In my time working with students on the autism spectrum, I’ve witnessed them struggle to recognize emotions and acknowledge non-verbal cues from others.
Throughout their schooling, my high school students have heard that this is one of their social challenges, but rarely do they know why this is the case. One student told me that one of her teachers told her “don’t worry, the other students know you have autism so they’ll try to explain what they’re feeling.” At 17, she was nervous that when she went off to college she would have to explain her diagnosis to everyone so they could understand her. Why should she have to disclose that information instead of trying to learn how to understand both herself and those around her?
I struggled to find ways to teach students with a range of cognitive abilities how and why they need to recognize emotions of themselves and others in a concrete way. There were lots of complicated scientific studies explaining why individuals on the spectrum have trouble recognizing emotions, but most of my students aren’t able to grasp that information. So I simply typed “emotions” as a search term in Kiddom’s K12 library of teaching resources to see if any of the results would work for my students.
Using Kiddom’s Library to search for free social emotional learning resources
The first search result turned out to be the perfect assignment: “Are Emotions Contagious?” This video explained the science of mirror neurons in an understandable way for middle and high schoolers and allowed them to better see how important it is to recognize emotions and what the impact of mirroring emotions can be.
From my experience, students are able to more easily recognize times when someone else impacted their lives than they are able to recognize how they impact everyone else. This assignment challenged them to identify how the emotions of their peers have affected them as well as how their emotions can have an effect on their peers. I selected the video and assigned it to my students as homework via Kiddom, along with a reflection piece about how the video connects to their lives.
The assignment was challenging for many of my students. They found the video interesting, but struggled to connect it to their own lives. I got responses like “I am an independent person so no one can change my emotions but me” and “some people will see a friend looking sad so they start to feel sad, but I am never sad, so I just cheer friends up.”
I was heartbroken. These responses illustrated that my students couldn’t acknowledge how emotions were a part of their experiences, or even what emotions they were displaying to the world. As I kept reading through the responses, some breakthroughs trickled through, “Once, I was having a very hard day. My friend told a horrible joke, but when she started laughing, I couldn’t help but start laughing too.” “One day I was having a bad day. I think I made my friends have a bad day. I spread my negativity.”
These responses gave me hope that I can eventually help my students get to a place where they can better recognize not only the emotions of someone they are talking to, but also an awareness of their own emotions and how they can impact those around them.
We still have a ways to go, but maybe if I display happiness and other positive emotions, I can help my students get there. One thing is for sure, the proliferation of social emotional learning resources is wonderful.
Another exciting year of teaching and learning is underway. And while a new school year can elicit mixed feelings, it also inspires educators and school leaders with a desire to try and experiment with new tools, systems, and pedagogies to make strides and improve upon last year.
Introducing the Kiddom Pilot Program for Schools and Districts
This year, Kiddom is also offering something new: a pilot program to help schools and districts meet their goals with custom intelligence reports, administrative controls, a tailored onboarding experience, and ongoing pedagogical support.
Last year, Kiddom helped tens of thousands of teachers across the United States improve their classroom experience with a set of interconnected, user-friendly tools. Today, teachers rely on Kiddom’s reports because they’re visual and actionable, offering beautiful analytics to fine-tune instruction. Teachers love Kiddom’s library because it saves them time by giving them easy access to free resources (e.g. videos, quizzes, and readings) from top-notch curriculum providers. Our Google Drive integration removes the need for teachers to use Google Classroom. And of course, students use Kiddom to access all of their assignments, feedback, and progress from one place, on their own terms.
We’ve been laser focused on the classroom experience and it’s paid off. However, we believe it takes a village to raise a child. If we don’t connect the various stakeholders involved in a child’s education, then we’re not meeting our full potential.
Kiddom’s pilot program helps schools and districts plan, assess, and analyze learning more effectively as learning communities.
Our pilot program offers school and district leaders the opportunity to measure the pulse of teaching and learning in their community, beyond a single classroom. Participants receive custom intelligence reports to identify strengths and areas to improve across school(s), as well as a toolset to make timely interventions. School and district-level controls allow administrators to set up community-level preferences, rubrics, standards, and more. Schools and districts also received a tailored onboarding experience and a dedicated support specialist. We also work with the pilot school/district to design custom professional development resources and experiences. Pilot program teachers, principals, and district administrators also get to shape Kiddom: they take part in product feedback sessions where their input informs future Kiddom features and services. These benefits and services are free for pilots — it’s the least we can do.
Unfortunately, there are a limited number of spots available. We’ve already accepted a range of schools, districts, and non-profit organizations. If reading this got you excited, the best way to get started is to complete this pilot program interest form as soon as possible. If your organization meets our requirements and you’d rather get something on your calendar soon, schedule a call with us so we can learn more about your community’s goals and initiatives.
Features and services for pilot schools and districts:
Teamwork makes the dream work!
Custom class, school, and district-level intelligence reports
A sense of collaboration and community is important for the success of any school. Collaborative environments allow teachers to feel appreciated and guided in their role. It’s not rocket science: when teachers collaborate and communicate effectively, they design richer learning experiences for their students. Today, we’re proud announce that collaboration tools are now available on Kiddom.
After months of researching, designing, engineering, and testing, all Kiddom users everywhere can now effectively collaborate with their colleagues. Hooray! 🎉
Here’s how collaboration works
Adding a collaborator is as simple as entering their email address.
As the class owner, you decide the type of access your collaborators gain, depending on each adult’s goals and roles (view vs. edit).
Share your classes with multiple adults — there is no limit to the number of collaborators each class can have.
Adding a collaborator that can view your class 👀
This means a collaborator may only see your class timeline and reports, without the ability to edit, add, or remove any assignments or students.
A collaborator that can view your class won’t be able to see or send comments to students on assignments.
This is best for administrators, instructional coaches, paraprofessionals, or support staff who may need access to student achievement data or assignments for their own focus areas.
Adding a collaborator that can edit your class ✍🏽
This means a collaborator gains modification privileges for assignments, grades, commenting, class settings, and rosters.
A collaborator that can edit your class has the ability to add additional collaborators.
This is best for co-teachers in special education, multi-age, or interdisciplinary classes who share the responsibility of creating and grading assignments.
Teamwork makes the dream work
The Kiddom team believes technology should enable teachers to share and learn best practices across their school communities. In fact, our pilot school communities intend to make big strides this year using Kiddom, all of which are using our collaboration features a little differently.
While we’re excited about collaboration and what it could mean for teachers and learners, we recognize there’s more work to be done. Over the next several weeks, we’re building co-planning feature sets for curriculum to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform.
Update 9/19: Sharing curriculum with co-teachers is now available!
Editor’s note: You can only share personally identifiable information with other teachers and administrators at your school. Please confirm that sharing your class and student achievement data with others in your school community is allowed under your school (or district) technology policy.
Well-designed and differentiated curriculum allows students to more meaningfully connect with content, but designing it can be cumbersome. That’s why at Kiddom, we’re excited to give teachers a sneak peek at what we’ve been working on: curated playlists.
Why curate playlists?
One of the hardest things about planning a blended learning class is finding the right instructional materials. As teachers, we develop and own our teaching style. It’s hard to give up your “teacher identity” by accepting videos or resources created by someone else. Some teachers (admittedly, like us) have spent countless hours recording and editing themselves. While that may feel truer to your teaching practice, it’s difficult to sustain given the time (and resource) constraints of school. The alternative, finding the right resource aligned to your students’ needs, can be equally time consuming. We can’t tell you how many hours of educational videos and songs we’ve watched to find the best fit for our classes.
So why bother if it’s so difficult? Well, one generalized lesson per day to address the “average” student doesn’t do enough to meet the diverse needs of every student in the classroom. It’s also difficult to support soft skills like self-management and curiosity when you’re teaching one lesson to the entire class. This is why we’re thoughtfully curating curriculum resources for you. We encourage you to be familiar with the resources we’ve gathered, but we hope to earn your trust in the quality resources we pulled together to meet your students’ unique needs. We’re dedicated to helping you find more time to connect with and inspire students.
To get all of our curated playlists, click here. Then copy and paste the assignments directly into Kiddom’s Planner.
How do we evaluate our playlists?
Our playlists are peer-reviewed and checked for rigor, flow, and alignment.
FLOW: How well do the topics move from one lesson to the next?
RIGOR: Are the tasks at an appropriate grade level to be accessible and still provide a challenge. Do the tasks require conceptual understanding and application of content?
STANDARDS ALIGNMENT: Are the assessments and standards clearly aligned? Does the content align to multiple standards? How well does the content span across grade levels and across content?
How do we select resources?
Each group of resources, which we’re calling a playlist, is thoughtfully curated to include the best options for learning and practicing a new skill. When selecting resources for playlists, we’re looking for content that meets the criteria for Universal Design for Learning (UDL), “a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.” We look for lessons that provide multiple means of representation such as audio, visual, and text support. We seek activities to practice those skills that provide multiple means of engagement by optimizing relevance through real life application. Finally, we designed culminating assessments to support planning and strategy development, optimize individual choice and autonomy, use multiple media for communication, and develop self-assessment and reflection.
As a free platform, we first seek the best free resources so that they’re universally accessible. But we also incorporate resources from providers based on teacher request. We also include resources that have limited free practices or a free trial version.
Create your own playlist:
We’d love your feedback on this month’s featured playlists. Are they useful? Are they effective? How would you use them?
Today, we released a redesigned student experience on Kiddom to help 21st century learners access and submit work, track their own progress, and solicit feedback from teachers in real-time, from one place.
Over the past century, education technology has often left students out of the equation. That’s unfortunate, because students today move fast and are incredibly tech-savvy. At Kiddom, we believe students shouldn’t have to wait until progress reports are printed to learn where they stand in class or on specific skills. Students shouldn’t have to wait to see their teachers in person to pose clarifying questions or solicit feedback on an assignment. And from what we’ve gathered, teachers are constantly looking for ways to empower students to take control of their learning. With our redesigned student experience, the possibilities of student ownership are endless.
Timeline — Everything in One Place
When students login and click into their class, they’ll be greeted by their Timeline. Timeline allows students to view assignments (past, present, and upcoming) from one place. This not only includes teacher-created assignments, but also all the Khan Academy videos, CK-12 exercises, CommonLit readings, and other resources their teacher might’ve assigned for differentiation purposes via Kiddom’s Library of resources.
Submitting Work and Soliciting Feedback Made Easy
When students click on an assignment from their Timeline, they’ll be able to see any instructions or attachments their teacher may have included, as well as the standards or skills has appended to the assignment. Students may upload and submit their own work and also engage in a discussion with their teacher regarding the assignment.
Reports — Monitor Progress and Self-Advocate
When students can actively monitor their progress in class, they’re more likely to advocate for themselves. With our redesigned Reports, students can track their overall class progress, as well as progress on individual standards and skills — all in real-time. This means they finally have the data they need, when they need it.
We’re Just Getting Started
The new student experience has been long overdue. And while we’re incredibly excited about the positive impact it will make in classrooms around the world, there’s still a lot more work to be done. Over the next several months and into the next school year, we’re going to focus on adding community features to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the new student experience with a comment or chat with us directly using the in-app chat tool. Happy teaching and learning!
Editor’s note: We’re still testing the new Kiddom student experience. If your students signed up before Friday, April 21, 2017, they may not experience the new Kiddom just yet. We plan to conclude testing on Friday, April 28, 2017, at which time all students will be on the redesigned student experience. For more information, contact our support team.
I have been working in schools for eight years as a teacher, department lead, and instructional coach. I am by no means a veteran of the field. Despite this, by and large, I have been left alone to independently seek resources to improve my practice or received coaching that was ineffective and misaligned to the realities of my classroom.
I’ve always felt this disconnect, but it hit me even more concretely this week in a professional development session for instructional coaches. We were asked to describe the best mentor we’ve had as educators — what were the qualities that allowed us to learn from them, the structures they used to teach us, and the lessons we learned from them? As I scanned my memories of the last eight years, the officially assigned coaches or mentors did not come immediately to mind. Instead, it has been peers, books, online forums, and my students that filled my head with lessons and pushed me to improve.
As I reflected more deeply, going year by year, I realized how much of my lack of professional development stemmed from greater issues in public education: lack of financial resources, inexperienced teachers and administrators trained by alternative certification programs, high staff turnover and burnout, and the heavy focus on standardized tests.
In my first year teaching, I was assigned a mandatory mentor to meet with biweekly. She rarely observed my classes or asked for lesson plans as a source of data to develop my personalized goals; she usually asked me how I was feeling about my own practice. Much like a doctor asking a patient to diagnose themselves, she left it to me, a twenty-one year old novice, to pick a focus area for my learning. I gave the answers that “felt” right, but I was never confident I was seeking the right resources. Most of our sessions focused on classroom management, but since she hadn’t seen my students’ behavior or my delivery, her feedback consisted of things I had already found in books like The First Days of School or Teach like a Champion: stand at the door and greet students, circulate around the room a lot, don’t put your back to the class while writing on the board, etc. It was disconnected from what was actually going on in my classroom and my planning, and it flat out didn’t work to make me better or help my students. I usually left those sessions feeling more exhausted and confused than before we met. I want to go back and coach myself like Ebenezer Scrooge, the ghost of PD future. “Stop focusing on behavior. Look at your lesson plans. Script your questions ahead of time. Pick more engaging content. Get to know the kids better. Really listen to what they’re saying in class.”
In my second year, it was assumed by administration that as I had survived my first year, I was competent enough to be left alone. The principal (who had taught for only four years before being fast tracked into administration through the Leadership Academy) came once mid-year, observed for fifteen minutes, and left. We never had a post-observation meeting. At the end of the year, I was asked to sign off on five “Satisfactory” observations for my file towards tenure. I survived that year, and learned via trial by fire. I came out feeling grizzled, and wondered if teaching was for me. I had no idea if I was doing a good job, and though I had strong relationships with my students and their academic results seemed solid, I felt unmoored in my career. I thought about leaving teaching, but stayed because I loved my students and the community I worked in.
Fortunately, in my third year, a group of veterans formed an informal peer observation group. The plan was to pick a partner, observe them every other week, then meet in the off-weeks to debrief and give suggestions and discuss. This was the most important group I have ever been a part of professionally. Throughout the year, I was paired with teachers across grade level and content area with varying levels of experience and teaching styles. Through spending time in their classrooms, I learned an infinite number of lessons — everything from how to use the physical space in my classroom more creatively to how to infuse engaging multimedia into the most mundane lessons. I am eternally grateful to the teachers who voluntarily gave up lunch breaks to meet with me, who welcomed me into their classrooms, and allowed me to question their methods with a generosity of spirit that made me the educator I am today. Their lesson plans, their teacher voices, and their passion for the true work of teaching lives in every class I have ever taught or PD session I have led.
After my third year, I moved to a brand new school as a founding team member. The school had not been planned well from its inception, and amidst the chaos of figuring out new systems for everything from collecting attendance to choosing curriculum, our administration had less than zero time for coaching. The only instances that an observer ever came to my class were reactive, in both negative and positive ways. If there were conflicts between certain students, a visitor might come for a little bit and stay in the room, but the focus was never on instruction, only physical and emotional safety. Conversely, I would frequently invite the whole school community into my class to see presentations, debates, or readers’ theater my students were sharing to celebrate success. Rarely did anyone, especially from administration, take me up on my offer. I was so disappointed I couldn’t foster the same “open-door” policy among the new staff that had become so important to me at my old school. Once or twice, the principal popped in and complimented my classroom management, but the content or structure of my lessons was not a point of discussion. Still, I could only judge from my students’ reflections and my own research that I was learning to become a better teacher. Again, I didn’t receive any formal feedback for an entire school year.
Finally, the following year, I got a coach. She was an experienced, passionate, and purposeful educator who asked me early in the year, “What do you want to work on? What should I look for when I observe?” She came to my class, stayed for entire periods, took detailed notes, and videotaped my lessons. This Cinderella with a ragged unit plan got a fairy godmother full of probing questions and content knowledge. She let me drive my goals — I wanted to learn how to question better, how to flip my classroom so I could be a facilitator and my students would be accountable for accessing the knowledge they sought. This coach pushed me to consider how to increase the number of minutes students were speaking to each other in class, and we researched techniques and strategies together. We watched taped footage of my class together, attended external PD workshops together, and re-wrote curriculum together. I had never felt more effective or energized; I knew my decisions in planning were grounded in evidence-based strategies, my students were performing at extremely high levels in both standardized tests and project-based assessments. I was able to use the innovation and pilot strategies we had come up with to teach others in my department. It was exactly the teaching utopia I had dreamed of. And then, because of nasty political decision-making at the administrative level, my fairy godmother left to work at another school. I was devastated, but I didn’t blame her. I knew the coaching she had given me was rare, and I was still craving her expertise and constant challenges to improve.
In my last year at this school, I experienced a slow decline in my emotional engagement in the work of teaching, despite having extremely high test scores and a greater leadership role in the school. I was observed the most I had ever been in my career, but it was the least helpful time I’ve spent in meetings. While my previous coach had tracked things like percentage of student vs. teacher talk, rigor of questioning, and text complexity in her observations, my new coach was checking items off on a list, exactly the same as he had in every other class he visited: Were rules posted? Was there common formatting on worksheets? Did I have a behavior tracker on the wall? And most importantly, was there a standardized test question embedded in every lesson? The deep, personal inquiry into student learning was replaced with questions of compliance and testing. I pushed back in feedback meetings, and was reminded repeatedly that our students would only graduate if they passed the state exam. I wanted to shoot higher than the state test. I wanted my students doing college-level work, thinking beyond a simple multiple choice test question. I wanted them to question me, the texts, and each other. I wanted them to argue, reflect, and create authentic artifacts of their learning. But the resistance I faced was strong, and it drove me out of the classroom.
Today, I work to mentor new teachers-in-training, and much of my drive for coaching is rooted in a desire for them (and most importantly, their students) to have what I did not. This year, I’m challenging myself to plan my coaching with the three major things that worked for me in mind: personalized development goals grounded in classroom observations and student data, opportunities for peer-to-peer observation and feedback, and use of coaching time to seek new resources and work side by side with a mentor, rather than receiving top-down feedback. I hope to be transparent about these goals with my team, so that when fatigue hits in March, they’ll hold me accountable to what I said I would do, and refocus me as the facilitator of a community of adult learners.
I challenge you, educators of all types: do what you can to support your colleagues’ growth to help prevent burnout and turnover.
New teachers: find a veteran and hang out in their classroom while they teach. Ask them questions about their practice and take risks to try some of their techniques.
Veterans: instead of chatting with them in the teacher’s lounge, open your classroom door to the fresh-faced teachers joining your staff this year. Show them how you balance all of the hats you wear as a teacher. Create a community of teachers who support and learn from each other.
Administrators and coaches: ask questions of the teachers you coach. What do they see as their biggest challenge? Where do they want to grow? Work alongside your teachers to develop a culture of inquiry and learning. Seek feedback from them all along the way, instead of just providing yours.
Let’s make this school year one that fosters development for all, so our children can reap the benefits.