Many people think you need to have a 1:1 laptop ratio to do blended learning, but with the station rotation and lab rotation models, teachers are able to maximize a classroom with limited technology.
In this post, which comes from our Blended Learning 102 guide, we’ll give you an overview of the similarities and differences between two of the most common blended learning models: station rotation and lab rotation. We’ll also share some tips to set up each model, and include a few ways Kiddom helps with implementation along the way.
Rotation Models: The Basics
Station and lab rotation are two blended learning models which belong under the larger umbrella of “Rotation Models”. A rotation model is when students move between learning stations, either 1. on a ﬁxed schedule, or 2. at the teacher’s discretion, where at least one station incorporates online learning.
While one group of students is engaged in independent online learning, the teacher facilitates activities for another group; activities such as small-group instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, or independent practice.
Choosing the Station Rotation Model
In a station rotation model, the teacher organizes students into groups within the classroom, where at least one station is a computer-based learning experience. These groups can be fixed (remain the same each day; grouped by learning styles) or dynamic (change depending on student skills/needs).
This model allows you to differentiate your teacher-led instruction by creating small-groups in class and personalized learning experiences on the computers. As mentioned, station rotation is a great option when you have limited classroom technology or limited access to a school laptop cart. It addresses many issues caused by large class sizes and can be used in classrooms of all ages, even kindergarten. You can also introduce students to the 21st century technology skills they need in small chunks of time. The possibilities are endless, which can be a bit overwhelming, so let’s get specific.
The station rotation model changes the role of a teacher by allowing for greater flexibility through small group instruction. This impacts how you plan your instruction for each day, although, it doesn’t mean you plan completely different lessons for each group.
Your lesson plan format may change to include the student groups and how you plan to address their unique needs with varied question types or examples. The beauty of grouping is that the groups can be dynamic, as student achievement levels or needs change. This will inspire more daily data-driven planning as well, rather than waiting until the end of the term to look at student data. Using a platform like Kiddom makes it easy to track student performance in real time and make decisions about student groupings or send individual assignments based on mastery levels.
How you plan to differentiate is also flexible. You can hear a teacher’s’ first-hand explanation of these changes by accessing the Khan Academy Case Study of Kipp Los Angeles School. In this case study, you can hear how using stations allows the teacher to support her english language learner students by giving them more opportunities to speak in a small group.
Activities to Maximize the Potential of Each Station
Individualized assignments (i.e. remediation or extension)
Interactive activities (i.e. discussion boards)
Group work with roles
The computer station can be used for many learning goals. Some teachers or schools sign up for an adaptive learning platform, but paying for that type of resource isn’t necessary — you can get creative with your stations by accessing free content.
One option would be to use Kiddom to send personalized assignments to individual or groups of students. On Kiddom, students can access those assignments, check their scores, ask questions or make comments, and monitor their own progress towards mastery.
Getting Started with the Station Rotation Model
An easy way to explore how a station rotation model might impact your class would be to establish a “stations” day once a week. Depending on how many devices and students you have, you can start with 2–3 small(er) groups.
One small group could work independently or in pairs on activities appropriate for their current achievement level, such as practice from the previous days lessons, independent reading, journaling, etc. Another group could be working with the teacher on either a mini-lesson or a teacher-facilitated group discussion. In a third group, students use a computer to develop their social emotional skill of self-management by doing a progress check and setting a goal for the week. Using the computer station to allow students to check their progress is a way to ease into the benefits of this blended learning model. It wouldn’t require much additional software and can help you establish and refine the classroom routines needed to make transitions from station to station.
Working in stations one day a week would allow you to experiment with the classroom management supports you’ll need for your classroom to help things run smoothly. For example, you’ll learn how long it takes your students to transition from one station to the next and you can adjust accordingly. Anyone trying out stations knows that routines are very important and it’s okay not to get it right the first time.
A visual schedule like this one can help students know where they should be at the appropriate time and help them take ownership of their schedule.
Choosing a Lab Rotation Model
The lab rotation model is another option that works when you don’t have a full set of computers in your classroom. In this model, students rotate to a separate computer lab for the online-learning station. Many schools that use lab rotation have a co-teaching staffing model or have paraprofessionals in the classroom to facilitate transitions, but that is not a requirement. Students can either rotate to the lab as part of a class or as an online learning class of its own. This model can be used for all grade levels.
One common way the lab rotation model is used:
Teacher delivers a mini lesson and does a formal check for understanding.
Students who demonstrate proficiency are ready to rotate to the computer lab to complete independent practice or personalized practice.
Students who need additional assistance get to work with the teacher in a small group in the moment.
This blended learning model allows you to intervene right away when students need additional support. The teacher’s role in a lab rotation model can be very similar to a traditional teaching model, in that you may still deliver whole class instruction.
The main difference is that you can intervene with a small group without having to manage the entire class of students at the same time. If you do not have a co-teacher or paraprofessional, you would rotate with your entire class to the lab and sit with the small group in the lab.
Getting Started with the Lab Rotation Model
Kiddom can help maintain consistency of expectations while in the lab. Establishing a routine and leadership roles for students when they rotate to the lab can alleviate classroom management concerns. Using Kiddom in the lab will enhance the lab rotation model by allowing you to direct student learning in advance, so you can focus on teaching instead of giving instructions.
It also opens the line of communication. While you may be working with the small group of students, students can comment/respond to comments on assignments. You can support student interests and learning needs by sharing personalized assessments. Finally, just like in the station rotation model, students can access their progress reports on Kiddom and know how they are performing at a skill based level.
One of the biggest considerations for implementing a lab rotation model is scheduling. Whether you are piloting the model yourself, or your entire school is transitioning to a lab rotation model, you will need to be on the same page with your colleagues about how and when the lab can be used by your class. Just like in station rotation, it may be easiest to start with a lab rotation day. In this case, you can reserve the lab for your class on a given day and experiment with rotation options on that given day.
This blog post is based on our Blended Learning 102 Guide. For more information, we encourage you to download it here.
Hello, and welcome to our recap from last week’s Change Management Initiative webinar with EdSurge and Kiddom! Our very own Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead at Kiddom and contributor to our Change Management Guide, sat amongst the four panelists.
In this insightful discussion led by EdSurge CEO and Founder Betty Corcoran, you’ll hear from current and previous administrators who have been there and survived to tell the tale. Listen to hear their success stories, tips, and even a few educational failures encountered while rolling out new tech initiatives at the school and district level. Please watch the video here or view a partial transcription below.
Webinar Transcription start:
Betty Corcoran: [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to today’s webinar, which is about making edtech initiatives stick. My name is Betty Corcoran, and I’m the founder and CEO of EdSurge. We’re really, really pleased to be here with you today. Just a quick note before we get started; this webinar will be recorded and the recording made available to you and others via e-mail. After the live event, we also really encourage everyone to ask questions using the Q&A button in the Zoom webinar window, and we’ll answer those as we go along. So please feel free to jump in, join the conversation, and be a part of it.
I’d like to start by thanking our panelists for joining us today. We have four terrific people here: Kyle Pace, who is director of technology at the Grain Valley School District in Missouri. Kyle has led technology initiatives as an instructional IT coach, starting with implementing Smart Boards, to today when he’s rolling out 1,100 Chromebooks to middle school teachers. Melissa Giroux is the school success lead at Kiddom in New York City. She’s been a teacher in New York, she’s been a founding teacher of an alternative school, and now she works with Kiddom to support teachers. She is also an EdSurge columnist — I hope you read her stories, talking about a wide variety of schools implementing technology.
Mikkel Storaasli is the superintendent of the Grayslake High School District in Illinois. Mikkel got his start as a math teacher in Leyden High School and rose through the ranks serving as an assistant principal and now is obviously superintendent for the high school district which has two high schools and almost 3000 students. And Pam Moran, Executive Director of the Virginia School Consortium for Learning, has really done it all. She’s been a teacher and one of the country’s top administrators serving at the Albemarle County Public School District in Virginia, and she’s the co-author of a new fantastic book called Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. And I’m really pleased to say she’s also a featured speaker at our Fusion Conference, which is going to go on next week. Yay. Thank you all for joining us.
So, broadly speaking, you know what? Newton was right. It takes more energy to make a change than it does to keep things going as they are. And yet our world is continuing to change — that pace of change is accelerating — and that means that we have to figure out how to make change something that our communities; our staff, our students, our families, can embrace and welcome. We’re going to talk through ideas of what has worked with leading practitioners, and of course invite anyone who’s on this webinar to weigh in with questions and thoughts.
So a couple of things to start off: Studies do suggest that most educators feel overwhelmed by the number of new initiatives. They get ahead of a lot of them, but it is challenging. And let’s take a look at how technology reforms compare to other school reforms. 36% of teachers felt that technology reforms in the last two years had a pretty large impact on them. That’s a third of all of our teachers. And on the other side of the coin, only 59% of educators feel that they have the support that they need to implement reforms — that really should be 100%. So before we ask the panelists to weigh in and share some of their experience, we’d like to ask anybody who’s out there who is tuning into this webinar to answer a very short poll and give us some thoughts about your own experiences….
1. Has your school implemented a tech-based initiative in the last two years?
I’ll take a second for you to just click yes or no.
2. Do you feel that you have the support that you need to master the initiatives that are being implemented in your district or your school?
So just take a second and fill those out. We will come back to that poll in a couple of minutes and give you the results.
I’d like to start this conversation by asking each of you a question. Kyle, let’s talk about that Chromebook initiative; 1,100 Chromebooks! Take us through how you’re doing this rollout. So much of getting people to embrace change is building on trust. So what are you doing to get all of those middle school teachers who are saying “Oh my God, here comes 1,100 Chromebooks!” — How do you build trust with that community?
Kyle Pace: [00:05:10] Yeah absolutely, that’s a great question. Literally a month ago we brought one-to-one to all of our middle schools and gave every student a device. So that was a huge initiative just right here at the start of the school year that we added on to all of the devices that we already had in our district. So it takes a lot of planning and preparation and an outstanding team to build that trust for sure. We didn’t just drop in 1,100 devices and say “OK, teachers: here you go.” You know, we had already been introducing the devices for a good two years prior to this moment to get teachers comfortable with, “What does this look like with my teaching, and what does it look like for student learning? And how does this enhance teaching and learning?” And that all came through our two instructional technology coaches that worked a lot with all of the teachers at these schools to build that trust; to build that system of support, to show them what’s possible, to help them when things don’t work, to be there and celebrate the things that went awesome with them as well. And so our district’s commitment to that looked like… you know, we started out with just one instructional technology coach. Then we got two instructional technology coaches, and created a concrete plan of not only how we’re gonna support teachers and how we’re going to continually work with teachers, but also how we’re going to work with and support our administrators in all of this “new” that’s coming along, as well.
Betty Corcoran: [00:06:56] So before we let go of this, maybe just take us through those numbers and that timeline, because you said that you were working on it for two years, you now have two IT coaches. Remind us, how many teachers and administrators are these folks supporting and can you give us a couple of milestones on that ramp up?
Kyle Pace: [00:07:15] Yeah, absolutely. So this began at… we started with our high school actually, so our high school is in the third year of being one-to-one. So we started there and we started very small, created some pilot groups…
Betty Corcoran: [00:07:33] So that’s one teacher? Two teachers?
Kyle Pace: [00:07:34] Yes, so it was about half a dozen or so teachers.
Betty Corcoran: [00:07:38] Okay, So start with about a half-dozen teachers, that’s great. And they did it for a semester or a full year?
Kyle Pace: [00:07:44] They did it for the entire second semester of the year prior of what this would look like with the students fully supported.
Betty Corcoran: [00:07:54] How did that how did that ramp go?
Kyle Pace: [00:07:57] So then we ramped up to giving all of our high school students the device the following year, so that was approximately 1,300 devices that we rolled out three years ago to our high school students. Lots and lots of communication and resources and support had to come out ahead of that; we wanted to keep our parents in the know. Parents were also being asked to pay a Chromebook insurance fee for the first time, so that was something new that parents weren’t used to. So we had to make sure we were communicating the why behind this very regularly and very carefully. We wanted that to be very purposeful.
Betty Corcoran: [00:08:42] So now you’ve got the 1,300 high school kids using it, and as you said you started to get the middle school kids, so overall then what’s what’s the ratio? You’ve got two IT folks and they’re serving how many?
Kyle Pace: [00:08:54] Yes so we’ve got two Instructional Technology coaches that are supporting approximately 200 teachers, maybe just shy of that, that are teaching with a 1-to-1 environment.
Betty Corcoran: [00:09:10] Terrific. Well we’ll come back to those stories, but that’s a great start. Melissa, you’ve seen initiatives go well, and you’ve seen them stall. Tell us a little bit about a time when you started to see those early signs of “Oh my God… we’ve had enough initiatives!” And then, what did you do when you addressed that?
Melissa Giroux: [00:09:29] Yeah, absolutely. One of the key signs for me, from both an administrator perspective and a teacher one, is around that Why? and that trust that Kyle was speaking about. When I go into a school for the first time, one of the things that I’ll ask both the admin and the teachers, whether or not they’re in the same room, is “Why are you using our platform? Why are you using technology in the classroom?” That Why question and the variance of answers that it generates is often a really big warning sign. And for people focusing often on the products and the solution instead of the Whyand goals for the solutions —
Betty Corcoran: [00:10:04] Instead of the pedagogical reasons.
Melissa Giroux: [00:10:05] Exactly, the objective for implementing anything new, whether it’s technology or not. And so seeing teachers’ blank stares at that question, confusion, looking around at each other, or immediately kind of disengaging is a pretty scary sign. And from the administrator point of view, one warning sign I’ve seen is that fatigue. I think most admin have really good intentions, but they hold so tightly to initiatives. The freedom that tech specialists in these pilot teams that Kyle’s describing had to kind of play around in a low-risk way… this kind of takes the pressure off that head admin who’s leading the charge. It’s exhausting to try to be the sole driver of a new change, and so when I see an admin who already looks fatigued at the idea of pushing a new initiative, that makes me a little nervous, that they’re holding out a little too tightly, instead of building that trust and a little bit of experimental freedom.
Betty Corcoran: [00:10:59] Cool. Is there anything that you’ve done that actually is just kind of a great, sort of, almost a warm-up exercise or a scaffolding to try to deal with that kind of fatigue?
Melissa Giroux: [00:11:14] Yeah, absolutely. I think breaking people into smaller groups, where they have the chance to talk amongst each other, if they don’t have an answer to that “Why a new piece of tech?” question, whether breaking them into their department teams or their grade teams. Letting them sort of grapple with that in an open-ended way before I jump into anything technical has been a great way for me to be able to on-the-spot tailor materials as I hear things bubbling up in conversation. Teachers don’t get an awful lot of time just to talk to each other about the work and take a step back. So often those 37-and-a-half minutes of PD time are go-go-go, and then everyone leaves, and we don’t know what happened. So investing that time, and pushing my partners at schools to invest that time, into just a little bit of discussion to give me a fertile idea bank of ways that I might support them moving forward helps.
Betty Corcoran: [00:12:08] Mikkel, I’m sure that what Melissa said really resonates with you, because as a district leader you have had to kind of coordinate and connect all of the various pilots and initiatives and really try to help people answer that “Why.” How have you tried to do that? How do you make people see things as a unified whole, not “just another initiative.”
Mikkel Storaasli: [00:12:34] Yeah I mean as a district administrator I think a lot of times we’re the ones maybe at fault you know, for initiative fatigue. You know, we’re the ones that are seen as…
Betty Corcoran: [00:12:43] Thank you for saying that! I’m sure your teachers appreciate that.
Mikkel Storaasli: [00:12:47] Yeah, hey I’ll cop to it, absolutely. You know, what I think we have to do is exactly as Kyle said and exactly as Melissa said, you start with the “Why.” You have got to use that Simon Cynic idea of “This is why we’re doing this.” I don’t have a great answer. You know, it’s difficult to communicate why we’re doing all these things or how they all fit together. What I would say is we just have to be relentless about communicating why we’re doing it. Having some sort of framework, whether that’s a mission statement or a strategic plan, or a well-articulated set of goals, and communicate to people this is why we’re doing it. We may be doing all of these different initiatives, whether it’s a tech initiative or reading, or math, or PBL, or blended, or what have you. But they’re all pushing in the same direction. And again, just being relentless about communicating that “this is why we’re doing it, this is how it fits into the grand scheme of things, and this is why overall this is the direction we’re going and how it’s going to benefit our students.”
Betty Corcoran: [00:13:47] And just out of curiosity. In, say the last initiative that you’ve really started to rollout, maybe something that you’ve started to do this September, how have you framed that “Why” for your community?
Mikkel Storaasli: [00:14:02] Well you know like I mentioned we just rolled out a new strategic plan and a new mission statement — that’s why it’s on my mind, I guess. One key line, so to speak, of our mission statement is “relevant, engaging, authentic learning” and really pushing that — and it’s part of our goals. It’s really something that we’re trying to make sure teachers understand, no matter what you’re teaching, that’s what we need to be pushing toward. So we’ve got a couple of blended learning pilots, for example, where students are maybe in C in class three days a week and somewhere else in the building. Two days or a week, or what have you. And really communicating why that’s that’s important for students why we think allowing them or helping them learn how to manage their own time is important, and they gets into like technological issues and things like that. But it really gets to, again the relevant, engaging, authentic learning. Not just the use of their time but if and when they decide to go to college, they’re probably gonna be taking a blended course and are gonna have to learn how to manage their time regardless. So again, trying to to communicate how it fits into the grand whole.
Betty Corcoran: [00:15:12] Yeah. And Pam, in your book you have a really big important observation, (a lot of big important observations), but one of the ones that I really liked is that we have to realize that teachers themselves are at very different developmental stages, and you summed up with an idea you call squash, which I really like. Take us through an example of what these stages mean and what squash has to do with it.
Pam Moran: [00:15:39] Well I think that I’ve learned as an elementary principal for 10 years, which was part of a journey to being a superintendent for 13 years, that we live in a world where change is coming at us all the time in schools, for a variety of reasons. It was true in the 80s, it was true in the 90s, and it’s true today. What I think was absolutely critical for me, as an elementary principal, is that we were going through a process of trying to reinvision what we wanted curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment to look like, just for a principal. The teachers worked really hard on it. I was really working on it, and we had some support from the University of Virginia, in an educator who was in the Curry School of Education. And what we were trying to do was to build the integrated model around in firing the arts and writing as a set of pathways to getting at what we didn’t call at that point time, “deeper learning”. But I think we call it deeper learning today. Sometime right before the Thanksgiving holidays, teachers came and sat down with me and said “Gosh, we’re feeling really squashed here.” There was so much coming at us from so many different places. And what really emerged from that, is that they were overwhelmed even though they embraced the world and they wanted to be doing the work, but when you were trying to balance teaching kids, trying to invest in professional learning at the same time, and doing all the things that the division also expected us to do, that sense of being overwhelmed cause them to feel like they were squashed.
What we did, and I came back to the idea that sometimes you have to relieves the pressure and take a break. Let’s step back and take a break. And the way we got to the take a break conversation was interestingly by having a parent at school who worked at a local restaurant and worked with us to prepare a menu that was served on a day right before the Thanksgiving holidays, that was a professional development day, and the theme was squash. Literally that day had every single part of the meal was made from some version of squash, including the bread pudding. But what it did was it just caused everybody to sit back and say, “You know, what we’ve got to be able to do is to take small bites of this work, versus taking big bites, to use the food metaphor. And we need to maybe be more invested in doing a slow meal versus a fast meal.”
Betty Corcoran: [00:18:40] I love that point.
Pam Moran: [00:18:41] And it was interesting because, one of the things that caused us to think about that metaphor more is that one of the teachers said, “You know schools should be run like a great restaurant. Where you have really good service, where the food is then really cooked to perfection, where you take your time and you enjoy your meal and before everybody gets up, that you realize that you had a really fun evening. And if our work isn’t like that, if we can’t run like a great restaurant, then one of the things that we have to do is to ask ourselves the question, “What are the barriers to doing that?”
The other thing that I learned as the superintendent was that change can come from a lot of different places, it can come from the grassroots, it can come top down. But the reality is, when you embark on change, if you don’t have a process to do what I call somewhat of an aim small, miss small model, where you actually are not trying to create change that’s going to cut across the full organization, but rather to start with almost a prototyping space, so that you know you can always make mistakes. And we see it rolled out in the front of EdWeek every time there’s some big division that’s had a national fail in terms of rolling out an initiative, that if you aim small, miss small, and you really think about how can you test out this, then you get some people who know that they’re in it to help you figure out what the barrier’s going to be, where the mistakes are going to happen, and how to fix those before you take it out to the bigger audience of the entire staff, so I think that would be the two things I would offer up.
Betty Corcoran: [00:20:30] Those are some amazing points. I’d love to come back to this aim small, miss small point again. But we do have that poll ready, so just going to pause for one tenth of a second to show the polls. So of the people who are currently on this webinar… Yes, 81% have had some kind of tech initiative. And we’re kind of running neck-and-neck here about whether they feel that they have the support. So that makes this conversation incredibly timely.
To hear the rest of the webinar, please watch the full video on ourYouTube channel here, and we also encourage you to check out our free guide on Change Management to learn more about successful edtech implementation for your school or district.
In the first of our 4-part blended learning blog series, use this infographic to determine the right model for you and get a brief overview of each model.
In today’s schools, blended learning is becoming increasingly utilized due to improvements in technology and growing access to online learning materials. According to the Christensen Institute’s Blended Learning Universe, there are seven generally accepted blended learning models — so you might be wondering, which one is best for my class?
In this four-part blog series we will provide you with the right resources to answer that question and then explore each style in depth. For part one, we’ve created this infographic based on our Blended Learning 101 and 102 guides. You can use the infographic to determine the right model for your class, get a brief overview of each model, and learn some fun facts and helpful Kiddom features along the way.
In the following posts, we’ll cover the models in more depth, including how to get started, how our free product for teachers helps with implementation, and further resources if you wish to go deeper.
Recap: What is Blended Learning, again?
Blended learning, commonly understood as combining traditional instruction with computer-based learning experiences, can address many common pedagogical challenges. A widely accepted definition from Horn and Staker includes the following components of true blended learning components:
1. It involves teaching and learning within a formal education program
2. Students learn at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction
3. Students have some level of control over time, place, path, and/or pace
4. Part or all of instruction is delivered away from home in a supervised, brick-and-mortar location
At Kiddom, we believe a successful blended learning program is the intentional integration of educational technology within the classroom to enhance the learning process. Students engage with content via multiple modalities and gain some control over their learning pace. Effective blended learning models have curricula designed for integration, student buy-in, and access to appropriate technology and resources.
Why Choose Blended Learning?
To ensure that you are planning intentionally, first you must determine whyyou want to try blended learning or, more specifically, which instructional issue you hope to solve.
Are you constantly torn between the range of needs of your students and want a more efficient way to differentiate instruction? Are you hoping to revive student motivation by increasing student choice? Do you feel passionate about embedding tech skills into your assignments to prepare students for college and careers? Maybe you have heard buzz about the benefits of asynchronous learning, small group instruction, and paperless classrooms, and want to pilot something new.
In the same guide, we seek to provide educators with a better understanding of how to implement blended learning programs, particularly in schools using standards-based or competency-based grading.
In Blended Learning 102, which our infographic is largely based upon, we have broken the models up into three main categories depending on the availability of internet enabled devices, in class or at home, needed to implement each model. Along the way, we also explore how Kiddom’s collaborative learning platform can be used to expertly implement a blended learning model in your classroom.
So without further ado, we invite you to check out our blended learning infographic to get the basics on which blended learning style is best for you.
Click the arrow above to download!
Over the next few weeks, we’ll post a series of articles to cover these models in more depth. In the meanwhile, we encourage you to check out our Blended Learning 101 and 102 guides, which you can access at our blended learning resources resources page.
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When I taught math at an alternative high school in New York City, I had a set of mandated tools which I had to use, but some of them didn’t meet my classroom needs. To better serve my students, I patched together a bunch of disparate edtech tools to ensure the materials were appropriately differentiated and accessible anywhere at any time. This meant devoting an inordinate amount of time copy-pasting achievement data from one system to another to ensure compliance with our set of mandated tools. Maybe my use case might have better informed other learning communities serving a similar student demographic. Maybe this information would have created an opportunity for school and district decision makers to more effectively evaluate the technologies they had purchased.
Why aren’t teachers considered a source of truth for large districts seeking product solutions? Teachers are on the front lines for our children, playing coach, mentor, counselor, and mediator before, during, and after the school day. They pour their blood, sweat, and tears into writing curriculum that guides students in making meaningful connections across concepts. They explore and incorporate new tools and instructional models in the name of student achievement, even when that means working late into the night and on the weekends.
There is some good news. According to that same EdWeek Market Brief, about three out of five small district leaders proactively seek teacher recommendations before procuring education products. Of course, smaller districts are inherently set up to be more responsive because they can have less bureaucracy. At Kiddom, we see this very clearly, as our K-12 operating system is gaining the most traction in small-to-medium sized districts, where leaders have their ears to the ground (and their eyes in the classroom). They recognize that any major new instructional initiative requires staff buy-in first, and to do that, you need to understand the tools your teachers have already chosen for their classrooms.
According to a report by SETDA entitled, State Education Leadership for Interoperability: Leveraging Data for Academic Excellence states continue to face massive challenges in making data readily available for use by decision makers, teachers, parents, and students. The report illustrates how interoperability can help states and districts better achieve student learning goals, in that “interoperability can allow for a balance between high quality information and local use of that information to support teaching and learning.” If half of K-12’s large district leaders continue to ignore teacher recommendations, and we assume that those teachers will continue to use tools that work best for their classrooms, how can we solve the interoperability issue in education?
To institute change and ensure decisions are made using high quality information, large district leaders should take a page out of their smaller peers’ playbook and create meaningful opportunities for pilot programs to report results directly to district leaders. If they don’t, they will only perpetuate the interoperability problem plaguing all of us in education, from students and teachers to district administrators to education technology companies.
If you’re the leader of a large district, you might remember LAUSD’s infamous $1.3 billion 700,000 iPads-for-all initiative. This blunder could have easily been avoided by engaging classroom teachers in decision-making processes, making critical improvements to the plan, and then building authentic buy-in. When we started Kiddom more than three years ago, we first focused on building tools needed to enhance the experience for individual teachers and students. By focusing on classrooms first, we discovered a disconnect between teachers and their administration bodies. So we listened and worked closely with public school administrators to understand how to connect school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.
At Kiddom, we recognize the need for change management when implementing new initiatives such as personalized learning, blended learning, and/or instructional models that are more student-centered. Our team of success managers are former educators focused on acting as thought partners for administrators, and connectors between school communities tackling similar challenges. We work alongside you to provide contextualized, targeted resources to guide teachers through long-term changes. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re helping schools and districts measure and act on classroom intelligence, we’d love to chat.
P.S. We’re obsessed with designing and implementing technology that enables all students to learn via pedagogy and pacing optimized for them. Are you an administrator seeking to build buy-in to a new initiative to support your teachers? We’d love to learn more about your goals.
As many of you know, teachers can plan, assign, assess, report, and more using Kiddom, available via desktop, Apple, and as of earlier this year, Google Play.
But there’s more to our Android product than you might think. This week, we had a chat with Kiddom’s Mobile Engineering Lead, Guillermo Alcantara, to tell us what makes the Android product special.
So, what is unique about Kiddom Android compared to other versions of the product?
Guillermo: If you’re using Kiddom on Android you’ll find it is more similar to the web experience than our iPhone app, which often has a different interface, than what you might see online. That’s because we’ve created more custom widgets for iOS, whereas with Android we’re building more for Google’s vision. In other words, because Android’s store is owned by Google, the Android mobile product is more optimized for Google standards.
Kiddom on Android is also more performant; we’ve put more emphasis on making the product work in varied conditions. For instance, if your network is slow or your screen is small, the Android product can be handy in those situations… we have built it from the start with attention to limitations like internet speed, battery life, and smaller screens. Our Apple product, on the other hand, is a more optimized experience for newer Apple devices, in keeping with iOS protocol.
A third uniqueness about our Android product is the ability to be easily translated, which is on our roadmap to release soon. It’s not something we have prioritized, but the entire app is ready to be translated — as many of our users are Spanish-speaking, and we know that could help a lot of schools.
Speaking of what’s “on the roadmap,” can you tell us more about what is coming soon for Kiddom’s Android product?
Guillermo: Soon we’ll be able to offer a translatable version of Spanish and Chinese. Many developers are familiar with FIGS (French, Italian, German, and Spanish), which is perhaps a traditional approach to translate, but we’ll likely make our earliest translations in Spanish and Chinese.
We are also constantly using our Android app to run tests that help foster a better user experience, so often those roadmap features show up on Android first. Like the Snapshot Roster feature, and the ability to take notes, for instance.
Can you speak more on the Snapshot Roster feature?
Guillermo: One feature we’re excited about releasing soon is the ability to add students on mobile in a quick and easy manner. Teachers can simply use their phones to take a snapshot of their student roster, whether digital or in print, and from that list, our product creates a new account for each student using text recognition technology called OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This will save teachers a great deal of time when they need to add a new class or want to switch over to Kiddom in the middle of a semester.
…and the Notes feature?
Guillermo: Yes, it provides users the ability to make notes. This feature was first available only in Android and we hope to soon make it available to everyone. That’s because we typically use Android to test new features. If we see that enough people are using the features we’re testing, we’ll roll them out to all of our products for everyone to use.
Can you tell us about the Student Groups Feature in Android?
Guillermo: Student groups — right now Kiddom assignments are only available for the entire class or one individual student, but what if you have a team assignment? This is a feature being testing in Android right now.
In closing, can you share what is your favorite part about the Android app?
Guillermo: I like the Timeline better in Android than in any other client. It’s easier to swipe rather than scroll.
…and that’s all he had time for! (Engineers are busy people, you know.) We hope you learned something new and useful, and as always, teachers, please let us know your thoughts and requests! We are building these products for you. ❤
For more information on Kiddom Android, visit our Support Page, or you can always reach us at email@example.com if you have any questions.
We like tidy narratives. Heroes and villains. Beginnings, middles, and ends. You need only look at the latestMarvel Blockbusters to see the formula writ large. There is an inherent danger to this structure, as we impose labels and story-arcs over people and events that rarely, if ever, conform to such a convenient structure. The opposite, though, the absence of narrative, is no better.
Unfortunately, for an example of the latter, you could just watch the news.
Not only do we increasingly like our current event stories to be clear-cut, they often seem to move so quickly that there is no time for ambiguity or complexity to evolve. Google “news cycle” and you will see a plethora of quantitative data and existential hand-wringing about the increasing speed — or complete erasure — of the news cycle. “Donald Trump killed the news cycle,” writes the Columbia Journalism Review. “Self-contained storylines that once would have risen and fallen in distinct waves of public attention have given way to information overload and frequent confusion.” The New York Times opines that, “. . . nothing matters long enough to matter.”
Labels and the illusion of character arc are still present — look at any recent story about North Korea — but context is left behind.
Forget simplistic narratives; it seems that in the news we’re often left with no narrative at all.
What does this mean for educators? It means that we need to complicate. . . everything.
We can no more teach Westward Expansion as a clear-cut moral story than we can allow our students to believe that a story no longer being talked about consistently is equivalent to the story no longer existing.
Any educator who teaches in the humanities or has the opportunity to develop students’ civic engagement, whether in class or an advisory period, has the responsibility to help students make sense of the world around them.That means identifying fake news, reading multiple sources, and identifying bias and assumptions. It also means acknowledging that very, very few events have easy-to-trace beginnings and ends or fit into convenient, all-encompassing summaries.
Case in point: Syria. The war there, which started in 2011, is still happening. It is also very, very complicated. The same can be said for Yemen, which also isn’t exactly in great shape, though you aren’t likely to hear about it either if you glance at the latest headlines. And the justifiable uproar of family separation has masked the potentially more destructive removal of asylum for those seeking refuge from domestic abuse or gang violence.
It’s impossible for every teacher to help their students fully understand every one of these issues. It’s impossible for any person to fully understand every one of these issues. But we can refuse to buy into the mindset that nothing matters long enough to matter.
We should work with our students to identify issues they are interested in, research context, and follow events as they unfold over the course of a school year. This is different from just learning history or just talking about headlines. It’s a shift in the way we perceive time and learning. Instead of a predetermined lesson or objective, we have ambiguity. Instead of a backwards-planned unit, we have uncertainty. Instead of resolution, we have the beautiful, chaotic mess of life.
If we want our students to genuinely enact democracy, to engage with the world, then our classrooms need to authentically engage with the world while it is happening. As John Dewey wrote, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
I am not advocating that we forego curriculum in order to only follow current events, or that it’s even possible to track every major news story. (What counts as a “major” news story, anyway?), but I am advocating that we open our classrooms to uncertainty and vulnerability.
Watching the world unfold in real-time is a terrifying, wondrous proposition. Follow any story closely enough, and conflict will arise in your community. Students will have differing opinions, will question why something matters, will venture into realms that are uncomfortably personal. Rather than seen as a cause for concern, we should view this for what it is — a beautiful opportunity.
Conflict within the context of learning is an opportunity not just to speak about civics and civil discourse, but to actually practice it. Not just to speak about restorative justice, but to struggle through it. Not just to theorize about right and wrong, but to wrestle with its embodied meaning for us as human beings.
So, as you develop your curriculum for the upcoming year, schedule some room for ambiguity. Give students a chance to decide what stories they want to follow. Learn what matters to your community. Make a few predictions about issues that you think will become increasingly important. And then, over the course of the year, get to know the people involved. Research the places, the histories, the futures. Help students see the connections between the content you are studying and the events unfolding around them.
Situate your classroom in the world and dwell there. Let the world matter long enough to matter.
Guest Post by: Dan Thalkar (@dthalkar) Humanities Teacher in Los Angeles, CA