Getting to the Core
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In our final episode for the school year, Dr. Ellen Vorenkamp sits down with RESA Instructional Technology Consultants Judy Bowling and Jason Siko to discuss innovative learning strategies for summer learning that are no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech. Whether it’s a structured activity, informal learning, or a passion project, there’s plenty of ideas for educators as they share summer learning ideas with parents and students.
Length - 46 minutes
Ellen Vorenkamp: Greetings. Welcome to this episode of Wayne RESA’s Getting to the Core: Where Pedagogy Meets Practice. My name is Dr. Ellen Vorenkamp and I will be your host. This episode, we are thrilled to have Dr. Jason Siko and Judy Bowling, two of Wayne RESA’s most experienced instructional technology consultants with us to discuss summer learning opportunities for students to keep them engaged in learning during the summer. Welcome, Jason and Judy. I am going to ask each of you to introduce yourself very quickly. Judy would you like to go first?
Judy Bowling: Sure, my name is Judy Bowling as Ellen mentioned, and I'm an instructional technology and library consultant at Wayne RESA and I help support teachers throughout the county integrating technology into their curriculum. I also work to help support library media specialist as they work with their students as well.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Excellent. Thank you, Judy. Jason?
Jason Siko: Hi, everyone. I’m Jason Siko. I am also an instructional technology consultant here at Wayne RESA, and I've only been here for about a couple years. So, most of my time here has been spent working remotely. Like Judy, I do all the things that she mentioned minus the library piece, and again just glad to be here.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Excellent thank you both. We really do appreciate your time and your expertise. So, summer learning… let's talk about summer learning. As educators, we have all heard about the research around summer learning and that summer learning loss and how it can really impact student readiness to learn as they enter a new grade in the fall. So, we know that there's some evidence that suggests that some students can lose, on average, up to one month of school learning over the summer, and in the cases of some of our disadvantaged students, this may be, in fact, even higher. We also know that in our current context, with the advent of virtual learning and the pivoting back and forth between virtual and face-to-face learning due to COVID, this might be even more challenging during this upcoming summer and we will return to school in the fall. We also know, as educators, that it is more effective to approach this learning loss within our students in a proactive rather than from a deficit stance.
So, in our conversations today I’m interested to know what your thinking is on this research and, in general, what educators, in concert with parents and students, can do to the students themselves do, to kind of stave off this potential learning loss that may be impacting us this fall.
Jason Siko: So, I'll go ahead and go first on this. And again, to kind of mirror what Ellen said: you know, the research is pretty clear that, you know, summer school is not as if summer schools, we know, it is not necessarily the most effective way to make up for what you refer to as that learning loss, you know. And you can look at that; the research kind of confirms that, but also from a practical standpoint. If you have either a taught summer school or had a son or daughter that was in summer school or just kind of seen it in general, you understand that it's probably not the most engaging and students aren't necessarily the most involved. They're kind of in it, for, as we often call it, a credit recovery situation. So what can we do differently? Well the research, you know, really kind of aimed toward more engagement and it really aims toward improving attendance. And I know Ellen's last podcast episode on the Attendance Resource Team… that information really comes in handy because a lot of the research shows that attendance is one of the major problems they have with summer school. But, in general, there's this idea of relevance and why are they there in the first place? In terms of what parents and students can do, I I think the mindset of, “it takes a village;” this is going to be a summer unlike any other we have seen. As Ellen mentioned, this whole year of pivoting back and forth between online and in-person, and these learning deficits as we might want to call them although, we should take a more, you know, a strengths-based approach here, is going to be a lot different than any summer we've experienced for quite some time. So, in short, you know what can we do from the teacher side? What can we do as parents and what can we do as students, and how can we collaborate to make sure that we're bringing everybody back to where we should be at under normal circumstances? So, it's going to take a village and there's, you know, things we're going to talk about today that kind of involved not only the students themselves, but also the parents and the teachers. Judy?
Judy Bowling: Ok, so to piggyback on what Jason just alluded to, there are so many opportunities this summer for students to engage in different learning opportunities that don't necessarily look like school but definitely support that additional learning in some innovative ways. There are different programs being offered through Wayne RESA. Things like Pop-up Literacy events which are innovative learning opportunities to engage kids in reading, writing and STEM activities. There's Camp Invention, which is a virtual STEM summer program. There are some different writing camps being offered throughout the summer. So, there's a wide variety of opportunities for our kids and we will be including many of these in the show notes. But there's also opportunities for teachers as well, because we know that teachers, although they rest during the summer, they themselves are also doing a whole lot of learning and still connecting with families and students. And so, there are a lot of webinars and summertime opportunities for teachers to engage in professional learning. So again, we'll include those in the show notes. Some of them are connected to STEM. We've got the National Writing Project, code.org; there's different opportunities for teachers to engage in learning how they might incorporate that with their students. And then Michigan Learns has a lot of resources. So, there's a plethora of resources out there for both students and teachers, but the overarching theme here is that we want to continue to keep our students engaged in that learning process throughout this summer, so that they are ready to go once school comes back in the fall.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you, Judy. So, I’m hearing a couple of, as you said, major themes. One, summer school as we know it kind of from the past with the kids coming in and spending four hours, you know, sitting at a desk kind of in isolation, learning things that we think that they may not have gotten over the course of this past year…kind of sounds like that that hopefully is sort of in the past; that we're looking for things that are a little bit more engaging, that they're a little bit more innovative, that there's more collaboration that we're using that funding that we're getting from the state and let's talk about that in just a few minutes if we could, because there is some funding behind this and that's probably important to note. But that we're using that in a much different philosophy and really think of it as engaging kids in learning; in more of a fun, active, hands on, kinesthetic kind of manner that's going to really allow them to fully engage. Not just sit there and get this information, but to really immerse themselves in the learning; you know, body, mind, and, you know, emotions, to some extent so that's really, really exciting.
And thank you for sharing a couple of those opportunities that you've mentioned, and maybe we can get into a few more details on a couple of them. If you have some of that we know that they will be in the show notes. But I am interested in little bit on House Bill 4048; if either of you could speak to that in just in terms of the funding and if there's any specific requirements that the educators need to know about, as we think about this money and how we might be utilizing it over the summer to engage our students.
Jason Siko: Yeah, I think the major thing about House Bill 4048 is that it's taking some of the federal funds and distributing it in appropriate manners for summer school and learning recovery opportunities. And so, if you read through the bill there's, “if you do this you'll get this much funding per child,” and/or if teachers are involved with this, they'll get some additional funds for stipends and so on and so forth. I think the main thing that really kind of piqued my interest in this bill is the fact that they're giving additional money to districts that apply for what are called “innovative programs.” And so now, the deadline; I should note that the deadline for these plans to be submitted I believe was April 15th, so we're talking about this in the past tense but they were providing additional funds per pupil if the district was creating what they would call innovative programs. And so, they gave an idea of some examples of that what makes an innovative program or what are some of the terms that you would use there. And so, what the bill actually list are programs that are community-based for learning recovery, or STEM-based, or take an integrated kinesthetic or cognitive growth approach, or are outdoor or adventure-based, or if they involve some sort of public-private partnerships. So, as I talked about earlier, you know, and Ellen kind of reaffirmed this idea of the summer school and when… one piece that you didn't have in your description of the typical summer school was in a hot, un-air conditioned building in a Michigan summer on a Thursday, you know, before fourth of July weekend…just completely… whatever a conducive learning environment is… the exact opposite of that. And so, you can see there from these descriptions of what would qualify as an innovative program, you can see that at least the state gets it and they know that we need to do something different this time around. So, those are kind of the elements that I think, would you know, best serve obviously for this summer, but also, you know, as you're thinking about what can I do as a parent? What can I do as a teacher if I’m just trying to give guidance to parents for the for the summer? These are the types of things we want to emphasize and make sure that they're thinking about these things as they plan for summer learning in both a formal sense, whether it be a camp or a course or even quote unquote summer school, but even also in that informal sense. Many kids don't need to go to summer school but they're still going to be at home for three months. What does that look like? How are they going to be observed if, you know, both parents are working from home? Or maybe they're starting to go back to work, you know, what type of things that they're going to do? They can't maybe play in those leagues or do those things because of COVID restrictions. And so, what are some ideas that we can give them to keep the kids engaged and interested in learning throughout the summer, I think is something that we really need to talk about.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you for that Jason. And you're right; I don't know how I could forget the sweltering heat in the room, in the, you know, wishing that it were 12 o'clock so you get out. Because I actually did get to go to summer school when I was in high school so… And I’m really interested in and loving what you're talking about in terms of the formal and informal and what can parents and educators do, and what can educators do for parents and what information can they give them that will help them engage their own; not necessarily putting them into some sort of formal structured program. But since Judy brought that up, I’d love to give Judy an opportunity. She mentioned several things in her little introduction: pop-up literacy events, Camp Invention; Wayne County has some things going on that they… Forward Youth, for instance, that the students might get involved with through the through the schools, the National Writing Project; Oakland University has got some things going on, Michigan Council for Women in Technology. We know that there's a lot out there. I’m wondering if there's any one piece of that Judy, that you would just like to expand just a little bit on and maybe just give us a little more in-depth information. And like Judy said, you can find all of those examples in our show notes, but I’m wondering if there's just one thing that might be more special that you would like to highlight.
Judy Bowling: Thanks, Ellen. I think that the two that that most resonate with me right now are the Pop-Up literacy events and Camp Invention. Both of them are similar in that they are coming up with some creative and innovative ways to bring making and maker-centered learning and STEM to our students. But the pop-up literacy events are using literature as the vehicle to get our kids excited about reading, but also connecting it to some other higher-level thinking around STEM activities. And so, with that, and this is going to be a segue into another example we mentioned later, but one of the things I like about that is that books are, we know how important it is for kids to read and books can be used in so many different ways. And it is just the portal, it's a familiar starting place to take that story in a lot of different directions. And so, it's a very hands-on experience, although many of these will be virtual this year, but they will still be hands-on. Camp Invention is another program that again is a very hands-on experience. It gets kids, you know, tinkering and inventing and making. It weaves in the literacy elements as well. So again, it speaks to the point that this isn't a traditional, stagnant type of a learning experience; it's very hands-on, it's very experiential, and it'll be fun for the kids. And we know that when kids are having fun…the best learning to me, is when kids are having fun and they don't even realize that they're learning. So, those are the two that that I’m really excited for our kids to be a part of this summer.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Sounds awesome. Thank you, Judy. And you mentioned something else, too. Both of you actually have alluded to the fact that, you know, over the summer it's traditionally a time for teachers to, sort of, rejuvenate and reflect and to continue their own learning and to continue to think about, you know, what their next steps might be and what they might need to add to their toolbox in order for them to feel prepared to meet their students when they come back In the fall. So, both of you had mentioned something about some opportunities for teachers in addition to, you know, the students over the summer. And I’m just wondering if either of you would be able to elaborate on some of those opportunities that are the educators listening might be interested in?
Jason Siko: Yeah, just a little bit. I think, you know, teachers, as much as we want to, you know, put in the final grade on that book in the grade book and press send and walk away till August, that there's obviously, you know, that hook to kind of return. And even this year is going to be a bit more like that. I think…you read any news article right now and, “teachers brains are fried,” or, “teachers are stressed,” there might be a little less involvement this summer that may be in years past, but we all know that we have certification renewals, we all know that, you know, there's always certain things to learn and like to still take an optimistic viewpoint that teachers are lifelong learners and will always kind of look for additional opportunities. So really, just anything in your own content area is always useful, but you know just a couple, in particular… I think Judy mentioned the National Writing Project; that's always important regardless of curricular areas. Same with any of the offerings from code.org in terms of workshops or camps because, in Michigan, you have the computer science standards out and we're trying to integrate coding and computer science into all content areas and all grade levels. So, if that's an area where a teacher may feel a little uncomfortable or has kind of a mindset of, “Oh, I’m not going to do programming in my Spanish class,” well, it's definitely not just programming when we talk about computer science. And there's a lot of things in the standards that do apply to all curricular areas and can be used there. So, maybe something there. But even just, you know, a little going off script here, we noticed that the year has not only involved a pandemic, but huge amounts of social unrest and social change. So, where are some things that you might want to improve your own knowledge and mindset on as you approach the upcoming school year because these are things that, quite honestly, they didn't teach in PD and they didn't teach you in your college of ed. So, where are some areas that you might identify some gaps and, you know, be better informed about not only your general knowledge about these issues, but how to teach these issues in a way that is appropriate?
Ellen Vorenkamp: Excellent, thank you. So, one thing that we had hoped, over the course of this past year in terms of equity was making sure that all of our students had access to computers and then, of course, access to the internet in order to use that computer; in order to do some of the virtual learning that we were engaged in over the past couple of months due to COVID. And we know that we got there to some extent that, maybe not completely, and that there might still be some issues with internet access and computer access and that opportunity to learn in that way for some of our students, and that might continue into the summer months. So, I’m wondering if either of you might be able to speak about how parents or how educators can help parents with that deficit if there happens to be one in the life of the child? And then, also, we also know that having kids in front of the computer 24/7 is not necessarily the best thing; that they might need to, for their own sanity and health, wealth, and well-being, be outside or do something a little bit different. So, what's the balance and what kind of advice can we give educators to help with the internet access, but then also help parents structure a day in the life of, so to speak, so that the child is getting a nice balance of the virtual and the learning and the play and the outside and so on and so forth.
Jason Siko: Yeah, I’ll start in on the internet access and Judy, if you want to pick up on the structure that would be great. With the internet access, and this, you know, obviously, became clear to everybody, at the start of the pandemic was this idea of, “Well, we're all going remote.” Well, guess what? Not everybody has quality internet access and again, we can talk about how this generation is the digital generation, or whatever, but the fact of the matter remains is you if you can't access the internet you don't have an opportunity to participate in that… and that goes beyond just cell phone access, because a lot of the learning opportunities require high bandwidth and high data consumption. Sometimes your mobile device plan doesn't accommodate that. So many, both cable and internet and cellular providers do have opportunities for low-cost internet and data plans. And I can't list them all here they're ever changing, but there are resources available online and Wayne RESA does have a web site that provides, you know, a list of, a very lengthy list of potential leads for getting low-cost internet access or from your data plans from yourself cellular provider.
So, again we'll link to that in the show notes. And I should mention at this point that if you did not know our podcast is housed in multiple platforms, but it is found on our website at resa.net/podcast. So that's…you'll go there you'll see each episode that we've done and then you'll see the show notes. This will probably be the first episode that we've done that has a very lengthy show notes with all the links that we're going to, all these projects that we are talking about, so just kind of keep that in mind. But by and large, you know, we are probably going to see some changes in those, because I think at the start of the pandemic every provider said, “Yep, we need to do this.” I don't know how that's changed over the course of the year and if they're going to pull back. You know, we saw that a lot last year where everybody offered a lot of things for free, and then they started to pull back at the end of summer for the fall. I’m not sure how we're returning to that, but that's where a good starting point to look at. But, as you mentioned Ellen and Judy will clarify or expand on is the fact that we don't want kids to be an on the internet, all summer long. They spent almost the entire school year on the internet in front of a computer. So what can we do differently? But still you're going to need some of that screen time. So, that's one of the things that we kind of need to find more of a balance on for this summer, as opposed to other summers.
Judy Bowling: Yeah, and just to piggyback off what Jason said exactly, our kids have had more screen time this year than ever and, you know, with the summertime coming and warmer weather it's the perfect time to, you know, help our kids find some balance… get outside; but that's easier said than done. So, coming up with some structures, you know, within your home to help with that balance, and of course it's going to depend on the ages of your students as well. But like I said coming up with, you know, perhaps areas that are, you know, screen free zones, you know, maybe at the dinner table. You know everybody's phone is you know, on the counter, maybe it's a room. Looking at different times during the day, maybe where again it's an unplugged time or a screen free time but, again, depending on the ages of your students or children, you know, that's going to have a bearing on that as well. But the biggest thing is, we want to help our kids find that balance. And screen time might not just be computers and laptops, too. It could be TV time and I know, you know, when my own kids were growing up, they knew that if there was a movie that they wanted to watch that was related to a book, they had to read the book first. And so, it got to the point… they didn't even ask to watch the movie until they had read the book. And so, it's just coming up with some routines and structures that, you know, assist in that. Because I think we have all gone down those dark rabbit holes where you might think, to yourself, “I’m just going to take five minutes.” And the next thing you know it's been 65 minutes, and so, we want to be intentional with that. And the other thing is, too, though with screen time screen time doesn't always look the same: being a passive consumer using the screen time versus being a creator of content, you know, is a different use of technology. And so, you need to weigh those factors into it as well. But at the end of the day, we do want to help our kids find balance.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you for that, Judy. There are a couple of really great points in there, I never would have thought to have my kids read the book first before they were able to watch the movie. And the distinction between screen time and whether it's passive or whether they're actively engaged in learning and some point is really, really important. And so, I think we need our educators to really make our parents aware of that, and really help parents look for those things that are more engaging and less passive. Because, quite honestly, the summer school could end up looking very similar to the traditional summer school if all of our students are just sitting in front of the computer, you know, trying to intake information in a passive manner and that could be just as stifling, so to speak, as the traditional summer school. So, great ideas.
I think one last big question that we would that we would like to engage in and hear some of your thinking around are… for somebody like myself, who's a little less technical than somebody else and really is looking for ways to engage my students or my child in some learning activities that may be off the screen and might be a little less technical: what might we be able to offer educators to share with parents in terms of that, you know… I just keep going back to board games and having my kids play UNO or Yahtzee or Monopoly or something, because at least they're counting money or, you know, something, and maybe there's some skills in there, but I know you guys, have a lot of better ideas than that. So, what if you would be able to maybe share a couple of those with us? That would be great.
Judy Bowling: Yeah, and this is actually kind of a good segue from that balance, because there are some things that we'd like to share that are low tech, no tech, and then there is some tech. So, we thought we'd start with just reading. We know how important reading is. The more kids read, you know, the better and again, summer is the perfect time to get your kids reading everything and anything that interests them. And this would include also, read alouds, especially for our youngest learners. And it doesn't always have to be a book, either. So again, it can be anything; I mean magazines, comics, news articles. We just want our kids reading. There's lots of digital resources out there for our kids to find reading materials. Two of my favorite online read aloud resources, so if your students, well, they can just enjoy them, but maybe they don't have anybody there to read aloud to them. One of them is Storybooks Online, which features actors reading books aloud and then the other one is Storytime from Space, which has astronauts reading books from the International Space Station. So, those are those are fun for kids to hear those stories.
If your students are looking for a print book, there's a lot of avenues for them to get a print book. I would always recommend that they start with their school library media specialist. I know every school is a little bit different but find out what materials can be borrowed for the summer; if there's going to be opportunities to borrow materials throughout the summer. And also, I think, sometimes we forget about our public libraries, but encouraging students to visit those because they not only have countless materials for kids to borrow for free, but they are also coming up with creative ways to share stories. So, for example, the Livonia Public Library has a new dial-up a story service, where you call the phone number, you select a story from a menu of choices and then sit back and listen or read along if you have the book at home. And they're always adding new stories. Public libraries also, as we were talking about summer programs, but they also have summer reading programs. They've had to make some adjustments, of course, with COVID, but it has been my experience in the past, as a former classroom teacher and media specialist that if you reach out to them, they are happy to visit your classroom and tell your students all about that because, again, we just want to get them excited.
You can also encourage your students to engage with other readers this summer by talking about the books that they're reading, creating projects, writing about what they've read through summer book clubs. These are a great way for kids to share their reading experiences. They can certainly organize a book club themselves with other students, but it could be something that you, the teacher, are facilitating for them. And so, just an idea of how you might be able to do that would be to create a special book class club or course in Google Classroom, Schoology, or whatever learning management system your district is using. Once you've selected a book, you've determined a schedule for how often you want to meet, what chapters will be discussed each time. You'll then just generate a few discussion questions for each chapter, just to help guide that conversation. So, for the sake of an example, let's say you're using Google Classroom and you decide to discuss one chapter virtually every Thursday using Google Meet or whatever video conference tool your district uses. So, upload your discussion questions ahead of time to get your kids thinking. Students can certainly add responses to these questions within Google Classroom itself, but the whole idea here is to get your kids talking.
And so, we want to engage them in that live conversation. It's not only fun for them to connect with one another, but we know that learning is social and when kids get the opportunity to talk about what they're reading it takes their level of understanding to the next level. So again, meeting virtually once a week with your kids to have conversations around the book is engaging, but it also builds an accountability for kids to do the reading in a way that doesn't feel like school, because it's very… it's a little laid back with some structure built in.
If you have students that prefer e-books and digital resources, I would suggest any of the following; they are all free, which is good for you. Free is my favorite word. So, again, I always say circle back and start with your school library media specialist if you are fortunate enough to have one, to see if they've purchased e-books for your school. And, if so, make sure your kids know how to access them from home this summer. Again, reach out to your public library and have them help your kids get library cards. Once they have a library card, they can access countless e-books for free from the public library from the comfort of their home. And again, the public library can help you know get all that in order. You can access EPIC, which is a great digital reading platform that provides a lot of e-books and then last but not least, as citizens of Michigan we are so lucky to have the Michigan e-Library, otherwise known as MeL, which has thousands of e-books in there for kids of all ages and other digital resources, like Britannica, World Book, PebbleGo, which are opposing viewpoints for your older readers because we do have a lot of our kids who like to read nonfiction text as well. And as we mentioned earlier, these will all be in the show notes.
Another great resource which is newer this year is the Michigan Learning Channel, which Detroit Public Television announced again earlier this year. And this is a great resource that taps into the TV, but it's also available on the internet. And basically, its instructional content to support our students learning, and one of their amazing newer programs is called Read with Roars. It's a literacy series that's geared toward grade… it's geared towards grades K-3. It's taught by Michigan teachers and it's just another engaging way to help your kids build their literacy skills through word building lessons, read aloud, and in some writing activities.
So, speaking of writing: that's another thing we would love our kids to be doing this summer, and we want to provide them with lots of opportunities to write and to see themselves as authors. There's lots of ideas, but a few might be that they could create a daily or weekly reflection journal to capture their thoughts, their notes, reflections, questions; the more questions, the better. They might create an innovative notebook to capture some ideas, designs inventions, sketching, note taking. And then, speaking of sketching, another avenue that your kids might want to take is to capture their ideas visually in a notebook that through sketchnoting or sketchdoodling. And if you've not heard of that, it's basically a form of visual writing that mixes writing, drawing, and other visual cues together. So, encouraging your students to draw. It's not only fun, but it just challenges them to explore ideas in different ways. Paper/pencil is readily available and, of course, that is a wonderful medium for writing. It's a great way to fire up their brains get them off the screen for a little bit. It's also a portable, so if they're doing some type of a notebook have them take it with them you never know when an idea pops into their mind that they want to jot down. If they're on a nature walk and they can record what they're seeing. If they are taking a field trip to a museum to record their thoughts or sometimes it's just maybe a quote or something or a drawing.
And then for those that want to do something digitally, one of my absolute favorite tools is called Book Creator. And, this is a tool that can be used across any grade level for making interactive e-books. It is free, it's super user friendly, and again, it allows you to add all kinds of multimedia. So, you can incorporate text, audio, video, photos, and then drawings; so you can make all of those ideas that we've already mentioned digital and then it can be published and shared via a link in an in an authentic e-book. So, again that's one of my favorite tools for getting kids to write digitally, because basically it's a blank platform.
Earlier we mentioned some of the Camp Inventions and pop-up literacy, and using that hands-on learning experience to get them making or tinkering. And so, sometimes tinkering and making are used interchangeably, but if you think of tinkering it's a little bit more playful as it gets really… just like looking at stuff and asking, “What can I do with it? How does it work?” Where making is taking that and moving it from an idea to an invention. And so, there's lots of opportunities in the summer where you can engage your students and challenges that encourage them to design and build and create as they work through that engineering process. And again, as we mentioned earlier, one of the best and easiest places to start is with a familiar story and just adding a design twist to it. So, looking at the problems that the characters face in the story and just finding a creative solution. So, for example, you know, create a trap to catch the gingerbread man, create a squirrel proof bird feeder, create a bus for the pigeon to drive and then, of course, you could scaffold that up you know with higher level texts. But again, just taking what you're already doing, and just adding a twist; it's a great strategy to bring these stories to life through tinkering, designing, building, and prototyping, and getting our kids doing and creating.
You know, making can also be digital. So again, we talked about how screen time can look different and we want our kids creating well, maybe some of that creating looks like stop motion or using green screen technology. And so, there's a couple of different apps like Stop Motion Studio or DoInk that again, it's very user friendly, but just gets that creative thinking of the kids doing. And, what you find with creativity is that the more you're engaged in creative activities, the more creative you get and the more you want to do. And so, those are wonderful learning opportunities for our kids.
And then just a few more; we've mentioned STEM. But again, when I think about summer, I think about it as being this time that, you know, we say the lazy, hazy days of summer, but it really is just a time to explore and investigate things driven by curiosity. And we want our kids to pursue questions they're interested in learning more about, and then gathering information, you know, by exploring and researching to deepen their understanding. Again, it's learning in an untraditional way. If your students are stuck for an idea, and they want to explore something deeper, a couple of resources that I would refer to; one of them is called Wonderopolis. This is an amazing website that is just filled with wonderings and explanations, and it also has a place where kids could add their own wondering. Another great resource is from PBS, it's a program called Curious Crew that takes a hands-on approach to scientific exploration. And again, it gets kids thinking and asking lots of questions. And so, by being a part of those it might trigger an activity that they could take them on their own and explore more. And I should mention that both of these resources to have a lot of great educator resources as well.
Because, at the end of the day, we want our kids to see STEM concepts in the world around them, not just as a class that's taught in school. We want them using the real world to explore and to just ask questions and build that sense of wonder; and, as we know, certainly this year has shown us that things change, tools change, technology changes, jobs change. The only thing that is certain is change, and so we want to build in all of these opportunities for kids to think creatively and problem solve so that, you know, they can adapt to whatever the future holds for them. A lot of times when people think of STEM they think of coding, and with that we mentioned earlier, an opportunity with code.org. But there really are a lot of resources online that are free, that are engaging and instill that creativity in kids where they can build and so it could be code.org. There are programs like Scratch, where they can code various things. They could do things in TinkerCAD if they're interested in 3D printing. And even if they don't have a 3D printer, they can still use this amazingly free program to design structures that could then be taken to a 3D printer, perhaps at their school when they come back in the fall, or just leave them as a digital file.
Other learnings that could take place this summer are, you know, family field trips. We here in Wayne County have a lot of great places that kids could go to, whether it be the Henry Ford, the DIA, as it's free for our residents; there's the Charles Wright Museum. So, we have a lot of places local. The zoo, of course, taking kids to the park; getting creative with that as well. And then, if those physical field trips aren't possible, there are a lot of virtual field trips; not the same, but it still allows your kids to travel around the world without leaving the comfort of their home. And so, even the Charles Wright Museum, if you can't go in person, they do have a virtual tour that you can take of that museum. And again, we're going to include these links in the show notes, but there… you can tour farms; there's the Google Arts and Culture that has over 1,000 virtual tours of museums and archives around the world.
And so, this is just a splattering of ideas that are out there. Hopefully, you heard a little bit of some low-tech ideas, some no tech ideas, but then some tech ideas. But at the end of the day, what we want is to get our kids in learning experiences, whatever that looks like; get them wondering, get them questioning, get them reading, and get them writing, get them doing so that we keep their brains active all summer.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you so much, Judy. What a wealth of information and ideas. I think our listeners have a lot to chew on there, and a lot of different opportunities that they're going to be able to engage their students with and share with parents. Jason, I’m going to give you just one last opportunity; is there anything else that you would like to share that has come to mind as we've heard all of these wonderful opportunities from Judy?
Jason Siko: Yeah, you know, we talked about structure and we talked about what, as teachers, can we do to facilitate these types of things. And I think, as Judy mentioned, a lot of these ideas, you know… one way you could approach this as to say, “Okay let's do as much no tech as possible,” but when it comes to, you know, maybe demonstrating your knowledge or demonstrating your understanding… that's where we call on the tech. So, for example, if we are going out in nature and we're doing things, that's great. Grab your notebook, go. But when you come back, possibly sit down in front and blog about it, or create a video about it, or do these things that require technology. So, that creates a nice little demarcation of when to use tech and when not to use tech and do as much as you can in the real physical world, but then when you're reporting or, you know, constructing or deconstructing your knowledge and figuring out what you what you're trying to say and what you've learned, that's where the technology can come in. So, you're kind of getting the best of both worlds there.
The other thing, and I'll kind of end on this, is that circling back to our initial discussion about summer school and learning loss slash learning recovery is that we probably have some data about where students are struggling. And there are plenty of resources online that are standards-based or they have activities and resources that are aligned to standards. One thing that teachers could do potentially is find, you know, get the data, get the NWEA scores, get the state standardized test scores, whatever they have in their hands and say, “Okay. [to a student] You're struggling in these particular areas that aligned to these particular standards. Here are some resources; go find activities that relate to these standards that you're having trouble mastering.” And there's a lot of websites on the internet that have standards-based content: PBS Learning Media, Khan Academy, National Geographic Kids, Smithsonian, Library of Congress… and just go into these places. You go to the search bar or the search button and it'll say search by keyword or search by standard, and go find those standards and then go search for activities that relate to those standards. So that might be another opportunity as teachers: how do we help guide or scaffold for the parents for the students on how to embark on a summer learning journey, if you will? Because if we just say, “Hey! Go out there and do this stuff and learn, learn, learn, read, read, read, write, write, write…” Some kids will do that, but a lot of kids need a bit more structure than that, and this might be one way to promote that structure.
Ellen Vorenkamp: That is an excellent point, Jason. I think the more focused and intentional and purposeful we can be about some of the summer learning, that really will hit some of those misconceptions or gaps that teachers might have identified within the students in the standards and that alignment between that getting to that level of proficiency. I think that's an excellent point. And I think you guys have shared with our educators a wealth of resources, and a wealth of information, and sites and opportunities and ideas that there's got to be something for everybody in this episode.
And we really just appreciate so much you guys taking your time and sharing your vast knowledge with us. We truly appreciate you and all that you have shared with us and what you have done for the teachers and students of Wayne County, and really the State of Michigan and wherever this podcast might be heard. So, thank you very much. We appreciate both of you helping us get to the core and being part of this Wayne RESA podcast.
Jason Siko: Thanks for having us on.
In this episode, Melissa Wilson sits down with Randy Liepa (Superintendent - Wayne RESA), Andrea Oquist (Superintendent - Livonia Public Schools), and Terry Dangerfield (Superintendent - Lincoln Park Public Schools) to discuss the past school year, and what's on their wish list with respect to changes that they hope remain once the pandemic is behind us. The superintendents also discuss how the challenges over the past year have shaped and strengthened their views on the importance of public education, public health, and community involvement in the education of our children.
Length - 35 minutes
Mellissa Wilson: With us today are three leaders: three superintendents from Wayne County who are willing to share their experience, their journey, their reflections, their challenges throughout this year that we have known as the year of the pandemic, as the year of challenge as the year of social unrest. So we welcome today to the podcast: Dr Randy Liepa, Superintendent of Wayne RESA. Also with us, Superintendent of Livonia Public Schools Andrea Oquist, and Terry Dangerfield, Superintendent of Lincoln Park Public Schools. Thank you so much for being here with us.
Well, let's get to the core and chomp and chat about what we've learned this year about innovation, change, priorities, but let's start with gratitude. The COVID-19 pandemic has really offered up a full serving of challenges. And as we know the human spirit, especially the educator spirit, when faced with a collective challenge, has always been the light spot where there's darkness.
What have you been grateful for amidst this challenging time over the past year?
Andrea Oquist: Being able to be that sounding board and that support for their social emotional needs, as well as of course pivoting and moving into an entirely new world as we looked at remote learning last spring and to begin the year and then pivoting back to in-person, with some pretty unique protocols and safety measures in place. There were so many people that came together and put the needs of children, first. We have seen that every single day.
And we have also had partnership from our parents that really is unprecedented. We could not have done it without them, and so throughout this year I have found myself marveling at the work people have done in truly putting children at the center of our decisions, and of our efforts.
Terry Dangerfield: And I would agree with all of that. I think you hear one common term, which is the people, right, and during this time it's been, you know, you can go back to beginning the pandemic that was an incredibly scary time it was an uneasy time. And I think what came out of that was this opportunity for people to really work together and many cases there were people working together that either don't often work together or, albeit forced, but what came out of that was this opportunity to really realize that we can show a lot of mutual respect for each other for the common good.
I think we saw that across the country, across the globe, and specifically in our schools. Some of that's already been said, with some of you know just things, whether it be food service distribution or even with us our local city management, working with, whether it be the police department or some of the people that reached out to us that wanted to partner with us and what can we do to help your students or what can we do to that might be helping your teachers to be able to better service their students and so, for me, as a reflection piece I think it's real easy, as we live in this hustle bustle world to sometimes take things for granted and miss really how good we have it as a society as a world, and when we work together, and I do think there was a time that hopefully when this is all said and done, and we can return to some level normal we don't forget about that: to realize that how important schools are in a part of their community and realize to Randy's point even things, you know, not walking past that grocery store worker, not walking past that nurse or that frontline worker…just the tremendous work that people are doing to make sure that we can all live and thrive in our society. So to me that was something I’m very thankful of those people that worked very hard to make sure that not only our students, but our community was able to make it through this this time.
Randy Liepa: Just to add one specific item that really has been on my mind lately, and that is, the significant influx of resources that are coming, especially from our Federal Government to support schools during the next few years. And so, we've heard a lot about the federal stimulus dollars that are coming in, but especially for our poorest communities. We have a significant influx of dollars, that will provide them, really I think, a once in a generation opportunity to do some catch up with some of their educational opportunities for their children that just has never been there. And so, when you think about some of our poorest communities who just don't have the tax base to do some of the facility improvements that other school districts have. Their ability now because of these dollars coming in from the Federal Government never would have been there in order to do some of the facility enhancements that are so much needed in their communities. But they just didn't have the tax base to do that, so, you know, I’m excited and grateful about potentially this one time generational opportunity to make some improvements in our school system that we hope people will see how that can make a big difference, and maybe that will help reform the funding system in the long haul for all school systems.
Mellissa Wilson: So you’ve all really named a lot that we can be thankful for. And really what you're getting at is idea of collective action. Of folks coming together around a shared mission, a common good, to really move forward into achieve something, especially in difficult times. And how important it will be, and Terry mentioned, that we don't forget this, this stays a core value we remind ourselves that everyone matters and that everyone's experience matters. So when you think about innovation and Randy, you kind of introduced this idea that we have an opportunity. We have a chance to think about what might be, what could be, what if.
And so, whether you're considering the new funding coming through or you consider what you've already seen in your school districts in your communities. Someone once said, never let a good crisis go to waste, and we know there's been a lot of loss. But we also know, through challenge rises innovation. So, do you have a story or an example or a hope that really illustrates and innovative response, or what you see to come to be an innovative response and install this?
Terry Dangerfield: For me it well, I would not, I think I would be challenged to find a specific story. I can tell you, the amount of innovation, we saw during this, though, was incredibly impressive, you know, Just simple things like as a school district, at least for us, we've never had to distribute that much technology, that quickly, to that many people and to do it in an equal way to make sure that it got where it needed to go, so that our students could learn. You know, we were on a Friday being made aware of this and now, all of a sudden, having to get technology out in just a matter of days. Food distribution, you know, we're used to cafeteria style type food distribution and to watch our food service team come together and find incredible ways to make sure that large amounts of food can be distributed in a very efficient, quick way so that people weren't lined up in their cars for hours, and at the same time do that in a safe way with all the mitigation strategies that were brand new to all of us. That innovation, which was incredible to me.
But more importantly, for me, is things that I think that is all of us as educators, have been trying so hard to push in education is, you know, watching innovation in the ways we grade or the ways that we accept assignments and for students to show us mastery in a subject. Or maybe how we've done attendance, our communication, to all those different things that we, we were forced to look at differently, because the ways that we went…we did them just because we were used to them and we were comfortable with them, maybe weren't always effective right we've always done things in society, we just continue to do things that don't always work but it forced us to do them differently. And so, to me, it's hard to pinpoint one, but I think it's impossible for us coming out of this that we can't say there's a lot that we've learned from an innovative side that's going to change education forever.
Andrea Oquist: I would certainly build on that and concur with Terry as we think about especially some of those wraparound services for our students. In our district, we distributed over a quarter million meals during our time when we were on a pause for remote learning and we realized that, as a school district, our families needed us in ways far greater than really we had ever realized. So, that ability to have our folks come together and not only the people within that department, but volunteers across this community offering to deliver meals to homes, to distribute from our schools, setting up a social emotional hotline. Our student services and special education providers have been nothing short of remarkable. They have worked to find ways to meet the needs of our students, both for their mental health, as well as for their unique learning needs. And so, some of the innovation that has come out of our special education providers included unique learning binders for every child to really support parents in the home, as we were providing virtual instruction for students with really unique needs.
Parents had visuals, and cues, and support to be able to help their students move them through that process each step of the way. Truly, we marveled at what our staff was able to do and parents able to partner with us to meet the needs of our students. So, I think about those as just a couple of the ways in addition to I think probably the most obvious and on the largest scale would simply be the moving to remote learning for all of our students for months last spring, and then to begin this school year. That was something we had obviously never done before, and took a tremendous amount of time, effort, and ingenuity to be able to do that. So many, many opportunities to take a look at innovation, and I would agree that some of those pieces can certainly stay with us moving forward.
Randy Liepa: Now we just had from a facility standpoint what I just seen multiple ,innovative ideas that have been implemented at the schools to keep kids safe during this period of time. And so, you know, school districts had a variety of requirements in regards to how to operate school say and…just watching them set up social distancing, how to run lunch, how to keep students safe in a classroom, how to get students in and out of school a variety of different innovative ideas came from that in regards to not only how to keep students safe, but how to educate students in a different environment.
So, that was really, really impressive and you know talking about a little bit more detail just watching high schools across our county how they were going to schedule students into their classes and completely redoing how high school students receive their classes; in many cases, both virtually and face-to-face. It was remarkable to watch school districts redo their schedules on a dime and put together very innovative scheduling programs with block schedules, focusing on the core curriculum items, and identifying how they can provide support in different, other programming areas. Just amazing to watch school districts put that together, and then also how instruction actually occurs in classrooms and those types of new delivery options for teachers are going to be something that they're going to carry forward into the future.
Mellissa Wilson: So it sounds like we're considering in a way, too, the fact that we're flexible; that we’re able to turn on a dime, pivot, however might describe it, but we were able to do it.
And now that we know we can do it, whether this is, you know remote learning, this is a different approach to grading; this is the new awareness we have for the solid need for wraparound services and more support for families, than we might have even realized before.
What do you see as something that really needs to stay? If you were to say, “This is my one thing i'm taking this to the island. This must not go back to the old way of doing business!” What would that be for you as you think about moving forward into the next year?
Andrea Oquist: One thing I would say is flexibility in communicating with parents about their students. So, whether that's virtual IEPs, whether that's virtual parent teacher conferences, as an option. Scheduling hundreds and hundreds of student parents through high school conferences was something we have never done before. But some of the things we've heard from parents was a great appreciation for the ability to stay connected with their school, and connected on the progress of their students, without having to leave work, without having to come in the evening so well that's just a small piece.
We have found some great benefit, with that. We would certainly not have necessarily done that, in the same way before, but those who have given us some opportunities to stay connected with parents on the progress of their children and to have their voice as an important part of our conversation.
Terry Dangerfield: I would have to echo that. It's the flexibility piece. As someone I consider myself to be, you know, pretty intense when it comes to wanting to see change in education and as many of my colleagues are, and what's always been frustrating is that there's things in education that we've done that are archaic. And they have not always been in the best interest of students. And so, this has really forced us to think outside the box; to go back to some of those I talked about earlier, you know, whether it be grading or accepting a different way for students to show mastery, or realizing that, you know, school in a traditional setting did not work for every student in that face-to-face environment. We know there were students that that form of education does not always work for them. But we're gonna be able to say the same with virtual. We can't have the pendulum swing go and say okay well now let's just make everybody go virtual we're seeing, though there are students absolutely struggling in that environment.
But that's where we got to bring it back to center and realize flexibility can be incredibly important. We've proven now on a large scale that we can do virtual and do it well for those students that will benefit from it. And we can obviously also do face-to-face in a different way and make sure that face-to-face is reaching more students and being effective for those that it can be effective for. But hopefully what comes out of that is this idea that we can do it differently; we can be flexible. We don't have to be so final and it has to be this one way, the way we were taught or the way that our parents were raised or whatever it might be. And I personally love that; the way attendance can look, the way grading can look, and we've talked about this in education for a few decades now, and I think this really forced that conversational afford.
The other one I’d like to add is, believe it or not, would be the way we disinfect schools and the way we approach having a sanitized environment. I really think this brought…when you're seeing right now with the drop and cold and flu season. I think we really need to reflect on this to say that next year's cold and flu season if, hopefully COVID isn't where it is now, that some of the practices we put in place, whether it be the electrostatic, whether it be the use of PPE maybe during a cold and flu season, or maybe encouraging that. I think that's something we need to look at in the future because something we that has come out in at least in our local discussions was, we also had a lot of students that miss school time during the cold and flu season in previous years. We have staff that missed during cold and flu season in previous years and this year that has not been an issue for us, and so that brought to light, maybe, something that we could do and reexamine how we went about sanitizing our buildings in the past.
Randy Liepa: Those are great examples. I really don't have much to add to that other than, and Andrea’s mentioned this a couple times but, you know, our awareness into the social emotional needs of our kids and, you know, we've really been on focus, or you know, really, really had the antennas up with regards to kids who may need some additional support during a such a traumatic time and I think those skills are going to be something we're going to take forward also.
Mellissa Wilson: So one of the things to think about as we think about what will school look like next year, even knowing that it might not be what we might call normal but is normal even a word we may need us anymore? We're not sure.
When we think about what you mentioned about parents, Andrea especially, you've mentioned a lot about this partnership, this increased capacity, perhaps that you're seeing, both in how your schools interact with your parents and parents with schools: have you seen a new opportunity or new way or new place for work or parents as we think about… in the past, it might have been a difficult connection or it was a home and school and we knew there was an important piece, you know, that would link them?
And now we've seen the parents are empowered and parents are capable. Is there anything that you're going to take forward as you think about the role and place if your parents, this year, and how they've stepped up, that you will continue to promote an advocate for moving forward?
Andrea Oquist: Melissa, could you summarize that again for us, please?
Mellissa Wilson: Yep, absolutely! So, when you think about the important partnership that has been established with parents, and you mentioned this quite a bit in your description, is there something that we've learned from parents response to all of this, or something where we've seen an innovation or a new way that we've communicated with parents that we want to see move forward?
Andrea Oquist: I really would probably reiterate just those couple of examples that I gave with regard to the virtual IEPs and the opportunity for virtual and remote parent teacher conferences. Other than that, nothing specific comes to mind, other than I believe all of our school districts have really tried to just increase the regular communication to parents and helping to understand the “why” behind some of the decisions that have been made throughout this year and the importance of their involvement, a partnership with these efforts.
Terry Dangerfield: Yeah, and we, you know, with Andrea bringing that up earlier, we also saw a huge increase in parent interaction and involvement in things like IEPs. Maybe students with their families weren't always able to be involved in IEP or we struggled to get them to be involved with the IEP. We've definitely seen increasing that participation. Parent teacher conferences, I think that's another one, that if we move forward to parent teacher conferences only being a conference physically inside of a teacher's classroom or at the school I think we've really done a disservice to our families. We've seen a huge increase in the amount of families are willing to participate virtually or through another form of communication to participate. And our teachers have been really pleasantly surprised by that. Because what's come from that is now teachers are seeing parents much more involved with their students education.
For instance, the example I give is we always hear about the jokes about this new math, you know, where this new math come from and what is common core math? And you know these parents in many cases, all of us as parents that have students have been forced to some degree be teachers with our children because of the nature of the pandemic. Now you have families of sitting there and actually watching the lesson and learning what some of these concepts are. And for school districts we've always offered trainings for parents and. But what we've done we've done them through dropping type trainings or they've been physically inside of a gymnasium or in a cafeteria at a local elementary whatever it might be. And through this new way of communicating with our parents, we've seen involvement. And they're actually asking questions and interacting. It's not a one-way sit-and-get. it's a two-way interaction and a learning opportunity for our community. And so, to me, the involvement that we've had from families and the result of that is something that I know that the teachers in Lincoln Park have taken notice to, and I would have to assume that's happened across our country.
Randy Liepa: Just one thing to add to that, and, you know, one of my hopes moving forward certainly is that the bond between the two-way relationship with families and school is even more strengthened as we come out of this. And I think about families, I do believe, and I think just communities as a whole, there's a whole new appreciation for the importance of school. I think there's a whole new appreciation for what teachers do on a daily basis as parents tried to navigate being that quasi-educational partner when their children were home. And so, I think that's a real opportunity for us to build on, because I just think there is a an even stronger support for the work of teachers, because of new experiences that families have had and trying to meet the needs of their children as they've been home and trying to do school. And so, I think that's a potential opportunity for us to strengthen even more the relationship between families and school.
Mellissa Wilson: Absolutely. There's been such a new lens on many sides of the coin for both parents to be more aware of, “Wow! How difficult, how much is involved in educating our children,” and teachers to say, “Well, there's a lot that goes on at home that we might not have been aware of.” And so, a lot of more awareness on both sides and which, hopefully, lead to better things. We think about that need, and especially when we're thinking about the food need, the wraparound service need, the social emotional needs. Now that we know what ought we do, we have, many of you have mentioned, you know, we are so impressed by our ability in schools to really get food out, to get supports out. When the pandemic, Lord willing, goes away where are we with that, now that we know that there might have been an increased need families have at home? Do you still see schools playing a role in supporting that or where do you go with that, now that we know?
Andrea Oquist: We do. And I think some of these supports will need to continue for years to come. One of the things that we know is, we have seen over the past few years prior to the pandemic, a growing need for mental health supports, for our students and support for our families who are working with or living with those children. And we have really begun those conversations on how to utilize some of the COVID relief fund some of the additional ESSR funds to be able to plan for ongoing support of our students in the area of social emotional and mental health support, as well as behavioral innovations that that we think would provide some of the necessary reintegration of students. If they were virtual, if they chose virtual for this entire year or, for our students in general, as they just reintegrate back with our students or their classmates on a regular basis.
Terry Dangerfield: Yeah. We have, in Lincoln Park, we've been extensively involved, even before the pandemic doing work around trauma informed and resilient focus. We have a project called Resilient Schools Project that's very important to us, and I will tell you that what we learned is that if any of our staff members that were maybe even in the middle on that and still need a little bit indecisive…we have realized the impact that trauma can have on students in the pandemic has really brought that to life for so many of us and leaders in the field like Dr. Soma… She uses the quote I’ve heard or uses, “They're predicting a trauma tsunami coming out of this.” You know, just thinking what some of these families have experienced and, you know, the hardships that had been experienced the loss, the actual loss of human life in their families and the impacts that this has had on them. And so, you know, we have our work cut out for us coming out of this pandemic and when we talk about those students coming back in our classrooms, we have to realize that there is there is 1,000%. In example of not everything is equal and we're going to have students coming to our buildings that have had a completely different experience than maybe their fellow classmates.
There may be the even the teachers that are teaching them the staff members at work with them every day. All of us just realizing that we have all experienced a lot as a as a globe and, as a country and then, when we narrow that down into our school district. And so, I believe that the work that we're going to be doing on mental health, on wellness, and social emotional, on health and nutrition. These are, I really believe we're just starting to hit the tip of the iceberg.
It's just very important that we can obviously get this pandemic behind us so that we can obviously get access to our students more readily because they're going to need us now more than ever.
Randy Liepa: Yeah, and I think it's just, you know, some of the things that we've learned over the last year is also, at least in my eyes, some validation in regards to things we have been doing for kids and things we've been advocating for as it relates to the needs of students.
And so, you know, we've had a lot of conversation around online learning and virtual learning and the benefits of that and how that may help flexibility. But we've learned very clearly over the last year that students need to be in school and students need to be with their classmates, and students need to have a direct relationship with individuals together. And, you know, I think there were some people that thought that, you know, this could be completely replaced in some cases by a virtual learning setting. And while that may be the case for a limited number of students based on their personal needs, we've learned very clearly that and have had validated that school is important that, you know, the concept of school, the concept of community, the concept of learning from each other cannot be replaced and many students have suffered by not having that experience available to them as we've looked at this pandemic. And so, you know, I think that's something that we're going to take forward that, you know, some of the things that we have been doing and advocating for clearly are needed, as we move forward.
Mellissa Wilson: Certainly, so you're really lifting that concept of it's not always about the programs, it's about the people. And so, when we think about the people experience, the human experience, so many lessons are really being lifted around the importance of connecting with people and keeping their experiences in mind. When we think about the experience, the world has had not only with the pandemic, but with the social unrest that's gone on, we know that this is also transferred to our schools and really rethinking equity and equity mindset around how we approach schools, how we structure schools, the access that children have, the curricula that we leave. So, when you think about moving forward, we think about rethinking schools, how are we using equity as a lens as we move forward in this work?
Randy Liepa: I’ll just start out that again I think how what's come out of this remarkably difficult time is validation of some of the things that we've been pushing for some time. And so, when I think about equity, I think about the ability to meet the needs of all students; meeting them where they're at, making sure they have all the resources that they need to be as successful as their classmates. And so, we've been pushing for several years, a school funding system identified by outstanding research through the School Finance Research Collaborative that have clearly said: here's the kinds of services that students need if you want every single student to be successful, here's what school needs to look like. If you want every student to be successful, and then we actually cost to that out, and so here's how you need to fund that. If you want every student to be successful, and so, you know, we've had our megaphone out now for a couple of years, pushing that equity issue to make that that every student has what they need to be successful. And I think this pandemic has just raised the awareness as it relates to why what we've been talking about now for the last few years is so important and how we can meet the needs of every child if we just take into consideration what the research has told us, and really commit to the fact that we believe that every student should be successful.
Andrea Oquist: We've really seen, not only those things, those really important pieces that Randy mentioned with regard to the exposure of some of this through the pandemic, but as you've discussed Melissa, through the really, really challenging and painful times we've seen across our state and across the country. And those discussions and work on diversity, equity, and inclusion have been going on for quite some time. I think this past year has really increased all of our commitment to the importance of meeting the needs of not only our students but of our families and of our staff; taking a look at being very reflective and digging deeply into those questions about implicit bias, about how do we meet the needs of all students and families no matter where they are, and understanding that the needs of students require us to look at things through an equity lens, not an equal lens. And so, making sure that we have those resources and those perspectives that really help us look at the curriculum that we're using, our practices within and outside the classroom, our communication with parents and how we involve parents. All of those pieces are part of that equity discussion that are so very important. They were important before; that importance has been magnified even more right now.
Terry Dangerfield: I think one of the takeaways is going to be what has been said there. I have never met in my career in education colleague, a leader, a board member that wants to be unequal to students, or to have an unequal school system. I believe the school districts have been really beating this drum for quite a while here leading into pandemic. But I think what we've all learned in life, and we do as we get older is that sometimes you do have to have disruptive change. And I think that's what happened; it took maybe took the pandemic and a pause to highlight that word for a second for us to really reflect. To realize that a lot of that banging that drum this time, maybe to get the right people to listen to that. And as Randy had highlighted, I think people like legislators and policymakers and those people really to realize that there's a lot of people in education that want to do the right things for kids, and not just some kids - all kids - we want all students, we want all staff, we want all communities to thrive. But we can't do it alone, we need help. And, you know, we've all raised this idea of it takes a village and I hope what comes out of the pandemic is this idea that when we work together, we are incredible; human beings are incredible when we work together. But we can also be pretty arrogant and divisive when we do it wrong. And I’m hoping that the takeaway from the pandemic is let's pick the first and choose our students first, and our communities first, and make sure that we listened to those people that work with students every single day and understand what our kids do need and what they deserve.
Mellissa Wilson: So Terry you must be reading my mind, but that was one of our last things we were going to ask. What is your takeaway? If you were to look back to look forward, if you have a lesson learned, what is that quotable quote, that mantra that you have, that would summarize… if you're able, really what you're taking from this and what you’re taking with you in those steps forward, as we look forward to this next year. Andrea, Randy, would you like to share on that?
Andrea Oquist: I would say it takes every single one of us.
Randy Liepa: And my takeaway certainly is that education is remarkably important in our society, and in who we are going to be as a people and, as a community. And so, education and the educational system has risen to the top in regards to dealing with any issue that we may be experiencing in our communities, who we are as people, in humanity, and I just think there's a renewed focus on the importance of education and I hope we are able to continue to maintain that mindset.
Terry Dangerfield: And for me I’m more positive than I’ve ever been in my career. It's hard to believe that, right now, but if you told me a week before the pandemic what we were going to go through, I might have laid down in the fetal position and just cried and put a helmet on my head. To be here now all this time later and realize, we can do this, we are so capable and so I’m able to do more than we give our credit, self-credit for. I’m saying that as humans I’m saying that as systems and definitely as school systems for students. So, I’m really excited about what we can do it even improve the education for students moving forward.
Andrea Oquist: Absolutely. I think we have a tremendous amount of hope on the horizon, and we have shown that really together, there is nothing that we cannot do. And I would really concur with Randy’s statement about the value that we've seen of our educators and of our education systems, and I hope we continue to live that, for many, many years to come.
Mellissa Wilson: So really, what you've done is to help us think about our core we know our podcast is Getting to the Core. But when you think about it, you've lifted the human spirit and the educator spirit; that at the core we have hope, we are strong, and we are resilient, and adaptable. And everything you've shared with us today is really helped us to think more about that to reflect upon that and to respect the good fine work that we've done throughout our systems to make this work for students and families. So, thank you so much for joining us.
In this episode, Ellen Vorenkamp chats with Joe Musial, Cindy Cook, Jolia Hill, and Marvin Franklin about how Wayne RESA's Attendance Resource Team (ART) uses research and data to help combat chronic absenteeism, as well as challenges the pandemic has presented with respect to student attendance.
Length - 30 minutes
Ellen Vorenkamp: Welcome. My name is Ellen Vorenkamp, and I am moderating this episode of Getting to the Core with Wayne RESA: Where Pedagogy meets Practice. In this episode, we will be examining the work of the Wayne RESA Attendance Resource Team. It is my pleasure to introduce the members of the team, beginning with Miss Jolia Hill, Dr. Cynthia Cook, Mr. Marvin Franklin, and Dr. Joseph Musial. Greetings, and thank you for being here with us. Is it okay if I call you all by your first name?
Marvin Franklin: Fine by me.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Jolia, would you like to introduce yourself?
Jolia Hill: Sure. I’m Jolia Hill. I am a manager at Wayne RESA. Some of my responsibilities include supporting state and federal program directors such as Title I directors or folks who oversee 31A. I also work with homeless liaisons and their students, foster care liaisons and their students, to support the needs that they have in emergency situations and just making sure they have access to school and the resources needed to do school. And then, I also was blessed to be able to work with this amazing team the Attendance Resource Team, where we are here to support our schools and districts with getting to the core of going to school.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Yes, thank you so Jolia. Cynthia, would you like to introduce yourself?
Cynthia Cook: Sure, my name is Cindy Cook. I’m a school health consultant at Wayne RESA. Some of my work involves looking at the whole child and seeing how we can implement that in schools, as well as social emotional learning and health education: K12 comprehensive health education.
Ellen Vorenkamp: It's so necessary right now. Thank you, Cindy. Marvin, what about you?
Marvin Franklin: Hello everyone. Marvin Franklin, Ed Improvement Consultant. Some of my work primarily is centered around school improvement; helping schools get on the right track and help them get to a better place.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Awesome. Thank you, Marvin. And Joe?
Joseph Musial: Yeah, hi. Good morning, thanks, my name is Joe Musial, and I'm an assessment and evaluation consultant at Wayne RESA. A lot of my work is primarily focused on evaluating educational interventions that are occurring. Also, I’m evaluating numerous state and federal grants that we've had. I'm also serving as Vice President of the Michigan Education Research Association.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you very much. Awesome group here, thank you guys very much for coming to be with us here today and share some information with our audience about the purpose and work of this Attendance Resource Team. So, I'm going to start with the first question just kind of set the stage: a year ago districts were pivoting to remote learning. Educators from across schools and districts in Wayne County raised concern of, shall we say, missing students; students who are no longer attending classes and as a result contact with those students have been lost. At that point it's my understanding that the Attendance Resource Team was initiated so tell us, Jolia, what is the purpose of the Wayne RESA Attendance Resource Team, and how does it impact chronic absenteeism here in Wayne County.
Jolia Hill: Thanks Ellen. Great question first of all, you know, I wonder if you know and the folks out there in Wayne County know that our Wayne County school districts and public school academies actually implement the compulsory attendance law firsthand so in other counties. The ISD or the RESA has a truancy officer or truancy department or an attendance department. Well, in Wayne County we don't have that. Our actual locals are working hard to make sure that families get students to school every day, all day. And so, with that the Attendance Resource Team works collaboratively with our local districts to identify resources and systems of support to help them implement the law at the local level, to make sure the kids are getting to school.
So, when a district determines that they've got a high level of absenteeism they reach out to us and ask for help and ask for assistance. So, the help and assistance can look anywhere from training staff, training those individuals who are the truancy officers or the engagement officers to assisting districts with identifying local level policies to heighten student attendance, improve student attendance… all the way to identifying Community partners to serve as an at-the-elbow partner to combat chronic absenteeism and Wayne County. So with this current health pandemic, looking at attendance, attendance is different, but combating chronic absentee, that's a completely different animal. So I’m proud to say that this resource team has looked at innovative ways to support chronic absenteeism in this new realm of attendance, remote attendance and virtual attendance.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you, I was not aware, because, that fell on to the actual this whole reporting of the attendance actually fell on to the districts here in the in Wayne County. as opposed to having truancy officers. That's pretty interesting and it could explain the overwhelming-ness of this job and making sure that all of these policies and partnerships are really solid so that we can do what's best to really help those districts; do what's best for kids. I was not aware of that, so thank you for that.
Jolia Hill: Yeah, Ellen. You know, the thing that I think about is you know before all of us were in these roles our districts made a decision with our administration that they wanted to hold on to that role of serving as their own attendance officer truancy officers. So, we really serve as a support to those districts, as they do that.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Yeah, and I heard a couple of really key words there: collaboration, partnerships with other community members, and resources and really thinking about the policies. And how the Attendance Resource Team can help the school districts here in Wayne County with all of those different things and actions. So Joe, I’m wondering, then what specifically have you guys been able to do in terms of this this this team and helping the districts here in Wayne County to combat this?
Joseph Musial: Yeah, sure. So, about a year ago, when we went to the initial lockdown, our leadership had approached us and asked us to assemble and to, you know, to actually address this, you know, baptism by fire. So, during the, if you recall, during the actual shut down all of us were bombarded with numerous communications, pdfs, and a lot of states had begun to respond to the COVID issue impacting absenteeism. And what we found was that these documents for all intents and purposes were not that efficient and not that practical in terms of getting people to go through you know 100-page document. So, we took a different approach and we actually tapped our RESA consultants and district-wide educators who actually had experienced both at the classroom level and building level, implementing programs that either directly or indirectly address chronic absenteeism. And by chronic absenteeism, we're saying that the child misses about 10% or more of instruction. To the extent of the problem, a recent article in the Washington Post noted that, in the City of Detroit there are 3,000 children that they can account for. Which is a very alarming number. We don't have all the full data, yet, but we're concerned that it may rise between 5 to 15% in some districts. So, for example, we…through the expertise of our colleagues, I'll use nursing as an example. Beginning with asthma: a typical asthmatic child misses about on average 10 days of school per year, so our nursing consultants actually developed research-based methods and suggestions that can help schools counter the issue of the asthmatic child. And we were able to develop very you know evidence-based videos with references that last between 15 and 25 minutes. Our analytics have shown that if you go beyond 30 minutes with any type of educational electronic communication, that 30 minutes is too much in terms of viewership.
In addition to this I'll give you a current example that we're working on right now in real time our curriculum director Garden City, Dr Alex Nice is emerging to be a national leader and engagement. In fact, he has just completed his dissertation and published his book based on his research findings. And he actually will be sharing how his interventions actually countered and improved absenteeism based on the evidence base and based on his research. So, he'll be discussing that talking about his book as well as actually providing real-world data based on what he did. So again, ideally going forward we envision buildings, educational leaders actually going to our MIStreamNet where will be housing all these videos and they can actually share this with your staff in small chunks and actually consider doing some of these suggested interventions that are based on the best evidence to counter chronic absenteeism. And so, this is an ongoing process and we're doing multiple interventions, one of which our colleague Cindy Taraskiewicz shared her experience in Southwest Detroit. In Southwest Detroit for homelessness as an example, so that's kind of like in a nutshell, what we're working on.
Ellen Vorenkamp: So, it sounds like you're busy, number one, and it sounds like you're doing a lot of really at the classroom level and really helping the teachers in the classroom and the personnel within those buildings really think about what teachers are doing within the classroom to really engage kids and get them back into those classrooms so that they're wanting to learn and engaging in those learning processes that are going to help them. It also sounds like you're really trying to make sure that you're being very clear and concise with much of this information and not making some big, long programs but doing really short, concise, clear things to help with that collaboration. And I really like the fact that you're doing this, based on research, and that brings us to our next point. When we think about the research, and we think about some of the recent articles like you mentioned earlier. I know that there was one that was recently published by the Detroit Education Research Partnership and in it, they noticed that, even before the pandemic that students in Detroit as many as, more than half of the students in Detroit were considered to be chronically absent, which, as you stated before, means that they were missing up to 10% or more of the school year. And we know that other school districts within Wayne County are struggling with similar numbers and it's become even worse because of this COVID situation. So, I’m wondering if Cindy might be able to share with us some of the research that the Attendance Resource Team has engaged in and maybe explain these numbers are so high?
Cynthia Cook: Thank you, Ellen. One of the things we've looked at is the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model in our research and basically, you know… for those of you that know don't know the Whole Child - it's the CDC the health people and ASCD - the education people - coming together and talking about that. Do we need to be concerned about the academics? Absolutely, that's what schools are for, but we also need to be aware of the mental, physical, social emotional well-being of the child, also. And so with the 10 components of the whole child… what those 10 components are already available in schools, in most schools and what we would like to do is it would like to see as those components communicating with each other to find out what types of programming they're doing at the tier one level to reduce chronic absenteeism. And if we can get those 10 components communicating and sending consistent messages about the importance of attendance, then our kids are going to be healthy, safe, supported, engaged, and challenged. So that's what we've been working on, and one of the things, as Joe talked about, is looking at policy, processes, and practices, and making sure that our attendance policies are not punitive. You know, that we try to work with the family and the child in order to keep them really focusing again on that physical, social emotional well-being of the student and not just the academics. So, that's where a lot of our research has gone looking at tiered approaches, which I think Marvin is going to talk about and yeah, looking at the whole child.
Ellen Vorenkamp: I think it's really awesome that you guys - that's not a great word - but I think you guys have taken that approach and thinking about the whole child and not just about, you know, the child sitting in the seat, but what's entailed with that and what do we need to do to support that whole child. And bring them back to that learning environment where they can have that level of safety and have those other emotional and social needs met in a really meaningful way. And I love your three p's: the policy, the process and the practices and how those work together. I think they really, really come together. That collaboration piece, and that that way they can be intersecting to have that foundation…I think that's great and really that full frontal push to really ensure that these kids get back in and get the support that they need.
So, yeah let's talk to Martin now and find out, maybe some of your relevant findings and hear some personal experiences with this and some things that Marvin might have been able to do within his own context as a building principal. Welcome.
Marvin Franklin: Hello everybody. So, the first thing I'll say is the root causes of chronic absenteeism, especially this year, are pervasive and extremely complex to solve. Many of our districts and schools pulling out all the stops and teachers and principals are doing drive-bys to try to get kids back in school. And what we would tend to say what chronic absenteeism collects prior to the pandemic, we definitely have to expand as we talked about this year. So there are high school kids that have made adult decisions to work instead of go to school, to help support their families due to family crises. There are middle school kids who are doing the same. And there are elementary children who are watching their brothers and sisters and helping their brothers and sisters as young as the fourth and fifth grade, making sure that they get done while their parents are working during these challenging times.
At the school level, attendance teams report that teachers with the most…the best strategy to capture those kids are the one teachers that make great relationship bonds with their kids. And I'd like to break it and put it in a big nice pretty bowl but that's basically it's it: those teachers that make those great connections outside of just school. They really are the ones that yield the best results. Harvard University has a group called Making Caring Common Project, which illustrates the importance of relationships. It has developed a highly effective resource called the Relationship Mapping and we have introduced that to some of our Wayne County schools as well. And it has had tremendous success to identify those kids that don't have those relationships with an adult in the building and to try to find other ways to capture those kids to make sure that they're logging on. This relationship mapping provides data to the school to identify those who are not connected with those adults and they make a necessary adjustment to put positive connections together. And it is one of the things. There's also Attendance Works that's another resource that districts are leaning on. There's a lot of data and research, as well as ideas to try to improve getting kids in school.
Addressing chronic absenteeism begins, developing the best way to do it is by developing a multi-tiered system approach. And with three tiers of support, providing everyone with an identified core staple of supports. It's also called universal supports. These typically include some level of relational connections to the students that make school a place where kids absolutely, positively want to be.
The second tier is geared for smaller group of students that need a little more targeted support in those conversations between the school and not just those kids but the families. This is a group of students who have past history of moderate chronic absenteeism or they may have a risk factors something like what Joe mentioned as asthma or in our area sickle-cell anemia those types of things, and needing a higher level of more individualized support, in addition to those universal supports that I just mentioned.
Now the third tier the most intensive one is what we are at right now with not just chronic absenteeism but, in the middle of a pandemic. And this is what I speak to many principles right now and teachers, they are on high alert as it relates to developing those relationships. and getting in the car and driving to those families and finding out at the core what they need. And what I've seen and heard more than anything is…school is like Cindy said earlier - Dr. Cook I’m sorry we've been working too close together so she knows that I mean all the respect in the world - but they've figured out like what she said that component has one of the missing components. You've got to make those connections with those children. If you don't make those connections, they will find other things that are more important, which at this level during the pandemic is survival. So, this looks like about four or more days a month, though, that tier three that highest group of absence. And that's a lot. And the kids are missing a lot more than not logging on not for that amount of time. Many students in Wayne County and across America have exceeded this threshold. The typical risk factors are definitely expanded and we're trying to make sure that we get a hold on those.
Ellen Vorenkamp: You bring up some really great points and that whole piece about the relationships. I just would like to reiterate that, for our listeners and building those relationships with our students is huge. And I really like the fact that you brought in the families. That sometimes this isn't just a child issue; this is a family issue and therefore becomes a community issue which really takes us back to that Whole Child Model that Cindy - Dr Cook -was talking to us about. So, awesome. You have some great resources in there for us also Marvin. Thank you, I appreciate that. I think our listeners, will be able to take advantage of those.
I'd like to ask all of you to unmute and just if there's anything else anybody would like to add to our discussion if there any other relevant resources that any of you would like to share. Where can people find out a little bit more about your team and the work that you've been doing? And just open up the floor.
Cynthia Cook: The Whole Child Model can be looked at on the either the CDC website or the ASCD website to get a better understanding of how those pieces and parts work together to make sure that those kids are engaged. And I just want to reiterate again what Marvin said, is the importance of those relationships in school and out of school and getting Community members to understand the importance of attendance also so we can be sending consistent messages to kids.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you.
Joseph Musial: You know the other point that we collectively realize, too, that as if a child is not in school, they are at risk for dropping out of school and the outcomes are very, very poor when a child drops out of school in terms of the whole prison pipeline and other adverse events, too.
The other issues that that are going to take many, many more people to table includes bandwidth. Does the child have adequate bandwidth by which to participate from distance learning? And Marvin also spoke to about the whole tier three where that's really the one-on-one, the intense interventions, too. And we also realize too that many of the children in Wayne County have experienced, you know, serious illness and death, with their elders and their family. And sometimes grandparents may actually have to take over the role of the parents, too. So, this is a very multi-faceted issue, too. And going forward again all of our work that we're doing with our colleagues will be placed on MIStreamNet and there'll be a strong robust library, by which our educators can actually access.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thank you. You know one thing that just sort of is resonating with me as I’m listening, and this comes from my own ignorance, and so thank you very much for helping me see some more and understand a little bit better about this. But when I think of chronic absenteeism, I'm always thinking of like high school kids, but we're not talking just about high school kids here, are we? We’re talking about K12; we're talking about kids all throughout the system, and I think I think that's a sort of, “Aha!” I just had that that moment, like even listening to Marvin and all of you talk about elementary school kids being the parent in the house, maybe helping younger brothers and sisters and I’m sitting here thinking, “Wow!” I just kind of always thought it was a high school issue.
Cynthia Cook: That's a really good point, Ellen. When we look at kindergarten first grade even missing two days a month puts them in the category of absenteeism chronic absenteeism. So, and it is starting to affect kids in the kindergarten, first grade, second grade… so much so that they're not reading by third grade, which is you know, one of the things that we're looking for. So, yes, we do have to worry about absenteeism in the younger grades also.
Jolia Hill: You know Cindy brings up a great point. It's in these multi-tiered systems of support. You know, you've got to think about… look at the needs of your families look at the issues that your students are dealing with and try to develop systems that meet the kids where they are. Every family and every kid is going through something different. One approach that can hit all kids that are having an issue with is attendance. So it's on us as adults, as partners, as educators, as a community to identified different innovative ways to ensure that kids have an opportunity to learn. And I think that's a key phrase: Giving kids an opportunity to learn looks different according to the needs of a family and the issues that our kids are dealing with. So that's what we're hoping to do as an Attendance Resource Team is to pull together different strategies. Because there's no reason to reinvent the wheel if somebody's doing it out there, if it's easy to emulate, it's easy to turn around and do it, and put it in the context of your backyard. So, we hope that we can help our districts do that with the modules that Joe was talking about, and with the multi-tiered systems of support Marvin spoke about.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Awesome. Last word, Marvin.
Marvin Franklin: I just want to say how important it is for us to stay on top of this…make sure our kids are getting in. If we just look at the data for African American males and reading by the third and the fourth grade and the chronic absenteeism challenge. They've written many articles about those boys being suspended from preschool. And like Dr. Cook just mentioned: two days! So, if the black boys, African American males are not getting to those points by the fourth grade and we're suspending them from school, you know, for things that maybe we could find other ways to develop…This is really a prime opportunity. You know, to turn in a little different spin on it. The pandemic has definitely shown us that we've got to find a better way to do what we've been doing. Make sure that we're educating our kids and we're including all of the challenges and understanding, where they're coming from so that we can do a much better job to make a better State of Michigan.
Ellen Vorenkamp: So well said. Let's make lemonade out of this lemon and let's do what's best for kids. Thank you all so very much for joining us today and helping us get to the core of this really important topic. We really appreciate you and all the work that you're doing. And thank you for joining us.
Cynthia Cook: Thank you, Ellen.
In our third episode of Getting to the Core, Michelle Wagner and Stephanie DeVee discuss creative ways to make connections with students in a remote environment. Stephanie is not a newcomer to K-12 online learning; she has been teaching for an online school for several years now, and has refined her toolbox to overcome the challenges faces when trying to build rapport and trust with students from a distance.
Length - 26 minutes
MICHELLE WAGNER: There is no denying that starting in March of 2020 education changed and the shifts that teachers have had to roll with and really try and prepare themselves for have been incredible. And as a teacher, it's so humbling to see the amazing work that's being done by Educators. And just how hard everyone is working. I feel really fortunate today to talk with an educator who I know has dedicated her life to helping not only just students but teachers as well. Really helping them embrace and understand this online model of education. I can't help us think about some of the important speakers that I've seen in the past and wonder what it is that they would say today if they were looking at education and trying to give advice or help to teachers might feel like you're struggling right now. And the one that I keep coming back to is Rita Pierson who is certainly one of my educational heroes, but she said, “Every child deserves a champion and adult who will never give up on them who understands the power of connection and insist they become the best they can possibly be.” With those words I truly believe those words are as true today in online education as they are when we are face-to-face. They are as true and remote as they are in person and I think that we can still strive to make connections. And just as Rita Pierson charged us so many years ago: Be the person who stands up for those kiddos; be the person in the corner who's rooting them on so that they can truly become all that they can possibly be.
I am here today with Stephanie DeVee, an instructional coach for Insight School of Michigan, which is under the Stride umbrella, which is formerly known as K12 Online Education. Hi, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Hi
MICHELLE WAGNER: And Stephanie and I used to work together as teachers and Van Buren Public Schools many years ago, but I really wanted to pick your brain about what's happening in schools right now and how important it is to build relationships online. So thank you for for being with us today.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
MICHELLE WAGNER: So can you tell us a little bit about the journey that brought you to online education?
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Absolutely. So as you know, when we work together, my first experience teaching was in brick-and-mortar at Van Buren at South Middle School and from there. I ventured off into some of the National Heritage charter schools that doing some Title 1 work and then honestly for me what really launched me into an online environment would just some of my own health issues that were just making it really hard to be in a classroom all day with very little breaks and just unable to kind of manage some of my health concern at the time. I started looking into alternative in my fiancé, now husband, at the time. And my fiancé kind of stumbled across cage while when we were just randomly searching for like other ways that I could still get an income, still work, but work from home and we stumbled upon K12. And I applied and at the time I started in a program called National Math Lab for about five years and then transitioned into the current school that I work for now under the K-12 Stride umbrella, which is the Insight School of Michigan, based out of Lansing. And, in the last year have gone from a Title 1 math interventionist for the middle school and high school level in this past year just really launched into instructional coaching for the Insight School of Michigan
MICHELLE WAGNER: Awesome. So it sounds like online education was even a benefit to you in terms of health and well-being even before most of us were plunged into that world.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Yeah, that was a big. I mean that was the push for me. My husband joined me about a year later just for him. It was more of not necessarily being happy where he wasn't looking for something else to advance his career. Do you know jump into something new and different once you do something for so long? You're kind of always looking for that next to new thing and I've really found over the years that before Covid hit and forced to look into virtual and need to do virtual. Most of our kids… it was either behavior issues, you know anxiety, ADHD, social issues, medical issues were usually the big things when we when we you know, you are welcome in connection calls of their kids… “What made you choose us?” Those are like the top ones and so I could really relate to students that you know chose to do online for medical reasons because there were days where I could still work and teach from home where if I was in a brick-and-mortar situation,I would have had to call in and use a sub.
MICHELLE WAGNER: It’s just so interesting because I know that just even in my own mind when I think about online education. It almost seems to be a new concept… something that we just learned existed this year. And I know that that's not the case. So it's very interesting to hear that for over a decade you've been in this environment and it's been going well.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Right? Yeah, and I'm you know, there's people that were in another decade before me, you know, it's same thing. I thought of this novel concept this new thing that I stumbled upon cuz I was looking for something different but really it had existed. It just wasn't, you know, unless you really had a need for it, I don't think it was something that people were looking for or even knew was out there.
MICHELLE WAGNER: And I think that is a perfect lead-in to this idea of may be why so many teachers don't feel necessarily prepared for online education. And I know that in your role as an instructional coach, you’re still helping teachers kind of navigate those waters. So, I was just wondering if you might be able to share a little bit about relationships and how important it is for teachers to build those relationships and we know that it's important in traditional settings, but also in virtual settings.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Yeah, absolutely. The importance of it doesn't change and honestly, I would argue that it actually gets larger. It's more of an importance in the virtual environment. You have to work a lot harder at it. It doesn't feel as natural. That was always one of my concerns because I think if you go into the world of teaching, you do it because you love the kids. You love connecting with the kids you love those relationships, then you know that you're making it you know is what makes all the tough days worth it. And I was a little bit afraid. Was I going to be happy in a virtual setting, you know, really removed from the thing that made me fall in love with teaching in the first place? But honestly, I have continued to maintain relationships with students that I had, you know, 5, 6, 7 years ago. They’ll still call me or text me when they need something even though they're in a with different teachers and you know the same idea of when your old students would walk by your classroom and want to talk to you like that those relationships still exist 100%. But it absolutely looks different and it's more difficult because you don't have them within your four walls. You can't walk past them and know whether they're working or understanding, you know, you can't just walk past her desk and tap on the shoulder to get them re-engage back into your class. So, it is definitely a learning curve. It's not the same but it absolutely the relationship still exists in the online world and like I said, I would argue that sometimes it's even more important to make those connections virtually because you don't physically see the students, you know. There are times where I couldn't know that something was going on with the student just by the look on their face when they walked into the classroom, you know. You can't see that. At least, I know a lot of schools are using a Zoom platform. K12 Stride uses something called Blackboard Connect and we are launching into something different, you know within the next month where we can physically see our students’ faces. Up until now for the last 10 years, they've just been a name in our classroom when they login it puts their name on the board. So really having to be creative and inventive, which every teacher is learning that now. I think we hear virtually and think, “Aww…sweet, easy. I can sit here and work from home,” but everything that is about being a teacher, you know, is that hands-on… those relationships and it just makes it harder to achieve more, a little bit more complicated when you're in the online environment.
MICHELLE WAGNER: So what strategies might you offer a teacher who's may be struggling right now to build some of those relationships online?
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Our biggest thing… we refer to them as ‘enduring connection calls.’ That is our buzzword at you know, at K12/Stride. We need to connect with our students at least, you know at minimum, you know, once a month by picking up the phone old school, you know, when you get into the virtual environment is chatting with your students in the chat box. They might pick up the microphone and talk to you. But most of the time it's like chatting with them in a chat box or responding to emails and we just that is a way to feel like you're maybe connecting. But it's not the same as picking up calling into saying, “Hey, I'm just checking in. How’s everything going? Okay? How can I help?” Because each student is going to have their own road blocks when it comes to virtual learning, which may be the same as what you saw in the classroom, but they may be totally different as in the fact that…For us, we are in an at-risk school. So, for us to say like yes best practices is to have a desk and have a quiet space to work that's only yours so that you can fully focus on my class and there's no distraction. But the reality of the situation is they could be one of 14 in that home and that's just not possible for them to be sitting at a desk in a quiet room. So, they already have roadblocks and it's not about whether they want to be engaged. It's figuring out how to best suit this. So now, instead of I'm used to being in a classroom where I control the environment that my students learn in, you have zero control and if you have 40 students that are each learning in 40 different environments and have 40 different sets of distractions and you have to now help them learn how to time manage and how to manage their space and how to set alarms to make sure they're back in front of their computer. And, so that's part of that communication. But for us like, of course, connecting with them in live sessions is huge. But that's where it's easy because if they've shown up you kind of already have them there. But what about the kids that don't show up? What about the kids that don't sign in? What about the kids that you haven't seen in a week or two? We can't just go pluck them from the hallway or write a tardy pass or email… like you don't you don't have those things that you would have in a brick-and-mortar. So it's really about making those phone calls and creating those connections once they're in your class. Once you've gotten them to show up …figuring out how to do the same thing you doing brick-and-mortar find out enough about the student to know what’s on at home, to be able to check in with them, to be able to support them. Not only academically, but as a human being as something else being that person that is safe pretty not safe environment because the reality is some of our students are now learning from home in an unsafe environment at home. They don't have the school building, you know for the ones that have not necessarily chosen to choose virtual school this past year. They're trying to learn in an environment that isn't even safe. So, figuring out how to create that within your virtual classroom, even if it's only even if you only have an hour out of the day. You know, that's where it is absolutely a challenge. But figuring out, so, you know, sometimes we'll do surveys. We’ll send out a survey, you know, that the student can fill out. Tell me more about you? What are you interested in? What's a good number to contact you? Because sometimes the number they give the school might not be, you know, the one we have. With high school… So a lot of them have their own phone. So, it's not the same number that's in the system. But if we can text or call them straight to their phone, there's an app called the Remind app if they give you a phone number, even if it's a learning coach or a parent, we call them learning coaches, but a parent or guardian number you can send out like, “Hey remember class starts in fifteen minutes, or, “Hey, remember this assignment is due.” So those are like the mass ways that we use of like mass communication: so like that Remind app, the emails. But again, the big thing is that I can call on those enduring connection calls. It's not a phone call about, “Hey, you know Johnny has turned in this this and this, you know, it's not necessarily about whether they're doing well or not in school. It's just, “Hey, this is Ms. DeVee from Insight School of Michigan. I'm calling to check in on you guys. How are you? We know this is a crazy time to learn. How can I support you? What needs do you have?” For some of our kids, like, I have a student who is, you know, 19; trying to graduate, has two kids and has another one on the way. She works all day long and then she comes home and tries to do school in a virtual environment which is why she chose virtual. You know, how do I support? So, that conversation doesn't need to be like, “Hey, I haven't seen you in live class all week. What's happening?” You know, there's other supports that need to be there. And so, that's why we really label those as enduring connection calls. Or you're just saying, “I'm here, how can I support you?” And you're not diving in, and eventually, you can dive into how they're doing academically and how you can support them academically. But for most people right now, especially in the world of COVID, where everybody's lives had been turned upside down and if yours hasn't been touched your privileged. That most people's have been turned upside down and realizing that they just might need to know someone's on their side.
MICHELLE WAGNER: What I think that's a really interesting way to look at it, too. Because when you're making those enduring connection calls, it sounds like you are assuming best intentions and you're not starting off with the negative. And so often families don't hear from school personnel until something's gone wrong; until there's a problem. And so, this is a great way just to build those relationships early and keep them going and then also that idea of just the assumptions we hold and and letting those go and I really that the point that you made about 40 different learning environments.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Yeah
MICHELLE WAGNER: That's powerful and we can't make assumptions because we don't know.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Right.
MICHELLE WAGNER: I'm thinking about online educators in general. And we know that society and in the world right now has thrust this upon us all and teachers really didn't get a choice in the matter of whether or not they would be online educators. But when you think about successful online educators, I think that every teacher in America right now, is saying, “We’re just trying to do a good job at this.” Just wondering what it based on your experience, what are those characteristics that might make someone a successful online educator?
STEPHANIE DEVEE: You know, those are similar to just what makes you a successful educator. But as you know, I kind of touched on before it's not easy. I think I read a lot…it’s interesting. Even my educator friends that are now thrust into virtual are like, “Oh my gosh, Stephanie. I had no idea how hard this was. I work 10 times harder to run a virtual classroom than I did in a physical one, and I'm like spent.” You know, and that's what I feel like society itself needs to understand; like that the teachers like yes anybody that works with K12… They have chosen the virtual environment as their career. But the thousands and thousands and thousands of teachers in our state and our country that didn't have a choice and had to you know, they weren't working for a company who is built to run an online education. I just like want to give everybody a standing ovation because some of these school districts the virtual environment that they have created in six months… maybe less than that to be able to launch at the beginning of the school year, you know again, I work for a company who this is who they are. And this is all they do. And I think that, you know, first of all, I just want to remind people whatever is listening to this that you know teachers are amazing and to be able to fully switch everything that they've done you no veteran teachers that have taught for 20-plus years everything that they did for the last 20 years doesn't count in a virtual environment. You know what I mean? Like not doesn't count. It's not dismiss. I'm not trying to take away from their success, but they've had to fully reinvent themselves and reinvent education as they know it. And they're now no longer in that that, you know, even your most veteran teachers are feeling like beginning teachers are feeling like, “Okay. Well that worked in the classroom, but I can't sit here and hand out a worksheet to everybody,” or, “I can't stay here and you know do a building project because we're all in the same room.” And so, I think in order for teachers to continue to be successful even in virtual is still be inventive still make it creative. The default… and I still see it at our school… the default is to turn into a lecture teacher because you feel like that's kind of what your hand tied to. Like, it's more of a one... It's me on this video and a zoom room or whatever platform you're using and depending on your students, they may not engage with you that way so be careful not to slide into the just like, “Well, I'm just going to teach them the lesson and I'm going to step away.” You know, like I'm just going to give them this 30 minutes of instruction and then that's it. You know, like we're not in college yet. We're still elementary. We're still middle school. We’re still high school. You got to find out a way to get them involved. You know, our specific platform does allow for students to like write on the board. Like if they were to stand up and come right on the Whiteboard. And I know that Zoom has the annotate feature as well. If you're working from a program where you can send them to. Break out rooms are like heaven. I know that they're intimidating. They're still intimidating, even in our environment. Again, it depends on what platform you're using. But if you can figure out how to do small group breakout rooms, you can create a PowerPoint and you can have them work on a project with their classmates or answer a few questions on the board with their classmates. So, you're cultivating that classroom safety, too. That they're not just hearing from you there hearing from their other students as well. If you're in Zoom and everybody's on the board, they can write something down on a whiteboard and hold it up for you to see that can give you a thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs in the middle… a lot of that stuff. If you're in the right platform that you would normally do in a classroom…still works in an online environment, you know. But I would challenge you to, you know, be creative. Look for online resources. You can still play videos for them and the like. I still remember being in school and the teacher pushed in the big TV and we’d be like, “Wooo!!! Something different.” You know, these students still crave something different… not the same thing everyday. And I think when we think of virtual when we’re intimidated and don't really know what to do, we kind of default that lecture. You know, I'm in control. I can control what I say, you know, because teachers like to have control. And in virtual you really have to let go a lot of that control. Be inventive. I think the biggest thing is like be okay with failing, you know. We tell our kids it's okay if you don't get it right the first time. But the minute we try something new as educators and it's not… we don't get it right the first time, we're not doing it again. We're not going to try it again. We're not going to manipulate it and fix it or, you know, revamp it. We're just like, “Nope, that was a huge bomb! Not picking that up again.” So give yourself the same grace that you would give your student and realize that you're learning.
Reach out to friends of yours that might have been doing this for a couple years. Reach out… I mean, you guys can email me at sdevee at k12 dot com, for, you know, resources. There's quizzes, Kahoot, there’s GoFormative…there are apps out there that can help you, you know, quiz and assess your students in a non, you know, paper pencil kind of way and still have it be super meaningful. And have it not really have to just be, “Oh, now we’re virtual. Our tests have to be multiple choice.” GoFormative is a great tool. Your students can record answers for you and maybe some IEP students that can't do writing. They can verbally, you know, there's… I'm trying to think of there's another one… Flipgrid! They can record themselves and have video responses that they can send to you. You can send them video responses like make cutesy videos on YouTube and push it out to them and you see yourself, but don't be afraid to think outside the box still be afraid to fail at trying something new. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I tried something thinking it was going to be so cool online and my students were like, “Uhhhhh…” and it was cricket sound like this doesn't work. Let's try something else, you know, but know that a lot of what makes you an effective teacher is who you are and in the connection, you know, when your personality, your goofiness, and your passion. Passion doesn't get lost just because we've moved to virtual school. Students know when you're passionate about them and passionate about what you teach. So, regardless of wether you have the fanciest technology out there, it's still all about you as a teacher and who you are as a person and whether you create that safe learning environment and whether you foster a student-centered classroom; where kids can fail, where they where they can succeed, where they can do all of the things safely and have someone that believes in them.
MICHELLE WAGNER: I think we can leave it right there because I think you've just summed it up in such a nice way; this idea that even though we're virtual, it's still you, the teacher, who is going to make it meaningful for kids. It's your passion that’s going to engage them.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Yep.
MICHELLE WAGNER: Well, thank you very much. And I appreciate your time and we're going to put your contact information in the show notes, and I just want to thank you and your school for letting you come and share with all of us move your expertise. We appreciate you.
STEPHANIE DEVEE: Absolutely! Thank you! And again just give yourself grace. If this is the first time that you're doing it, you'll get the hang of it and you'll make the best of it. Because that's what educators do.
Mellissa Wilson: So, let's find out who's with us today. Nathan, would you like to introduce yourself and let us know. So, what, why are you with us.
Nathan Spencer: Thank you, Melissa. Yes. Hey everybody my name is Nathan Spencer and I'm a science education consult with Wayne County RESA. Historically, I've been with RESA now for three years prior to that, I was an instructional coach, both with Oxford community schools and with Detroit Public Schools. And prior to that, I was a teacher. I taught high school science is science teachers know you can teach everything from what your degree is into anything else that's in the school building. So, I have a history with that. And, you know, currently I'm working on a number of projects and working with teachers and implementing different high-quality aligned curricula doing some research around DIFFERENT BIOLOGY curricula that have been written by University researchers and that's going well working specifically with DPSCD Detroit Public Schools. And that's me in a nutshell.
Mellissa Wilson: Seemed like you’ve graded a few papers in your life.
Nathan Spencer: I'm graded a few papers in my life, I've given some feedback to students in my life I'm I've been a professional development about it for years and I'm learning from all of you and the teachers I work with daily To, to be able to be here and share the learning. I've had from them and all of you.
Mellissa Wilson: So, Ellen, you would say it's probably more than just grading papers. Tell us who are you and why are you here.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Thanks, Melissa, and good morning Nathan. Hi, my name is I'm Ellen Warren camp, and I am an assessment consultant at Wayne Risa I have been at mine Risa for 13 years and during that time. I've had the opportunity to work with all of our districts. A lot of professional Learning Communities within those districts and doing a lot of things around assessment related topics. My passion is formative assessment in the formative assessment process and helping teachers recognize that how they implement and think about assessment for learning in their classrooms can actually change the way that they teach you the way that their students learn. I am a former teacher I taught Language Arts and Social Studies at the middle school level in El Paso, Texas and Detroit, Michigan. After leaving the classroom. I did a short stint as a vice principal and then I went into…getting my doctorate, and during that time I had the opportunity to work as an adjunct and at Eastern Michigan University while I was doing that work. And from there I float into a director of quality assessment and quality instruction at a charter school management company. And from there I floated to Wayne RESA so it's been kind of a whirlwind. I had held many hats. Also, part of my job at Wayne RESA is to do a lot of work at the state level. And so, I am a board member for the Michigan Assessment Consortium. And I'm also one of the leads for the thing program from Michigan Department of Ed and fame, of course, stands for formative assessment for Michigan educators and through that work feedback and quality assessment practices and of course how grading fits into all of that is definitely in my wheelhouse. And I'm very excited to be with you here today and have some conversation around that. So, thank you.
Mellissa Wilson: So, you have some experience in this
Ellen Vorenkamp: Was just a little
Mellissa Wilson: Well, thank you. We look forward to hearing what you have to say and to help us kind of safe. So, what can we do with all of this, Jason? Tell us about you.
Jason Siko: Hi everyone, my name is Jason Siko. I am the instructional technology consultant here at Wayne RESA and I've been here just a little over a year. So, I'm the rookie of the group here. I was a started off as a high school biology and chemistry teacher in Clarkston Michigan and after that. After earning my doctorate. I was a professor of educational technology at Grand Valley State University. And then I was Associate Professor and Director of accreditation for Madonna University's College of Education for a few years. A lot of my research interests during that time dealt with specifically K 12 online learning. I have probably over 20 peer reviewed journal articles on mostly on the topic of K 12 online learning, both locally globally, particularly like with New Zealand, as well as Canada and my own personal research interest was dealing with K 12 students’ online readiness. And so that's one of the things that we often forget about is that when we talk about K 12 online learning. What are the soft skills that are associated with online learning at the K 12 level versus adult learners. So that's my background. And that's what I think I can bring to the table here today.
Mellissa Wilson: Well, that is one of the things, right, that we're thinking about not only what does this look like if I'm face-to-face with you in a traditional setting, but now I do, I do this remotely. And so really looking forward to hearing your voice, as well as we pair, what we know about this practice and when we're learning about in a mass quick way about how to do this. Well, you know, I'm virtual remote environment. So, when we think about assessment, we think about grading, we think about feedback. All of those are normally in a conversation, unless you're with your peers. Of your, your educational field you're thinking about these synonyms in a separate way right or wrong. Truth or dare. We need to get this right. So, what can we do about figuring this out? Ellen. Let's, let's start with your, your thoughts around this one of the resources that are out there is the distance learning playbook. Fisher, Fray and Hattie three colleagues. I'm sure we'd all love to have a conversation with. But one of the things they mentioned around assessment and their module eight is assessment is assessment and they go on to say that there's nothing magical. And any tool can be used in a formative or someone of matter. It's all in the person using it. So, I guess it's the kind of magic wand that we have So Ellen. Would you agree with that is assessment just assessment or is there a magic wand, so to speak, that would help us kind of clear the air and poof song makes sense for us.
Ellen Vorenkamp: That's it. That's a great question. Melissa. So, let me see if I can unpack that a little bit. Um, when I think of assessment. I think of an umbrella. And I think of all of the things that we do in our classroom where we gather evidence So for me I like to follow the definition that Rick Stiggins puts out in terms of assessment, being a process where we're gathering information around student learning to do something with it. And what we do with it depends on whether or not we're trying to use it in a summative or a formative sense. And yes, to some extent, it depends on the user, but it also depends on the purpose and we have to be very purposeful and intentional when we start to gather evidence of student learning and call it assessment. What do we want to use it for? If we want to use it to certify student learning. And put a grade on it and say that at this point in time. This is what the student knew then that's more summative in nature and find great it, you know, call it an assessment of learning, call it summative whatever the case may be. If, on the other hand you're gathering that evidence just to figure out where the students are at and thinking about the journey of learning and trying to help them get from where they're at, to where they need to be in. You're not going to judge or certify you're just trying more to nudge. Then the purpose is different. Right. And the purpose is to give them more information. The purpose is to give them some feedback so that we can feed them forward to where we want them to be. The purpose is to give you information so that you might adjust your teaching so that they can adjust their learning so that we can keep students on that path to where they need to go. A firm believer that we spend a lot of time in our classrooms, doing a lot of assessments. You can give the kids a worksheet and you gather that evidence to see what they know around a particular topic, you do a project that's assessment, you do a quick quiz. That's a type of an assessment. But again, being very purposeful and intentional about why you're collecting it is where I think the formative piece comes in and where we would want to give the feedback. So yes, I agree with Hattie and Fisher and fry that assessment is just assessment. But I think, I think there's some planning that goes into it and that purposefulness, I can't say that word enough probably and that intentionality. Have to be foremost in a teacher's mind when they're thinking about how they're going to be using the evidence that they're collecting from that assessment.
Mellissa Wilson: So, collecting evidence…Science perhaps comes to mind or thinking about evidence for thinking about purpose. Nathan let's have you follow up with what Ellen has shared when we think about our field of science and you mentioned the beginning, perhaps a content area that isn't always the first in line. How do we really think about that, especially as we shift towards, I'm really exploratory and phenomenon-based learning? Talk to us about what does it look like when we're thinking about this work in your field.
Nathan Spencer: That a great question, thank you. Um, Yeah, that's led to follow up with here. So, If I want to start with some of the shifts. You just mentioned with science instruction over the past five years. And we're moving, we’re teachers are moving and buildings are moving and districts are moving and some important considerations are around what we call the science and engineering practices. What we expect students to be doing. In order to gain access to, to explain the phenomena or design solutions to a problem. And what's interesting is there's a there's a practice. I'll focus on right now called modeling. So, a scientific model is a is a representation of something happens in the real world. So way the students can use language diagrams, different kinds of texts in order to explain the phenomena and There's a process that's pretty well known in the scientific community, but how to go about getting students to explain using models and it is completely about Students being forwardly assessed and getting feedback from their peers and from the teacher. And so, part of the structure is students are engaged, like you mentioned, with a phenomenon. And as they do this, they sit by themselves. They, they think that they asked questions to begin to wonder. And in the course of this. One of the things, they'll do That the teachers will have them do is to think about how does this up. Was it explanatory way to think about Think about this phenomenon and students will work in small groups and they'll begin to sometimes draw out their explanation through this model. And it's a way to as you're walking around looking at the student work to You know, physically see how the students think about this. So, you get to know what the students background knowledge is If you don't want to think about at the time. You can give them immediate feedback as your as you're walking around, but the goal here isn't to give them the right answers. Goal is to give them feedback with more questions. And so, you always know I'm as the students are working what they're thinking at the time. It's a beautiful process that's all about formative feedback and it's very, very consistent. As a matter of fact, all the science practices, aside from modeling, have to do with really understanding where students are formatively. So, if I look at any of the eight science and engineering practices, even the one of asking questions, you can garner a lot more students thinking What their background knowledge is by the kinds of questions they asked around phenomenon. And so that's something we really worked to impress upon teachers and principals and in ourselves and our peers, is how do we use What students bring to the table as a way to assess where they're at and what we how we need to help them. How do we question them to move them forward to this, this next step this next piece? So, it's been a really powerful learning opportunity for me and for all science educators recently using these new tools to help us understand where kids are.
Mellissa Wilson: You mentioned you know that the hope that in this work that they're not just getting Feedback from their educator their instructor, but they're also getting feedback from students, Jason, you mentioned that this is an area that you've done. Some work in both and how do we mentally prepare students for entering into online education but thinking around, you know the power of soft skills. And so, when you think about assessment and you think about perhaps, whether it's the field of science or other kinds of areas where we're hoping that the educators able to provide feedback to the students throughout the process and the peers and supply feedback to each other. How do we do this now in a remote environment or an online. And educational environment. What does this look like, how do we really do this? So, so what? This matters. And if we can't do it virtually
Jason Siko: So, a lot of things that go on when We talk about online teaching versus teaching Is that there are certain skills that overlap and there are great, face to face, teachers, there are great online teachers, they probably flip flop very Easily. But there are some skills that are part and parcel at least have to be more emphasized with online teaching and learning. And one of those is rapport and relationship building Usually a lot of the research will indicate that one of the problems with online learning is feelings of isolation and if you've ever taken an online class. You've probably had an instructor professor who was very Involved in the course. And then you've had other online courses where you just got your grades and they weren't even participating in the discussion threads so building that rapport, which is another thing that's pointed out in distance learning playbook and terms of building positive teacher, student relationships. That is really key. The other piece, going back to the soft skills is aside from that isolation is what are the student’s beliefs about achievement and about Their ability to take risks, and I don't mean that in a sketchy sort of way. I mean that in terms of academic, risk taking. The ability to, you know, raise your hand and not feel embarrassed if you have a question. And so those are the things that as we look at how to prepare students for online learning. We have to work on those types of skills. What are their achievement beliefs and I'm not a big you know disciple of the growth versus fixed mindset, but that is kind of the overarching theme here is the fact that, what are their beliefs about Their own achievement and how they can improve their learning and performance based on those beliefs. The going back to the, the risk taking is some of the research does show that you know online learners sometimes have a benefit of time. Particularly an asynchronous environment and sometimes they need to think and absorb and process and maybe respond at a later date outside of the synchronous session. But also, you know, what are their feelings about asking if they're if they're afraid to raise their hand in a classroom. Are they afraid to unmute in a zoom meeting? And so those are some of the things that we want to kind of parse out from students. And that goes back to as Hattie and the others mentioned in module three is about building those positive student teacher relationships are building a space of comfort and a space of safe safety and security so that they don't feel Ashamed or at risk when they do have questions when they do have problems because along those same lines. Again, going back to the isolation issue. If students are at a distance and they don't see their friends and they don't see their classmates and they don't see their teacher and they don't interact Those feelings of isolation can instruct combined with some struggle will lead to, you know, regression and recession away from the course and dropping out eventually.
Mellissa Wilson: Jason you lift such good points and thinking about, you know, whether we're thinking about assessment or we're thinking about our instructional practices, which we hope. Nor are married or at least have a good relationship to each other. We need to think about first what environment. Are we setting up because, as you mentioned, sometimes we might think that, you know, students are here with their computer and so they're on devices all the time? And, and, oh, you know, they should feel even more apt to share and to do things, but you live such good points that let's not assume And let's not take away the power of being side by side or in a room with someone where you can interact in any way, perhaps, that doesn't put you so on the spot. That's mentioned as well. You mentioned that the distance million playbook and where they lift the idea that we need to create an environment where I don't feel shame. If I have errors, whether that's errors in my protocols and tools that I'm utilizing through the online platform or if I are errors in a piece of work. I've been invited to do And so when we think about assessment and we think about the importance of the whole child and being aware of the social, emotional links and influences to the feedback that we give What type of feedback would we hope this is my daughter or son that that my teacher is receiving or giving to My student is they're interacting online or maybe perhaps they're face-to- face. But what are we hoping feedback looks like? Is it the old school? I have my red pen and I'm showing you What you've done wrong in order for you to correct or should it look and feel like something different in order to build this safe environment. Where we're doing more nudging as Alan said in the beginning, unless judging I'll open it up to anyone who wants to respond. What can we do so that more kids are sharing and putting out what they think? And now, As opposed to holding him.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Can I, can I give this one to start and then Nathan, maybe you can follow up them, Jason. I think it's really very important both what Jason and Nathan have said in and you Melissa in terms of thinking about The climate that's in the classroom and the relationships that you build nobody is going to take feedback from somebody that they don't trust or that they don't respect. When you think about your own experiences and the feedback that you've received And you can think back at a time where the feedback that you were given really helped you grow and really become more proficient in whatever it is that you were doing. That's the kind of feedback that we need to give to our students. Typically, we like to think that feedback is descriptive. This is what you're doing in relation to where you need to be and this are a couple of steps. So, we like to think of it as descriptive and actionable, so it can help kids get on that path to completion and to success in terms of whatever their learning target is. If we as teachers can model this for our students. And then they can start to do it for themselves. And then they can start to do it for one another through that peer process can be very, very impactful. Feedback. If you look at all of the different strategies that we have out there in our, in our wheelhouse of things that we can do. Feedback is huge in terms of the effect size that it has on student achievement. And when you think about formative assessment. Formative assessment and the process of formative assessment is in of itself a feedback loop right so it's just so tightly embedded with the assessment process. One. One last thing I would like to say is that when we think about feedback. We don't want to always think about feedback in relation to the task and to the outcome of the task. feedback that we can give kids in terms of the processes that they're using to engage in the task can be very powerful two And feedback that we can give the students around how they're self-regulating and the behaviors that they're engaged in And if they're doing things in a timely fashion. And if they're organized and things like that can also be very impactful so Feedback can take many forms, it can be written. It can be oral you know it can be questions like, Nathan was talking about. It can be observations like Jason was mentioning I mean it's just this gamut. But I keep going back to those two words, you have to have clarity in terms of what it is you want kids to. Don't be able to do and you have to be intentional and purposeful about setting it up. So that everybody in your classroom can be successful, whether that be face to face, or whether that be virtual. So that's my two cents Nathan?
Nathan Spencer: Yeah. Thanks, Ellen and you know intention intentionality is Definitely always key in my opinion as Well, you know, you both brought up some really important points. And I'm I know in the distance learning playbook. They talk about setting norms. And other portions of this. But in terms of feedback. What better time to discuss norms? When you're discussing feedback. feedback on how we are doing as a classroom. How is their learning happening, how is our discourse occurring? The opportunity with the students to either build norms are consistently reflecting norms is itself like elementary earlier a feedback cycle. So, students feeling safe in a classroom, the ability to actually had discourse, whether that be verbal or even typing. Can be tough. If you're asking students to put something out there for their peers to read and be tough for kids. So really a great feedback cycle is consistently coming back to developing building and reflecting upon classroom norms. Also, it's, it's, you know, I'm going to get an example of a way you can get feedback in the tech world. So, for example, I mentioned earlier the practice of developing using bottles. And so, in this island environment, it's different than the face to face environment. So, in a face to face environment. Students are sitting in their small groups and their pods and they're able to work together heads together and really talk about The model and what should go here and why this works and give evidence that doesn't happen is easily online, right, because you're, you're not together maybe Also sometimes the tools that we want students use like whiteboarding tools which are amazing. However, there's always there's often at least there's often A technical issues that keep things from happening. No matter. You want them to happen. So one tool that some peers of mine who Omen county share with us is whether using both PowerPoint and Google Slides as a way to for students to Work on modeling practices and then the reason I bring this up is because you can use these is pretty basic tech tools Google Slides and PowerPoint. For students to work asynchronously. So, work independently on a modeling practices and then give each other feedback and the teacher can then get feedback on those slides. And it's really important that as we ask students to give feedback to their peers that we give them the tools that allow them to give appropriate feedback and powerful feedback because feedback shouldn't be vague. I like the way you colored that Right. And you have to make sure that they understand that our norms are always in place. So, we want to scaffold student’s ability to give feedback back on anything. So not just in modeling and science. But in mathematics and in the English Language Arts and Social Studies, we have to make sure the students have the tools necessary so giving them things such as the question stem or sentence starters are really powerful ways to allow students to give each other feedback.
Jason Siko: And so I'll kind of combine those two things together because Some of the things that Ellen mentioned regarding doesn't always have to be about the right, wrong, it can be about some of the processes and the organization's beliefs and whatnot and taking what Nathan said about You know, the technology things a lot of those soft skills involved with online learning and online learning success in K 12 students is go back to some of those things. So, depending on the research, there's multiple things out there, but there are some validated instruments that that rate online. K 12 readiness and some of the one in particular is the ESPRI that that focus is really on for things. And I mentioned one already. The academic, risk taking and whether or not they feel comfortable in doing so. But, and the achievement beliefs, as well as their beliefs on how well they Feel about their own ability to change, you know, over time, but then the other ones are organization beliefs. And that goes back to what Ellen was saying about processes and How do you organize yourself around online learning. And how do you prepare yourself for keeping track of things. Again, going back to the isolation factor that you know when you're in a classroom, you have this kind of routine when you when you're in an online classroom, particularly if it's a majority asynchronous is that you're kind of, you have to be self-regulated. And then the last one, though, is technology self-efficacy and that doesn't necessarily mean technology accurate, it means Are you if you struggle. Are you able to go somewhere for help? And I think that gets to some of what Nathan was referring to is the struggle that sometimes occurs that it's not necessarily Part of the content that they're trying to learn, but actually how they're demonstrating their, their understanding or demonstrating their knowledge and that's magnified in an online setting because we are relying on almost All technology tools to do those assessment activities and those peer review activities.
Mellissa Wilson: Events and some really important things. All of you have risk taking.
The belief that I can do this, if I can. Is there a place to reach out for help? The power of giving feedback so that I can grow net so that I can put on my shoes today. And so, when you think about all this work. Great, now this is this something that you're marking my growth on the wall and say, No, you're almost there yet, but not yet. What are we, great, especially when we think about a shift towards or inclusion of online learning? How in the world do I know what I'm grading. What I'm keeping track of what I'm not what was a good try. Let's do it again. And what was cool. Yep, let's sit down and learn how to do this. How do I know I'm so what in the world do we grade when everything is happening I computer?
Ellen Vorenkamp: I'm ready for this one. Um, I It's not an easy question. And, you know, there's so much about grading that is rooted in tradition and we all know how hard sometimes it is to break with tradition. But there are two people in addition to what Heidi and for sure and for I talk about in the distance learning playbook. There are two other people that I Go to when I think about grading and one of them is Tom guess ski and the other one is Ken O'Connor. And I recently had the opportunity to engage with both of these gentlemen through various virtual environments in Two quotes stand out to me from both of them. One is from Glasgow. He says teachers can teach without grades and students can learn without grades. However, checking is essential. And when we think about checking. We need to make sure that we are constantly have were aware of where our students are at. Do the students need to be involved in the assessment process, they need to be involved in the feedback process and they need to be involved in the grading process. And Ken O'Connor takes it one step further and he says you can learn without grades, but you can't learn without feedback. So, to me when I'm thinking about what I am going to grade it goes back to that purpose. Again, and it goes back to those two big questions am I certifying it or am I just trying to figure out where the kids are at. So, I can help them continue on. So, when I think of grading summative Put a grade on it you know if I'm giving the kids a piece of homework and Ken O'Connor would actually encourage us to stop calling it homework. He would encourage us to start calling it evidence So instead of asking the kids, where's your homework, where's your homework know where's your evidence, where's your evidence because I don't know how to help you if I don't have evidence of where you're currently at So if I'm collecting evidence and it's at a point in time where it's done, it's over. I don't expect the kids to learn anything more about it. Put a grade on it, put it in your grade book move on. But if it's the first time I've introduced something to the students. And I just want to see if they understand it and if they can practice and if That's probably more formative and, in that case, I might not put a grade on it. I would hope you wouldn't put a grade on it. And you might say, Hmm, this child needs some feedback. So, let's have some conversation. Let's have a dialogue with that child. Let's let them get with your peers and have some conversation around the norms that Nathan has talked about and let's create a process where they can actually learn from that practice and not be judged and told after one attempt that you're not good at it. So, don't try anymore.
Mellissa Wilson: So really, you're, you're lifting perhaps a shift for educators as well, or for leaders who might have a norm or expectation right now that we have so many grades and the great book.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Yes, thank you.
Mellissa Wilson: And for appearance. What do you mean I'm not getting that spelling test home every week or what do you mean your teachers and grading this? That's a big shift for everybody.
Ellen Vorenkamp: That tradition that we have to sort of breakthrough. You can do it, but you have to give to you have to give parents and students and teachers, the why, why, if we do things differently. Will it be better for the students? And sometimes we don't take the time to do that.
Mellissa Wilson: Absolutely. And what's the evidence that the way we've been doing it is working.
Nathan Spencer: It can I add in Melissa, you know, that was Well said. Ellen and I I'd put a couple more things that add on to what else I'm just saying by saying that it might also look different depending on the content area you're in and so feedback may look a bit different. Some of the tools and strategies for giving me maybe the same, the way it's done. Might look different and I really liked the idea of really talking about how the teacher shift and leadership did, shift it comes to thinking about Assessment and so there needs to be. Is there still needs to be something that parents see and that students see and the principles can see that teachers can always help students reflect on and so really thinking about in your content area and of course I speak for science here. What is it evidence that That you're constantly getting students feedback on that you can show to parents So I'll go back since there's already a modeling theme that I've thrown out here? I'll go back to the modeling piece these things can be If they're done online can be shared with parents, so they can see in view their students thinking or the students have thought and done individually and with their peers. And I think that's a pretty powerful indicator of what they're doing in the classroom. The principles can see that as well. We could use technology tools to help lift all these things out. As a matter of fact, if I think about one of the experiences I've had with the distance learning playbook. Is it throughout this book? They have small QR codes and those QR codes. You know, use your phone with you, little QR reader and a video pops up, there's no reason that that same technology can be used to share with parents, so they can use their QR Codes and their phones and they can see the students work or a video of a student Talking about what they're learning, their explanatory process or a video of the teacher, giving the students feedback, right. So, the students can use the same; the teachers can use the same thing for student feedback. So instead of it being. Oh, good job. If you're going to give some real feedback to the kids and the work they're doing, you can record yourself. via phone or via your computer and ensure the students have the chance to come back to that piece of feedback as long as they need to come back to that piece of feedback. So, it's not a one and done and it's a little more personal than written feedback as well. So, lots of ways to do this. But it's really important that we do think as a community about how assessment has to change in the classrooms. It's really, really difficult and science moving forward. If we're if we're really trying to and if I think about competency based or standards-based grading. Is going to be really difficult to move in this direction, which is a fantastic direction if we're still devoted to the ABC D. Thinking. So, in science. We need to consistently. Think about what the evidence is. They're showing us that Base explanatory it very difficult to get explanatory evidence, you're thinking about a multiple-choice test. So, there's so much to talk about with this and it all starts for science teachers we really start thinking about what is the curricular resource for using and how are they getting students to express themselves in their learning. So, there's a lot out there that that we really can help you with
Jason Siko: And I would add that there's a, you know, this does provide an opportunity. I'm not a big proponent of, oh, this is a crisis. And this is the ultimate time to transform education. I'm not a big buyer into that, but there are some insights that we can gain from this As Nathan mentioned a multiple choice test is probably not the best way to assess explanatory you know competencies In on the, on the, on the other hand, one of the things we're seeing with online environment that we're in now is a lot of people are concerned about cheating. Well in online testing if you're doing a multiple-choice test. There are ways not going to talk about them here, how you can cheat on an online multiple-choice test. It doesn't take a whole lot of genius to figure out you have multiple tabs open another computer, and so on. Or texting your friend during that time. But it's very hard to cheat on explanatory competencies, because it's just you and whoever you're recording with and So on and so forth. So, the Nathan's very correct in saying that there's a lot of tools here for, you know, recording getting that verbal feedback that audio feedback that video feedback. The nice thing about the technology in the sense that we have this way to capture it. Not only that, but archive it and curated, we do have the storage procedure. In learning management systems in google classroom in Google Drive and so on and so forth to where all this stuff is housed and then you can revisit it chronologically to see progress. And so, there's some perks here with online this, online environment that we're currently in that I think can help us address the That shift. And if we can point those things out during this time that will be it shift, no pun intended in the right direction.
Mellissa Wilson: Well, aside from giving away all the secrets to hacking and cheating, Jason. I think you've brought up an important piece. Let me think about and correct me if I'm wrong and nudge towards the power of a portfolio or being able to reflect back upon the artifacts of my work and perhaps it's another topic. Another place but We don't realize the power of that that as opposed to me giving you 1200 pieces of paper back and perhaps a few pieces of feedback in between. The power of being able to hold on to things and to collect them and curate them and really look back on the work that I've done. Perhaps that's a place in a benefit of working in an online environment as well. So, when you were thinking about the advice you've given the researchers and expertise, you've shared imagine tomorrow. I've listened to this podcast you've inspired me. You give me some food for thought. Walk and talk with me down the hall. I'm a teacher. I'm a principal I'm that and a mom or dad. Walk and talk with me. What's something that you hope I'm walking away with so that after you go down your hallway and I go down mine. I feel empowered to continue the conversation, whether it be with a group of peers or colleagues, I feel inspired and empowered to have a conversation with my leader. So that we can really start thinking or rethinking what we're doing with a bad assessment grading. Maybe it's too much, maybe it's too little often talk with me. What is that last piece of advice you would give me and who are you talking to, when you're walking and talking
Nathan Spencer: Well, that's a really good Question. And so, from my perspective. I think the conversation in some parts of the conversation going to be the same or a teacher, as they are for the principal is there for district leadership or the same time I'm going to wrap my arm around principles, a little bit differently than I would a teacher. So, for example, A teacher really needs to think about Their curriculum resource. What this is going to look like as you're moving through the day into the weeks into the year with their students. How do I do this, how do I give this feedback. How do I go about grading this? What does it look like as I'm sharing with parents? But I think my conversation with principles goes one step beyond that because there's a there's a pretty big shift when it comes to Creating practices and what parents expected when university is expected depending on your grade level. And so, to make a shift like this requires the principals to - not going to use the term buy-in - to really see that vision understand how this can work for kids. And so I think that I'm going to give advice to teachers to really dive deeply into the resource and really think about what powerful feedback is And how that helps students and not just to look at research, but also to engage with it and to ask their students about it because there's almost no more powerful feedback and ask your students. How they're learning how is helping them, etc. Really diving into their meta cognitive processes. I think it's a really important tool, but for principles. I think and for district leadership. I think beyond that we need to ask ourselves, what do we value. We already know that teachers are going to value. That this feedback process all that I've talked to do and I as a teacher did as well. And so However, when you're at that different level. , there’s different forces always aside from your students. So, what do we value as an educational community? And how do we make sure those values are forefront it as you move forward. This is a values question in the end.
Ellen Vorenkamp: Yeah, and I'm gonna pick up right there. Nathan. Because for me, it would be as we're walking down the hall. I would just deep breath, breathe, relax. Think about your own experiences. Think about what you value as a teacher and what you took on this career for this vocation, that so many of us have been called to. We know it's not about the paycheck. We know it's about what we can do for kids and think about what the outcome you want is and Do we want to continue down this path of developing point accumulators Kids who run around and sorting and classifying and creating these in norm curves that are not natural in our society, anyway. Or do we want to develop lifelong learners do we want kids who enjoy learning, who are passionate about that learning process, who Are constantly revisiting who they are and what they're doing in terms of that education that they're there. They're attaining and do we want to keep them engaged. And do we want them to be to be with us. And I think when you start to answer those questions. Things like, well, if they turn the paper in 10 minutes late. Do I really have to take 50% off or do I really have to give a grade on the first attempt at something, or can I actually just relax. And let kids learn at the speed of learning and we all know that children look at very different rates. Right. And our school system is really developed to really Help those who learn quickly succeed and we need to we need to back off from that we need to allow all kids to succeed, and we need to give all kids that time and feedback is a way of doing that and rethinking the way that we assess and the way that we grade. Can be very powerful in that in that for us. So, relax. Breathe like Nathan said, do some research. And let's yeah let's just Slow down to the speed of learning. If that makes sense.
Jason Siko: And I would kind of add to that in terms of slowing down to the speed of what we can reasonably expect for change a lot of the things that we've heard about. And in terms of, you know, making these shifts their cultural shifts and those cultural shifts, take a lot longer than a PD session on a Wednesday afternoon so you have to play the long game here for the teachers again as my other two colleagues mentioned, you know, start diving in and start trying to relax, but at the same time, realizing a lot of teachers overwhelmed right now. And so maybe…That's problematic, but it's also an opportunity to kind of bring up that you're back that one quote insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So maybe this is the time we have to pause and say, I have to do something different for my own survival. And then for the administrators, you know, Nathan avoided the term by and I would use the term capacity building. And so, in their future. Planning in their future hiring and the questions that they asked the candidates. They're bringing in for open positions you know thoughts about those shifts and thoughts about their philosophies. Regarding education and actually having the evidence I think everyone has a teaching philosophy statement. And I think I'm pretty sure everyone says they’re a social constructivist and a lifelong learner. And so, let's kind of ask a little bit more about where's the evidence there to demonstrate that as a as a mechanism for building capacity within their staff.
Mellissa Wilson: So, when we think about the time we've shared together in many instances you the three of you have done a beautiful job of answering in different avenues. So what? And we might come back to you some of the things that you've lifted as we walk away and go our separate avenues in hallways and Internet connections. Perhaps what will think about this. Well, think about. So, what. So, what do we value? Will think about. So, what's my purpose for doing this, whether it's supplying feedback. It's assessing; it's grading, I hope that our listeners have taken some nuggets about you, you shared and really are starting to ask themselves. So, what is my evidence. What is the evidence. This needs to be done. What is the evidence that this will matter to children and they'll consider? So, what drove me here and lifted that idea of what drove you to become an educator. What drove you to become a building principal a district leader. What are your drivers and do those drivers really reflect what you believe education should look and sound and feel like, not just for my child, but for every child? And so, as we walk down our hallways and go our separate ways. Let's continue to ask ourselves. So, what, what can we do within our own sphere of control, so that we can start to make the small shifts that will eventually shift. Something for everyone. So, so what. So, what can you do? So, what can we all do together so that we really start to build an educational system that reflects what we truly believe every child should have? Thank you so much for joining us today and we look forward to the next time we can come together and ask that age old question, so what and get to the point of what we have been given and blessed with throughout the field of education.
Richard Bacolor: Alright. Hello everybody, my name is Rich Bacolor. I'm a science consultant for Wayne RESA and I'm here on the line today with Kristi Hanby math consultant. Hi, Kristi.
Kristi Hanby: Rich.
Richard Bacolor: And also our ELA consultant Michelle Wagner. Hi, Michelle.
Michelle Wagner: Hi, Rich.
Richard Bacolor: You guys, one of the things that I miss most about working with you guys is actually being able to walk into your office or down the hall and have a conversation. And so, I'm really appreciate you guys jumping on the lunch hour conversation. With me today and we're going to have a little chat about the distance learning playbook. So, before we get started into that. I was wondering, you know, we're all teachers and we're all parents as well. So just as a little check. And I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how your experience has been going in the distance learning space as a parent, and as a teacher.
Kristi Hanby: So, I can start I think probably what a lot of people were experiencing the in the in the spring was That there was this initial excitement at least my students are older, or my kiddos are older. So, they had some excitement when they first got sent home from school, but that ain't it pretty quickly. There wasn't a lot of pressure in the spring. And so, there wasn't. Awesome. There was just wasn't a lot of stress in the spring. I think it wasn't working very well, but everybody knew that and they were okay with it. This school years been quite a bit different. I think my kids had some expectations of things being better and to some extent they are. There's a lot more structure. There's routine. There's a lot more organization. I do think that some of their frustrations that were frustrations in the face to face environment are actually amplified in the virtual setting. So, like, not wanting to do, for example, repetitious math problems are searching for definitions and text. It wasn't something they enjoyed in the face to face environment and in a virtual setting. I think that those frustrations have become even more amplified so I just think that they want to be more creative and inventive than that and there isn't any sort of structure that says to them, you have to keep persevering on this. It's easier frustrated and walk away.
Richard Bacolor: That's interesting. And I, my kids are also a little bit older, I have two college age kids and you know they experienced the same thing. Where they're really interested in the classes they're taking because they have complete control over that. But they would really like to have a little bit more engagement in terms of how the material is or how they're experiencing the material. So, Michelle. What about you,
Michelle Wagner: So, I concur with Kristi. There's definitely much more structure this fall, than there was in the spring. I also I have little ones. And so, there's definitely less fear and uncertainty in terms of what's going to happen tomorrow. I think when all of this started my son, in particular, who was in second grade didn't understand why. Suddenly he couldn't see his teacher couldn't see his classmates. And I think that now this has been going on long enough, where he understands kind of where we are in terms of Just the pandemic in general. And so, there's less fear in that way. But I also think it's really hard for the little ones to get into a routine because they can't anticipate what tomorrow will be especially If they're hybrid. So, my children are hybrid. So, some days they're learning from home and Sunday to go to school. And it's never it's never consistent enough to feel like they're in a routine where they know what's happening next. So that's been really strange. And then the final thing I'd say is really hard, even for me is that the lines are so blurred now between home and school and there's not that clear cut. It's 330 we're done with school. School kind of stretches throughout the evening as well and Yes, there are lots of breaks. No one's consistently looking at a computer screen for seven hours. However, there's that looming pressure of I've got to get this assignment in before tomorrow.
Richard Bacolor: Yeah, it's funny you mentioned that the idea of routines, because I in my neighborhood. There are a number of little kids and I can always tell when they're on break. Because they come running out of their houses and run around the neighborhood, and then you know 10 minutes later they go back inside and It's, it's pretty weird to see that as a, you know, an effect of the pandemic and teaching and learning in that space. But so, the playbook that we got from Fisher fry and Addie well known researchers You know, is based on some observations, they made back in the spring. I think they interviewed something like 70 different teachers. So we should say there's a little caveat to this, that, and you guys have mentioned this already that What occurred in the spring and what is happening, you know, here in the beginning of the school are not really the same thing, like we were in crisis mode at the beginning. And we've had the summer to sort of plan and think and grow and learn from those experiences, but the playbook has some interesting topics. And so, I thought we would dive into that a little bit. Where do you guys think you know we're We get to sit at the Intermediate School district level, and so we're, we're in this weird medium space between research and practice. Where do you think this book fits in that sort of space, like how do you see teachers using this this kind of book or other resources.
Michelle Wagner: So, I can address that a little bit. I think that one of the hardest things about being a teacher is trying to sort through all of the noise that might be out there with you know just different edu-celebrities or, if you like Twitter and just following different people and on top of that, just the different initiatives and programs. And so, I really think that we have to approach any new thing. In this case, the playbook with a critical lens and I'm all about reading critically anyway. But trying to make connections between what we know to be true of the subject area which we are teaching and then also how we can make that fit within the current realities. So, I know that, personally, whenever I see something that john had he has written, I immediately think about effect size. So, when I pick up a text like this. I'm really looking for those practices that have the greatest impact on students. So, I'm looking at where I'm going to get the most bang for my buck. And I'm also looking for those connections to literacy and those ideas that make it easier to reach
Richard Bacolor: You have a friend with you.
Michelle Wagner: She's about to go outside. Sorry. Okay, so I'm also looking for those connections to literacy and those ideas that it will make it easier for students to read to right to speak into listen to one another. Because I think that that's in the end really what I want my students to be doing. So really looking through that lens. Yeah.
Richard Bacolor: Chris, how about you, where do you, where do you feel like this book sits in the List so resources.
Kristi Hanby: Yeah, so we were as similarly in the mathematics consultant world we were inundated with resources in the spring, and I think Teachers, even our curriculum directors were saying, you know, it's just so many resources, help us sort through them all. So, the guidance that I was reading in mathematics, and it's the guidance that we knew, you know, previous to being virtual is Really focusing on creating spaces that are collaborative in nature that position students to figure out something interesting. Something engaging encouraging them to work together. And work on interesting problems or what you in science call phenomena that lead to learning really important ideas and math and science. So, for example, I'm like, what happens when I divide by a number smaller than one. And why does that occur. Some, not just doing division with decimals as denominators, but just asking ourselves, what happens when we divide by a number that's less than one. And why does it happen when I divide that thing is getting bigger. That didn't happen when I was younger elementary school. Um, and so when I look at this book. I'm looking for those places where they give the kind of guidance for how I work in those collaborative ways How do I give students voice and flexibility in the work that they do in math and science and do it in a virtual space. So, there are a few places in the book where it addresses that. I think I'd also say that Fisher and fry are first and foremost literacy researchers, I believe. And so, there's also a lot of practices in here that are related to literacy practice. And so, I've had to kind of weed through and look for those opportunities that really highlight best practice in math and science. Yeah.
Richard Bacolor: I would agree with that. I mean, almost everything that we see coming out starts with math or ELA so as a science person. I find that to be always, always the case. Right. Like how do I find the science niche and these strategies. So, it's interesting you bring that up. One of the things they talked about, or they begin in the book is they talk about self-care strategies. Not only for your kids, but for the teachers as well. You guys have any successes in that space right now.
Kristi Hanby: Um, so I will say that even as an adult. I have found it difficult to set the boundaries between work and home. Especially and those of us that are working in is do tend to be working a lot of later afternoons and evenings, because that's when teachers have more availability. And so that's made it even harder. You know, sending text messages to the kids at three o'clock saying this is what's for dinner. It's in the kitchen, but I'll be working until seven So it's been really hard to find those boundaries but I'm starting to get better at it. Um, But it's hard for me. Then I have to remind myself that it's even more difficult for my kids because they maybe don't understand why it's important to separate those things for their own self-care. Um, so some of some of self-care has been taking care of my own boundaries and routines and keeping things separate um but it's also been recognizing that I live in a house full of adolescence and If they haven't figured it out just yet. That's okay. And so I want them to, you know, set up and do their work from 750 to 242 But they're tending to work more like 830 to 1130 in the evening and I have to let that go and hope that they get to a point where they recognize that it's easier for them to just put in a day from eight to three and be able to walk away from it at three o'clock.
Richard Bacolor: Yeah, it is really tough with the boundaries. That's all about, like, kind of creating these new habits because we're not bound by space and time in the same way that we were before. Michelle How about you.
Michelle Wagner: So, I again I agree with a lot of what Christy just shared and I'm sure I'm not the only educator mom who lives this consistent struggle of trying to separate herself from her job. And so, I think even in the best of times, I have a hard time turning off. There's always one more thing I could do, you know, and one more thing that I feel like I need to do in order to help further whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish. But I think that now that I'm working from home. That is magnified tenfold. And I think that that's a real struggle, and especially with littles at home. You know, just because I'm working from home, doesn't mean they don't need lunch, or does it need me mean that they don't need that chance to go outside for a quick run around the block. And I'm the one who has to make sure all those things happen if they're home with me. And so that's been a struggle to try and to navigate all of that. Where I think when under normal situations, you can get them all ready and then you put them on a bus or you drop them off at school and they're occupied for that full eight hours when you see them again. And it's a different time or a different part of the day we're now that's all kind of mesh together as one. So, I think we're just trying to navigate that. And I also think That it's really one success that I've had is, I've had to be really intentional with saying there will be no work between these hours because we get so little time with our kids. We need to make sure that we're keeping bedtime sacred and dinnertime sacred and so I'm I feel more successful at that.
Richard Bacolor: super important to have those routines and can set those limits, um, No, which the book kind of goes into one of the models in the books talks about starting with the standards and as you know is d consultants. I think one of our, our main objectives in our work is to help teachers use standards aligned research-based curricula and also to implement those things with You know with, I don't want to say fidelity, but with good quality classroom practices. Right, so What do you think the biggest challenge has been in translating research based aligned curriculum and practices to remote settings or to distance learning
Michelle Wagner: So, I think this is a challenge even beyond just remote settings right it's if you have the curriculum. How do you make it work for the students that you're serving And I think that being remote adds that extra layer of making sure that the students understand what's expected But then also making sure that they have the tools to access that that curricular resource. So, I think it's just that extra layer of stuff that needs to happen to make sure that the kids can access the learning. And I think that this is something that teachers are really good at in terms of figuring out Hey, this is the goal. How am I going to make this happen for my students when they're coming in at multiple levels or they're coming in with different baggage or different situations? How can we make all of this happen? And I think that we've added this huge layer of working from home now or teaching from home and that teachers have really had to be creative in terms of looking at what do they have and then what are their students have in order to figure out how to actually implement that online.
Kristi Hanby: So, I think that math and science teachers have maybe found this really challenging So much of best practice. And I think that this is true and literacy to is about listening to your students about being able to sit with them in one on one conference with them or Small group. Collect you know get, get feedback from them. And I think that this is what teachers are really challenged with right now. I know from watching my own kiddos in our home that when teachers are asking those good questions and they're putting kids in breakout rooms. They're not always getting feedback from students and so trying to find the ways that we get the right information from teachers or I'm sorry, from students about what their understanding. I think has been a real challenge. And I've been digging into this book to see if I can find a Variety of ways to be able to show teachers how they gather that information from their students.
Richard Bacolor: Yeah, I would say from the science perspective, it's, it's kind of the same thing that Michelle kind of mentioned there's two layers to it. And I felt like access, you know, teachers, learning the LM s and putting lessons into the LM s was like one stage of learning. And then Kristi what you're talking about this. And you mentioned it before the collaboration side of things, almost the you know the discourse moves that we talked about or that we've been pushing for the last several years. You know, learning tools that still allow us or the students to have those kind of collaborative moments has been a huge challenge and so I've seen a couple of the nice things in the book about setting up types of meetings for specific purposes. So, some of the things that we've been saying the science base is, you know, be very intentional about the things that kids can do asynchronously or outside of the meeting room space. And then really hone in on those moments where you need the kids to interact with each other with their models and their ideas that's been Sort of an ongoing challenge, at least in science classroom as well. What about you guys. Have you seen any other tools or any hints from the book that might help teachers Deal with that?
Michelle Wagner: I really focus on that idea of feedback. And so, as a literacy person I know that importance of just making sure that students know where to go next. Because learning to read and learning to write well Is not something that is necessarily linear, it doesn't. There's not one great one clear cut path towards reading proficiency or writing proficiency And so we know that the best way to figure out where a child needs to go best is to sit down and have them read to you or have them. Or have them share their writings that, you know, as a teacher, where the best place for them to go. Next And that's what moves them forward. And so, I really focused on that portion of the book that talked about feedback and how we need to make sure Now more than ever that we're being very clear and what the students need to do and then where they need to go next. And so, I really, I really appreciated that reminder of just, you mentioned even rich setting up different kinds of meetings, but even those one on one. Points where you can touch base with a child, even if it's over phone. However, you can connect with that child, but actually still giving them the chance to listen to them read and listen to them. Right, so that you can give them the feedback that they need to move them forward.
Kristi Hanby: Great. And so, in mathematics, listening to students solve a problem is important, but we can also, if you have the right problem. We can also gather feedback from what they've written So one thing that we've seen teachers doing is putting together shared slide decks. So, you know, often in elementary school students are numbered because they have you know a number of hook and a number of cubby in a number. And so, in this case you just give them a number of slide and They would do their work on that slide, but as a teacher, you can go through all of the slides within the deck. And give comments by just clicking a comment on the Google slide so that that's one of the things that we've been doing and professional learning. But then as I was looking in the book. And I was watching some of the videos this morning. Um, I noticed another teacher saying that instead of giving her comments and text. She gives them in Google Voice so that her students can hear her voice and she thinks that and I think that's probably right that especially younger students are going to gather more From a teacher's voice than from reading the text and I think especially when you're talking about math or science which might have some fairly technical language and the use of voice might be a better use of a feedback tool like using a way to insert audio might be a better feedback tool than inserting in text. So, I thought that was useful. And I'm going to share that with teachers. So, yeah.
Richard Bacolor: I love that idea. I think that's also important with, you know, when we think about universal design for learning and some of our other populations are English language learners. Now, those kinds of supports I think are really, really important to do intentionally Another vignette that I saw in the book that I really loved was the teacher who schedules during face to face time to students to meet individually. So, she asks a student to show up 10 minutes early. And then another student to show up 10 minutes or to stay 10 minutes afterwards, and she rotates her class through that. So every day during their time she's meeting individually with two students And over the course of the week she gets through the majority of them and she said that that that time alone with those kids to Just do a check in, or maybe ask a question about the lesson is really formative right and really gives her a lot of data. To work with and to help the entire class move forward with whatever they're working on. So, I thought that was another really interesting way to go about it. So we're kind of running into the end of our time here today, but There were some really nice key points in the book if some of our teachers want to get ahold of you guys and talk more about the book or some other issues related to teaching mathematics or LA, where can they go, or where can they get in touch with you guys.
Kristi Hanby: So, I mean, we're always available and Risa and I don't want to just like shamelessly give out my email address, but there are ways to contact us through getting on the website. I will say that if you're going to dig into this book as a math teacher. I think there's a couple places in it that really kind of hit the nail on the head. As far as the research is concerned in math, Ed. And so, I really liked when I was reading on page 143 142, I know like as we were talking and putting this podcast. Together we were thinking of difficult it is for teachers to take him too much information right now. Little bits are better. So, if you're listening to this as a math teacher I would I would highly recommend you just dig in there. On page 143 142 and then page 110 could be really helpful to for helping you think about engaging mathematical tasks. And then if you have questions about those things. You can certainly reach out to anybody on the math team, or you can attend We've been doing Thursday afternoon office hours, you can get in touch with us about how to connect with those or we have been doing math leader meetings throughout the year in order to get information. To those who are needing it so I'm hoping that those are a few ways in which you can reach out to us and we can have more conversation.
Richard Bacolor: Also, Michelle.
Michelle Wagner: Sure, we can always be found the literacy team can be firstname.lastname@example.org and just click on the literacy tab and we're help. Happy to help and assist in any way that you might need. But I did want to just bring up one more piece from the book. At the end of the bucket really talks about how our goal should be to make learning better for our students, which I think is the same goal. We've always had And I'm just going to read a quick quote. Let's remember to leverage what we have learned from crisis online learning to prepare ourselves and our students for more robust and authentic future learning And I think that, in a nutshell, this experience has stretched us all to learn in new ways. And I think that that's one thing. Our, our children. Are responding to their learning in ways that I would never have imagined possible before. And if you had told me last year that my seven-year-old. Would be scheduling a zoom meeting with his teacher and putting that calendar invite into his calendar so he didn't forget I wouldn't believe that to be true. So, I think that we really are helping our students to learn in different ways, right now, and they are learning something, it may not have been what we thought they would learn but they're learning in new and better ways. And I think that's going to bring success in the future.
Kristi Hanby: It's a really good point.
Richard Bacolor: Michelle, it's an Excellent point and a great way to wrap it up. So, I really appreciate you guys, thanks for hanging out with me for a little bit and I'll see you next time. Thanks.