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...
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...
A Messy School-wide Digital Plan

A Messy School-wide Digital Plan

Without a complete understanding of the changes in education too many administrators lead into the digital age with making teacher requirements, without understanding the ramifications. Most building administrators have the foresight to know that each and every teacher needs to have a digital presence. But without leadership and guidance this can become a train wreck – very quickly.   At one school a mandate goes out to all staff that they must establish a digital presence and use digital resources in their classroom. What and how they do so, is up to the individual teacher. Teachers scramble to find how they will do this. Some go off and make a website. One might use Weebly, or Google Sites, another learns WordPress and purchases a domain.  Others find apps like Remind or Pocket. Those strong in literacy might buy into Blogger or Edublogs. Those looking for quick digital assessments key in on Quia, Socractive or Kahoot. Some go looking for games to practice skills, from which there are a many to choose from. Others want play list and resources like PowerMyLearning, Khan Academy, CK-12, or LearnZillion. Still others grasp at platforms like Edmodo, Schoology, or Canvas learning management system.   Shortly everyone is doing their own thing, with different key codes, logins, and just trying to figure it all out. Though it is difficult, individual teachers are working with typically a single platform – of their choice. When teachers are not provided professional development, they may not see the connections between platform such as embedding Quia or CK-12 into a learning management system to create an ecosystem for digital learning...
Hybrid Model: Thinking Differently

Hybrid Model: Thinking Differently

Budget cuts and staff reductions have hit many schools hard. It’s time to look “outside the box” when trying to deal with growing student populations and fewer quality teachers to serve them. Digital content is ideal for building foundational skills. We need to look closely at how schools can use digital content to support student learning and reduce the teacher workload, yet increase teacher reach (e.g. caseload).   Use of digital content within the lab rotation model is a great deployment strategy. Depending on your state statues and/or school district regulations, schools may be able to use a support staff in the lab to monitor and guide students through the digital content. For example, in Nevada the law allows non-licensed personnel to manage computer labs when a licensed teacher is behind the instructional deployment. At the secondary level, Nevada students may be assigned a virtual lab period during the day for mathematics. Students go to a lab and work on digital courseware, rather than meeting with a teacher. The highly qualified math teacher is working with students from a distance within the online classroom. This maintains the concept of one prep period for the teacher and 30 students in a lab/classroom. It’s time to think outside the box, beyond the four-walled classroom and structured timeframes of the day.   Let’s consider a Hybrid model where students spend part of the week with their high qualified teacher face-to-face for hands-on engaging instruction and the other days in the week working with digital content. Typically elementary software and secondary courseware is a form of low level skills based direct instruction, yet...