Book: Think Outside the Box

Book: Think Outside the Box

Think Outside the Box –  A new book for Secondary Schools   I’ve spent the last year accumulating and assembling program advise and deployment designs for secondary schools into a new book. I’ve gathered these words of wisdom, (nearly twenty years’ worth in the digital learning front) from working with hundreds of schools and thousands of classroom teachers in Nevada’s Clark County School District, the fifth largest in the nation. Below are a few excerpts from my new book titled: Think Outside the Box: The CIA of Blended Learning and 10+ Designs for Secondary Schools. Introduction Having access to digital content creates scenarios that you may have not even considered. Thinking outside the box allows us to see beyond the most obvious. Thinking outside the box opens doors to new prospects. Thinking outside the box forces us to be innovative. That is why this book is titled think outside the box. Boxes come in all sizes; from the student information system in your district, to the four walls of a classroom, or even the socio-economic classification one was raised in. It’s a reminder to all of us that boxes do not define our limitations.   Not only will schools of the future need to think outside the box, they must think differently about the relationships of curriculum, instruction, and assessment (CIA). In blended and personalized learning, that’s:   Digital Curriculum Guided Instruction Authentic Assessment   Part 1 – Foundations of Blended I believe the power of technology lies in digital curriculum. It has the potential to open the doors to a brighter future, help fill gaps, and provide more time...
Creating a Five Year Plan

Creating a Five Year Plan

School is in (or just about to begin). Now is an appropriate time of the year to reflect on your desires and dreams for digital learning. It starts with a goal. Knowing where you want to be in five years. Casting a vision for the future. Working toward that goal each day. Success will come with challenging work, learning from failures, and the tenacity of your team to accomplish the dream. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to share Clark County’s path of success in a recent podcast, hosted by Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI). Listen to the 30 minute Podcast #40 August is a wonderful time of the year. The new school year is upon us. The energy level is high. Excitement fills the air from parents, students, and teachers. How will you capitalize upon this? Who can you reach out to support your dreams and desires? I’ve been at five different schools in the last two weeks, from traditional comprehensive, alternative education, and specialty schools for adjudicated youth, plus helping with a brand-new school opening this year targeting students overcoming the chains of addition. It’s an exciting time for digital learning. More schools are thinking outside the box when it comes to the possibilities of online courseware. Well beyond just credit recovery! When I think back to the how this all started, I’m taken to the humble beginnings in Clark County School District, with a goal of one-third of all students in an online or blended learning environment. The steps we took to meet this goal started with teacher professional development, followed with access to...
Four Mindsets for Digital Learning

Four Mindsets for Digital Learning

I often get asked about changing mindsets for digital learning. This is a great question. I tried to tackle this question in the June 2016 blog post. In the last year, I’ve come to realize there are four identifiable mindsets for digital learning. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first ask, “What is a mindset?”. Mindset as a Competency The Learning Accelerator partnered with the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) to work with experts and practitioners around the country to draft the iNACOL Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework. The document identifies 12 key competencies, organized into four large domains and mindsets is the largest domain. In the document, mindset is defined as “the core values or beliefs that guide thinking, behaviors and actions that align with goals of educational change and mission.” Four Digital Learning Mindsets Teaching is a craft, an art, and the core values stem from seeking instructional methods that better serve students’ understanding and growth. The digital learning environment requires teachers to re-think their place, their role, and the needs of students when digital curriculum aides in the delivery of content. When looking back at the 10 models of digital learning we begin to see several different educator mindsets when deploying digital curriculum: Online Blended Innovator Designer Each of these minds sets come at a different cost of change. See the Four Digital Mindsets  infographic below. Online $$$ Too often when digital content is first introduced, the initial thought is, “I’m now an online teacher.” This is a huge mind shift change. Teachers feel out-of-control when the digital content takes the lead and determines the...
The Cost of Change

The Cost of Change

When you think of the words “blended learning” what image comes to mind? I ask this because blended learning models are not just one thing. It’s like the words, “vehicle” or “home.” You have a mental image of a vehicle and a home, but your mental image is probably not the same as the person next to you. Vehicles and homes come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and prices. A pickup truck, compact automobile, and luxury sports car are all very different vehicles. As are a two-story, ranch, and apartment homes. Sadly, for some of our students their vehicle is home.   Blended learning, like vehicles and homes, come in many different formats. Some are just a few small steps outside the traditional setting, others are very large leaps away from what one would consider a traditional classroom. And like the varying prices of vehicles and homes, the price or mind shift change in pedagogy and structures of the blended classroom or school can be low or steep. Blended learning is not just one thing. It’s underpinning, like the four wheels of a vehicle or the foundation of a home are described in the definition: combining online digital curriculum with traditional classroom instructional methods, but each deployment model, just like vehicles and homes, will look and feel very different when filled with students and teachers.   Like the varying prices of vehicles and home there is a cost, or “purchase” price of the adoption of each type of blended learning model. As you consider blended learning adoption, think about what structural changes your classroom, school, or district would...
The CIA of Blended Learning

The CIA of Blended Learning

Every quality classroom is built upon three components – curriculum, instruction, and assessment, or CIA for short. In a digital learning world the CIA is the same, just with qualifiers: Digital Curriculum Guided Instruction Authentic Assessment See the CIA of Blended Learning infographic below. Digital Curriculum Digital curriculum typically comes in the form of software or open education resources (OER). It is a rare situation when a teacher can actually create their own digital curriculum that has all the components of an effective lesson from an opening hook, review of previous knowledge, delivery of new content, real-world application, a summative close and tasks for students to demonstrate understanding (e.g. assignments and assessments). Typically a teacher gathers pre-made resources from others such as publishers to ‘deliver’ lesson, rarely are they actually ‘developing’ lessons from scratch. Teacher are good at curating OER materials, but this takes time. Teachers that have ‘flipped’ their classroom by creating video lessons will tell you that digital content development is time consuming, and most schools only provide a very small preparation period for teacher planning (not developing). Thus the need for high quality software or applications that can aid in the delivery of digital content is needed.   Digital curriculum can be thought of as a teacher’s aide with significant advantages:   Engages student attention and delivers content Provides data with insight to student strengths and weaknesses Has no limits as to when or where it can be accessed Is ideal for presenting and assessing student understanding and practicing skills   Guided Instruction One thing a digital curriculum can not do is establish a relationship with students. That’s...
Keep the Human Touch in the Online Learning Environment

Keep the Human Touch in the Online Learning Environment

Too often we hear talk about teacher-absent online courses, where someone made the decision that the digital curriculum was enough, but is that what we really want? The human touch is so important. When a teacher shows that they care about their students, the student in turn cares about the class. Many times over we have seen students who showed that ‘mean and nasty’ teacher a thing, by failing their course. Student can also rises to the occasion and achieves more than possible because the kind heart of the teacher coached the student to believe in their abilities, grew self-confidence, and pushed them to success.   Keeping the human touch in the online classroom creates a student-centered learning environment and conveys a sense of who the real person is behind the academics. Don’t think that just because your classroom is blended and your students see you on a daily basis, doesn’t mean that you can be absent from the online environment. These strategies are just as important to the fully online arena, as well as the blended learning environment.   Be seen. Your presence in the online classroom is important. Use video clips to communicate with students (and their parents). Start with a welcome video that shares your passion for the subject.  Consider weekly video announcements. Provide assignment feedback in video format, using the student’s name and looking directly into the camera so they feel your presence. The discussion area is a wonderful place to give public praise by quoting students. Get to know your students. The first week of any class is tough for both the students and...