Getting to the Core
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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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.