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Slow Down School and District Leaders: You’re Moving Too Fast

Slow Down School and District Leaders: You’re Moving Too Fast

Four tips for successful school initiatives.

There is no shortage of news about schools adopting and then quickly abandoning new technologycurriculum, or assessment frameworks. Change is constant in education policy.

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.

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.

Have a Clear Vision

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.

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.

  • 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.

 

 

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.

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.

How do I start?

Despite the possible pitfalls of too much change, at Kiddom, we don’t believe school leaders should shy away from evidence-based, carefully planned initiatives. In fact, we’ve developed specific resources to support this work with educators around the United States. In this excerpt from Blended Learning 101, we offer some considerations for administrators and teachers transitioning to a new teaching and learning model:

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).


By: Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead

 

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.

 

Blended Learning 102 (above) provides a comprehensive look at the most effective models.

 

Interested in learning more about how Kiddom’s tools are supporting teachers? Book a short 1:1 walkthrough. The tools are free, so we’ll leave out the sales pitch.

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

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 now trace their own journey to mastery — in this view they can see the history of an assignment

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.


By: Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead

P.S. If this is your first time hearing about our pilot program for schools and districts, click here to learn more. We do have some availability for learning communities interested in implementation spring 2018.

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.
Growth Mindset for Teachers

Growth Mindset for Teachers

As the new school year gets underway, teachers across the country will be working to develop positive learning cultures in their classrooms. Many will extol the virtues of a growth mindset, pushing their students to try, fail, and try again in the name of learning.

Carol Dweck’s popular (and often misunderstood) research has become a pervasive force in classrooms, asking students to change the way they view effort and success. In one classroom I visited, I saw a poster that gave examples of fixed vs. growth mindsets, including “Instead of: “This is too hard.” Say: “This may take some time and effort.” The students were prompted to add “yet” each time they said “I don’t know how to do this,” and were rewarded with stickers of superheroes saying “I never give up!”

We demand this of our children, but what about ourselves?

When I facilitate sessions about incorporating technology in the classroom, I see teachers disengage, roll their eyes, and start skimming Facebook after the first few things they tried took longer than they anticipated.

Technology is moving quickly, and our brains don’t move as quickly as our students in adopting it. There’s not enough time in the day; we have too many classes and not enough planning periods. Our principals already paid for one tool — why one more? Yes, sure, I hear you. But more than that, I believe every educator owes it to themselves (and the students they serve) to try a new technology tool this year, and I mean really try it with an open mind.

The International Society for Technology in Education, a.k.a. ISTE, defines this challenge in one of their standards for teachers, emphasizing a cycle of exploration, reflection, and planning that can take entire school years to get right.

Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness

Regardless of our own difficult experiences learning new technology, limiting the way we teach to the ways we were taught can only set them up for failure. The jobs of the future demand students that are adaptable, reflective learners. Using technology to seek information, present ideas, and collaborate increases student engagement, builds confidence and communication skills, and makes it easier for teachers to support a variety of learning styles. We must adapt to our students’ futures, not ask them to adapt to our pasts.

Searching for just the right tool for your classroom will take time. Your students are unique, and your teaching style is developed authentically over time. So, you’ll need to invest time to learn the ins and outs of your new toy. You’ll click the wrong buttons. You’ll screw up the settings. Start over. Try again. Ask for help. Get frustrated. Have a breakthrough.

Just as we demand that our students pause and reflect before they say, “I can’t” and return to the comfort of the known, teachers should do the same. Invest in your own teacher toolbelt. Just as when your new smartphone comes, you spend time to download your favorite apps and music and make it your own, invest that time in your classroom technology.

Administrators — it’s on you to make space for this in your schools. ISTE has standards and resources to support school leaders in developing a culture of genuine inquiry and innovation. Give your teachers time and ask them lots of questions — it’s what they’re asking for!

I lead professional development at Kiddom. At Kiddom, we meet you where you are: schedule a free 20 min consult with us to learn how our tools might save you precious time and energy.