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How to Set the Right Pace for New School Initiatives

How to Set the Right Pace for New School Initiatives

Melissa Giroux

Melissa Giroux

Former K-12 teacher and administrator

Passions include women’s history and literature, vintage fashion, cats, and travel. She hopes to stamp all 195 countries on the globe in her passport someday.

Change is constant in education policy—right alongside change fatigue. There is no shortage of news about schools adopting new technologycurriculum, or assessment frameworks. Despite the best (and most ambitious) intentions, these initiatives are quickly abandoned, far too often.

As federal and state administrations shift and new research comes out, school leaders race to keep up with trends and purchase or adopt the next best thing. But this ever-swinging pendulum moves at the expense of teacher buy-in and professional training, and the ‘guinea pigs’ of these experiments, our students, can only stand to lose. 

Often, the failure of an initiative isn’t a reflection of the tool or strategy itself, but the plan for implementing it.

Change fatigue is defined as “a general sense of apathy or passive resignation towards organizational changes by individuals or teams.” Every time a school or district decides to change a curriculum providers, an assessment system, update a gradebook, or adopt new software (and hardware), teachers are going to get increasingly tired, checked-out, or resistant. This is bad for professional development and damaging to kids.

Mitigate change fatigue in schools with these 4 tips:

With so many stakeholders involved, and with such high stakes, new initiatives led by school and district leaders must be planned with four key things: vision, time, communication, and reflection.

Tip #1: Have a Clear Vision

John Kotter, a leading professor in organizational science, has developed an eight step plan that outlines what is needed to lead change in an organization. We can use this framework as a guide to implementing new technology in schools.

Kotter’s cycle as we apply it to ed-tech begins with leaders working with teams to set a vision for a new initiative, testing solutions, refining your strategy, and implementing full-scale change:

What is your goal for using a new tool or strategy?

You’d be surprised how many school administrators choose curriculum or other education technology based on brilliant sales pitches instead of first developing objectives and goals for seeking new tools.

Just as teachers are asked to set objectives for learning, administrators should know exactly their intended outcomes before moving their whole school community in a new direction.

Tip #2: Be Mindful of Time

Be more intentional in launching organizational change. Do not select a new system or tool in August, roll it out to your whole staff in September, and expect immediate buy-in and impact. Change fatigue most commonly results from sprints: initiatives that aim to cover immediate ground without fully grasping the depth (or distance) of implementation.

  • Build a planning committee made up of a diverse range of stakeholders — parents, students, teachers, and administrators will all bring unique perspectives and needs to the process. This will help you develop a clear action plan for which resources and supports your community will need.
  • In all likelihood, seeing the results you’re hoping for will take longer than a single school year. Do your research and plan backwards. For example, if you expect all classrooms to effectively adopt 1:1 technology in three school years, you might use year 1 to pilot with a small team of teachers and cull best practices, use year 2 to have successful pilot users train the larger community, and by year 3, your whole community will have had time to train, internalize, and integrate new practices seamlessly into their workflow.
  • We can’t emphasize enough the importance of setting aside time for staff training and collaboration when adopting new school-wide practices.

Without space to safely take risks, refine their practice, and learn from each other, teachers will only implement new tools at the surface level—or not at all. 

Tip #3: Communicate Effectively

No matter how strong your plan is, if you’re the only one who understands it, it will fail. Ensure that all stakeholders are able to participate through clear and frequent communication.

  • Build buy-in and encourage feedback with surveys and town halls. Invite your community to participate in the decision making process, test possible tools, and discuss obstacles to implementation.
  • Develop shared language and help everyone get on the same page — keep an ongoing glossary public for all in your community to be able to communicate effectively and ask questions.

When you plan to present your ideas, remember that your audience is hearing this for the first time and may not be as energized as you are. As such, simple and concise presentation of your ideas will be most effective in connecting with the stakeholders.

Tip #4: Reflect, Reflect, Reflect

In some cases, as soon as any data—whether reliable or not—indicates a new plan “isn’t working,” schools tend to abandon ship.

Make space for reflection and fine-tuning to adjust course. Collect diverse sets of data to allow for deep root-cause analysis. Anecdotal information from teachers, student achievement data, and community surveys will all highlight different barriers to success.

Data analysis is an art. It is not black and white. Besides the data itself, you need to consider how the players, environment, technical challenges, and outside issues factored into where you find yourself at this assessment point.

Setting up 1:1 meetings with your staff weekly or bi-weekly in the initial stages will ensure you are keeping up with the pulse of each team member. Come prepared with set questions and areas to address, so that you are gathering the necessary feedback from everyone consistently.

In addition to your 1:1 meetings, use group meetings to discuss the plan’s progress, to reinvigorate the team, and to address general issues. This is helpful in further communicating and clarifying your vision. Use this time to highlight teacher and student success not only to acknowledge growth, but also to help teachers see the impact this integration has had, in the hopes to reinvigorate their interest in the goals at hand.

For Administrators:

  1. Prepare for internet issues (infrastructure and technology). A reliable Internet connection and sufficient bandwidth are vital.
  2. On-site IT support and backup plans are critical to buffer schools from the inevitable technology issues.
  3. Blended learning coordinators played an important role in supporting schools’ adoption of blended learning.
  4. Establishing productive, self-directed learning cultures is important for students to fully benefit from online learning.
  5. Single sign-on portals can allow even very young children to quickly access online programs.
  6. Teachers’ satisfaction with training associated with the adoption of the blended learning model varied by site.

For teachers:

  1. Determine your technological requirements and constraints. How are you planning to use technology? How prepared are you to take advantage of the technology addition? Do you have enough devices or know how to get more?
  2. Explore how other educators are implementing blended learning in their classroom and decide what works best for you. There is a video directory of blended learning in action that features different blended learning methods.
  3. Get excited about enhancing your curriculum! This is an opportunity to hone your craft: you can revive the joy of teaching that can sometimes get lost in the day-to-day. Finding the right tools to support the procedural skill development to allow you to plan engaging projects is an important part of this process. Try not to feel like you need to reinvent the wheel or record countless videos of yourself (unless you absolutely love it).

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.

Blended Learning Initiatives

Were you thinking about adopting blended learning initiatives at your school or district? A successful blended learning program is the intentional integration of educational technology within classrooms to enhance the learning process. Implementation can take many forms.

Use our free resources on blended learning to start planning.

Giving students a laptop without a plan isn’t blended learning.

Learn the blended learning basics, like which models are best for your classroom, how to implement them and the many ways Kiddom can help you with implementation in our free blended learning guides.

You don’t have to pepper your lesson plans with the latest slang to engage your students.

The teaching playlists you see below are hand-picked by our trusted specialists, to provide your class with socially responsible standards-aligned content that plugs into our app for easy assigning, grading, and dashboards.

Using standards to emphasize what students learn over how much work students do.

Understand the basics of standards-based learning with these professional development guides. Learn how Kiddom supports individualized instruction in your classroom with competency-based curriculum.

How One School Does Data-Driven Instruction with Kiddom

How One School Does Data-Driven Instruction with Kiddom

Melissa Giroux

Melissa Giroux

School Success Lead, Kiddom

Committed to providing contextualized support and professional development to schools using the platform to drive student achievement and support teacher learning. Her passions include women’s history and literature, vintage fashion, cats, and she hopes to stamp all 195 countries on the globe in her passport someday.
Ann Leghorn and I met in 2013 when I interviewed them for a position in my department at a transfer high school for overaged, under-credited students in the Bronx. Ann’s engaging, skills-based intervention courses were an important foundation of our school model, and while their lack of desk organization was a point of contention when we shared a classroom, Ann brought a culture of literacy to the school that made an impression on me. Since then, we’ve both moved onto other positions, but Kiddom’s tools brought us together again.  

Beginnings: Kiddom + Williamsburg Charter HS

by Melissa Giroux | excerpt from CoSN 2019 presentation

  

A New Chapter

Over the last three years, Kiddom has worked with Ann’s team at Williamsburg Charter High School in Brooklyn to test our new products and learn more about how schools want to personalize instruction. Their feedback has driven our products. This year, the WCHS literacy intervention team used Kiddom for Schools and Districts to support professional learning for new staff through shared rubrics and custom literacy standards, and to help teachers make more informed RTI placements. 

First, Ann developed a series of literacy skills and rubrics that would support intervention for high school students reading at or below a 7th grade level and we imported them into WCHS’s Academy accounts to be added to assignments and discussed with students. We used data analysis protocols each trimester to work through the Kiddom standards reports, move students into appropriate courses, and refine the curricular resources to support teachers. As the school year wrapped up, I had the chance to sit down with Ann to reflect on the experience of piloting a new ed tech tool to drive new instructional practices.

Q: How did having access to more granular data around student literacy skills help your work this year?

Ann Leghorn: It allowed me to be much more specific in my feedback, also really allowed the teachers to take ownership of the data. Prior to this year we only had the three-time-a-year benchmark assessment data…and while that’s helpful, it’s only one data point. I think it was sometimes easy to narratively explain away that data, like “Oh it was an off day,” things like that. It’s always best to make instructional decisions based on multiple data points, and so now we’re able to use this on a daily basis.

In the small 1:1 coaching meetings that I have with my teachers, we often open that data and look at the most recent skills that we’ve taught, which materials were most effective, and where teachers can spiral or reteach, or move on. It’s allowed for more specific conversations rather than me just providing data reports to teachers.

 

Q: So as you think about using this more actionable data, how does that change the way you think about your role as an educator?

AL: It’s pushed me to consider moving into a more administrative role as a formal instructional coach. Being able to take the work that I’ve done with data coaching sessions both as a participant and facilitator and do that on a larger scale.

“Working with Kiddom has helped me practice the way that we look and talk about data and take action steps based on those discussions.”

— Ann Leghorn, Instructional Coach at Williamsburg Charter High School 

Q: We had the honor of co-presenting with Microsoft EDU and Fresno USD at the CoSN Conference in April. For me, being able to present with an actual educator changed the way that I prepared and made it feel more authentic and engaging. At a meta level, what was it like being able to tell your team’s story at CoSN?

AL: Leading up to it I felt nervous. I’ve only done this on smaller scale like to the board at my school. Getting into a room of people, many of whom weren’t educators, and getting to talk about the work I do in education made me feel proud. It can be easy in the day to day to lose sight of the gains that you’ve made because so many other things pile on, and so while preparing for the presentation and then doing the presentation gives you a chance to reflect on the work you’ve done on a global level. It really has pushed me and my department and my thinking further, gave me a chance to be proud of our work.  

Invisible Spacer

Q: What do you think educators are looking for when they step out of the day-to-day at conferences like this?

AL: I think educators are looking to hear other educators’ stories, and the ways that they are actionably problem-solving. When you go online, yes you can find that, but people are often talking about issues but not solutions. When I go to conferences I am always looking for what are actions that people are taking and what has been the impact. It’s great to talk about big picture systemic issues in education, I’m all about those conversations too, but sometimes I feel like people get stuck in those conversations. I need to know, what can I take away? Like a methods course. I want to know, “What are the things that you’re doing? How has it been working?” I want to be having a conversation about how I can take it to my school, like a giant PLC rather than a lecture.

Next year, Ann will indeed be moving into an instructional coaching position at the school (congrats on the promotion, Ann!) and will continue to use Kiddom’s data reporting tools to provide support for teachers across the content areas to incorporate literacy practices in their classes. Using our Responsive Curriculum Management tool, Ann can distribute suggested strategies ranging from graphic organizers to discussion prompts, view teacher lesson plans to provide feedback, and identify high-quality strategies from individual classrooms to share them more widely. We are excited to support your work, and can’t wait to see what comes next.

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.

What People Are Saying

“Kiddom is great for assessing data and then assigning appropriate work based on individual student performance. I love that it’s very easy to attach standards and rubric to every assignment.” Jackie Curts, Middle School Teacher
“Using Kiddom has made me stop and ask ‘Am I just letting this student repeat what they already know or am I really challenging them?’” Ann Leghorn, High School Literacy Specialist
“I can see where my class and any student is at any moment in their educational journey. This way I can take action to assist them to work towards mastery.” Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher

You might also be interested in these articles:

Curriculum is Culture

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

Academy’s New Curriculum Development Tool is a Game Changer — Part 1 of 3

Academy’s New Curriculum Development Tool is a Game Changer — Part 1 of 3

Melissa Giroux

Melissa Giroux

Former K-12 teacher and administrator

Last month, we released our newest product for schools and districts, a Responsive Curriculum Management tool that allows for collaborative, aligned curriculum development as well as access to achievement data in order to refine and improve the curriculum.

As the Kiddom design and product teams showed the school success team what these tools would look like and how they would function, I felt a pang of nostalgia and jealousy for the teacher teams and curriculum developers that would get to work their magic with these features.

You can view the other articles in this series as posted here:

Also related: Introducing Responsive Curriculum Management

Looking Back

I began my career in education as a high school special education teacher in 2009, and while we had some access to technology in the classroom, it was limited.

Primarily, we used our school Outlook accounts to share attachments via email. That was the way my co-teachers and I worked on unit plans and lesson materials; one of us would create a Word document with a scope and sequence or a weekly outline, mark where the other person was meant to fill in, and then we’d email updates back and forth.

It was messy, inefficient, and forced us to meet at coffee shops on weekends if we wanted to authentically collaborate.

We struggled to make the experience easy for all of the teachers on our team, and often found ourselves digging for hours through our Google Drive folders to find dated curriculum docs that matched the standards we were teaching.

A few years later, our school switched from Microsoft to Google and we started to use Google Docs for curriculum development and storage. Sure, now we didn’t have to rename and track each new version of a document that came our way, but there were still issues.

This was what the first step of scope and sequence mapping looked like in an 8-person English Language Arts team:

screenshot of how inefficient even Google Docs can be to collaborate on lesson plans

It was hard to process or look for alignment, too overwhelming to share with students or families, and isolated from the actual materials and resources we would be providing students.

We struggled to make the experience easy for all of the teachers on our team, and often found ourselves digging for hours through our Google Drive folders to find dated curriculum docs that matched the standards we were teaching. It’s unsurprising to me that in an MDR Market Report from 2017, teachers reported spending 12 hours a week searching for or creating curricular materials.

So when I first got to play with our new responsive curriculum management tools, I was ecstatic, and wanted to dig in deeper.

Comparison of how difficult curriculum planning was then vs how easy now with Kiddom

We decided to launch an internal curriculum development team in order to test the product, provide feedback to our teams for future versions of the product, and develop creative and authentic professional development materials for our users.

Our curriculum development team was comprised of a product manager, customer support specialists, product success managers, and was facilitated by me, the School Success Lead. My role is primarily to ensure that all schools and districts using Kiddom have the tools and training they need to effectively use the platform, so this project will be an important piece of my work this year.

…it was like being back in a curriculum planning professional development session, only better.

The first session launched this week, and it was like being back in a curriculum planning professional development session, only better. The first time around, we built curriculum focused on core literacy skills, imagining we’d be developing reading intervention curriculum for middle school students reading below grade level.

Role-playing as an English department lead (a real role I held once upon a time), I imported custom literacy standards developed based on the Common Core’s foundational reading skills and research around the seven habits of highly effective readers. I set unit descriptions, estimated instructional days, and provided my team of “teachers” with suggested resources from our Content Library and texts I’d used in the past.

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

Over the course of 90 minutes, five “teachers” (Kiddom team members spanning our Support, Success, and Product teams) added resources in the themed and leveled learning Playlists to the shared units in Planner. We then discussed what resources or assessments we would need to seek or build, and shared ideas about what could make the process even more seamlessly collaborative.

Here you see a view of the units in Planner, a feature in Kiddom Collaborative Classroom, our free app for teachers.

Here’s what we learned:

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

1. The School Success team learned that teachers need a clear set of guidelines and exemplar resources to confidently and successfully collaborate on curriculum, so we’re going to add a workshop about this in our On-Demand PD portal.

2. The Product team will investigate ways to support teachers in the process of developing curriculum that mirrors design thinking principles. This often starts with gathering a lot of possible resources (divergent thinking – think of all those tabs you open after a Google search for worksheets) and later narrowing down to the best idea (convergent thinking – choosing that perfect worksheet you link to your lesson plan before you go to bed on Sunday night).

3. The Customer Support team will be preparing to launch new tips and tricks on our help desk now that they understand the new platform inside and out — so they’re equipped to get to our users’ questions quickly during busy school days.

What’s next?

We recorded the session for our own internal use, and have listened back to the session to refine our processes. From it, we hope that engineers and product designers can learn what kinds of issues users experience when trying new software, our support team can better anticipate questions from our customers, and our school success managers can create protocols and training materials for our Academy teams.

We hope that as an ed tech team, participating in a type of professional learning community will make us more attuned to the needs of educators, more creative in how we support them, and quicker to adapt our platforms to the needs of the classroom.

You can view the other articles in this series as posted here:

Also related: Introducing Responsive Curriculum Management

To learn more about our new responsive curriculum feature, visit this page. To see a demo of this exciting new feature, book a call today.

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:

Curriculum is Culture

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

3 Ways We Personalized Support for Classrooms and Schools

3 Ways We Personalized Support for Classrooms and Schools

Building relationships with administrators and teachers demands thoughtful inquiry, care, and reflection

Education is awash with efforts to personalize learning. But what does it mean for a company to personalize its support for the teachers who use its product? School leader, Jordan Silvestri and Kiddom representative, Melissa Giroux, describe what it takes for an edtech company to deliver the kind of personalized experience to its customers that teachers give to their students.

 

Jordan Silvestri: Our school focuses on preparing our students during their final years of academic involvement to gain and hone the skills that they will need to be successful after they graduate. We started Torah Academy in September 2016 with a strong vision for how and what we want our students to learn. Every class, student interaction, social setting and community learning experience is another opportunity to help our students see their potential and grow.

After our first year of running the school, we realized that one of our major challenges involved how we were tracking students’ progress. We needed a student-centered program that would be easy to function for the teachers and bring all of our work into one place.

 

Melissa Giroux: Our initial planning session with Torah Academy was extremely energizing. We were excited to meet a school leader who had great clarity around his team’s strengths and goals: Jordan wanted his team to become more accustomed to using data to drive daily instruction and he wanted technology to support consistent routines so his students could become independent learners. His concrete goals made us confident we could support his staff’s day-to-day work from afar.

Working together over the course of the year, we — at Torah Academy and Kiddom — together learned three powerful lessons about how to deliver personalized support to educators:

 

1. Lead with Inquiry

When teachers in professional development workshops push back on learning a new tech tool or question if a new platform might mean more work instead of less, it would be easy for a principal to double down on mandates and take a hardline stance.

Empathetic leaders respond with questions: “Can you tell me a little bit more about that?” or “Can you walk me through the steps you currently take?” and most importantly, “How can I help?”

When teachers hear their administration pause to learn a little bit more about them, learning becomes collaborative. Rather than fighting, they work as a team to figure out if the platform can adapt to meet the needs of a range of educators.

Companies, too, need to build that kind of inquiry into every step of their work with educators.

Educators at Torah Academy teach courses that cover everything from Common Core mathematics to Judaic studies, as well as provide services including speech therapy and vocational training. A one-size-fits-all tutorial about edtech product features wasn’t going to cut it with such diverse staff goals.

The first session between teachers and Kiddom invited the educators to express their concerns so that together we could customize the platform to their teaching styles and goals. Teachers learned how to move their existing curriculum from Google Drive into collaborative Kiddom classes. Other workshops, using the Question Formulation Technique, helped teachers frame collective inquiry goals for professional learning communities.

The Right Question Institute frames this process well: “The skill of question asking is far too rarely deliberately taught in school.” We believe that same kind of questioning skill should characterize how teachers interact with edtech companies.

 

2. Walk the Talk

There’s nothing worse than a classroom full of students staring at you as error messages prevent you from moving on with a lesson. As an administrator, I (Jordan) was worried that some of my teachers might have technical difficulties with onboarding to new technology. The “competency test” for real customer service is simply this: Will it deliver when you need it?

One teacher, in particular, had reported that as she was working to set up her class over the weekend, she hit a snag. She struggled to figure out what was going on. Finally, she contacted Kiddom through the app and had a live troubleshooting conversation on a Sunday afternoon. I was floored by both the teacher’s proactive approach — and the fact that the company walked the talk, big time!

Just as important as responding quickly is speaking the language of the people you serve. The company’s support team has grown from a collection of part-time interns into a team of former educators — people who natively speak “teacher talk” — and avoid the kind of tech jargon that can confuse just about anyone.

No school is the same. Investing the time to send a company’s support team to visit schools and observe users in the field means that teacher advocates learn how to ask questions to troubleshoot and to gain context. They are not merely following tech support flow charts and giving standard responses; they’re relying on their knowledge of pedagogy and the challenging realities of everyday teaching to frame their responses.

 

3. Stop and Reflect

School-based staff don’t always have time to step outside of their day-to-day responsibilities and reflect on successes and challenges. But particularly when you start a relationship with a company, educators must ask their partners: How are you measuring success?

As a school for students with special needs, Torah Academy does not use letter or number grades to assess student progress. Teachers focus on helping students master the skills they will need to be productive members of their community. This approach to assessment — with the ultimate goal of having students apply their goals to new environments and interactions — has been core to our program.

During one of our first joint meetings, the company introduced its mastery grading feature to Torah Academy teachers as if it were a new concept. Hardly the case! In response, teachers showed the Kiddom team how that construct fit right in with the school’s methodology, so that teachers could correlate lessons to goals and assess student progress in one fell swoop.

Throughout the year of working together, our joint team relied on routine check-ins to collect feedback, plan targeted professional development and to provide administrators with a sounding board for worries or celebrations.

But by mid-year, it became clear that educators were adopting the platform in very different ways and at different speeds. We consequently scheduled a mid-year professional development day. The Kiddom team spent the day working with individual teachers during their prep periods, to better differentiate and leverage relationships. Each conversation was private, which allowed for candid feedback and questions and supported individual needs. Some teachers desperately wanted more support in analyzing reports; others were still working on building classroom routines using the platform.

Building relationships between teachers and students takes thoughtful inquiry, care and reflection — and the relationship between an edtech company and the teachers who use its products demands the same. When both groups invest the time, authentic learning happens.


Jordan Silvestri, School Leader
Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead

More information about Kiddom Academy for schools and districts:


Originally posted on EdSurge

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day, and Mother’s Day Too

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day, and Mother’s Day Too

Melissa Giroux

Melissa Giroux

Former K-12 teacher and administrator

Dear Mom,

It is appropriate that these celebrations are days away from each other — every mom is a teacher, really, and the National Center for Education Statistics estimates 76% of teachers are women. You’ve played both roles with passion and grace throughout my life, so it’s no coincidence that both Sara and I ended up in teaching.

 

kiddom

You modeled a love of books so masterfully that I was convinced I could read Jane Eyre at age 3

 

As a mom, you exemplified what it means to love learning, in and out of school. Each summer, you shuttled us to the library on the first day of vacation and encouraged us to borrow as many books as we could carry (and we did). When you woke us up at three in the morning to watch a meteor shower, or dented the bumper of your car trying to get us a closer look at a wild turkey, we learned to appreciate the science all around us. I’ll never forget the summer experiments making sun prints in the front yard, or collecting only the best and brightest autumn leaves to preserve them before they crumbled (my partner still doesn’t really understand why you sent us leaves in the mail last October). Remember how sometimes friends showed up at our house for school project supplies because they knew “Momma G” would have pipe cleaners and hot glue guns ready for action?

Sometimes you say, “I know I’m not a real teacher…” when we’re discussing education policy, and I can’t begin tell you how wrong you are. You can’t go to our hometown grocery store without being surrounded by kiddos and their parents shouting “Mrs. Kathy,” like Glinda the Good Witch surrounded by the munchkins in Oz. They love you because you pushed them to explore, to question, to create. You even teach a class called “Let’s Get Messy” — there is nothing more revolutionary than encouraging young people to make mistakes by making a mess. You bring endless curiosity to the preschool baking, science, and art classes you teach, despite low pay and lack of access to resources. In fact, one of my favorite memories of you is hearing your purse clank and rattle as you bolted from the garden at a strip mall where you had taken perfectly smooth stones for your students to paint as a project. A teacher’s resourcefulness knows no bounds.

I asked Dad about his funniest memories of you collecting materials for classes, and he reminded me of the time he cut his feet at the beach trying to find you perfect shells for a lesson in marine biology, or when he scaled the side of our house to get you an abandoned bird’s nest so you could show your class how it was constructed. When you’ve thought of just the right craft or project to connect your kids to Van Gogh, the constellations, or the science of baking, the sparkle in your eye is contagious, and you’ve brought us all along for the ride.

I find myself mimicking you when I engage with young children, from kneeling on the floor so I can be at their level and help them feel comfortable to asking lots of questions instead of giving answers. I hope to have half the impact on young people over my career that you’ve had in your 20+ years of innovative teaching.

I love you, and the googly eyes and glitter that cover the floor of your car. You’ve taught me more than I can express, and the kids of Guilford are lucky indeed.

I love you, Momma.

P.S. Don’t get mad at me for publishing this on the internet! You can’t ground me anymore 😉

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.

Preventing the Spring Break Brain Drain

Preventing the Spring Break Brain Drain

Melissa Giroux

Melissa Giroux

Former K-12 teacher and administrator

Going on spring (or even summer) break doesn’t mean that students have to turn off their brains. One analysis in the Review of Educational Research found that students can lose as much as a month of learning during school breaks, and teachers know how difficult it can be to rebuild academic routines after time off.

 

Creating flexible, creative assignments for students to work on over a school vacation can help them imagine new worlds, stay connected to their classrooms, and stay mentally active. Here are some ways you can use Kiddom to facilitate these types of assignments, so your students can keep learning and you can take some well-deserved rest.

 

Send your Students on a Virtual Vacation

Google Arts and Culture allows the public to access high-resolution images of artworks, take a virtual walk through real museums around the world, or look at thematic collections of exhibits — all for free!

Choose a specific museum, work of art, or theme and send to you your students with open-ended questions for them to explore and reflect. Or, send them the link to the overall site and let them choose their own adventure! Find even more tips for incorporating art in our teacher-developed arts guide focused on standards-based, interdisciplinary instruction.

Suggested Resources:

 

Everything is bundled into one Kiddom assignment: (1) a teacher-created assessment via Google Drive and (2) a link to a Google Arts and Culture exhibit

 

Each student submits their work separately via the Google Drive attachment

 

Pause to Journal and Reflect

Break is a good time for students to dig into social emotional skills while they take a step back from a purely academic focus. Kiddom’s Google Drive integration allows you to send journaling prompts to your class, and Kiddom automatically makes a copy for each student to write their individual reflections.

You can also have students reflect on their own progress towards mastery using the reports that they find in their Kiddom dashboards. You can even align these assignments to CASEL’s standards to track progress towards healthy social emotional development.

 

This folder, created automatically by Kiddom when sending an assignment, gives each student an individual copy of the journaling assignment to save you time

 

Send Content for Remediation or Exploration

Ahead of break, take a look at your mastery reports in Kiddom and pick one or two standards for students to work on. You can search for these topics or standards to find extension or remediation resources and assign directly to the students who need them.

Kiddom’s library has a wide range of multimedia resources to keep your students’ minds moving while they’re away from school. Articles about students from around the world or podcasts about current events can drive critical thinking skills.

 

Kiddom library of free curriculum and teaching resources

Sample thematic content from Kiddom’s Library of free resources (click to assign directly to your class in Kiddom):

Each of these suggestions can be reworked to fit your class needs with Kiddom’s flexible assignment structure and student-centered communication tools. Comment on assignments as your students work, and keep consistency going so the re-adjustment is a little smoother on the Monday after break.

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.

Three Types of Administrators Who Drive Achievement — and Two Who Don’t

Three Types of Administrators Who Drive Achievement — and Two Who Don’t

In the months since launching our school and district pilot program, the Kiddom team has collectively spent thousands of hours meeting with administrators to better understand their workflows, facilitate contextualized staff workshops, and support ongoing partnerships. Our goal? To build Kiddom Academy, a platform that allows every stakeholder in a school community to be connected and informed to drive student achievement.

We’ve learned so much from these passionate educators about what makes a school leader successful in driving achievement, and which qualities act as barriers to school success. With the goal of helping school leaders reflect and refine their practices, we’ve distilled our learning into three model administrator profiles — and two not-so-great ones. We share these learnings not to pass judgement, but in the hope of supporting the needs of teachers and students everywhere.

The Good

Our strongest partnerships with the greatest teacher engagement to drive student mastery all stemmed from leaders who fit a combination of these three profiles:

The Empathizer

 

 

These leaders understand their staff strengths and growth areas, and leverage strong relationships. Empathizers frequently check the ‘temperature’ of their staff to ensure a balanced workload and plan responsive professional development. In our partnerships, these leaders carefully select education technology tools that leverage the skill sets that individual teachers and teams are developing rather than add another layer of work to busy teacher days.

 

The Visionary

 

 

Visionary leaders set aspirational goals for their teams and communicate them clearly. Because visionaries understand that large scale change doesn’t happen overnight, they plan intentionally for incremental steps towards a larger objective and set aside time for reflection to refine — sometimes over the course of several school years. Many of these leaders choose to pilot tools with small groups of teachers, distill learnings, and then use exemplar artifacts from within the school community to bring new strategies to life for the whole school community. These leaders react to failure with coaching and reflective data analysis rather than negative consequences.

 

The Delegator

 

 

In some of our partnerships, administrators met with us for only a few minutes before seamlessly handing off partnership responsibilities to teacher leaders. While this might seem like an overly hands-off approach, we often found that this staff development strategy led to increased buy-in from teachers and a quicker onboarding process. Principals are not just instructional coaches, but also CFOs, public relations managers, and human resources reps. They simply can’t do it all alone, which is why it’s smart to grow your capacity by building leadership skills in staff. This plan can also prevent staff turnover and foster more collaborative relationships between team members.

The Bad

Unfortunately, not every school has had the opportunity to bring new tools to their teams due to constraints on time, money, and other factors. Many of the principals we’ve met along the way have had lofty goals for their schools, but struggled to implement them with unsuccessful leadership styles. Here are some models to avoid.

The Authoritarian

 

 

On occasion, we meet with an administrator who makes decisions swiftly and unilaterally, without regard for the current staff skill or student mastery levels. In professional development workshops at these kinds of schools, we heard teachers talking fearfully about what their administrators would be able to see in their accounts, and compliance-based worries about completion of tasks rather than real learning. The key difference between the authoritarian and the visionary was a lack of support for teachers to reach the mandated goals and the punitive consequences for not doing so.

 

The Impulse Shopper

 

There are a lot of edtech products out there with convincing sales pitches using trendy buzzwords. We have met principals who go for sparkle over function and fit, and choose separate software to solve every problem facing the school community. Adding tool after tool on top of standard teacher responsibilities causes a whole host of problems. Teachers don’t have time to learn the logistics of each one, and then abandon them, which means wasting precious school funds. Student data becomes fragmented and can become difficult to use in meaningful interventions. When tools are purchased based on marketing materials, they don’t necessarily align to long-term school goals; every year becomes another swing of the pendulum for staff — leading to change fatigue.

 

The Bottom Line

We share these learnings not to put anyone down, but to share what we’ve had the privilege to witness at schools around the country. We hope that these lessons help school administrators reflect on their leadership style and better support their teachers and students. Based on these experiences, we’ve built Kiddom Academy for schools and districts to include actionable, aggregate data and curriculum controls to help administrators coach, plan, empower, and experiment with intention. Plus, ongoing partnerships with our experienced success team means contextualized support and intentional planning throughout the year.

 

 


Flexible Assignments That Tell a Rich Story — How to Trace a Student’s Journey to Mastery

Flexible Assignments That Tell a Rich Story — How to Trace a Student’s Journey to Mastery

Melissa Giroux

Melissa Giroux

Former K-12 teacher and administrator

How to trace a student’s journey to mastery using the flexible assignments feature

Educators in our pilot schools and districts have been using Kiddom this school year to create self-paced curriculum and personalized assignments. Their work is shifting towards student-centered, authentic projects and away from teacher-driven assignments with only one right answer.

This shift provides options for demonstrating mastery in both the processes students use and the artifacts they create. To support our pilot schools’ desires to build student ownership, we’ve expanded the ways teachers can send assignments and students can send evidence of demonstrating mastery.

Students can send multiple attachments to teachers, allowing for multiple attempts on a single assignment

Now, each assignment created by a teacher can have multiple attachments from their computer, Google Drive, or Kiddom’s content library.

Students benefit too — they can send teachers more than one attachment per assignment, allowing them to do more complex and rigorous work in a streamlined way.

How do multiple attachments support teaching and learning?

 

  • Choice: Provide students with choice by sending multiple attachments as a set of options to choose from. An English teacher might attach multiple readings to choose at the same Lexile level.
  • Modality: Help every student gain an understanding of the learning material by attaching a video, an audio file, and a reading to meet their needs.
  • Process: Let students share several drafts of a project within a single assignment, or offer checklists and graphic organizers in the same assignment as the final project.

 

 

Teachers: supplement an attachment of your own with a curriculum resource from our Library

 

Students will now be able to:

 

  • Attach multiple attachments before submitting an assignment
  • Access and attach items from Google Drive
  • Make multiple submissions over time on a single assignment

 

Teachers will be able to:

 

  • Send multiple attachments from a single assignment
  • Attach more than one curriculum resource from Library
  • Send more than one Google Drive attachment
  • Attach any combination of files (PDFs, screenshots, images, etc.)

 

We’d like to thank our pilot school communities for helping us understand why allowing for multiple attachments is critical for classrooms focused on promoting student choice and voice. We’re excited to learn how you’ll use this new functionality in your quest to unlock potential for all students.

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.

No, You Don’t Need to Buy Professional Development Software

No, You Don’t Need to Buy Professional Development Software

We think about professional development (PD) a lot at Kiddom. We believe PD should be innovativeexploratory, and tied to teacher goals.

But so often at conferences or schools, our team hears teachers lamenting the number of dry lectures about decontextualized strategies they are forced to sit through.

In a 2009 report, the School Redesign Network at Stanford University found these characteristics to be most important in creating high-quality PD:

  1. Focused on Content
  2. Active, engaged learning
  3. Collaborative
  4. Uses Modeling
  5. Coaching from experts
  6. Opportunities for feedback and reflection
  7. Sustained over time

At Kiddom, we help teachers take charge and lead professional development for and with each other by allowing you to build digital sessions to meet those requirements. Benefits of developing your PD resources using Kiddom include:

  • Flexibility: It can be impossible to find time to sit down together. With resources accessible online, teachers can access them when and where they want, instead of trying to cram learning into their only free period. Use your lunch break to eat or take a walk… learn when you’re ready!
  • Accessibility: Materials are stored in the classes until you archive them — they can be used and referenced over time, instead of getting lost in a pile of handouts on your desk.
  • Engagement: Your colleagues can ask you questions, or send you back attachments to share additional student work, reflections, or feedback. Learning is a dialogue!
  • Transparency: If you’re an administrator or instructional coach and want to provide targeted feedback, you can align materials to standards like ISTE’s or your own school’s goals for teachers. Help them improve by clearly defining growth areas.

Getting started

Define your goal: Do you want teachers to learn a new skill, explore new content, or reflect on their practice? Set a learning objective to guide your materials. Make a new class in Kiddom with a related title.

Collect your resources: Add these as assignments to topical playlists in your Planner.

 

 

You might include:

  • Articles about the topic to ground teachers in common understanding
  • Videos, lesson plans, and student work from exemplar classes to model best practices
  • Case studies from other schools
  • Data protocols for individual reflection on student achievement
  • New curriculum materials for review and discussion

 

An assignment for teachers to complete at their own pace ahead of a team meeting

 

Share: Send your colleagues the class code from your settings, and ask them to join the class as students with a username. They should keep their student accounts separate from their teacher ones. When a new colleague joins your class, select them from the drop down menu in your timeline, drag and drop the resources from your Planner, and they’ll have access to the materials.


Want to access sample PD curriculum? Ask me for it!

By: Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead

 

 

Part of an educator community seeking to collaborate more effectively? Our Pilot School Program could be the answer: learn more.

Feeling Sick? It’s Okay to Take the Day

Feeling Sick? It’s Okay to Take the Day

As summer fades and the weather cools, teachers are stocking up on school supplies like pens, paper, glue sticks, and….tissues? For most teachers, colds and the flu are an unfortunate side effect of working in schools. According to the CDC, the average elementary school student in the U.S. will have 12 bouts of the cold or flu each season from October through May. 😷

It’s not easy for teachers to take a day off and it’s nearly impossible for substitute teachers to seamlessly continue instruction the way you would. The last thing you want to do is leave boring, busy work for students. However, emergencies happen and the worst thing you can do is push yourself and get sicker and/or get everyone else sick too.

 

Use Kiddom’s Planner to Design Pre-Made Sub Lessons

Planner allows you to create assignments now, which can used when you’re ready. In Planner, add materials, links, or Google drive attachments and directions for your students. When you know you’re feeling under the weather, simply drag the assignment from your Planner to your Timeline and edit it to include any new information or messages you want to include.

With these tools, you can prepare interactive, emergency substitute plans in advance and assign them to your students when you realize you’ll need a day in bed with Netflix and some decongestant.

 

Assign Meaningful Resources Using Kiddom’s Library

 

 

Kiddom’s Library contains thousands of free teaching resources from Khan Academy, Zearn, CK-12, PBS Kids and more. Resources include videos, games, podcasts, and interactive activities that can keep your students engaged while you’re away. TEDEd is one great resource for when you can’t be there to teach your students in person. TedED’s videos are curated for a wide variety of subjects, mostly geared towards older students. The videos are engaging and paced for student comprehension, and often include experts in the field to provide a range of perspectives to your students. The best part is that they come with questions and lesson activities, so you can ensure that your students participated while you were away.

 

Easily Keep Sub Lessons Current and Useful

Kiddom’s library also includes fantastic news resources for you to foster critical media literacy skills. If you haven’t planned ahead, login to Kiddom if you know you’ll need to call out sick and find up-to-date podcasts and articles from Listenwise and Newsela and assign them directly to your class(es). This work will feel relevant to students, and can support a variety of learning styles through audio or text media. With Newsela, you can provide students with articles written at multiple reading levels, too. When you get back, you can hold a class discussion about how your students see these current events impacting their lives!

 

Make it Personal

They don’t always act like it, but our students miss teachers when they’re absent. Copies of worksheets left for subs send the message that work is impersonal and unimportant. Instead, use our Google Drive integration to draft a letter now reminding students of class expectations and norms when you’re away and some reflection questions about their work in your class with a space for them to respond.

 

Easily share Google Drive attachments and align them with standards/skills using Kiddom

 

This may not connect directly to your content, but it allows your students time to build the social emotional skill of self-awareness, and gives you insight into how they communicate in writing. You can even attach CASEL’s social emotional learning competencies to the assignment to give students direct feedback on their social emotional development.

We hope you don’t get sick, but if you do, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking the time to get better. Use Kiddom to keep the learning going from the comfort of your couch. Take care!

 


Need 1:1 support? Learn more about using Kiddom via a short demo.

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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