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Teach Civic Responsibility With These Voting Resources for Students of All Ages

Teach Civic Responsibility With These Voting Resources for Students of All Ages

In one of the most crucial election seasons in recent history, teachers have expressed a need for quality resources to bring culturally-relevant lessons to young voters and voters-to-be. This week, we bring you just that, including a high school voter registration kit which we’ve partnered with HeadCount to create.

It’s hard not to address politics in the classroom when you’re in the final month of one of the most heated presidential elections this country has faced in recent history.

Which is why many teachers are opting, in the spirit of culturally relevant pedagogy, to teach students about their civic responsibilities, and how to vote locally during a time when the election is practically buzzing around our ears.

Keep reading to find fun and engaging prompts, thought-provoking playlists that can be used for blended or distance learning, and general election resources for students of every age.

 

Voting Registration Resources for High School Students

If your students are old enough to vote – or getting close, it’s essential to teach them the things they need to vote responsibly.

A good place to start is by understanding why many young people don’t vote – according to John Holbein, researcher and author of the book “Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action,” the low turnout of younger voters has more to do with a lack of skills and confidence, than a lackadaisical attitude towards politics.

“For young people, it’s just intimidating and kind of scary, especially for many of them growing up in households that don’t talk about politics and don’t hear about contemporary politics in their schools very much. The idea of being plunged into the deep end of voting was kind of intimidating,” says Hobstein (EdWeek).

Luckily, organizations like HeadCount exist to gather all of the resources, deadlines, and planning tools to help students grasp a better understanding of how to vote. Which is why we partnered with them this year to create a High School Registration Digital Kit to equip teachers within the Kiddom community (and beyond!) with a helpful toolkit.

Find the High School Voter Registration Kit below, and keep reading for more resources to teach students of all ages all about voting.

Voting Playlists for K-12th Grade Students 

(Handy for Remote Learning)

If your students aren’t old enough to vote yet, it’s never too early to start teaching civic responsibility! Here are a number of playlists to instill an early understanding of the voting process, and to inspire young people to make their voices heard.

What are “playlists”? Useful for either blended or distance learning, Kiddom’s “playlists” are themed collections of mixed media resources curated around a particular subject. You can find all of the resources in the following playlists within the Kiddom content library, as well as over 70,000 teaching resources searchable by standard, grade, subject, publisher, or content type.

Teachers can use the free Kiddom Classroom app to assign a handful of resources from these playlists to students to complete at their own pace, or simply keep the playlists in your Planner for future lesson planning.

Additional Voting Resources for K-12th Grade Students

Here are a number of external resources to instill an early understanding of the voting process, and to inspire young people to make their voices heard.

To teachers and parents who have become home-school teachers due to the pandemic:

The work you’re doing right now is so important. We want to thank you for your perseverance during during such a difficult time. Did we miss any great voting resources you’ve come across? Have any great tips for how to teach voting and democracy from home? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them to the article.

As always, happy teaching and learning!

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.

 

Are you thinking about bringing digital curriculum to your school or district?

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

Keep Reading…

4 Myths about Digital Curriculum, Busted

In a summer webinar, we discussed the merits of a truly digital curriculum. Below, we unpack some misconceptions about going digital in preparation for the webinar, which occurred on July 28, 2020. View the highlights of our discussion here.    In the world of...

Building Continuity of Learning in Any Scenario: The Kiddom Back to School 2020 Guide

Building Continuity of Learning in Any Scenario: The Kiddom Back to School 2020 Guide

With this guide, we hope to bring some inspiration during an unprecedented back-to-school season. Hear how various educators are building creative strategies and using Kiddom to prepare for distance learning, hybrid, or in-person blended learning. Get your free copy of the guide below.

There’s never been a back-to-school season quite like 2020. While some are still waiting to hear orders from their district, others are already wading into the brave new territory of hybrid schedules, socially-distanced K-12 students wearing masks, or full-time distance learning with high hopes that all goes smoother than last spring.

We created this resource to provide guidance to educators who are new to online instruction or trying to improve their practice in preparation for the year’s uncertainties. What you’ll find:

Advice from Field Educators. As so much of this is uncharted territory, we wanted to collect guidance from real educators who are doing the work and have direct experience to share. Hear from an assistant principal whose city charter school (full-remote learning) is getting creative to build an engaged online support community. Learn how an instructional coach at a traditional district (hybrid learning) set up a scenario-proof curriculum and lesson plans for continuity of teaching and learning in any scenario. And read an essay authored by an engagement director at an adult high school (mostly remote learning) on how to continue Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and instructional coaching during distance learning.

Two Step-by-Step Guides. View the step-by-step processes for how an instructional coach built her scenario-proof curriculum and interactive lesson plans within Kiddom, as well as some helpful features to engage students remotely and streamline tools to alleviate teacher/parent fatigue. Note: All features mentioned in these guides are available in the free Kiddom app for teachers and students.

Tips & Encouragement. Above all else, this guide aims to help educators everywhere rebuild confidence in a brave new era. We know you’re great at what you do, and you can adapt to this new format! We hope you’ll find new ways to bring continuity of learning to your community through with the help of the free tools and tips found in this resource.

You can get your copy of the guide here: 

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.

 

Are you thinking about bringing digital curriculum to your school or district?

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

Keep Reading…

4 Myths about Digital Curriculum, Busted

In a summer webinar, we discussed the merits of a truly digital curriculum. Below, we unpack some misconceptions about going digital in preparation for the webinar, which occurred on July 28, 2020. View the highlights of our discussion here.    In the world of...

Kiddom & Google: Better Together

Kiddom & Google: Better Together

Recently, we’ve had a lot of questions about how Kiddom can work with Google Classroom or G Suite (Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc.). In this blog, we’ll explore some of the many ways Kiddom and Google are better… together!

Some schools and districts mandate that their teachers use Google Classroom, and teachers often come to us at Kiddom for advice on how to use both tools together. Using this support article, you can start by giving a new class an introduction to Kiddom and how they can access it.

4 Ways to Use Kiddom with G Suite or Google Classroom

Digitize Your Curriculum

Google Drive is a place where many schools store their digital curriculum today – in fact, when we asked 440 educators how they’re storing their digital curriculum, 90% reported their digital curriculum lives in cloud drives like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, often in PDF format.

However, many schools and districts are realizing – especially in light of recent events – the benefits of having a more visible, collaborative curriculum that connects intended standards to mastery in clear reporting views. That’s where Kiddom comes in.

Through Kiddom’s Google Drive integration, you always have the option to link to as many of the instructional PDFs and documents you wish to keep stored in Drive. However, the real value-add comes when you use Kiddom to nest your curriculum into easy-to-view, sharable units with interactive lessons and expected standards attached.

You can access curriculum via the Kiddom Education Platform by using our import feature, starting from ready-to-use digital curriculum by Open Up Resources, or build-your-own curriculum (the build-your-own curriculum option is also available via our free app).

Grading & Reporting

Speaking of standards, the real magic of using a truly digital curriculum platform like Kiddom is that these standards, once attached, can follow the curriculum workflow all the way from a curriculum developer’s framework, to editable lesson plans contextualized by teachers across the district, to their students’ interactive coursework (more on this in the Engage Students section below), to assessment, to reporting, which rolls up into real-time views of mastery achievement visible to students, guardians, teachers, and school and district administrators.

With all of these tools in one place, you can imagine the time saved otherwise spent gathering assessment data for report cards and mailing them out to every household.

There’s no replacing the fantastic tools available in G Suite – a great application for Sheets is for student groups collaborating on statistics homework. But when it comes to your grade book, Kiddom can be a great compliment to those tools as the place to house your curriculum, instruction, and assessment data.

Plan Lessons… with Vetted Resources

Many teachers who use Google Classroom are quick to mention the impressive and vast library of resources. However, when they are looking for one specific type of lesson to develop for one specific skill, Kiddom’s content library can be a great option.

Full of over 70,000 vetted resources, you can search the content library by skill, grade, subject, content type, and publisher (useful if your school has a subscription to Newsela, or you are a math teacher whose students love to use Geogebra). 

Teachers always have free access to the Kiddom content library (it should be mentioned that though most are, not all resources in our library are free – this is ultimately up to the publisher). Those using Google Classroom can embed links to the Kiddom Content Library when creating assignments in the Classwork tab, and do their grading either within Google Classroom or Kiddom.

If using Kiddom, you can access this Content Library directly from the mastery reporting views for a specific skill, which will allow you to send support and/or enrichment to individuals or student groups by mastery level. As always, you can attach links to any type of Google Drive file when creating a Kiddom assignment.

Engage Students with More Options

Kiddom now gives teachers and students the option to record audio and video without leaving the platform (this is one of many free distance learning tools Kiddom launched in response to the pandemic). They can also upload a file directly from Google Drive, if they have a particular image or document they would like to attach to complete their work.

And that covers it for this installment of why Kiddom and Google are Better Together. Do you use Kiddom and Google Classroom (or Drive) together? Let us know if we missed any great applications in the comments below and we’ll add it to the list!

Happy teaching and learning!

 

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.

 

Are you thinking about bringing digital curriculum to your school or district?

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

Keep Reading…

4 Myths about Digital Curriculum, Busted

In a summer webinar, we discussed the merits of a truly digital curriculum. Below, we unpack some misconceptions about going digital in preparation for the webinar, which occurred on July 28, 2020. View the highlights of our discussion here.    In the world of...

Engage Online Students With Kiddom’s New Distance Learning Tools

Engage Online Students With Kiddom’s New Distance Learning Tools

This week, we are excited to announce a new, easier-than-ever way for teachers to keep distance learning students engaged – without ever having to leave their classroom platform.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Connecting With Online Students: The Old Way vs. The New Way
  • At-Your-Own-Pace Distance Learning Tools (Free in Kiddom Classroom)
  • Face-to-face Distance Learning Tools: (Upgrade to Kiddom Live)

Connecting With Online Students

There is no question about it, distance learning is hard

Thanks to COVID-19, most educators are all-too familiar with what it takes to get a remote class up and running, and the general consensus has been: 

A) distance learning takes a lot of time, patience, and tools to set up, and 

B) even then, it’s really difficult to keep online students engaged

So we made it our mission to make things easier in the form of less tools, more connection. Let’s take a look at what that looks like.

The Old Way to Do Distance Learning

In order to create moments of genuine connection online, most teachers have opted for a healthy mix of at-your-own-pace and face-to-face (see also: asynchronous and synchronous) activities, but this takes a lot of “distance learning” tools

For at-your-own-pace activities, teachers have been pre-recording videos with one tool, making screenshares with another tool (to show students how to use a content tool like, say, Geogebra), then uploading all of these items to a learning management tool where students can view and then complete their assignments, which might take – you guessed it, yet another tool.

For face-to-face activities, teachers and distance learners might use a meeting tool like Zoom, or Google Hangouts. But they still have to use a separate tool to communicate meeting times with students, and yet another to assign and review assignments, and did we mention lesson planning and curriculum – wouldn’t it be nice if all of these were in the same place?

The New Way to Do Distance Learning

With our new release, you can do all of these things in one platform.

It’s that simple.

To see the new distance learning tools in action, check out this recent webinar recap, or keep reading to learn which tools are free and which come with our product for schools and districts.

At-Your-Own-Pace Distance Learning Tools (Free in Kiddom Classroom)

If you use Kiddom Classroom, you already know you can build and edit curriculum (which helps when an in-class lesson plan needs to be changed last-minute to a remote lesson), assign lessons, students can complete assignments, you can grade them, and both students and teachers can review standards-based or grade-based reporting, all from the free platform. 

But let’s take a look at some of the new features you can access for free too.

1) Classrooms now have an announcement feed where teachers can record and share videos and audio, directly in the platform.

2) Teachers and students can now record videos and audio when chatting, assigning or completing work, or making comments around assignments.

3) A new easy-to-access student roster allows teachers to communicate with individual students and student groups, via chat or with new recording tools.

Face-to-face Distance Learning Tools: (Upgrade to Kiddom Live)

If you use Kiddom for Schools and Districts, you can now choose to upgrade to Kiddom Live and access our synchronous distance learning tools as well. This means you can:

1) Host smaller student groups via Kiddom live for a more manageable experience full of classmate interaction.

2) Chat in real-time with 1:1 video capabilities; simply start a call directly from your student roster.

3) Attend a virtual real-time class from the announcement feed, and be notified when a session has started.

There you have it!

We hope you’re just as excited about this release as we are to share it with you.

To see the new distance learning tools for yourself, you can download our free Classroom app here. And if you’re interested in bringing Kiddom Live to your school or district, request a demo by clicking the big red button below.

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 one platform with integrated tools for communication.

 

Thinking about bringing Kiddom to your school or district?

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

Keep Reading…

4 Myths about Digital Curriculum, Busted

In a summer webinar, we discussed the merits of a truly digital curriculum. Below, we unpack some misconceptions about going digital in preparation for the webinar, which occurred on July 28, 2020. View the highlights of our discussion here.    In the world of...

New Report: The K-12 Transition to Digital Curriculum 2020

New Report: The K-12 Transition to Digital Curriculum 2020

Seeking to better understand the K-12 transition to digital curriculum, we surveyed 447 educators across diverse communities. Get your copy of the report here.

Where are K-12 educators in their transition to digital curriculum, and what challenges do they face?

This guiding question drove a study we held this past winter break, when 447 educators came forward to share their experiences to help us find answers. Over the next few months we compiled and cross-referenced the responses to paint a clear picture where three themes emerged in the form of challenges.

Before we could publish the results, an event we’re all familiar with – COVID-19 – changed everything, exacerbating these challenges for educators to a point we couldn’t have predicted. For a time, we abandoned the report entirely in order to pivot to distance learning, which the majority of our community was setting up for the first time.

This week we finalized the report, and though a lot has changed since this study was conducted, we still find these learnings to be helpful, and we hope to close the gap by conducting another survey this fall.

You can get your copy of the report here, or keep reading for the highlights. 

Report Highlights: Three Educator Challenges

Challenge 1: Lack of Alignment

A disconnect in opinions surfaced in our study around curricular topics like quality, implementation, and measuring efficacy (more on this in the third challenge below). While it was expected that opinions would contrast across different community-based responses, the role-based responses highlighted some interesting trends across the board.

Exhibit A. Differing Opinions Around Curriculum Quality

Teachers in our survey ranked their school’s curriculum the lowest at an average of 6.33, and principals rated their curriculum 15% higher at 7.27. It is noteworthy that those working with the curriculum on a daily basis (teachers, curriculum roles) have lower opinions on the curriculum than roles who work with it less often.

How Different Roles Rate Their Curriculum

N = 412: for this graph, we only included responses from the five top role categories.

Exhibit B. Differing Opinions Around Curriculum Implementation

Educators generally do feel their curriculum is being implemented in the classroom with fidelity, though far fewer administrators report low fidelity compared to teachers. One in three teachers reported that most teachers rely heavily on other resources, compared to one in five school leaders. While 59% of school leaders do admit to some usage of external resources, it is clear that there is a disparity in opinions around how often.

What do we mean by “fidelity”? When teachers need to find their own resources often, it could be said that they are following the curriculum with lower fidelity. If they are using the curriculum exactly as intended, it could be said that they are implementing the curriculum with high fidelity.

Every community is different, and therefore we don’t hold prescriptive views about whether curriculum should be implemented with high or low fidelity. However, we do feel it is helpful for teachers, school leaders, and district leaders to have alignment on their own curriculum fidelity and how their curriculum is implemented. This way, communities can understand what is working best for teachers and students and seamlessly know when to send greater support and enrichment (and praise, when it comes to discovering best teaching practices).

Teachers & School Leaders on Curriculum Fidelity

N = 412: for this graph, we only included responses from the five top role categories.

Opportunity: Creating Greater Connectivity in Your Learning Community

Lack of alignment can be caused by a need for more human connectivity, and it’s easy to see how the pandemic has exacerbated the issue on that front. It also comes from a place of needing better tool connectivity – educators currently use so many tools that don’t speak to each other, and it’s getting in the way of what they do best. This was also intensified by the pandemic, when educators suddenly moved to add many more, newer tools to their toolbox, and data on curriculum implementation and student performance was further fragmented across platforms, creating even more work for our teachers, confusing students, and blindfolding administrators to the effect of a crippling lack of responsive support.

We never like to bring up a challenge without offering a solution, and the entire reason we seek to learn about these issues is to improve our solutions for educators. On the tool proliferation front, we have held a vision from our start of building a platform to connect all educational tools; curriculum, instruction, and assessment in one place, so teachers and administrators aren’t spending countless hours transferring curriculum, lesson plans, and student performance data from one platform to another.

But on the human connectivity front, the pandemic has moved us to improve our platform by integrating better communication (video and chat) along every step of those workflows in order to keep continuity of learning in any environment. You can learn more about our communication tools, which will be released this month, in the webinar recap here.

 

Challenge 2: Need for Dynamic Digital Curriculum

Over 90% surveyed report that they store their digital curricula in static form (e.g. PDFs) on drives & internal networks. But digital curricula should dynamic, meaning it should be fun, engaging, and enable teaching and learning in any environment.

When the pandemic pushed many educators into distance learning, we saw many communities revaluate the way they store, manage, access, and share curriculum. Because of this, we believe a shift has since occurred in the awareness of what having a more dynamic digital curriculum can unlock. We will test this hypothesis in our next survey.

Exhibit A. Accessing Static Curriculum

While accessing PDFs online is a step in the right direction, we do want to stress the importance of changing the awareness of what a true digital curriculum means, and what it can unlock for your school community. (More on this in the “opportunity” section below). Having static curriculum arguably creates more work for your teachers, doesn’t engage students, and won’t connect easily to instruction or assessment data.

Digital Curriculum Storage by Community

N = 447: participants across all role categories included in this graph.

Exhibit B. Static Curriculum and Standards

When choosing curriculum, educators overwhelmingly listed the most important factor to be “standards alignment”. However, if so many store their curriculum on drives rather than on a platform where curriculum standards are automatically attached to lesson plans, assignments, and reporting, this highlights a core issue with static curriculum: there is no easy way to view standard data such as skill mastery, which standards have been covered in class to date, and how well students are engaging with the curriculum meant to develop the intended skills.

Most Important Factors When Choosing Curriculum, by Community

N = 447: participants across all role categories included in this graph.

Opportunity: Understanding What Dynamic Digital Curriculum Can Do for Your Community

This is a great time to help your community reimagine the art of the possible. Dynamic digital curriculum allows you to contextualize for your classroom. Without the ability to edit your PDFs to foster student growth and learning, your curriculum isn’t reaching its full potential to engage students.

In Kiddom, digital curriculum comes to life with the ability to edit it for success in the classroom. Students feel engaged and empowered by interactive materials that are crafted with their strengths in mind. Teachers and school leaders also gain key insight into how curriculum is performing, with real-time data on student performance and curricular implementation.

Challenge 3: Low Visibility on Curricular Efficacy or Implementation

While this challenge is connected to the first in many ways, the first challenge is more about misalignment (of humans and tools) costing learning communities time, money, and friction. The underlying problem behind this challenge, however, is that lack of visibility is keeping educators from assessing and improving curriculum quality.

While assessing curriculum quality may seem low on the long list of issues educators face, the issue has grown considerably in importance during the pandemic as digital materials became front and center, highlighting the need for a high-quality, rigid curriculum to serve as a backbone for instruction.

Exhibit A. Most Educators Say Measuring Curriculum Efficacy is a Challenge

Unfortunately, there is no simple or standardized way to assess curriculum efficacy, according to the graph below and in the vast difference in responses we received around how (and how often) curriculum is measured.

Most methodologies in our report could be grouped into four categories: quantitative assessment (reviewing grades or test scores), qualitative assessment (through curriculum discussions or classroom observations), both, or by looking at curriculum-level assessments by reviewing the content itself.

Fortunately, schools and districts using the Kiddom education platform can make 1) quantitative assessments by reviewing real-time skill mastery dashboards, 2) qualitative assessments by observing implementation, and 4) curriculum-level assessments by reviewing the curriculum itself. And they can do so from the office or at home.

Difficulty Measuring Curriculum Efficacy by Role

N = 412: this graph includes responses from the five top role categories.

Exhibit B. Why It’s Important to Measure Efficacy

Those who measure curriculum efficacy rate their curriculum higher than those who do not. While correlation does not equal direct causation, the fact that there was nearly a full point difference between those who do and do not is cause for investigation. As another graph in our report shows, we found that those who measure their curriculum do so often, suggesting they find value in their measurements.

While we don’t take a prescriptive stance on the best methodology behind measuring curriculum efficacy, we do believe in building systems of continuous improvement, and our platform offers multiple ways to assess curriculum implementation and student performance in real-time.

Relationship Between Measuring and Rating Curriculum

N = 447: participants across all role categories included in this graph.

Opportunity: Start from Quality Digital Curriculum & Connect it to Instruction and Assessment Data

The first step is starting with great curriculum. We recommend reviewing curricula rated by EdReports to discover a rigid, high-quality curriculum that works best for your community. We have partnered with one of the top-rated curriculum providers on EdReports, Open Up Resources, to offer educators a high-quality ready-to-use solution on our platform.

The other half of the equation is about connecting that digital curriculum to instruction and assessment data to create a system of continuous improvement. Schools and districts using our solution are able to ship their teachers ready-to-use high-quality digital curriculum.

Their teachers then have flexibility to contextualize and edit the curriculum easily to adjust lesson plans for in-person or distance learning, which helps during this time of uncertainty.

And lastly, school and district leaders and co-teachers have the core elements of assessing visibility of how the curriculum is being implemented and adjusted, as well as views of student performance of the curriculum’s intended skills.   

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.

 

Are you thinking about bringing digital curriculum to your school or district?

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

Keep Reading…

4 Myths about Digital Curriculum, Busted

In a summer webinar, we discussed the merits of a truly digital curriculum. Below, we unpack some misconceptions about going digital in preparation for the webinar, which occurred on July 28, 2020. View the highlights of our discussion here.    In the world of...

How Can Educators Deliver Equity in a Digital Environment? (Webinar Recap)

How Can Educators Deliver Equity in a Digital Environment? (Webinar Recap)

Learn an equity framework to help you deliver quality to all learners, within a digital environment or a broader context, then explore some features in the Kiddom + Open Up Resources distance learning bundle that can help you implement equitable practices in your digital or blended classroom. You can view more webinars in this series here.

A few weeks back, we had two special guests speak on a topic that has since become forefront to the nation’s attention: equity.

Joining us to lead the discussion were Traci Davis, who is an educational equity consultant (Open Up Resources) and former superintendent, and Jennifer Wolfe, an education advisor (Kiddom) and early advocate of open education resources.

As part of this ongoing distance learning webinar series, the focus of our discussion was equity within the context of remote learning. However, you’ll find a lot of helpful learnings here that apply to a broader context, particularly in the equity framework Traci shared.

These insights feel very relevant to the conversations happening in school communities nationally, as many educators are reflecting on their practices and asking themselves what they can do to combat systemic racism.

 

The Highlights: Delivering Equity in a Digital Environment 

Songs for Equity

Kicking it off with an interactive question, Traci Davis asked attendees: 

What song would you use to describe equity in your classroom and/or district and why?

For Traci, some days it’s “We are Family” (by Sister Sledge) when everything feels like it’s working out, and other days it’s “Y’all Gonna Make Me Lose My Mind” by DMX.

To close the activity, Traci instructed us to think about the song that came to mind, “and what we need to do to change that song, if we don’t like that song. And,” she asked us, “if you do like that song, what can you do to improve on it, as you look at equity, whether in your classroom, district, or in your everyday walk of life?”

Watch the video of this recap here:

What’s in the Kiddom + Open Up Resources distance learning bundle?

The No-Nonsense Distance Learning Guide, with guidance for every educator role

Distance Learning webinar series with weekly Office Hours sessions for live Q&A

Applying an Equity Framework to Distance Learning

 Next, Traci took us through Curtis Linton’s equity framework around culture, practice, and leadership. She then offered some questions to think about within section, as follows:

Culture

Is there a positive culture in the district around equity?
Is that positive culture in your class?

Practice

Are your practices meaningful?

Leadership

Is leadership shared, not just for teachers, but for students?
Do your kids have student voice?

Importantly, Traci shares, “we now have to wrap these questions into a larger circle of what these answers will look like now in a digital environment, when you can no longer see your students face-to-face or understand their moods.”

Next, Traci takes us to the center of this framework, where there are four components. For students to be successful in their learning outcomes, all four of these are needed to be successful:

Rigor
Expectations
Relevance
Relationships

For this section, she ended with another interactive question. “How do you refine or change your practices in a digital environment?” Responses from the audience included:

“Allow students to submit work in different formats.” -Jill
“I use a digital form for students to tell me how they are feeling and how they are doing each day.” -Laura 

Watch the video of this recap here:

Just Remove the Fence

Next Traci brings fresh perspective to an image which many who have been doing equity work may have seen before. But in this version, as she points out, this lens of equity has evolved to become “just remove the fence.” 

From this example, she implores us to ask ourselves, what new barriers will be faced in the digital environment? 

If anything, added Abbas, the pandemic has really put the spotlight on the inequity problem across our education system. To that, he asked Traci how teachers could support each other’s practices right now, or utilize their PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) to ensure that their distance learning programs continue to iterate towards equity.

You can hear her response here:

Five Considerations: Planning With Equity in a Digital Environment

 

Next, Traci gives us five considerations to think about as we reflect on our practices.

HINT: If these look familiar because you saw them in the No-Nonsense Distance Learning Guide, it’s because Traci is the one who helped us with the framework for this section!

As she took us through this graphic, Traci reminded us that it might not be a brick-and-mortar situation we’re returning to in the fall. How do we ensure quality for every student, whether it’s brick and mortar, a hybrid, or a fully digital environment?

One thing is for sure, and that is, the equity conversation matters now more than ever. Traci then posed the questions: Do your students have the resources to be successful? And then, do your teachers have the resources they need to be successful?

“What does the new instructional day look like? There might be one laptop and three kids. How do we look at their scheduling so that every child has an opportunity? And that’s where we really have to work together as a team to address this work around equity in a digital environment.”

Watch the video of this recap here:

Helpful Features to Implement Equitable Practices in Your Digital Journey

After Traci shared these five considerations and some closing words, our next presenter, Jennifer Wolfe, mapped some of those considerations to helpful features within the free Kiddom platform and Open Up Resources curriculum.

We’ve listed three of those features in the clips below, and you can learn about the others in the full playlist here.

1. Top-rated, quality digital curriculum with supports for ELL learners

2. Add recorded instruction for asynchronous remote teaching

3. Ability to contextualize curriculum for all levels of learners

We hope this has helped you start to think about some new angles in your practice that can be improved upon or adjusted for more inclusivity and quality to all learners. As always, thanks for reading, happy teaching and learning, and we hope to see you in our upcoming webinars in our distance learning series!

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.

 

Are you thinking about bringing digital curriculum to your school or district?

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

Keep Reading…

4 Myths about Digital Curriculum, Busted

In a summer webinar, we discussed the merits of a truly digital curriculum. Below, we unpack some misconceptions about going digital in preparation for the webinar, which occurred on July 28, 2020. View the highlights of our discussion here.    In the world of...

How to Assemble Your Distance Learning Toolkit (Webinar Recap)

How to Assemble Your Distance Learning Toolkit (Webinar Recap)

Learn how one teacher assembled her own distance learning toolkit using Kiddom and Open Up Resources in this webinar recap. For more on the Kiddom + OUR distance learning webinar series, register here.

As all attendees would agree, 7th Grade Math Teacher Melanie Gillingham stole the show in last week’s distance learning webinar with her practical advice, captivatingly positive energy, and anyone-can-do-it attitude.

She showed us the distance learning toolkit she’s built out for her classrooms, and took us through the steps – the fails and the wins – that got her there. All told, she sort of made distance learning look… easy.

However, we know it’s not. In fact, that’s why Kiddom recently partnered up with Open Up Resources to put together a distance learning bundle to help teachers like Melanie jumpstart their toolkit. But more on that later – let’s get to the highlights!

 

The Highlights: Building a Distance Learning Toolkit

The webinar opens with introductions and some context, including what brought Bethel School District to Kiddom + OUR, Bethel (and Melanie’s) response to the pandemic, and why Kiddom + Open Up Resources banded together for this distance learning series.

You can watch these recaps in the playlist here, but we’re going to jump straight into Melanie’s section, which is all about how she assembled her distance learning toolkit. As Melanie saw it, there were going to be 3 stages:

1. How she would set up her class

2. How she would refine her class

3. The day-to-day

1. How Melanie set up her distance learning class

Once Melanie decided on using Kiddom as the platform for her distance learning course, she dove into the tutorialsAt first, Melanie shares, she watched a ton of Kiddom’s PD videos. But then about half-way through, like any middle schooler, she felt like she was ready and jumped right in to start playing with the platform.

When she hit a wall, she would go back to the PD videos, but pretty soon, Melanie had learned how to contextualize her curriculum. This included learning how to make her own teaching videos, use her Kiddom Timeline, change point values and due dates in her curriculum’s activities, and most importantly, she learned how to change the types of responses from the built-in curriculum.

Also helpful to her was learning how to use the Kiddom content library to bring in additional vetted resources when needed. She uses this to search for resources by standard, provider (CK-12, Khan Academy, etc.), or activity type.

Once she felt pretty comfortable with the platform and curriculum, she started planning out her first week. At this point she created a few key resources to help her students and their families get set up. You can see a list of the resources she created below, or hear it straight from the source here:

What’s in the Kiddom + Open Up Resources distance learning bundle?

The No-Nonsense Distance Learning Guide, with guidance for every educator role

Distance Learning webinar series with weekly Office Hours sessions for live Q&A

Watch the Full Webinar 
You can see the full playlist of videos from this webinar here.

A few resources Melanie created to help with set up

Before the first few weeks started, Melanie created these resources to help herself and her students transition
to a distance learning course. 

Digitized Lesson Plans

Using Kiddom, she modified her Open Up Resources curriculum for the first few weeks, making adjustments for activities that were originally designed to be in-person, and making notes to herself when needed.

“Get Started” Guide

Using Google Docs, she compiled instructions for her class to get started. Here she added a few instructional videos she created using Zoom, as well as a few screencasts she recorded with Screencastify.

Assignment Timeline

Using Kiddom, she added the activities she had planned to her students’ timeline so they knew what they needed to do by when and could access and complete their assignments or ask questions about them directly in the platform.

Weekly Pacing Guide

Using Google Docs, Melanie created a guide that showed the high-level expectations for each week.

2. How Melanie refined her distance learning class

 Once Melanie and her class took the leap into distance learning, it was immediately clear where adjustments needed to be made. A few early adjustment moments she shared:

1. Noticing where students were getting stuck and getting ahead of those moments by communicating solutions to them early and often. Once she found a few students who were particularly tech-savvy, she assigned them as her guinea pigs AKA tech support. She often asked those students to give her early feedback for anything that was confusing or didn’t work from the student side. She was able to communicate with him directly though Kiddom.

2. To give students face-to-face interaction as well, Melanie also held 1:1 Zoom sessions with the entire class. She noticed early on that some students were a bit on the shyer side and didn’t like speaking up in front of everyone, but those students were able to ask questions privately through Kiddom, which Melanie compared to the ability to walk right next to a student in class and give them individual help.

3. Weekly or Daily assignments? She found that weekly assignments were much more beneficial for students to be able to work at their own pace in this new asynchronous environment.

4. Incorporating videos directly into her activities was really beneficial to her ability to give specific instructions to her students and help them stay connected with her.

5. Grading daily helped so that she was able to keep students’ work up to date.

6. She needed to keep a balance of shorter assignments and more in-depth assignments, so she began using the warm-ups within Open Up Curriculum.

7. She also speaks on how she uses the chat feature often, whether between herself and students, or between her and Kiddom customer success.

Watch the Full Webinar 
You can see the full playlist of videos from this webinar here.

3. What does Melanie’s daily distance learning routine look like?

Next, Melanie takes us through her daily distance learning routine.

She shows us how she uses the Kiddom Timeline and Planner tools on a day-to-day basis, contextualizing the curriculum within Planner, then dragging over to her students’ Timeline, where she can assign activities.

She can assign activities for the entire class, or by mastery level groups, or even individual students. Or she can save them in her Planner for later on when she feels her class is ready for the assignment.

 

Here’s her day-to-day course from the teacher view:

 

Watch the Full Webinar 
You can see the full playlist of videos from this webinar here.

 

…and the same online course from the student view:

Watch the Full Webinar 
You can see the full playlist of videos from this webinar here.

What part of Melanie’s daily toolkit will she take with her into the Fall?

After Melanie’s presentation, a question came up about whether Melanie feels she can take all of this work and set up with her in the future, which looks very uncertain right now.

In her eyes, one of the most helpful parts about this toolkit she has set up is being able to access the Open Up curriculum on a platform, where she has the ability to contextualize the Open Up Resources curriculum quickly for whichever situation she’s given – whether that’s back in the classroom, a last-minute school closure due to a breakout in her district, or more distance learning, which many schools and districts have already announced they plan to continue with this fall.

Another use case she expects will come in handy is the ability to interact with students directly within the questions they’re working on – it’s a great way to give students privacy within the classroom, if they need more help and are too afraid to speak up, but it’s also great for remote learning to be able to give additional context on a specific activity.

Lastly, she expressed that combining the Zoom sessions with the Kiddom Timeline of assignments really helps her students feel connected, which could really help in a new class scenario, should they need to start with virtual classes in the fall.

Watch the Full Webinar 
You can see the full playlist of videos from this webinar here.

Recap: What tools are in Melanie’s distance learning toolkit?

These are the main tools Melanie is using on a daily basis, most of which are completely free.

You can click on the tabs below to see 1) how Melanie is using each tool, 2) a small description about each tool, and 3) a link to any COVID-19 resources they might have available for educators:

Used for: Contextualizing curriculum for distance learning, lesson planning, assigning, communicating with students, and grading. FYI Melanie’s district is piloting Kiddom’s paid platform, but nearly all of the functionality you see in the webinar is possible on Kiddom’s free teacher platform.

About: Kiddom brings curriculum to life by connecting curriculum, instruction, and assessment in one platform. Kiddom for Teachers is always free, but from now until August 2020, you can sign up to access Open Up Resources 6-8 Math Curriculum via Kiddom for free too (This is typically a paid feature available only on Kiddom for Schools & Districts).

Used for: Engaging students with quality

About. If you’re not familiar with Open Up Resources, they offer one of the highest rated curriculum on EdReports. This particular 6-8 math curriculum is free on the free Kiddom teacher platform until August 2020. You can sign up here.

Used for: Melanie records videos of herself giving more context for lessons, and then uploads those videos directly into the assignments on Kiddom.

About: Zoom is one of most widely used and well-known video conferencing tools. Currently, they are removing their 40 minute time limit for all educators affected by COVID-19, making them one of the most popular free solutions for synchronous teaching. Learn more here.

 

Used for: Melanie used this program to record screen casts when she wanted to show students exactly how to navigate through distance learning.

About: Screencastify is a Google for Education Premier Partner. It lets you record, edit, and share videos of your screen.

Used for: Recording videos and having students answer questions for different lessons.

About: Edpuzzle lets teachers create interactive video lessons for their students. They are offering support for educators affected by COVID-19 as well. Learn more here.

Used for: Simple “Get Started doc” sent to students and parents to help them get started. Melanie also created a “Pacing Guide” for her students and their guardians to understand what they would be doing each week.

About: Google Docs is part of the G-Suite of collaboration tools used by businesses and educators. You can learn more about Google for Education here. 

Thanks for reading, happy teaching and learning, and we hope to see you in our upcoming webinars in our distance learning series!

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.

 

Are you thinking about bringing digital curriculum to your school or district?

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

Keep Reading…

4 Myths about Digital Curriculum, Busted

In a summer webinar, we discussed the merits of a truly digital curriculum. Below, we unpack some misconceptions about going digital in preparation for the webinar, which occurred on July 28, 2020. View the highlights of our discussion here.    In the world of...

Digital Curriculum for Charter School Success: Why ECO Chose Kiddom (Video)

Digital Curriculum for Charter School Success: Why ECO Chose Kiddom (Video)

A charter school success story. Inspired by the mission-driven work at ECO (K-8), we teamed up with the EdSurge Solutions Studio to capture the reasons behind the school’s move to digital curriculum, and what this is already unlocking for every member of their learning community: leaders, teachers, and most importantly students. Watch the video below.

ECO, a public charter school serving students from kindergarten through eighth grade, is a special kind of school.

You first see it when you pass the student garden on your way to the school entrance — an oasis in the middle of the bustling business district of Camden, NJ. You hear it when you step through the front doors and receive a cheerful greeting from the front desk. And you can even feel the sense of community and excitement during teacher orientation, as veteran teachers jump to help a new teacher find her bearings.

Over the past several years, ECO students have consistently scored higher on tests, both locally and nationally. Yet, while ECO acknowledges the tests are important tools, “we aim higher” is their stance on standardized testing and wellall matters, really.

The Need for Digital Curriculum

When you speak to ECO’s Founder and Head of School Dr. Antoinette C. Dendtler, and Principal Widelene Desarmes, you get a true sense of how committed ECO’s leaders are to their cause of measuring what matters and doing what’s really best for their learning community.

So it’s no surprise that when they sought to improve their curriculum for the upcoming school year, they looked for a digital solution that would improve — not hinder — their teachers’ and students’ workflow. Guiding their search were three key drivers.

3 Reasons ECO Charter Decided to Move to Digital Curriculum

As you’ll see in the video below, there are plenty of reasons ECO’s leaders decided to make the move to digital. The top three are:

  • Meeting kids (and teachers!) where they’re at with Chromebooks. There is a general move away from paper at ECO due to textbook costs and low visibility on how curriculum engages students. But perhaps the biggest driver for ECO is that most of their students and teachers are digital natives — and it’s good to meet them where they want to spend their time. So naturally, when Dendtler and Desarmes found out that Kiddom is partnering with their math curriculum provider Open Up Resources, the move made that much more sense.
  • Everything is housed in one place. Educators today use a lot of apps, and this makes data assessment… nearly impossible. But when you have a one stop shop that connects all your tools in one place, you’re spending less time collecting data, and more time turning insights into action! Which brings us to the third and final reason:
  • Data-driven instruction. The leaders at ECO are driven to measure what matters, and this includes competency levels, student engagement, school-wide curricular trends, and which supplemental materials are used for personalized instruction. Desarmes can now quickly prepare for meetings with teachers, and teachers and students can both see how students are doing in real time and what the next steps are. 

So what brought them to choose Kiddom? Hear it in their own words in a new video by EdSurge Solutions Studio. 

Watch Digital Curriculum for Charter School Success here: 

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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How to Save Time and Money Lesson Planning (Calculator)

How to Save Time and Money Lesson Planning (Calculator)

In this first article of a 3-part series, we explore a number of ways schools and districts could save money as they enter peak budgeting season. You can read the other articles as published here:

One of the greatest inefficiencies in today’s schools might be in the hours we ask teachers to spend on planning quality lessons for students, without giving them the proper tools to do so.

This is not to say teachers aren’t given enough tools to do their jobs — a recent report cites the average district uses 548 applications (Learn Platform). Rather, they aren’t often given the right tools. Tools that actually save them time and effort, rather than hold them to unrealistic demands of double data entry and prescriptive pedagogy.

 

Bettering Lessons … at What Cost?

Beyond the tools we use to plan, many other factors affect lesson planning for today’s teachers, including brave new initiatives like differentiation, standards based grading, and blended learning, to name a few.

 

 

Chart showing 87% of teachers say Classroom Environment should accommodate different learning styles

While these initiatives hold a lot of promise for our students, they can really stack up the workload for our teachers, making an already challenging task of lesson planning even more complex and stressful.

In fact, most teachers now report spending 12 hours a week finding and creating teaching resources for their students (Education World). Much of this time is spent finding, vetting, and/or actually creating their own high-quality teaching resources.

This number might seem reasonable enough, within the confines of a regular work week — but this is no regular work week. As evidenced by a recent study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers typically work over 10 hours per day, averaging 53 hours per work week (Washington Post). At Kiddom, we’re determined to bring this number down.

Calculate how much time and money your teachers could save on lesson planning with Kiddom here:

Let’s Talk Teacher ROI — Return on Investment

As you see in the calculator above, by taking $59,660 as the average teacher salary and dividing it by A. the number of weeks worked in a year (let’s use 40, for example) by B. the total hours in a typical week (53), this gives teachers a true hourly wage of $28.14. 

With Kiddom, teachers spend an average of four hours a week finding resources, rather than twelve. We can say this leads to a total work week of 45 hours. Dividing that from the average teacher salary, the math now comes out to a true hourly wage of $33.14.

While it’s impactful to see the exact time and money saved in numbers, the monetary value doesn’t account for the mental value. The number of out-of-school hours teachers work, and the level of support they feel from admin is part of what Doctor Brad Johnson calls a teacher’s ROI for the work they do.  

Tweet from Dr. Brad Johnson related to teachers getting a good ROI

 

When teachers spend more time outside of school finding resources and planning lessons, they recognize their real hourly wage is decreasing. However, when you provide teachers the tools they need to work efficiently, you increase their true hourly wage and improve their emotional return on investment.

How does Kiddom save teachers time in lesson planning?

Our team of mostly developers, designers and former teachers built this platform with one end goal in mind: improving the lives of teachers and learners. Below are five ways we’ve brought those 12 hours lesson planning down to 4:

1. Free content library of 70,000+ resources from your favorite providers

Teachers can use our library of resources from trusted favorites like Khan Academy and Newsela. These resources are searchable by standard, grade, subject, and content type, saving teachers hours every week with the ability to save directly to their lesson planner within Kiddom.

2. Curated blended learning lesson plans for those weeks you’re in a pinch

These teaching playlists are designed by Kiddom’s specialists to give teachers a headstart by providing a collection of vetted, socially responsible resources. These mixed media resources are perfect for blended learning classrooms and discoverable by theme, subject, or grade band. You can also access these collections within the free app.

3. Streamlined instructional workflow

Teachers can easily save their favorite resources from the previous two points into their Planner, or add directly as assignments into the student Timeline. Because Kiddom is also a gradebook, this sets them up nicely for assessing and reporting. With an upgrade to Kiddom Academy, they will be able to send report cards automatically and frequently to parents.

Here you see a view of the units in Academy, our product for administrators.

4. Collaborative tools for seamless alignment and less rework

With responsive curriculum management, curriculum directors and teachers can align on scope and sequence so curriculum can be measured and responded to in a timely manner. This brings the best lessons to surface, and also shaves off days of planning for the following semester, when the entire scope and sequence can be reproduced at the click of a button.

Click the image to visit our new On-Demand PD Portal

5. World-class school success team to support you on your way

We believe that technology and processes are only tools at the end of the day, and that it takes a human connection to bring the magic of those tools to life. Schools and districts who choose Academy have access to our world-class success team who are passionate about helping your school community thrive. They will guide you through the process of streamlining the full instructional workflow for your school or district’s unique needs. This includes admin and teacher launch trainings, unlimited access to our on-demand professional development and analytics, live support, and 1:1 ‘office hours’ and biweekly calls with your dedicated success manager.

 

Where to go from here?

Schools often trick themselves into thinking that new tooling is a problem they don’t have time to fix. Rather than solving the technical debt we’ve already accrued, we build on top of the mess. And at the end of the day, teachers are the ones filling the gaps. They deserve better.

Ultimately, the decision of tooling should be up to the stakeholders — particularly those using them the most. Who would know better than the teachers themselves

Are you a teacher or an administrator who would like to learn more about Academy? Book a consultation at the link below. 

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.

You might also be interested in these articles:

4 Myths about Digital Curriculum, Busted

In a summer webinar, we discussed the merits of a truly digital curriculum. Below, we unpack some misconceptions about going digital in preparation for the webinar, which occurred on July 28, 2020. View the highlights of our discussion here.    In the world of...

Principal Shameka Gerald: The Inspirational Leader

Principal Shameka Gerald: The Inspirational Leader

Principal Shameka Gerald

Principal Shameka Gerald

The Inspirational Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Principal Shameka Gerald shares her tips on how to drum up excitement about learning and create close-knit community. This is the second spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter, or check out our School Leadership page, which we will update with each new spotlight.

 

The Makings of a Star School Leader

Principal Gerald, a former math teacher, wasn’t always a star at school. Believe it or not, she says, her younger self was “not the best student. I started out not loving math at all — actually, hating it.” After failing math in nearly every year of high school, her early math experience nearly threatened her ability to graduate. It wasn’t until she got to college that she found a professor who helped her turn it all around.  

Professor Kirby taught me the steps in the process that I was missing. Once I got the process, I was like, “Oh, I can do this… this is easy.” After that, I did really well in math. I was in school to be a computer engineer until one of my math professors was like, “You know, you should consider teaching math, because you’re really good at explaining the process to folks.” And I think that came from me not understanding before. So I went and got my degree in applied mathematics, with a minor in education. I decided that I was willing to do for other kids what hadn’t been done for me.

— Principal Shameka Gerald, Heritage High School

Having a teacher who took the time to break the processes down so that Mrs. Gerald actually understood the logic behind the math helped her apply math in her everyday life. And so Principal Gerald made it a point to bring that understanding to her students. As she shares her story with the Kiddom team, we can feel the excitement and authenticity her school community likely feels on a daily basis.

What inspired Principal Gerald to take the leap from teacher to administrator?

At first, Mrs. Gerald had no interest in being a school leader — or so she thought.

As a ninth grade teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, she was asked by her principal to be the freshman team lead. She kindly declined the offer.

So it must have come as a surprise when about two weeks later Mrs. Gerald’s then-principal introduced her to their executive director as the freshman team lead. In that sink-or-swim moment, Mrs. Gerald decided she didn’t have much of a choice! And so the journey began.

It didn’t take long before Principal Gerald realized how much she enjoyed having an impact, not just on her classroom, but on the whole grade level. At that point, she says, she stepped back and thought, “Okay, this is pretty cool. If I can take this, what next?”

She knew she wanted to continue building relationships with the kids and teachers. At one point she thought she was going to be a curriculum supervisor, but that drive to build relationships took her on the path towards becoming a building-level administrator instead.

I’m trying to figure out how to have more of an impact on kids’ lives every single day. Having been the principal for five years, I’ve probably had somewhere around ten thousand kids come through this school, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing teachers who’ve made some big differences in kids’ lives.

— Principal Shameka Gerald

Impacting the lives of children is no easy task, but it continues to be the driving force behind Principal Gerald’s career. Her long-range goal is to be the US Secretary of Education, she shares. “You impact every kid in the United States of America’s education. That’s our job, too.”

What does Mrs. Gerald enjoy the most about being Principal?

“The best part about being principal is that I get to play with kids every day,” Mrs. Gerald shares. “I was just in the cafeteria with them today singing Lauryn Hill, ‘Killing Me Softly’ as loudly as I could, with them as my backup singers.”

Being able to see kids grow every single day, in a different capacity than she ever could before — and being able to inspire teachers to inspire those students to grow — is what Mrs. Gerald likes the best about being a principal.

But she does miss being in the classroom. “A lot of people miss it when they leave,” she says. But she believes it helps her be better at her job to have that exposure.

I make it every part of my job every day to be around the kids, because that reminds me why I’m back in the office, doing the things I’m doing. It reminds me why I’m going in and doing the observations with teachers, and helping teachers help their students’ needs. I think the best part is watching kids grow and getting to learn from them every single day.

— Principal Shameka Gerald

 

All About Heritage High School

“We’re a school of twelve hundred forty-eight. I try to keep my finger on that number every day,” says Principal Gerald.

The educators at Heritage High School serve what they consider an underserved community in the southeast end of Newport News. As the first in their school district to become a 1:1 Chromebook school, one of their greatest initiatives is to create a learning environment in which kids and teachers can thrive. “Because Heritage High is a school where everyone excels, and that means not just the kids but the teachers have to grow too — as well as myself and the administrative team,” she adds.

In an effort to build that community of learning, Principal Gerald makes sure her school stays very active on social media. This sends a message of inclusion that extends beyond the walls of the school to the parents and families of students, and all stakeholders in her community.

We’re making sure we tell our story and that it’s our own narrative about that story, because we have an excellent community built around us who want to hear it. We’ve had some negative press prior to my arrival, and even when I got here, but we choose to use social media as an outlet for sharing all of the positive things that are happening. If you follow us, you’ll see we have our own hashtag #5800family — because we really do operate as a family.

— Principal Shameka Gerald

One look at the school’s socials and we find just that — an overwhelming sense of family and community. It’s almost like a living year book of photos from school meetings, encouraging messages from various sporting events (Go Canes!), and even images of Principal Gerald running in a race with students. “I go running with my students every Tuesday!” she shares excitedly.

Mrs. Gerald is an amazing leader that inspires both students and staff. She is very caring and seeks to meet the needs of everyone. Mrs. Gerald’s leadership has allowed faculty and staff to go above and beyond in many areas. This includes teachers being leaders in and out of the classroom. Over the past five years as our leader, she has instilled many leadership qualities in teachers to be an effective teacher leader. This has allowed many to step out of the normal box and try new things in the classroom. Her leadership is very unique in that a few teachers have moved on to higher positions.

— Tiffanie Smith, Teacher at Heritage High School

“Blatant Transparency:” How to Create the School Environment That Thrives?

“The first thing I had to do is get the kids’ buy in,” says Principal Gerald, matter-of-factly. “If you can get the kids to buy in and change their mindset, that’s where it all starts.” Mrs. Gerald also recalls the first faculty meeting where a discussion was started around shared goals and initiatives. She believes that blatant transparency was a driving force behind the change — “Like, we don’t hide anything.”

Our data is our data. Our numbers are our numbers. If we don’t put it out there, we can’t fix it. So one of the first things I did is put the numbers in front of the kids and said, “People are judging our school based on these numbers.” I did the same thing with the staff. “Here are our numbers. — this is what people buy.”

Principal Gerald made it clear to her staff and students that if what the state report card says is not reflective of who you are as a school, you have the power to change that. One initiative that supported this line of thinking was the Youth Development Team, which put a lot of trust in students to lead. “We have so many student leadership initiatives, and we have used them to model for the division what student leadership looks like,” says Mrs. Gerald.

By giving students the responsibility, as well as laying out the steps on what was needed to do, Heritage has achieved new levels of transparency and growth — they are now a fully accredited school, and have been for two years.

Teachers are now holding students accountable and students are holding teachers accountable, as well as each other, for the work they do every day. And it all began with changing the culture and mindset of the students — letting them know they can do absolutely anything. “You know, us grown folks, we’re tough to crack. Sometimes it’s harder to change the adults than the kids,” she shares with a grin. 

But when you start with changing the mindset of the child, and the teachers can see the child’s mindset is changing, it’s easier for them to take calculated risks. Because they see that the kids are buying into what we’re telling them; they’re giving their support. So then the teachers know they can move forward and take this risk and feel less afraid that they might fail.

What does Principal Gerald believe technology’s role should be in the classroom?

Principal Gerald has many opinions on this topic — and well-studied opinions, at that. In fact, she’s currently writing a doctorate dissertation on the impact of school leaders on 1:1 implementation and initiatives. “This is where I’m going to get real nerdy on you,” she tells us. (Of course, we’re all for it!)

Principal Gerald shares that we’re all moving from where we used to be agrarian or industrial — in terms of design, we’re now global. She believes that having technology like 1:1 Chromebooks in class helps to build global, real-world skills like how to be a good digital citizen, and how to conduct yourself in a digital meeting.

“Like, you can’t just show up in your jammies and have music playing in the background,” she jokes. “But also how do you collaborate with people who might not be from the same areas as you, and How do you use technology for research? Because a lot of our kids — the jobs they’re going to have don’t exist right now.”

 

Our kids are going to create their own space, and the way that they’re going to do that is through technology. Technology skills are just as important, if not more important, as the research shows, to those kids who don’t have parents in the home who are familiar with technology. If you don’t know how to use technology when you go into a job interview you might not have the skill set to thrive. You can’t not know how to send an email and use appropriate email editing. You can’t not know how to access the resources to teach yourself when you don’t know how to do something.

Principal Gerald’s perception of technology’s role in education shines a positive light, in that technology will likely be used as an enabler and not a replacement for students who grow on to join the work force. From her view, technology can help educators create an environment that fosters learning, not just for today, but life-long learning. On that note, we had to ask:

 

How does a principal writing her dissertation find time to sleep?

“Oh, I do get sleep. I go to bed around 9:00 every night or else I just get tired — I have a five year old, I’m married, it’s a lot!” she says, with a laugh. But Principal Gerald believes that doing the research helps her become a better school leader.

One thing she’s finding particularly helpful in her research is the topic of leadership styles. She’s very interested in how a school leader’s comfort level with technology can play out in school-wide implementation. And she’s certainly in the right environment to see that first-hand, as she leads the effort in bringing technology to her own school.

I love technology. I will take any risk. I get up in the morning and I come to work and I go to class, and use my weekends to work on my dissertation. The dissertation is something I’m passionate about, and I think it’s valuable; It’s very applicable to my job.

— Principal Shameka Gerald, Heritage High School

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end. 
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development. 

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

 

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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