Monday, February 27, 2023

#EDvice: The Significance of Student Voice

I see student voice as the gateway to personalization.  Educators can easily implement it as part of Tier 1 instruction and for students to report out during cooperative learning, projects, and choice activities.  It can also allow students to advocate for needed changes to school culture.  You would be hard-pressed to find a more valuable strategy that is universal in nature across virtually all pedagogical techniques.  The reason for this statement is straightforward. For learning to occur, students both NEED and WANT to be involved. If the goal is to have kids engaged and to set the stage for empowerment, it is critical to utilize strategies that amplify student voice.

In this episode for #EDvice I dive into the concept a little deeper to unpack its significance while also providing some K-12 examples.

I shared the following in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms:

In the classroom, it can be facilitated by posing questions or problems to solve and then allowing students to use digital tools to respond through text, video, audio, drawings, images, and gifs. Having every student respond on an individual whiteboard and then holding their board up for the teacher to see is a non-tech example. In many cases, voice can be amplified through the cover of anonymity, which is critical for introverts and shy students. They can also be provided with opportunities to share opinions on classroom design, assessments, and feedback. Student voice includes any act that empowers a student or students to make their voices heard when shaping their learning experiences. The main takeaway here is that everyone is involved in the classroom and feels more of a part of the experience.

As you look to further integrate or begin to develop strategies that amplify student voice you can refer to the images below. 

Read the blog post HERE

Read the blog post HERE

How are you or your teachers amplifying voice in the classroom or school? Please share in the comments below. 


Sunday, February 19, 2023

A Framework for Learning Through the Purposeful Use of Technology

Technology has the potential to transform teaching and learning in a number of ways. One way it can be used to transform teaching and learning is by providing students with access to a wealth of information, including multimedia resources, educational apps, and online databases. This means that students can engage with a wide range of material and have access to resources that they might not have been able to access otherwise. Additionally, this allows teachers to personalize the learning experience to meet all students' needs by providing them with access to different resources that can help them learn at their own pace and in their own way.

Another way technology can be used to transform teaching and learning is by enhancing engagement and motivation. It can be leveraged to create interactive and immersive learning experiences that can help students stay engaged and motivated in the classroom. For example, students can use virtual reality to explore different parts of the world or use interactive simulations to learn about scientific concepts. This kind of technology also allows for collaboration, where students can work together on projects and assignments and share their work with one another in real-time, which helps foster a sense of community and teamwork in the classroom.

Finally, technology can be harnessed to transform teaching and learning by enhancing assessment and feedback. Technology can be used to create assessments, quizzes, and evaluations, providing teachers with real-time data on student progress, enabling them to give feedback and adjust instruction accordingly. This helps ensure that students are getting the support they need to succeed and allows teachers to identify areas where students are struggling and provide additional support. Furthermore, technology can be used to track student progress over time, which can help teachers identify trends and patterns in student performance and adjust instruction accordingly.

The framework above, which I am tentatively calling Purposeful Use of Technology for Learning (PUTL), serves to develop a foundation and inform how technology can be used to support learner-driven experiences and outcomes. It includes the following components that are interconnected:

  1. Sound pedagogy: A foundation should be established through the consistent use of effective Tier 1 instructional strategies that are research-based such as anticipatory set, reviewing prior learning, checking for understanding, modeling, scaffolded questions, guided practice, independent practice, and closure. From here, a variety of practical techniques can be employed, such as cooperative learning, differentiation, performance tasks, problem or project-based learning, etc.
  2. Rigor & Relevance: Technology can be used to create interactive and immersive learning experiences that can help students stay engaged and motivated in the classroom. Activities should challenge students to think, construct new knowledge, and apply what has been learned to solve real-world predictable and unpredictable problems. Refer to the Relevant Thinking Framework to assist in integrating technology with purpose (image below).
  3. Student agency: Technology can be used to create a personalized learning experience where all students get what they need, when and where they need it to succeed. Digital tools naturally support and enhance high-agency elements such as voice, choice, path, pace, and place. When looking to personalize through blended pedagogies, consider station rotation, choice activities, playlists, flipped lessons, and asynchronous virtual options (image below)
  4. Critical competencies: Technology is becoming an increasingly important part of everyday life, and by incorporating it into the classroom, students can develop the competencies they will need to succeed in a disruptive world that is digitally connected and reliant.
  5. Streamlined assessment and feedback: Technology can be used to create transparent and challenging assessments while providing teachers with real-time data on student progress, enabling them to give feedback and adjust instruction accordingly.
  6. Actionable data: Technology has made it much easier to routinely collect data that can be used to monitor progress, offer quality feedback, analyze in professional learning communities (PLCs), and then provide needed student support through personalization. The immediacy with which metrics can be accessed provides all educators with invaluable knowledge at their fingertips when combined with ongoing and job-embedded professional learning.

Technology should be leveraged in a seamless fashion that supports and enhances learning for all kids, something I highlight extensively in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms. The key takeaway from the framework presented is to help inform purposeful use in the classroom while unearthing opportunities to grow professionally. A great deal of money has been spent globally on technology. It is now our duty to make sure that investment pays off.

Monday, February 13, 2023

#EDvice: Timeliness of Feedback is Vital

Assisting others to be their best is something that we all can do through feedback. Sometimes it is as simple as making an effort to point out commendations that serve as validation and pieces of advice to improve performance. However, sometimes our delivery and words mean otherwise. It is vital to make the distinction between feedback and criticism. Feedback is information about reactions to a product or a person's performance of a task, which serves as a basis for improvement. Criticism, on the other hand, is the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes. With growth being the end goal, feedback must be facilitated in a way that moves others to reflect on their work and take the necessary steps to get better.  

"The importance of feedback to grow and improve is undeniable. EVERYONE benefits when it becomes a consistent component of culture. However, we must make sure feedback is TIMELY for it to have value to those we are trying to help."

If the main goal is to use feedback as a catalyst for improvement, then why delay it? This is one of the reasons why I don’t really like final exams. Students rarely receive good feedback that informs their learning as they are typically given these exams at the end of the school year and are then graded up until the last minute. Delaying feedback allows minor problems to fester into larger ones potentially. The bottom line is that the more time that goes by the feedback that could have really made an impact will not be valued as much, if at all.

Feedback stings when it is not: 

  1. Delivered with sincerity
  2. Grounded in practicality
  3. Given in a timely manner

As I shared in Disruptive Thinking, timeliness is critical, but keep in mind that it must be practical, specific, consistent, and facilitated positively. It is also crucial to determine the right strategy or medium for facilitation. 

Sunday, February 5, 2023

How to Lead with Little to No "Experience"

I vividly remember how frustrating it was to interview for various school administrator positions only to be told that I didn’t have enough practical experience related to the position(s). Well duh, of course I didn’t, as I was an aspiring leader who was just venturing into this space. I am sure virtually everyone reading this post has been in the same situation at some point, whether in the past or currently. Frustrating is putting it mildly. It should be noted that experience can certainly be beneficial when it comes to leadership, as it can provide a leader with valuable knowledge, skills, and perspective. However, it is not the only factor that determines a person's ability to lead effectively. Some people may have a natural talent for leadership and are able to inspire and guide others, even if they don't have a lot of experience.

That being said, there are certain situations where experience can be essential for a leader. For example, if a leader is facing a complex or unfamiliar challenge, their past experiences may give them a better understanding of how to approach and solve the problem. Most would agree that the COVID-19 pandemic fits the bill here. Experience can also help a leader to build credibility and gain the respect of their team. Overall, experience can be a valuable asset for a leader, but it is not the only factor that determines a person's ability to lead.

Leadership is not necessarily about having a lot of experience but rather having the ability to inspire, motivate, and guide others toward a common goal. Eventually, I began revising my resume and linking to instances where I actively cultivated leadership characteristics or built capacity through coaching sports, writing curriculum, and advising clubs. Think about what you have done that can translate into a school administrator role.

Once you get your first position, the key is to hit the ground running. Here are a few other tips that may help you to lead effectively, even if you don't have a lot of experience:

  • Set clear goals: Clearly define what you and your staff are working towards. This will help to keep everyone focused and motivated.
  • Communicate openly: Make sure to keep the lines of communication open with all stakeholders. Encourage open and honest dialogue while being approachable.
  • Be adaptable: Be open to new ideas and approaches and show a willingness to pivot when necessary.
  • Empower your people: Trust your staff and give them the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their work.
  • Lead by example: Show everyone what it means to be a good leader by being a good follower. Set a positive example through your own actions and work ethic.

As I shared in Digital Leadership, it's not about having all the answers but creating a vision and guiding others toward its realization.

So, what if you have never been an administrator? If you are lacking in leadership experience, there are several steps you can take to compensate for this and become a more effective leader:

  • Seek opportunities to develop your leadership competencies: This can include taking on capacity-building roles within your school or district, enrolling in educational leadership programs, creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN), or participating in pertinent workshops or conferences.
  • Learn from more experienced leaders: Seek out mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and support as you develop.
  • Practice self-reflection: Take time to reflect on your strengths and areas for growth. This can help you to identify areas where you need to focus your professional learning efforts.
  • Stay current on trends and best practices in the education field. Make an effort to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and incorporate this knowledge into your leadership style.
  • Be open to feedback: Seek out feedback from others and be open to learning from their experiences and insights.

Remember, leadership is a never-ending journey and everyone starts at a different point. By being proactive in your development and continually learning and improving, you can effectively compensate for a lack of experience and become a strong and effective leader.