorporate social emotional development. Critics of this model argue that it works best for self-motivated individuals. However, putting in the effort to help students develop that type of intrinsic motivation can be a great impetus for future success.

If you are interested in trying the individual rotation model, be sure to learn from the efforts of early adopters and pay special attention to organizing opportunities for social interaction and development.

Choosing the Flex Model

One of the biggest advantages of a flex model is that it lets students, not teachers, dictate when they rotate. They rotate between various stations when they need them and they are not constrained by time limits. If you’re hoping to increase student motivation and autonomy, this may be the model you choose. This form of blended learning is most often implemented at a whole-school level but can be accomplished at the class level with careful planning. 

The organization Blended Learning Universe explains how this impacts teachers: “Because of the heavy emphasis on student autonomy, the role of a teacher changes in a Flex model. Instead of delivering instruction to whole groups, teachers spend most of their time providing face-to-face tutoring, guidance, and enrichment to supplement online lessons.”  

The amount of advanced curriculum planning that goes into developing, curating, and creating the online course materials that allow for students to independently progress through the material may be a shift for most teachers. Rather than planning throughout the year, with a Flex model you will plan and prepare most of your materials in advance.

Another example of this new teacher and student dynamic is illustrated by the case study of  Summit Schools, produced by Khan Academy. At Summit Schools, students sign up for assessments with the teacher when they feel like they are ready to demonstrate mastery. This shift in responsibility also helps to support many social emotional learning skills. Most implementations of a flex model also incorporate some form of weekly check-in between students and teachers that allows teachers to guide students to develop goal setting skills.  

Getting Started with the Flex Model

To get started with a Flex Model, you will first need to choose or create a self-paced online curriculum. There are a growing number of available online curricula but many teachers prefer to organize the online materials to match their style or even to develop their own digital lessons and activities.

Kiddom’s Planner is one way to organize and store your curriculum for a self-paced flex model course. In Planner, you can easily organize all of the curricular materials in units and playlists (groups of related assignments).

When you assign a playlist to students, they can work through the learning activities independently and check in with you when they have completed the tasks. Students can also communicate with teachers by commenting on the assignment and open the dialogue when a teacher is working with other students.

Finally, as mentioned above, the flex model shifts many responsibilities to the students which is a great way to teach social emotional learning competencies.  These competencies can easily be tracked using the 5 CASEL standards available on the Kiddom platform.

This blog post is based on our Blended Learning 102 Guide. For more information, we encourage you to download it here.

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Station Rotation & Lab Rotation: Blended Learning Models

Station Rotation & Lab Rotation: Blended Learning Models

In the second of our 4-part blended learning blog series, we cover two models that are the best fit for a classroom with limited technology access.

This is the second post of our 4-part blog series on Blended Learning Models. View the first post and accompanying infographic to find out which blended learning model is best for your classroom.

Many people think you need to have a 1:1 laptop ratio to do blended learning, but with the station rotation and lab rotation models, teachers are able to maximize a classroom with limited technology.

In this post, which comes from our Blended Learning 102 guide, we’ll give you an overview of the similarities and differences between two of the most common blended learning models: station rotation and lab rotation. We’ll also share some tips to set up each model, and include a few ways Kiddom helps with implementation along the way.

 

Rotation Models: The Basics

Station and lab rotation are two blended learning models which belong under the larger umbrella of “Rotation Models”. A rotation model is when students move between learning stations, either 1. on a fixed schedule, or 2. at the teacher’s discretion, where at least one station incorporates online learning.

Fun facts: Station rotation and lab rotation models

While one group of students is engaged in independent online learning, the teacher facilitates activities for another group; activities such as small-group instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, or independent practice.

 

Choosing the Station Rotation Model

In a station rotation model, the teacher organizes students into groups within the classroom, where at least one station is a computer-based learning experience. These groups can be fixed (remain the same each day; grouped by learning styles) or dynamic (change depending on student skills/needs).

This model allows you to differentiate your teacher-led instruction by creating small-groups in class and personalized learning experiences on the computers. As mentioned, station rotation is a great option when you have limited classroom technology or limited access to a school laptop cart. It addresses many issues caused by large class sizes and can be used in classrooms of all ages, even kindergarten. You can also introduce students to the 21st century technology skills they need in small chunks of time. The possibilities are endless, which can be a bit overwhelming, so let’s get specific.

The station rotation model changes the role of a teacher by allowing for greater flexibility through small group instruction. This impacts how you plan your instruction for each day, although, it doesn’t mean you plan completely different lessons for each group.

Your lesson plan format may change to include the student groups and how you plan to address their unique needs with varied question types or examples. The beauty of grouping is that the groups can be dynamic, as student achievement levels or needs change. This will inspire more daily data-driven planning as well, rather than waiting until the end of the term to look at student data. Using a platform like Kiddom makes it easy to track student performance in real time and make decisions about student groupings or send individual assignments based on mastery levels.

Mastery Groups Kiddom UI

How you plan to differentiate is also flexible. You can hear a teacher’s’ first-hand explanation of these changes by accessing the Khan Academy Case Study of Kipp Los Angeles School. In this case study, you can hear how using stations allows the teacher to support her english language learner students by giving them more opportunities to speak in a small group.

 

Activities to Maximize the Potential of Each Station

Computer Station

  • Individualized assignments (i.e. remediation or extension)
  • Adaptable software
  • Research
  • Digital presentations
  • Interactive activities (i.e. discussion boards)
  • Simulations

Collaborative Learning

  • Group work with roles
  • Hands-on activities
  • Makerspace station
  • Projects
  • Games

Teacher Station

  • Direct instruction
  • Facilitate discussion
  • Oral assessment

 

The computer station can be used for many learning goals. Some teachers or schools sign up for an adaptive learning platform, but paying for that type of resource isn’t necessary — you can get creative with your stations by accessing free content.

One option would be to use Kiddom to send personalized assignments to individual or groups of students. On Kiddom, students can access those assignments, check their scores, ask questions or make comments, and monitor their own progress towards mastery.

Helpful Kiddom features for station and lab rotation

Getting Started with the Station Rotation Model

An easy way to explore how a station rotation model might impact your class would be to establish a “stations” day once a week. Depending on how many devices and students you have, you can start with 2–3 small(er) groups.

One small group could work independently or in pairs on activities appropriate for their current achievement level, such as practice from the previous days lessons, independent reading, journaling, etc. Another group could be working with the teacher on either a mini-lesson or a teacher-facilitated group discussion. In a third group, students use a computer to develop their social emotional skill of self-management by doing a progress check and setting a goal for the week. Using the computer station to allow students to check their progress is a way to ease into the benefits of this blended learning model. It wouldn’t require much additional software and can help you establish and refine the classroom routines needed to make transitions from station to station.

Working in stations one day a week would allow you to experiment with the classroom management supports you’ll need for your classroom to help things run smoothly. For example, you’ll learn how long it takes your students to transition from one station to the next and you can adjust accordingly. Anyone trying out stations knows that routines are very important and it’s okay not to get it right the first time.

A visual schedule like this one can help students know where they should be at the appropriate time and help them take ownership of their schedule.

Station Rotation or Lab Rotation Chart

Choosing a Lab Rotation Model

The lab rotation model is another option that works when you don’t have a full set of computers in your classroom. In this model, students rotate to a separate computer lab for the online-learning station. Many schools that use lab rotation have a co-teaching staffing model or have paraprofessionals in the classroom to facilitate transitions, but that is not a requirement. Students can either rotate to the lab as part of a class or as an online learning class of its own. This model can be used for all grade levels.

One common way the lab rotation model is used:

  1. Teacher delivers a mini lesson and does a formal check for understanding.
  2. Students who demonstrate proficiency are ready to rotate to the computer lab to complete independent practice or personalized practice.
  3. Students who need additional assistance get to work with the teacher in a small group in the moment.

This blended learning model allows you to intervene right away when students need additional support. The teacher’s role in a lab rotation model can be very similar to a traditional teaching model, in that you may still deliver whole class instruction.

The main difference is that you can intervene with a small group without having to manage the entire class of students at the same time. If you do not have a co-teacher or paraprofessional, you would rotate with your entire class to the lab and sit with the small group in the lab.

 

Getting Started with the Lab Rotation Model

Kiddom can help maintain consistency of expectations while in the lab. Establishing a routine and leadership roles for students when they rotate to the lab can alleviate classroom management concerns. Using Kiddom in the lab will enhance the lab rotation model by allowing you to direct student learning in advance, so you can focus on teaching instead of giving instructions.

It also opens the line of communication. While you may be working with the small group of students, students can comment/respond to comments on assignments. You can support student interests and learning needs by sharing personalized assessments. Finally, just like in the station rotation model, students can access their progress reports on Kiddom and know how they are performing at a skill based level.

One of the biggest considerations for implementing a lab rotation model is scheduling. Whether you are piloting the model yourself, or your entire school is transitioning to a lab rotation model, you will need to be on the same page with your colleagues about how and when the lab can be used by your class. Just like in station rotation, it may be easiest to start with a lab rotation day. In this case, you can reserve the lab for your class on a given day and experiment with rotation options on that given day.

This blog post is based on our Blended Learning 102 Guide. For more information, we encourage you to download it here.

Which Blended Learning Model is Right for Your Classroom? Infographic

Which Blended Learning Model is Right for Your Classroom? Infographic

In the first of our 4-part blended learning blog series, use this infographic to determine the right model for you and get a brief overview of each model.

 

In today’s schools, blended learning is becoming increasingly utilized due to improvements in technology and growing access to online learning materials. According to the Christensen Institute’s Blended Learning Universe, there are seven generally accepted blended learning models — so you might be wondering, which one is best for my class?

In this four-part blog series we will provide you with the right resources to answer that question and then explore each style in depth. For part one, we’ve created this infographic based on our Blended Learning 101 and 102 guides. You can use the infographic to determine the right model for your class, get a brief overview of each model, and learn some fun facts and helpful Kiddom features along the way.

In the following posts, we’ll cover the models in more depth, including how to get started, how our free product for teachers helps with implementation, and further resources if you wish to go deeper.

 

Recap: What is Blended Learning, again?

Blended learning, commonly understood as combining traditional instruction with computer-based learning experiences, can address many common pedagogical challenges. A widely accepted definition from Horn and Staker includes the following components of true blended learning components:

1. It involves teaching and learning within a formal education program

2. Students learn at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction

3. Students have some level of control over time, place, path, and/or pace

4. Part or all of instruction is delivered away from home in a supervised, brick-and-mortar location

 

 

At Kiddom, we believe a successful blended learning program is the intentional integration of educational technology within the classroom to enhance the learning process. Students engage with content via multiple modalities and gain some control over their learning pace. Effective blended learning models have curricula designed for integration, student buy-in, and access to appropriate technology and resources.

 

Why Choose Blended Learning?

To ensure that you are planning intentionally, first you must determine whyyou want to try blended learning or, more specifically, which instructional issue you hope to solve.

Are you constantly torn between the range of needs of your students and want a more efficient way to differentiate instruction? Are you hoping to revive student motivation by increasing student choice? Do you feel passionate about embedding tech skills into your assignments to prepare students for college and careers? Maybe you have heard buzz about the benefits of asynchronous learning, small group instruction, and paperless classrooms, and want to pilot something new.

 

 

In Blended Learning 101 we discuss four reasons to consider changing your instruction style:

1. Improved Communication

2. More Personalized Instruction

3. Student-Driven Learning

4. Improved Self-Management Skills

In the same guide, we seek to provide educators with a better understanding of how to implement blended learning programs, particularly in schools using standards-based or competency-based grading.

In Blended Learning 102, which our infographic is largely based upon, we have broken the models up into three main categories depending on the availability of internet enabled devices, in class or at home, needed to implement each model. Along the way, we also explore how Kiddom’s collaborative learning platform can be used to expertly implement a blended learning model in your classroom.

So without further ado, we invite you to check out our blended learning infographic to get the basics on which blended learning style is best for you.

Click the arrow above to download!

 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll post a series of articles to cover these models in more depth. In the meanwhile, we encourage you to check out our Blended Learning 101 and 102 guides, which you can access at our blended learning resources resources page.

Read the 2nd blog on Station Rotation and Lab Rotation Models here. 

 

Put Students in Charge: A Way to Make Social Emotional Instruction Truly Actionable

Put Students in Charge: A Way to Make Social Emotional Instruction Truly Actionable

Jessica Hunsinger

Jessica Hunsinger

Product Manager, Kiddom

Former educator passionate about building human potential. Saving teachers time through interoperability is what currently drives me. 

A Case for Social Emotional Development

After just a few years of teaching, I realized the skills woven into academic curriculum were not enough to ensure students would graduate prepared to be active citizens in society. Over time, my students’ social emotional development became as important to me as the academic skills designated by New York state. So when my administrators decided to add an advisory class to student schedules, I jumped on the chance to plan its curriculum.

Despite my best efforts to create meaningful social emotional learning experiences, the class was often treated by both staff and students as an aside, with the skills not transferring well to other classes or “real life.” I found a solution to this problem when I tried a new classroom model with self-paced blended learning instruction. A self-paced classroom is able to provide personalized instruction via blended learning, with the right balance of autonomy and support to develop both cognitive and non-cognitive skills. The students in my pilot program outperformed their peers on credit accumulation every trimester, but the real success came from the social emotional growth I was able to facilitate and observe.

What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social Emotional Learning (SEL), as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” This is comprised of five SEL competencies, all of which I was able to address in the self-paced academic setting.

Self-Paced Instruction

Self-paced instruction is “any kind of instruction that proceeds based on learner response.” There are two models: outside of the school setting and within the school.

I used a self-paced classroom design as a pilot within the alternative high school where I taught to support a variety of struggling learners. We selected a target group of students and scheduled them for a three hour block of class. Within this block, we offered thirteen different blended learning classes.

The students chose which courses they wanted to work on for the trimester (based on graduation requirement needs) and they also got to decide how to structure their time during the block. Some students opted to spend all three hours on one class and then move on, whereas others would work on things from three or more different courses during the block. I became a true learning facilitator, supporting all subjects, but responsible for one. Content experts would push in on a staggered schedule to provide support and feedback to students.

The advantage of the self-paced, blended learning model in relation to SEL is that it allows for the integration of these skills as a part of the systems and structures of the academic class instead of as a separate initiative.

Competency 1: Self-Awareness 

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well grounded sense of confidence and optimism.

To succeed in a self-paced class, students must be aware of their strengths and limitations, because the responsibility of deciding how to learn is on them. As a means of helping students assess their personal preferences and abilities, I designed periodic student surveys to push students to reflect and develop self-awareness. They answered questions like:

  • If you want to memorize something, what do you do?
  • How would you rate your self-discipline?
  • What style of learning has work for you in the past?
  • What is something you are really good at?
  • How often do you need breaks?
  • Which seating would you prefer the most.
  • How many credits do you have? How many do you need?

Throughout the term, I provided follow-up surveys with similar questions to help them review and refine their assessment of themselves as students. This reflection and feedback helped students become more aware of their learning preferences and needs.

With some guidance, they were able to apply this understanding of themselves to maximize their academic efforts. For example, many students responded that when they want to memorize something they write it down or repeat it over and over but those same students didn’t always apply this when they were trying to study for a quiz. In these moments, we would discuss if that is actually how they learn best, if there were other strategies they should try, and why they weren’t using it in the moment to hone in on how they really learn.

Key take away: Let students express their self perceived strengths and weaknesses and support them in developing and refining their understanding of themselves. Any teacher can help build students’ self awareness by incorporating periodic student surveys, but if you really want to maximize this, having follow up conversations is a must. I could do this because of the blended learning component of this model, which afforded more time for one-to-one interactions.

Competency 2: Self-Management  

Self-management is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.

When students entered my self-paced classroom, they set a goal for what they wanted to accomplish that period. As part of the routine, my students were expected to create a checklist of at least three things they planned to do during the block.

Because students were responsible for choosing what they were doing each day, this also provided the opportunity for students to use that time to complete job applications, update resumes, prep for SATs/ACTs, etc, providing them with the time and space to work towards professional and personal goals as well as academic.

Prior to checking out technology for the day, they’d show me their checklist as a way to inform me of their focus and for me to provide feedback on their goal setting skills. The feedback I gave students was geared towards making SMART goals, an objective I taught over and over again in advisory class, but without the context of an academic setting and opportunities to practice.

Instead of spending a few days on goal setting skills in an advisory class, we were able to practice setting SMART goals with daily practice and feedback on the specific need for growth. Students eventually needed less feedback from me as setting and working towards achieving personal and academic goals became part of their everyday routine.

Key takeaway: To develop self-management, students must practice managing themselves. Frequent practice with goal setting should be woven into every class, so students can improve self-management. You can achieve this in a self-paced classroom with a similar routine, but could also work it into any class by including goal setting practices with class projects. Taking the time to guide students through the goal setting process regularly in an academic class is a more effective way to develop competent goal setters and achievers.

Competency 3: Social Awareness 

Social awareness is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

I started every school year with an activity to establish group norms with student input. We would post these in the room and students would sign the chart paper as a social contract. I did a similar exercise in my self-paced class, but I found a way to take this practice to the next level: I established a routine of monthly class meetings to review our progress as a group.

We discussed academic successes and how well we were meeting the social expectations we had established as a class. I asked students to evaluate how well the class was doing and consider the impact they had on their peers, which they shared with the group. My students were then able to lead the conversation about strategies for improving the group dynamic and why they should, which felt like a huge success.

Key takeaways: Let students lead the discussion on how the class is performing. Being placed in the same room is not enough to make students socially conscious. Developing a safe place where students can openly share their needs from the group and to reflect on the consequences of their actions via ongoing meetings is essential to developing social awareness, but can be done in any academic class.

Competency 4: Relationship Skills

Relationship skills are the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.

To promote healthy relationship skills, I heavily promoted peer mentoring and in class projects. Often, throughout the year, at least one student had already finished a course and could brief students on what to expect or offer strategies on how to learn the material.

This is different from peer mentoring in that it can happen in regular classroom settings because the “advanced” student is advanced because they have already done the work and not because they are naturally better at the subject.

Peer mentoring in this setting supported the mentoring students’ sense of self-efficacy, while providing a chance to practice communicating clearly and listening actively. Students who were being mentored were more likely to seek help from that peer again prior to asking for help from the teacher.

My favorite example of this was an ELL student supporting a peer taking Spanish class and that peer mentoring them in English and Global History. That peer advocated to expand the peer mentoring system to the rest of the school community because they felt the rewards of a healthy peer relationship.

Of course, not every student was eager to act as a peer mentor or mentee. This is why I made sure to include tasks that required students to interact with each other within the self-paced curricula. In the Financial Literacy class, they were expected to interview a peer about what they knew about credit cards. In health class, they created an anonymous 5–10 question survey about health issues they identified in the community and had to ask at least 10 peers to complete the survey.

These examples of how you can work relationship skills into a curriculum could be applied to any class model. However, unlike a traditional class where you might use “turn and talk” or purposely group students to perform a task, students in a self-paced setting had to learn how to politely interrupt another student, who was likely working on a completely different course, and explain to them what it is they were doing and why.

Key take aways: Opportunities to practice relationship skills such as communicating clearly, listening actively, and cooperating can be thoughtfully embedded in assignments. You can also foster students’ ability to seek and offer help when needed with the right peer mentoring dynamic.

Competency 5: Responsible Decision Making

Responsible Decision Making is the ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the well being of self and others.

A common concern about blended learning is that students will access materials online inappropriate for school or that schools will be providing a tool for cyber bullying. Some schools combat this by blocking a whole host of sites that might be distracting or unsuitable for school. As a result, I was unable to access a site with excellent videos and graphics about the transmission and prevention of HIV for health class because the website url had the word “virus” in it! In reality, students, like everyone else, want to be successful. In my experience, the most frequently observed “inappropriate” use of technology was when students got distracted by music videos trying to pick something to listen to as they worked.

I convinced my administrators that blocking sites completely blocked access to great content. Off-task technology moments serve as a starting point for conversations about responsible decision making. The questions I posed most often were, “Is that going to help you succeed? And if so how?” Usually, this was enough to curtail the activity, but if it wasn’t I would follow up by asking, “Do you need a break?”

A break is a normal part of work-life, but rarely are students given the opportunity in schools to learn how to take a responsible break. A break is something most traditional class models cannot support because each day is a new thing to be taught, assessed, remediated, and extended.

In a self-paced classroom, students can make a “realistic evaluation” of the consequence of their choice to take a break, and with some teacher-facilitated reflection, decide if that choice will prevent them from reaching their goals for the day, week, or year.

An added bonus to this flexibility was that it supported student curiosity. I had a student whose “off-task” time was often spent exploring topics that interested him, but that did not fit into his coursework. I “caught” him watching a video about useless human body parts: exploring your interests is the type of behavior schools should encourage not discourage.

Key take away: Students can only learn to make responsible decisions if you let them make real decisions. By providing real choices for the students, you may revive their curiosity.

What’s the Next Step?

Providing students some level of autonomy is one way to bridge the gap between academic and social skill development. I found it easier to address the skills I had been trying for years to teach in advisory with my self-paced classroom model. Of course, there is always room for improvement and if I still taught, I would purposefully track my students’ SEL development as part of their overall class evaluation. While I had plenty of anecdotal evidence to support my claim that students made SEL progress, the students themselves should also be aware of their SEL development as they are of their academic grades. The two should not be separate.

If you are interested in learning about other ways to incorporate Social Emotional Learning in your classes and/or how to track student growth in both cognitive and non-cognitive areas simultaneously, check out SEL 101: a no-nonsense guide to incorporating SEL in the classroom. SEL 101 was co-authored by teachers and Kiddom, a learning platform supporting educators making this important change.

 

 

Resources:
https://edglossary.org/advisory/
https://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/
https://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/core-competencies/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-paced_instruction

 

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