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Teaching and leading for higher student engagement … even during a pandemic (aka How I spent my summer)

Harnessing Technology for Deeper LearningSome schools spent the summer engaged in magical thinking that everyone would be back in person this fall, just like before the pandemic. Others paid attention to the data and rising number of coronavirus cases and used their summers more wisely to design for better remote/hybrid learning and teaching than the mostly-low-level direct instruction, digital worksheets, and paper homework packets that we saw last spring. I was fortunate to work with numerous educators this summer on how to teach and lead for higher student engagement – even during a pandemic. I thought I would describe a little of that work below…

Redesigning lessons with Virginia teachers

This summer I worked with over 150 teachers in Virginia to redesign lessons and units for deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion. We used the 4 Shifts Protocol as the framing lens for our work together. We met virtually for 2 hours every day for 4 days. We used Days 1 and 2 to become familiar with the protocol by redesigning lessons that weren’t theirs (to reduce defensiveness). I modeled how to adopt an approach that focused on ideation, not judgment, and pointed out some key considerations and ‘think abouts’ for each section of the protocol. On Day 3 they brought their own lessons. I put them into virtual redesign triads. They helped each other shift their students’ learning in directions that they chose, using the skills they had gained during Days 1 and 2. Day 4 was more of an ‘office hours’ approach. Teachers popped in as desired and asked more individualized questions about their local contexts (e.g., how to handle scripted curricula, how to use the protocol as an instructional coach). Some of them brought additional lessons for us to hack at together. I did all of this twice, the first week with elementary educators and the second week with secondary teachers (so 8 days total).

Instructional leadership with Virginia administrators

I also had the wonderful opportunity this summer to work with school administrators from across Virginia. We met virtually for 90 minutes each day for a week. The setup was similar to what I just described with Virginia educators. On Monday and Tuesday, I introduced them to the 4 Shifts Protocol but we adopted more of an instructional leadership lens, not just a teaching lens. On Wednesday, we talked about some organizational strategies, leadership behaviors, and coaching techniques – again, more of an instructional leadership focus than just a pedagogical focus. On Thursday they brought lessons like the teachers did and we practiced instructional coaching with those lessons using the protocol. Friday was an ‘office hours’ approach again, and the leadership questions and ideas that they brought to those discussions were amazing. 

Innovative remote instruction with Texas administrators and building leadership teams

I worked with a school district in Texas at the beginning of the summer and was able to help kick off their annual, 2-day, in-district leadership institute. They asked me to do a short keynote highlighting some possibilities for hands-on, active student learning. I then facilitated 3 follow-up sessions over the next day and a half, working with elementary, middle, and high school administrators and their building leadership teams. I tried to connect some ideas from my keynote to the realities of pandemic-era remote instruction. I also showed and discussed multiple, concrete, age-specific examples with each group to illustrate how we can redesign instruction for higher student engagement, even during blended or online learning. All of this work was virtual.

Instructional leadership with Massachusetts administrators

I had an incredible experience with a school district in Massachusetts this summer. We spent a total of 3 weeks together, all virtual. During the first week all of the administrators in the district read Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning and engaged in a virtual book study. I dropped in each day to interact in their Canvas course shell and answer questions. During the second week we alternated between synchronous and asynchronous learning together. For instance, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of that week, we met together virtually in Zoom for a couple of hours of very robust conversation each day. I also created over a dozen mini-modules full of resources that they could explore in between each live meetup. The school leaders had lots of choice (because I’m trying to model, right?) and could investigate anything in the mini-modules that interested them. Some of the topics that they dove into were:

  • Workforce preparation and job automation
  • Skills development and college/career readiness
  • Educator staffing and the future of the teacher workforce
  • The integration of robots into day-to-day life
  • New literacies, including digital storytelling, AR/VR, and student multimedia / transmedia production
  • Instructional redesign for deeper learning, including additional leadership and coaching scenarios
  • Inquiry-based, project-based, and other high engagement learning strategies
  • The research behind deeper learning/teaching strategies and student achievement
  • Innovative scheduling
  • High-engagement remote learning
  • PBL during remote learning
  • Equity considerations during a pandemic

We also had a concurrent online discussion space in Canvas where they could share their reactions, concerns, and ideas for their local schools from the mini-modules. Those conversations were very active and impressive. 

All of that work continued into the third week, and the district also folded in some assistant principals, instructional coaches, media specialists, and other building-level teacher leaders. They are working to create a critical mass of people who might be ready to begin transforming day-to-day instruction. This was an incredibly unique 3-week experience for me. I was able to pilot and try a number of new virtual professional learning modalities with this district and had some absolutely phenomenal discussions with them. I get to work with them a little more this fall and absolutely can’t wait.

Book club with Solution Tree

Finally, Julie Graber and I conducted a 4-week book study around Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning for Solution Tree, our publisher. We met once a week for 4 weeks for 45 minutes a session. Although those were sparsely attended, all of the recordings are available on the Solution Tree website. Julie and I had some good discussions with our participants and were able to explain some of our thinking and approaches when we are engaged in instructional coaching.

Conclusion

In addition to all of the above, I also created my new self-paced 4 Shifts Video Series; had some good conversations with educators in Denver, Luxembourg, and Switzerland; continued my Coronavirus Chronicles interviews; recorded some additional episodes over at Silver Lining for Learning; and participated in a few podcasts! It was a busy but fun summer, and I really enjoyed working virtually with educators all across the planet on higher-engagement learning, teaching, and leadership.

As always, let me know how I can be of support to you and your community!

Coronavirus Chronicles 043 – Bunche Middle School

I am talking with schools to see how they’re responding in the wake of this global pandemic. I invite you to join me for the Coronavirus Chronicles, a series of check-ins with educators all over.

Episode 043 is below. Thank you, Jose Gonzalez and Darleen Perez, for sharing how Bunche Middle School in Compton, California is adapting to our new challenges and opportunities. It was SO MUCH FUN hearing about your remote learning project with your students!

See the complete list of episodes, which also are available as a podcast channel on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you and your school(s) would like to be featured in the Coronavirus Chronicles series, please get in touch. 

Other conversation series that may be of interest are below. Check them out!

Conversation series with educators during the pandemic

August book study: Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning

Harnessing Technology for Deeper LearningSolution Tree is hosting a series of webinars this summer. My co-author, Julie Graber, and I are delighted that we were selected to do a FREE 4-week book study on Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning!

We will meet online at 2:00pm Eastern (USA) for 45 minutes every Tuesday between August 4 and August 25. Did I mention that the book study is FREE?! Our sessions will be recorded if you have to miss a date. Here is what our schedule will look like:

  • Tuesday, August 4 – Chapters 1 & 2
  • Tuesday, August 11 – Chapters 3 and 5 (pp. 41-45; elementary)
  • Tuesday, August 18 – Chapters 4 & 5 (pp. 45-50; secondary)
  • Tuesday, August 25 – Chapter 6

We invite you to roll up your sleeves and dive into instructional redesign with us. If we want deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion, we have to design for them! Participants in this book study will leave with a deeper understanding of the 4 Shifts lesson redesign protocol and numerous tips and strategies for success in their schools. The book is only 57 pages long and thus is an easy read!

Hope some of you can join us. Click here to register! (and if you need the book, you can get it here)

Leadership for social justice: Class update 2

Class updateThis is my second update on my new summer Master’s seminar, Leadership for Social Justice. As I said in my last post about this class, my six students have been co-creating the class with me…

We have continued to approach the class through a variety of social justice lenses. After an initial focus on anti-racist school leadership, we broadened our lens the next week to take a look at culturally responsive-sustaining teaching and leadership. We also had collections of readings and multimedia on Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Indigenous, and Middle Eastern students and families. My students chose what interested them and we integrated those into our class discussion.

The following week we shifted gears a bit and focused on student / family socioeconomic status. In addition to a wide variety of readings, I introduced my students to the work of Richard Kahlenberg and we also critically dissected Ruby Payne’s writing in this area. We dove deeper into ideas of intersectionality and seemed to dwell more on policy concerns in this particular class.

The week after, we talked about equity leadership related to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. We had a rich collection of pre-activities for this class and we also had a guest speaker this evening. Tim Mosseau talked with us about how to create organizational cultures that promote equity, inclusivity, and emotional safety, with a particular focus on LGBTQ-inclusive environments.

We also have been integrating a case study or two from Gorski & Pothini’s book, Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education, into every class session. These give us a chance to apply our understandings toward some real-world scenarios. Unsurprisingly, our conversation has been quite robust!

Like in my other Master’s seminar this summer, my students have been amazing. They’re taking the lead on much of what we do together. Their readings and multimedia, their discussion questions, their guests… all have enriched our learning in ways that are far better than if I had done it alone. I’m going to miss them after next week’s final class session!

Leadership during a crisis: Class update 2

Class updateThis is my second update on my new summer Master’s seminar, Leadership During a Crisis. As I said in my last post about this class, my six students have been co-creating the class with me…

In addition to helping identify readings and multimedia for us to look at before each class session, my students also have taken the lead on identifying guest speakers to come talk with us about crisis leadership. Our second guest speaker was Dr. Susan Luck, a business professor at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. She talked with us about cognitive bias and its impacts on corporate leadership, organizational communication and transparency, and Kotter’s 8 steps of leading organizational change.

Our third guest was Jack Fishman, Executive Director of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. He shared with us how the fine arts are adapting during the pandemic and helped us understand some leadership lessons that would be useful for us in P-12 and higher education.

Our fourth guest was Michael Franks, Supervisor of the Respiratory Therapy Department at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver. His discussion of what effective crisis leadership looks like in medicine and from the COVID floor of the hospital was both inspiring and kinda scary.

I couldn’t be more delighted with how this course has gone this summer. After each guest, we spend an hour debriefing what we just heard and connecting it back to previous conversations and readings. Our understandings of effective crisis leadership in education have been greatly enhanced by the diverse perspectives that we are bringing in from other, non-education societal sectors. Plus my students are incredible. I’m going to be sad to see them go after next week’s final class session!

Coronavirus Chronicles 042 – Mansfield ISD

I am talking with schools to see how they’re responding in the wake of this global pandemic. I invite you to join me for the Coronavirus Chronicles, a series of check-ins with educators all over.

Episode 042 is below. Thank you, Brandon Johnson, for sharing how Mansfield Independent School District in Mansfield, Texas is adapting to our new challenges and opportunities. I especially appreciated hearing your thoughts on centering students and families amidst the chaos and how your communication strategies have been aligned to that work.

See the complete list of episodes, which also are available as a podcast channel on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you and your school(s) would like to be featured in the Coronavirus Chronicles series, please get in touch. 

Other conversation series that may be of interest are below. Check them out!

Conversation series with educators during the pandemic

Coronavirus Chronicles 041 – Academia Cotopaxi

I am talking with schools to see how they’re responding in the wake of this global pandemic. I invite you to join me for the Coronavirus Chronicles, a series of check-ins with educators all over.

Episode 041 is below. Thank you, Robert van der Eyken, for sharing how Academia Cotopaxi in Quito, Ecuador is adapting to our new challenges and opportunities. I especially appreciated hearing about how proactive you were in terms of global scanning and planning and about how you’ve served your youngest students and those with special needs. 

See the complete list of episodes, which also are available as a podcast channel on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you and your school(s) would like to be featured in the Coronavirus Chronicles series, please get in touch. 

Other conversation series that may be of interest are below. Check them out!

Conversation series with educators during the pandemic

Coronavirus Chronicles 040 – Washington Middle School

I am talking with schools to see how they’re responding in the wake of this global pandemic. I invite you to join me for the Coronavirus Chronicles, a series of check-ins with educators all over.

Episode 040 is below. Thank you, Aaron Meyer, for sharing how Washington Middle School in Evansville, Indiana is adapting to our new challenges and opportunities. I especially appreciated hearing about how your educators shifted their innovative learning online this past spring! 

See the complete list of episodes, which also are available as a podcast channel on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you and your school(s) would like to be featured in the Coronavirus Chronicles series, please get in touch. 

Other conversation series that may be of interest are below. Check them out!

Conversation series with educators during the pandemic

Coronavirus Chronicles 039 – Immaculate Conception School

I am talking with schools to see how they’re responding in the wake of this global pandemic. I invite you to join me for the Coronavirus Chronicles, a series of check-ins with educators all over.

Episode 039 is below. Thank you, Heather Cucuzzella and Olivia Collison, for sharing how the Immaculate Conception School in Towson, Maryland is adapting to our new challenges and opportunities. I especially appreciated hearing about your customer service orientation and how your tightly-knit community all pulled together this past spring! 

See the complete list of episodes, which also are available as a podcast channel on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you and your school(s) would like to be featured in the Coronavirus Chronicles series, please get in touch. 

Other conversation series that may be of interest are below. Check them out!

Conversation series with educators during the pandemic