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We Asked 100 Admins: How Do You Stay Up-to-date on Educational Technology?

We Asked 100 Admins: How Do You Stay Up-to-date on Educational Technology?

A recent study about teacher confidence in educational technology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) found that 99% of all teachers and school leaders are using digital technology in their classrooms. It also found that nearly 96% have seen benefits from the technology they’re using, including improvement in student achievement, cited by 32% of all participants.

But seen is a key word here. How can we gain visibility on how digital technology is improving student achievement when so many factors go into a student’s education? Hopefully this is something we’re considering when choosing technology for our schools.

We recently conducted our own study to learn more about how and why administrators are deciding upon educational technology used in the classroom. What we hoped to gain from our study was some understanding of the most effective methods administrators use to conduct research for tools and solutions used in their school systems.

Let’s be clear — we know humans to be the real problem solvers in education, and that we can never rely too much on the method as a means to an end. But we were interested in learning more about the research behind the tools and systems that our greatest resource of all — educators — are using to solve those problems. We invite you to follow along in our findings here.

 

How do admins stay up-to-date on innovative instructional models in 2019?

Perhaps like us, it was no news to you that 74% of all participants cited “education conferences and meetups” as a source for staying up-to-date on innovative instructional models. We were a bit surprised at how unpopular “books and research papers” (1%) were, but not so much about the low score for “PD from the district” (1%).

 

 

Graph showing 74% Education Meetups 62% Education Websites and 56% Email/newsletter
A breakdown of where Administrators talk about new instructional model

Where do admins discuss new instructional models within their network?

Again, we found that meetups and conferences were very popular for discussion here. “A lot of administrators end up going to at least one educational conference/event every year. A lot of them walk away with great information, so this isn’t surprising to me,” says Amanda Glover, our partnerships lead at Kiddom.

While it’s no shock to discover educators love to share their knowledge with others, what was surprising to us were the chat groups (38%) and social communities (26%) built around such conversations.

 

 

 

Are admins satisfied with the effectiveness of those discussion mediums?

At 72%, the trend suggests a high satisfaction with the discussion mediums administrators are having around innovative instructional models.

Of the administrators who weren’t satisfied with said mediums, nearly half (44%) cited “lack of proactive systems were keeping them up at night” and “lack of timelines of academic performance reporting”.

 

Graphical representation of admins that are satisfied with the effectiveness of those discussion mediums
 

 

Graphical representation of what keeps school administrators up at night

What’s keeping admins up at night?

We all know working in education can keep you up at night with a million things running through your mind. But what are the top concerns?

When asked, administrators said the top three topics are “lack of human resources to improve student achievement” (56%), “lack of financial resources to meet district demand” (53%), and “lack of proactive systems to improve student outcomes” (34%).

 

 

 

How have admins tried to remedy the above concerns?

Our study found that nearly ⅓ of all participants are requesting more funding to address the problems keeping them up at night.

What is very telling about the current state of education is the use of creative staffing, intervention, and systems adjustment — these cost saving efforts are likely a direct result of increased budget cuts across the board.

We were surprised to see such a low effort to use tools and technology, considering the fact that technology can save schools so much time and money!  

 

Graphical representation of How have admins tried to remedy the above concerns
How school admin vet tech: 56% as fellow administrators, 41 Visit review sites, 42% Search Google or Bing

How do admins vet technology they purchase to support their remedies and address concerns?

While it is no surprise that word of mouth is still one of the most common ways administrators vet technology, one trend evident across the board is that administrators are rarely relying on just one place to make their decisions, and are often vetting across multiple sources.

 

 

 

And that concludes our study — we hope this gives you a fresh perspective of how educators are making decisions around the educational technology and systems applied in the classroom.

As educators make these decisions, we hope to see more steps towards measuring the success of the tools in place. So often this data is siloed — grading and mastery data sits in the LMS. Curriculum data sits in curriculum management systems, and even there it may be scattered across spreadsheets and hard drives. Cloud-based platforms have helped a lot here — but they’re not ultimately designed with educators in mind, with a way to calibrate and measure the success of curriculum across a school system.

We’ve designed Kiddom to do just that, because we believe that in today’s educational climate, many schools and districts don’t have the time or money to make decisions without data. To learn more about the Kiddom Education Platform, book a demo with us today.

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

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

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

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

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

What is the Star School Leader Award?

In lieu of National Principals Month, this award was created to honor principals who are the greatest school leaders — and who better to ask than those on the frontlines; teachers?

The nomination period lasted a little over two months, from Oct 14 until Dec 19. During this time, we received hundreds of stories from teachers across the country who were inspired by their principals.

To all those who submitted, we sincerely thank you for your contribution to this award. Your responses were a delight to read — you made us laugh, smile and even cry a bit, at times. But more importantly, your voices instilled in us a vast hope for the future of education, and a sense of how great leadership can pave the path to success for schools, teachers, and students.

You sent so many stories of exemplary school leadership that we were compelled to expand the contest to include multiple winners. In other words, we began with the goal to find a star, but we ended up with a constellation 😉 — of twelve recipients.

So, 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.

What do they win? Recipients will receive a physical Star School Leader award, an Amazon giftcard, free professional development guides, and an upcoming spotlight feature on the Teacher Voice blog — so be sure to check in to view the spotlights in the upcoming months!

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

 

The Star School Leaders

Shameka Gerald

The Inspirational Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Shameka Gerald is the principal at Heritage High School, Virginia. Nominated by Tiffanie Smith.

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 four 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.”

Read Principal Gerald’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Priscilla Salinas

The Life-Long Mentor, Star School Leader Recipient

Priscilla Salinas is the principal at Henry Ford Elementary, Texas. Nominated by Narda Lugo.

Mrs. Salinas inspired me to continue to move forward in my education by always encouraging me to attain my masters.  I worked with her for seven years as a teacher before entering back to school to attain my Masters in Library Science.  I will forever be grateful towards Mrs. Salinas for giving my first teaching position then for hiring me again as a librarian.  I love my job and I could not have done it if Mrs. Salinas had not encouraged me to continue my education. She is a role model to many and continues to encourage everyone to continue to educate ourselves in a daily basis, even if that means losing one of her educators.  She says, “She might lose a teacher, but gain a role model to others.” She is always looking for ways to encourage us to continue to grow which makes us continue to want to.”

Read Principal Salinas’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Keith Nemlich

The Thoughtful Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Keith Nemlich is the principal at Central Elementary School, Vermont. Nominated by Judy Verespy.

Mr. Keith Nemlich is a principal who truly prioritizes children’s needs. He is a caring, compassionate, thoughtful, inspiring leader who models patience, persistence and playfulness… He encourages mindfulness breaks in the classroom. He encourages teachers to share our expertise with one another at staff meetings, and to briefly observe colleagues at work when we can. Keith researches new, more effective ways to accomplish something he believes in, and patiently, persistently works to get administrative support from the district. I could go on and on about the joy of working for a principal who is intelligent, thoughtful, supportive and inspiring. With tighter school budgets, more stringent standards, plentiful new initiatives cutting into already rigorous school day schedules, teaching has become more stressful. Keith Nemlich makes the teachers, para professionals and students at our school want to go to work each day, and be the best we can!”

Read Principal Nemlich’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Carol Leveillee

The Culture Builder, Star School Leader Recipient

Carol Leveillee is the principal at Frederick Douglass Elementary, Delaware. Nominated by Jacqueline Allman.

In the four years that she has been our principal she has turned our failing title 1 school around and now we are thriving! She has brought so many ideas to our school through book studies and motivational speakers. Most recently she took a few staff members to a “Get Your Teach On” conference where staff brought back numbers ideas and now she is allowing us to share and implement new engagement strategies school wide. She also has inspired us to build those meaningful relationships with each other and our students and I believe that has helped us turn our school around.”

Read Principal Leveillee’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Corey Crochet

The Life-Long Learner, Star School Leader Recipient

Corey Crochet is the principal at Labadieville Middle School, Louisiana. Nominated by Cathy Martinez.

Mr. Crochet has a difficult job; how do you inspire students of poverty to value learning? The answer; go back to school to get your PHD in Education.  Mr. Crochet is constantly learning and because of this, he inspires his teachers to do the same. Teachers meet twice a week during the school day, and often meet after school on their own time to study and learn how to make LMS reflect the efforts of the students, teachers and administration. LMS can be a challenging place to work. However, Mr. Crochet’s attitude of removing all obstacles that get in the way of learning is evident  across the campus. He tackles problems and is not afraid to go back to the drawing board when something is not working. His motto is “”Every Student. Every Day, Whatever it takes””. AND he will do whatever it takes through the lens of education and learning.”

Read Principal Crochet’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Tammy Taylor

The Teacher's Advocate, Star School Leader Recipient

Tammy Taylor is the principal at Wellton Elementary School District, Arizona. Nominated by Lisa Jameson. 

“Before she became principal, Mrs. Taylor worked with Donors Choose to get sewing machines for our school. Now as our Principal, she helps teachers apply for donations through Donors Choose. This is just one of the ways that Mrs. Taylor has inspired teachers and staff members at Wellton Elementary. With her positive attitude and incredible energy, she has been an excellent role model for our teachers and staff.”

Read Principal Taylor’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Tamara Jones-Jackson

The Analytical Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Tamara Jones-Jackson is the principal at Ralph J. Bunche Academy in Ecorse, Michigan. Nominated by Sandra Fuoco.

In 3 short months, she has created a functioning PTO where we never had one before, allowed teachers to take leadership roles for the betterment of the school, changed policies and procedures so that every day processes run smoother, provided guidance and instruction on how to use our data more effectively so that we can better serve our students, and created positive relationships with students, staff and parents.  But what astonishes me the most is she somehow, someway gets things done! In a struggling district without extra income, we now have a communication system in the building, ceiling tiles and bleachers are fixed (which haven’t been in years), teachers are getting much needed resources, etc. AND she does this all with a smile and positive attitude. In my 2 decades of teaching, she is truly the most inspirational, motivational, and believable leader I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Read Principal Jones-Jackson’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Rodney Ivey

The Teacher Enabler, Star School Leader Recipient

Rodney Ivey is the principal at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary, Florida. Nominated by Janet Shaw.

Mr. Ivey’s positive leadership and vision for doing what is in the best interests of our children sets the tone for all of our faculty and staff to be positive, enthusiastic, and productive . He sees the best in people, therefore young and old rise to his expectations. Rather than micromanage, he works collaboratively with his staff to plan programs and events. He collects data for us, looking for trends and meeting with us on teams to focus on ways to help individual students. Mr. Ivey finds ways to boost students and staff, from a shout out bulletin board to eating lunch with children. He squeezes every penny out of a tight budget to gets his teachers what they need, even planning and manning fundraisers to accomplish his goals. While most of us stay late planning and preparing, many times, his car is the last in the parking lot. He does what needs to be done, even vacuuming my classroom when the custodians were busy on another project. His kind, accepting demeanor inspires students and teachers alike to be kind and considerate. His frequent walks through our classrooms are welcomed, as he joins in our lessons alongside students; we love it when he photographs engaging lessons and shares them out with the staff. Under his leadership, our campus is a very happy inclusive place, with a supportive family-like atmosphere that encompasses parents, kids, teachers, and staff.”

Read Principal Ivey’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Traci O. Filiss

The Technology Pioneer, Star School Leader Recipient

Traci Filiss is the principal at Taos Academy, New Mexico. Nominated by Elizabeth LeBlanc.

Ms. Filiss is an inspirational leader because she shares decision-making responsibilities with her staff. Her expectations and her trust in their expertise is tremendous. For example, Taos Academy’s Leadership Team is made up of teacher leaders, many of whom also take on administrative roles. She works hard to empower all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, and families) to be leaders in our school setting.”

Read Principal Filiss’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Faith Stroud

The Passionate Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Faith Shroud is the principal at Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy, Kentucky. Nominated by Sandra Stinson.

Mrs. Stroud is a very strong leader and true advocate for our scholars and our staff. She doesn’t ask anything of us that she is not willing to do herself. She goes into work on the weekends, yes that includes Sundays and works for the improvement of our school to benefit our scholars. She has worked to put a Chromebook in every scholar’s hands at our school. Which for our district is not the case every where else. She works and budgets to set up field trips for our scholars that have real world ties to their curriculum and provides them with experiences that they may not be able to have otherwise. She is a fully transparent leader. She does not hide things from the staff and expects the same from us. She works diligently to provide our scholars with the best educators in their field and strives to improve us as teachers with embedded PD and opportunities to attend seminars and workshops whenever possible. She is a true inspiration to me as a teacher and I think that our scholars feel the same way.”

Read Principal Stroud’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez

The Collaborative Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez is the Superintendent/Principal at San Antonio Union School District, California. Nominated by Diane Stensrud.

Mrs. Hernandez continually seeks to better herself by reading, participating in professional groups for book discussions, attending conferences, taking classes to remain current, and classes to push the boundaries of education. She focuses on 21 Century Future Ready Skills, and encourages the staff to do the same. I love it when she hears us talking about an opportunity for professional development, and says, “Go for it! Let’s make this happen!” She attends as many conferences as possible with us, and makes every effort to provide team-building opportunities. She also makes every effort to equip us to reach our professional goals. Despite the challenges of working in a small district, and wearing many hats, Mrs. Hernandez continues to grow as a learner, as well as a leader. She is an inspiration to me!”

Read Principal Gildersleeve-Hernandez’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

Sarah Hays

The Motivational Coach, Star School Leader Recipient

Sarah Hays is the principal at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, Montana. Nominated by Tina Martin.

“Each school year Sarah finds a way to motivate us as a staff. This year with the start of a new year with a lot of new staff members and an extra 75 students, we had a lot of movement (rooms, and locations of support staff). This did not stop Sarah from being positive and sharing her passion and goals for us as a staff. At the kick off meeting, Sarah talked about how we all came together and continue to do what is best for the children. She encouraged us and looked at the positives that are happening and not that we are a school bursting at the seams and there is no extra spaces. She shared copies of “The Energy Bus” and had us work break into groups to read each section of the book and come back to summarize what we read to the rest of the staff. Sarah modeled how we too as classroom teachers can share this strategy with our own students.”

Read Principal Hays’s Star School Leader Spotlight here.

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

Hear how various educators are using Kiddom to prepare for distance learning, hybrid, or in-person blended learning. Get your copy of the guide below.

Building Authentic Connections with Students in Kiddom (Webinar Recap)

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has upended routines in almost every industry, not least of which is K-12 education. This year's back-to-school season may look and feel...

Engage Online Students With Kiddom’s New Distance Learning Tools

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

Free Accessories to Decorate Your Virtual Classroom — Kiddom Style!

Over the past few weeks, on social media, there has been a deluge of teachers sharing their Bitmoji classrooms for the world to see. Many intend to use them as virtual...

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

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

Kiddom Reports + Microsoft O365: Better Together, Pt 2

Kiddom Reports + Microsoft O365: Better Together, Pt 2

Sarah Gantert

Sarah Gantert

Success Specialist, Kiddom

Sarah has 10 years of public education experience, including being a founding staff member of a STEM high school in Pennsylvania.

This is part two of a two-part series. Did you miss last week’s Microsoft and Kiddom: Better Together article? Check it out here.

Using O365 to track student progress on group assignments is a great way to help keep your classroom organized and efficient so you can focus on working one-on-one with your students.

But the inevitable reality of teaching still exists: What about their grades? How can we show our students, their parents, and our administrators the data that indicates the progress we are seeing every day in our classrooms? What about standards alignment?

That’s where Kiddom comes in!

Our grade-book and reports help to create a holistic view of how your students are doing. Kiddom also allows you to customize your reports based on how your school’s grading system works (Are you a mastery-based school and not a percentage-based school? We have you covered!) .

 

Kiddom reports provide an added level of analysis to student progress: they don’t just give you a number–they provide you with a holistic picture of how students are doing. Even if you choose to view your students’ scores traditionally (as percentages), reports in Kiddom will still provide you with an overall skills (standards) assessment for each subject area. This provides parents with a more comprehensive view of their student’s progress beyond the numbers we typically see on grade reports.

 

Not only can you grade all the MS O365 assignments that your students have been completing, but you can also grade and report on the assignments that live outside of O365, as well.

Teachers can add an infinite number of assignment types: PDFs, pictures, paper documents you can scan and add to an assignment, articles from other resources… the list goes on!

Kiddom and Microsoft truly are, better together.

This article is part of our Better Together Series, which investigates all the ways the Kiddom operating system helps to enhance the tech you are already using in your classroom.

More From the Better Together Series…

Kiddom and Microsoft Office 365: Better Together

Kiddom and Microsoft Office 365: Better Together

Microsoft Office 365 and Kiddom: A Perfect Combination for Collaboration.

Kiddom and Microsoft Office 365 are a powerful combination for teachers looking to enhance collaboration in their classrooms. With MS O365’s collaborative editing features and Kiddom’s ability to assign groups of students assignments independently from the rest of the class, you have a project-based learning match made in heaven.

 

Check out the step-by-step process below to get started.

Step One: Use Office 365 to create an assignment

1. Teachers will have to make an assignment for each grouping of students and a document for each of those groupings.

2. Make sure sharing permissions (able to edit) are set appropriately in each Office Doc/Sway/Etc.

 

Step Two: Create a Playlist With Kiddom

1. Create a Playlist in your Kiddom Planner for the activity you want students to collaborate on, add all the necessary documents from O365 to each assignment (Pro-Tip: Less is more! Add multiple O365 documents to each assignment so you can reduce the amount of assignments on the screen.)

2. After creating your project playlist and adding all the necessary files, you can drag and drop the assignments to Timeline from Planner and assign them to each student group.

Now your students can collaborate in O365 and keep all of their documents in one location for you to monitor and provide feedback.  The coolest part is that you can provide private, individual feedback to each student in the group using Kiddom’s commenting feature. So your students can collaborate away in their Word Doc, but you can use Kiddom to discuss individual student work privately with each student in the group. Pretty awesome right?

Be sure to check out part 2 of Kiddom and Microsoft: Better Together — in which we investigate how to add the power of Kiddom Reports to your Office 365 assignments (and beyond!).

Are you ready to get started with Kiddom? Check out our free video demo and to see more of the great things Kiddom can do for you and your students!

Introducing Guardian Access—Bringing Families Closer to Their Child’s Education

Introducing Guardian Access—Bringing Families Closer to Their Child’s Education

A new Kiddom Academy feature helps parents and guardians better understand what their children are learning at school.

 

What Can Technology Offer Students and Families?

Many parents believe technology in the classroom will be helpful for their children’s education — in fact, 86% do, according to a recent study by Microsoft and YouGov.

The truth is, there’s a lot of debate around the subject. One study has seen very different results for technology-enabled personalized learning (Rand), with vast gains in an earlier report (2015) but only slight gains of late (2017). In “Technology Doesn’t Drive Blended Learning … or Does It?” author Thomas Arnett visits five blended-learning schools and concludes, among other perks, that “although technology is not the driving force behind student learning at these schools, it amplifies the real driving force: high-quality teaching.”

In a study by the Christensen Institute, authors Michael B. Horn and Julia Freeland Fisher acknowledge that the current research cycle is incomplete. Their analysis is an insightful attempt to move past the what to the why. At best, they argue, integrating tech into our schools means that schools can begin to “move from a one-size-fits-all approach to a student-centered one. Teachers can gain a far more precise understanding of how individual students are progressing and provide them with just-in-time materials and supports suited to their needs and strengths.”

At Kiddom, we believe this understanding should extend to parents and guardians, which is why we are proud to announce a new feature to do just that. With Guardian Access, available exclusively to schools and districts using Kiddom Academy, parents and guardians will automatically receive a weekly update to shed light on how their child is performing in school, the skills they’re learning, and where their child needs support.

Each weekly update includes two reports: an Assignments report and a Standards report, as well as the overall achievement level in a class.

We’ll cover each report in more length below, but before we do, let’s briefly revisit the practice standards-based grading, since many parents and guardians might have children that are in schools that are new or transitioning to this instructional practice (feel free to skip the next section if you’re already familiar with standards-based grading).

What is standards-based grading and how does it impact my child?

Having technology in the classroom isn’t the end-all, be-all — you can’t expect a hammer to build a roof. However, useful technology can give parents, teachers, and students the right tools to measure a student’s progress accurately. It enables all parties involved to participate in an ongoing, active quality check of their student’s education, with the power to quickly identify a trend change in real time — and to react quickly with intervention or encouragement.

To add to this change in the way we measure, an important shift is forming in what we measure. Many modern classrooms are adopting a system called standards-based grading, or mastery-based learning. This approach is a creature of many names: you’ll hear the words skillsstandardsproficiency or competency-based learning — all of these terms represent the shift towards measuring student progress according to specific, measurable skills. Students are encouraged to focus on that skill or standard until they have shown that they’ve mastered it, often with several attempts, before moving on.

Mastery-based reporting requires a different mindset (and practice) than that used with traditional grades. The goal is not to be an A-student, but to demonstrate mastery of skills, and move on when you’re ready. Most students will not reach the level called “exceeding”; if they do, this might mean that they’re not being challenged enough, and may need to move on to the next grade-level competencies. For more on this, check out this Guardian Access support article.

What this means for you and your child, and why Kiddom is useful

What this means is that the student is able to understand their own achievement in terms of what they are progressing in. As you can imagine, this new approach carries the discussion a lot further than the traditional report card, where a child and parent are offered some grade letter or percentage that doesn’t mean much more than “pass” or “fail,” and certainly doesn’t provide much in terms of actionable insight.

With Kiddom, students are always on top of, not just how they’re progressing, but which specific standards or skills they are excelling in, and which they need to improve. In short, they’re able to articulate and take ownership of their own learning, and pull their parents into the details with confidence.

As mentioned, another way technology is shaping modern parenting is the ability to access progress in real-time — you don’t need to wait around for six weeks to see a report card of grades too late to fix. Now, parents are able to stay in the know and help their children work on the areas where they need improvement, from the onset of when a student starts slipping.

At the top of both reports, you’ll get a general assessment of your students’ achievement for a given class. If your teacher uses standards based grading, you will see one of the four terms: Developing, Approaching, Mastery, or Exceeds. For more information on the breakdown of those terms, see this page. You can use this to understand you child’s development aligned to a skill.

Let’s take a look at the two types of reports available via Guardian Access:

Assignment Reports. The assignment report was designed to help parents and students with accountability. This report helps answer: What does my student need to complete? How is my child doing for their assignments? How are they doing for a particular assignment type? The focus is on how they performed for that piece of work, rather than the standard. This particular report gives you more details for the actual assignment, rather than the standards the assignment aligns to. This allows you to track what your student is doing in class, see the attached standard labels to each assignment, and note the student’s mastery level according to that particular assessment.

Standards Reports. The standard report helps answer: What is my child learning? What is their progress? You will notice that you will still see an average performance for all of the standards assessed. This is a snapshot of how your student is doing overall. Additionally, you will find details on the specific standards that your student is working on: it will show the standard label, description, and their mastery level for that particular standard.

We believe this alignment can make parent-teacher conferences much more effective, especially if students are able to drive the conversation about what they’re learning.

Key takeaways

1. The field of education is still in discovery mode to determine the best ways to use technology appropriately in the classroom, but a few proven uses are the abilities to measure progress in real-time, and to enhance the power of teachers.

2. As teachers and learners ease into more individualized, student-centric learning approaches, the role of parents and guardians is also evolving.

3. Kiddom’s new feature Guardian Access enables parents with greater access to their children’s progress, allowing them to:

A. Give students individualized feedback; congratulating them on the exact skills they’ve learned or providing support as they approach understanding of a standard.

B. Monitor student achievement in real-time, and help students take action before grades are “finalized.”

C. Allow students to take more ownership of their grades, developing self-management skills.

At Kiddom, we’re focused on delivering value to every stakeholder involved in a child’s education. As we work toward our mission, we’re excited to help even more teachers, students, parents and guardians, and schools achieve the wonderful things that were previously thought impossible.

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.

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.

Kiddom and Google: Better Together, Pt. II

Kiddom and Google: Better Together, Pt. II

Note: This is Pt. 2 of our 3-part Kiddom and Google: Better Together series. To catch up on Pt. 1, click here: Helping Students Track and Act on Progress.

Google Drive provides you with an easy way to share content and assignments with students, but what both Drive and Classroom are missing is the ability to craft and share reusable curriculum with your colleagues. Adding Kiddom to your Google Drive tool belt does just that. Read on to find out how!

Power Tip #2: Transforming Drive Folders Into Organized Curriculum

While Classroom is a great way to push assignments and materials out to your students, you’ve probably noticed that you can’t build truly cohesive curriculum there. At the very most, Classroom provides you with an elaborate system of folder organization in your Drive, but that hardly passes as a usable, scalable, curriculum.

This is where Kiddom comes to the rescue: You can not only build a curriculum with your Drive assignments using our built-in Planner, but you can also add content from other content providers as well. The best part? It’s not just a random collection of assignments in folders. You can create units, attach standards, and drag and drop assignments to different classes when necessary.

 

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Do you have a Drive file you want to use along with a online content? Go ahead and attach the Drive material to your assignment and add the link to the website. Now you’re actually creating a curriculum you can use, tweak, and share, year after year. That’s not something that Classroom can do on its own.

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Sharing your Curriculum

Classroom and Kiddom both allow you to add collaborators to your classes, but the real super-charge to your teaching will come from using Kiddom in combination with Classroom. Reason? When you share a class with a colleague, you’re also sharing the curriculum you built in Planner as well.

With Kiddom’s Planner, it’s a lot easier to share and use each other’s assignments. When you share a class with another teacher, teaching assistant, or classroom aid, you give them access to all the Planner materials you’ve created. This goes far beyond the ability to simply share folders in Drive (what Classroom does).

 

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The biggest perk of coupling Kiddom’s Planner with Drive? The colleagues you share your curriculum with can use the assignments whenever they want, at any time of the year (or next year). They can also modify and adapt those assignments without it impacting your own classes. Pretty amazing, right?

Once you’ve shared your curriculum, your colleagues can easily drag and drop content from your curriculum into their own courses. This makes co-planning with your team more flexible and streamlined; you don’t even have to be in the same room (or the same school!) to do it.

 

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Planning Across Grade Levels for Student Success

One of the perks of using Kiddom with Drive is Kiddom allows you to see your curriculum in a succinct and user-friendly format. One of the biggest challenges of using Classroom on its own is the fact that you can only see groupings of assignments listed by topic, but it doesn’t provide you with the standards and competencies that your students are working on throughout any given school year. The other problem? It doesn’t allow colleagues teaching other grade levels to understand what the students in your class are doing.

With Kiddom, you’ll be sharing not only the assignments and assessments you’ve created but also the standards that you’ve aligned to them. Colleagues in your department or school can see what’s happening in your class and you can all work together to create a more consistent, rigorous curriculum.

At one of our pilot schools in Marshall County, Kentucky, teachers have shifted their planning from one-size-fits-all instruction to a competency-based framework that allows for student choice in demonstrating mastery through authentic projects. They create basic templates for projects, like journal prompts for observing new cultures on a family vacations, or lab analysis questions for chemistry experiments in Google Drive, and attach them to assignments in Kiddom’s Planner. When they’re ready for students to work on a particular project, any of the teacher facilitators in this flexible learning environment can drag and drop the appropriate assignments to students’ timelines, and then add the unique details for each student in the automatically created copies in Drive.

Marshall County really helps to illustrate that Kiddom and Google are better together! Kiddom’s curriculum planning and sharing takes what you are doing in Google Apps and makes your curriculum accessible, shareable, and scalable. How’s that for a “power couple”?

Note: This is Pt. 2 of our 3-part series on how Kiddom and Google work better together. Be sure to also check out Pt. 1 on Helping Students Track and Act on Progress and Pt. 3 for a list of 3 More Ways Google and Kiddom are Better Together.

 


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Written by: Sarah Gantert, Success Specialist

 

Starting to feel like Kiddom and Drive are a winning combination but want to learn more? If you missed it, check out last week’s tip or ask us a question on our help desk! We’re always standing by to help.

Do Now: Get Some Rest

Do Now: Get Some Rest

Dear Teachers,

Thank for your passion, commitment, and service to students in 2015.

Once you’re officially on winter break, I encourage you to disable your e-mail, file away student work, and push lesson planning off until the New Year. You’ve earned the right to procrastinate.

As a former high school teacher, I often caught myself grading exit tickets and rewriting curricula during the holidays. When the holidays were over, I already felt exhausted. This limited my ability to reflect and recharge.

Don’t let this happen to you. You’ve earned the right to pause, enjoy life, and rest. Celebrate this holiday season fully engaged with your friends and family.

Be well.

Regards,
— Abbas


By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer
Adjusting for Poverty

Adjusting for Poverty

In a recent NYT article, Eduardo Porter outlines the Economic Policy Institute’s report whose findings conclude that once U.S. students’ PISA scores are adjusted for social status, we’re actually doing significantly better than we thought we were.

“Then the researchers divided students into groups depending on the number of books in their homes, a measure of the academic resources at families’ disposal. This adjustment significantly reduced the American deficit, especially among students on the bottom rungs of the resource ladder.

American students from families with the least educational resources, as it turned out, scored better on the PISA math test than similar children in France and about the same as Britons, Germans and Irish.”

Credit: PhotoPin, licensed under CC by 2.0

These “adjusted” results shouldn’t be too surprising for educators entrenched in these realities. We know if we adjust anything for socioeconomic status, we see gains. The issue isn’t, “we’re doing better once we adjust for poverty.” The real issue to me is: we have a lot of poverty for a developed country, and we continue to unfairly burden schools with the responsibility of eradicating it. As if poverty starts and ends with schools.

My experience in education has been grounded in teaching over-age, under-credited youth in alternative high schools in NYC. Translation: I’ve only taught adolescents coming from the “the bottom rung of society,” as Mr. Porter puts it. Sure, I believe many of my former students are in a better place compared to their peers in similar situations globally (in developed nations, of course). My former students have access to certain privileges, rights, and safety nets. Yet beyond simply “showing up” to school, there aren’t any supports available to “propel” students out of poverty, as is assumed what school is “supposed” to do. We often fail to acknowledge an underlying assumption in this dialogue: if students come to school, they will succeed.

There are certain character traits that need to be developed in children in order for them to succeed in school. Resilience, grit, optimism, learning for pleasure, among others. These may seem obvious, but my teaching experience proved it’s these very skills my students lacked, and their absence ultimately led to them dropping out, getting arrested, or worse, getting killed. For some reason, there’s a narrative out there that claims students who live in poverty will automatically seek to excel in school once they’re given the opportunity to learn. Anybody who has ever taught in an underprivileged school for more than two years (that’s important) will tell you otherwise.

Credit: FindMemes

Unfortunately, when we talk about schools “equalizing opportunity,” we ignore the bigger issues, starting from the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Most of my at-risk students never quite made it past the second level. And let me tell you bloggers, economists, ed-pundits, and pontificators something: it’s really difficult teaching a child anything when s/he doesn’t know (a) where they’re spending the night (b) who (if anyone) will be home for them and/or (c) if they’ll be any food on the table once they get there. I don’t care how “inclusive” your school setting is, or how great your classroom culture is, if a kid is hungry, tired, sleep deprived, and/or abused, it’s going to be a very complicated situation.

This elephant in the room creates an uncomfortable divide. To the credit of teachers, I bet most of them are likely able to empathize with these students. However, they’re experiencing a professional conflict. Do they hold this child accountable to “high expectations” or do they let the kid slide due to the extenuating circumstances?

“Hey Stephanie, I can see you falling asleep at your desk. I know you have a housing situation going on (*whispered*)… but I need you to focus okay? Graphing quadratic functions is going to be on this week’s assessment and the state exam.” Awful.

In my last three years as an educator, I taught at a charter school for at-risk students in the South Bronx. Sexual education was never offered at this school, which is shocking because these are the students who should be engaged in these conversations. To clarify, “health” class was offered and is mandated for all students in NYC, but alternative schools (where resources are often prioritized to core content areas) rarely ever invest in these courses, nor are educators encouraged to engage in the “real” dialogues so necessary for this student population.

Here are three essential questions I have heard former students ask each other, but have never heard them discussed in class:

  • “Is it right to have a child this young if I can’t even take care of myself?”
  • “My friend has two kids, and she loves taking care of them, is it that easy?”
  • “My dad never stuck around, do you think I could do better?”

It’s no surprise I have so many former students with children, and it’s also no surprise they themselves were born to parents who were also in their teens. Why are our most neediest students not receiving real sexual education? Or, why are they able to take sex-ed online where they can simply click through lessons and worksheets and achieve a passing score after only a few hours on a computer? I can’t imagine a school that lets kids take Common Core Algebra 1 online, but mandates sex-ed in-person. Sure, it’s not in our place to tell people what to do, but we can at least educate them with facts and hope they make the right decision (which is obviously: you shouldn’t have a kid at fifteen: your family is on food stamps, you have two younger siblings, and the zip code you were raised indicates you’re going to struggle as is).

Schools that cater to at-risk, poverty-stricken kids don’t have time to teach the stuff that’s high impact and hits close-to-home. Topics such as sexual education, black disenfranchisement, gang involvement, and personal wealth management are often left out of the curriculum at schools with a low socioeconomic target population because they have to double-down on increasing their student achievement data (i.e. test scores). In NYC, if your school population is on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, you are still assessed in the same way other schools are, which creates conflict and incentives to cheat by administrators, teachers, and students. If you don’t think any of this is true, schedule a visit to any of these transfer schools. Then, talk to those teachers off school grounds after dismissal and prepare yourself for brutal honesty.

My conclusion is not that test scores would go up and poverty would be eradicated if schools taught poor children sex-ed and wealth management. Rather, essential skills, knowledge, and personal growth are being sacrificed because schools are being asked to simultaneously boost test scores and eradicate poverty. And because of that, poverty-stricken children all over this country are growing up to hate learning.

In the NYT, Mr. Porter asks, “Is it reasonable to ask public schools to fix societal problems that start holding disadvantaged children back before they are conceived?” Sir, our country started asking public schools to fix these problems a long time ago via “no-excuses” charter schools. In NYC, these charter schools are often too short-staffed to offer electives beyond the core curriculum, stifling students’ creativity. Teacher retention rates in these settings are ridiculously low, and their school disciplinary policies are far too rigid. Finally, if at the end of the day your child poses too much of a “problem” at these no-excuses institutions, he/she is likely already on a list and will soon be booted off to a regular public school (perpetuating the problem). Overall test scores up, resource-sucking problem kids down.

It doesn’t look like our country is ready to ease this pressure off schools, so if we’re going to task schools with building social welfare, we should focus on holistic strategies that bring back schools as our “local, community democratic centers.” We should consider investing in ways to incentivize parents and guardians into the school building, not just to come for parent-teacher conferences. Parents should see their child’s school building as their place of learning too, where they can enroll in skills-based training programs, volunteering programs, mentorship programs, etc. We shouldn’t just extend the school day for kids who need remediation, parents should be incentivized to come and learn too (keyword: incentivize, not mandate). Twenty years ago, it was cheaper to buy produce from places we’d never heard of. Today it’s still cheaper, yet more and more of us are opting to pay more to purchase local. Investing in the fortification and expansion of our local public schools as democratic, community centers of learning might be expensive, but could be healthier for us in the long-run.


By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer
High Teacher Turnover Hurts Students

High Teacher Turnover Hurts Students

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
– Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1907

As told by the late historian Henry Adams, educators impact the lives of their pupils in a profound way. Many students go on to pursue careers relating to exciting course material brought to life by a gifted professor during their academic journeys. Others are so moved by their teachers’ demonstrations of knowledge, care, and ability to inspire young minds that they become educators themselves.

As the millennial generation enters the workforce, its members increasingly seek vocational paths like teaching that allow them to take an active role in the development of their communities. Many of these post-grads fresh to the profession are doubling-down on giving back. They are taking on some of the most challenging jobs available at charters, turnarounds and otherwise-struggling public institutions in underfunded districts.

Often, new teachers land these positions through programs like Teach For America (TFA), Teaching Fellows (TF), Americorps, and other education oriented non-profits. To reach this enthusiastic crowd, Teach For America has marketed its program to prospective members as an “illustrious two-year postgraduate service mission rather than a safe middle-class career choice.” Similarly, Teaching Fellows promotes the service aspect of their offerings, summarizing their practice as “training a generation of great teachers… for the students who need them most.”

Both have enjoyed success pitching this message: Teach For America and Teaching Fellows claim 37,000 and 33,000 alumni, respectively. Americorps has used similar themes to attract over 900,000 participants since 1994; however, Americorps’ service opportunities are broad in scope, and only an (undisclosed) portion of their members enter into education.

It is commendable that these groups match eager-to-help graduates with the schools and students who need the most aid. That said, matching is but the beginning, and the programs do possess flaws. All too often, conditions are so bad that teachers don’t last. Despite their passion for the practice and appreciation of the students, they quit. Some abandon their posts mid-semester, while others depart once their program commitments expire.

After four years at a charter school, Sarah Fine quit too. In her essay Schools Need Teachers Like Me, I Just Can’t Stay for The Washington Post, Fine notes, “Nationally, half of all new teachers leave the profession within five years, and in urban schools, especially the much-lauded ‘no-excuses’ charter schools, turnover is often much higher.”

Credit: PhotoPin, licensed under CC BY 2.0

That is not to say that Teach For America, Teaching Fellows and Americorps are wholly responsible for our lamentably high teacher-turnover rates. Undoubtedly, these programs wield significant power; they are responsible for the placement of tens of thousands of teachers in jobs. That granted, there are millions of teachers across the nation, and TFA, TF and Americorps staff only a small percentage of them. Moreover, structural problems concerning resource allocation in our education system gave rise to the problems these not-for-profits seek to mitigate. Regardless, TFA and TF are useful to us in that they have clearly stated agendas, defined training protocol, and vocal alumni; the wealth of information provided by these sources lends well to discourse.

Thanks to the proliferation of blogging platforms, we need not imagine the day-to-day realities of a teacher at one of these high-turnover schools. A quick search-engine query for “why I quit teaching at a charter school” yields hundreds of anecdotes, op-eds, and testimonials. Many former educators describe exactly what circumstances led them to walk away from a profession they loved. We took the time to read these teachers’ thoughts, and identified some recurring themes.

The most common problems cited by departed teachers were insufficient training, micromanagement in the classroom, burdensome workloads, inadequate compensation, a lack of recognition for their efforts, and the promotion of a “hero culture” by principals and training programs that says more, harder work can overcome structural incongruencies.

Regarding the former-most complaint — insufficient training for new teachers — consider that Teach For America participants engage in training that goes on no longer than five weeks. Further, NPR writes that TFA has “helped open the doors to alternative-certification programs for teachers…[so that] today 1 in 5 new teachers is certified by a path other than a bachelor’s degree or master’s in education.” After their abbreviated training sessions, new hires are barraged with evaluation methodologies they must integrate into curriculum while actually teaching students and developing lesson plans.

One former teacher offers that there seemed no end to the influx, stating, “I had to read a book on how to properly teach. I had to collaborate with coworkers on how to properly implement one educational theory after another. I watched videos and read articles about effective teachers… I was told to give more exams, score more exit tickets, give more assessments… They encouraged me a lot, saying… that I would be much better next year… but I felt like I wasn’t a teacher anymore.”

Sarah Fine further details what micromanagement in charter schools looks like, writing, “One afternoon [in the Spring of 2010], when my often-apathetic 10th graders were walking eagerly around the room as part of a writing assignment, an administrator came in and ordered me to get the class ‘seated and silent.’” She continues, decrying that she and her colleagues would spend “weeks revising a curriculum proposal… only to find out that the administration had made a unilateral decision without looking at it.”

Abbas Manjee, former high school teacher and current Kiddom employee, illustrates the disconnect between teachers and administration, writing, “Often, district and school-wide administrators sign us up for software, technology, and classroom management systems that we never asked for or needed.” Yet another anonymous teacher shares in the Citizens Times that they quit because “professional judgment was essentially a thing of the past.”

Credit: PhotoPin, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The same out-of-practice professor also complains of “the ever increasing role of bureaucracy… in our system of education” and “the overuse of assessments” to the point that “we have created students who see reading as a test and not a pathway to learning.” Many other teachers speak against the overuse of testing, and the pressures on teachers in “no-excuses” schools to make their students perform. An anonymous educator writes in The Guardian that “the passing on of every ounce of exam burden my way took its toll,” and contributed to her departure from the classroom.

In telling teachers that greater effort is the path to improving student scores (i.e., promoting the “hero culture”), schools and training programs “[lean] heavily on the rhetoric of bootstrapping, [which makes] new teachers tend to feel individually culpable when things go wrong in the classroom,” says Lean Donnella of NPR.

Former charter teacher Sarah Matsui writes that her trainers at TFA tried to convince new teachers “that a ‘can-do attitude’ is all it takes to overcome systemic gaps in our schools.” However, she notes, “Scaling up even the best of intentions or holding the highest expectations for individual students will not change the differential funding of our separate school districts.”

Matsui provides an example of starkly different per-pupil expenditures for the city of Philadelphia’s (79% black and latino students, $9,299 per student annual spending), relative to neighboring Lower Merion, just outside the city limits (91% white students, $17,261 per student annual spending). Preaching that hard work is all that is needed to overcome this massive disparity in resource “reinforces the myth of meritocracy,” according to Matsui.

Irrespective of their beliefs on meritocracy, teachers are expected to work harder, stay later, and make excellent of what little they’re given. Abbas Manjee writes of his early experiences at a charter school that, “Like any first-year teacher, my life revolved around my profession: plan, create, assess, grade, adjust, repeat.” He shares that over time, expectations spiraled out of control and eventually, “it wasn’t enough to just teach well anymore.”

Manjee described teachers’ expanded roles, noting, “We make phone calls home. If someone doesn’t pick up, we call again. We connect with social workers during lunch to investigate student concerns,” and continues listing other behaviors not typically associated with teaching. Unfortunately, the added time and stress inherent to educators’ expanded responsibilities does not come with a comparable rise in wages. Sarah Fine says of her pay that, “over the course of four years, my school’s administration steadily expanded the workload and workday while barely adjusting salaries.”

Regardless of their successes, efforts, or acumen, many teachers find themselves unsung in avenues aside from income. To this point, Deanna Lyles shares, “I quit because I wanted to be treated as a professional.” Another comments that, “I just got sick of being in a profession that I felt held no real status in this country.” Sarah Fine observes that, “When people ask me about teaching… what they really seem to mean is that it’s unfathomable that anyone with real talent would want to stay in the classroom for long.” In his essay Why I Quit Teaching, Abbas Manjee says plainly that the “complete and utter disrespect for my profession has finally gotten to me.”

Clearly, a multitude of factors contribute to the early departure of new teachers from the profession. Some problems — like inadequate training and teacher departure immediately upon completion of program terms — can be remedied by the not-for-profits specializing in training in placement. Other issues, like teachers under-compensation and heavy work loads, require broader, structural solutions that necessitate significant power to implement. To that end, no single tech firm or teacher placement program can fix them, no matter how noble their goals or innovative their methods.

Clearly, teacher turnover is a dynamic issue that deserves our attention. Catherine Ionata notes in the NY Times that “Research has shown that teacher-student relationships are absolutely crucial to student success,” and that “These relationships cannot be built in a year or two.” At the risk of childrens’ educational outcomes present and future, we must work harder and engage more fully in our efforts to lower the teacher turnover rate across our nation.

By: T. Madison Glimp
Content Contributor @ Kiddom

Kindergarten Cops

Kindergarten Cops

When I was in kindergarten, I absolutely loved when my teacher provided me with a clear, descriptive rubric aligned to Common Core Learning Standards with every assignment. If you think I’m joking, it’s because I am. CCLS didn’t exist when I was in Kindergarten. I remember playing with Legos, building toy railroad circuits, drawing and pretending to be Superman, and of course, crying for my mother. And I’m pretty sure my Kindergarten teacher wasn’t using a rubric to assess the rigor of my sobbing.

“There is no bathroom!” — Detective John Kimble

Recently, an article from the Atlantic has been making its rounds with educators on social media. In short, the article juxtaposes America’s strict, academic “reform” approach with Finland’s “let kids play and figure it out” approach to kindergarten. It’s an insightful case study of two well-intentioned, yet very different schools of thought in public education.

Any time a concerned American suggests we take lessons on education policy from Scandinavian countries, they’re often blitzed with negativity. “It’s a small, homogenous country.” “They’ve never had to deal with our kind of immigration.” “That’s nice, but they’re all white.” Some of these criticisms may be valid, but they’re not solutions-oriented. They’re just statements that make excuses for our own lack of excellence in schools.

Obviously, we’re not Finland. But, we can still learn and adopt some of its best practices for our own needs. Or are we just too damn proud? In this standard Finland vs. America argument on education, we tend to ignore Finland’s neighbor, Norway. Finland is nearly as populous as Norway (and nearly the same square mileage). Both countries have a comparable labor force and both countries have similar immigration levels. However, Norway tends to score closer to the U.S. on the PISA, which is significantly lower than Finland. Norway’s teachers don’t need a masters degree, and yet there’s a national teacher shortage prompting ad campaigns to attract young professionals to teaching — sound familiar? Back in the early 2000s, Norway instituted a national system of standardized testing (called the NKVS). Again, sound familiar?

I don’t know about you (yes, you), but things haven’t really changed for me: I like to play. As a child, I loved to play. If I learned from playing, then that’s just awesomesauce. As a teacher, some of my most memorable “teacher moments” occurred when I purposefully built for play in my classroom. Yet, it was significantly hard to create the conditions necessary for play teaching high school mathematics. There was a constant nag in my head reminding me my students just had to pass the New York State Algebra 1 Regents exam. Otherwise, we’d both be judged as failures.

Holy rigor, Batman!

Working in education technology today, I’m even more passionate about play in school, but that’s also because I’m further removed from the classroom and the daily struggle to balance rigor, engagement, and fun. The thing is, we have to draw a line somewhere. I can’t imagine how much more anxiety I would have if play did not exist when I was in kindergarten. I can’t imagine how much more grade-driven I would be if my teachers used CCLS-aligned rubrics while I ran around making fart sounds and holding spaceships I made from Legos. Play time at home wasn’t exactly reliable because I grew up in a broken home, so I had to make the most out of any fun I could get.

There is no evidence to support that children cannot learn from play or learn and play simultaneously. A former student of mine used to tell me about how he already knew so much about the Crusades because of Assassin’s Creed. Sure, it’s a video game, so there are inaccuracies. In the classroom, those are called “teachable moments” (take note, those of you who have never taught). These “teachable moments” are opportunities to foster authentic discussion. It’s possible to have both. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What I’m really trying to say is children need and benefit from play. We know this. If we’re going to insert literacy skills into kindergarten, it should be a data-driven decision, as in it’s backed by strong evidence. However, the data seems to support Finland’s approach. Why are we so stubborn with this? Let’s stop underestimating children. Bring back the crayons, the Lincoln Logs, and the Play-Doh please.

By: Abbas Manjee
VP, Teaching and Learning @ Kiddom
Former HS Math Teacher