Aside from teaching a doctoral course called Research on Effective Professional Development this summer, I think I would have immersed myself in research on the learning sciences anyway. Number 1: It’s how I geek out. Number 2: It makes me a stronger learning designer when working with children and adults.
The phrase “learning fast to implement well” is from Anthony Bryk and colleague’s (2015) book Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools can get Better at Getting Better. When I first read their book several years ago, I don’t think (actually I know) that I didn’t get as much out of it then as I have these past few months. I’m always looking for ways to make me a better classroom teacher, but I’m also looking to improve and hone my skills as a researcher.
Needless to say, this book has become a good friend lately.
In light on the shifts we’ve had to make in how we approach the new year, I think teachers are going to need to learn fast to implement well. We don’t have time to take things slowly (on our end) since we have 100+ students who need us right now. In fact, I’ve met with my department twice so far (we’re still technically on summer break) to discuss how we can use technology to facilitate learning for our students. We discussed ways to scaffold the learning for our English language learners and special education students. We brainstormed synchronous tools so that learning would be more engaging for our students. We still have ways to go, but I’m happy with our progress thus far.
The technology skill and knowledge level in my department varies, and I think coming together early enough before the start of school was the perfect way for us to begin discussions on how we can hit the ground running as technology is the medium by which we are going to build connections, facilitate learning, and assess understanding. There will be mishaps (of that I am sure), but if we learn fast, we can implement wellthe next time around.
Please know that I am not saying that we are going to be throwing things at our students at a fast pace. In fact, I’m not advocating that we begin the school year at a sprint for us either. What I am suggesting is that we will be more effective teachers for our students if we have open conversations about what worked last spring, what has worked in the past (pre-COVID-19), and how can we take those experiences and make learning meaningful for our students now. We need to internalize the lessons learned to figure out how we can best serve our students—learn fast to implement well.
I will echo a comment from a colleague who said, “I’ve been doing this for 16 years, yet I feel as if this is my first year all over again.” Amen, brother! This is certainly uncharted territory for all of us.
So, I was thinking about my big take-away from last spring, and I believe the best place for me to start is by intentionally creating activities around building a warm and supportive learning community. I just finished reading both EduProtocol (Hebern & Corippo, 2018/2019) books, and it’s already given me some ideas on how to start the school year by building and layering foundational skills for long-term success—more on that in another blog post.
What I’m thinking might be a good way to approach the start of the school year—and it doesn’t matter if you’re starting in-person, hybrid, or virtual—is to think of ways to bring humanity to the forefront. Think of it, many of our students have been isolated from friends since March; they likely haven’t been out playing in the summer like they used to; they have not had the same level of social interactions with peers, family, and other people (in general); they are probably freaked out about school starting up again (first day jitters don’t disappear even in the online environment); they are likely worried that they are somehow falling behind the academic curve; and they are probably thinking “Will everyone like me?”
To hopefully alleviate some of these fears, while also slowly introducing them to the technology tools and foundational skills they need, I created activities for my students based on several of the EduProtocols from Hebern and Corippo (2018/2019). In the forefront of those activities are ways that my students can build relationships with each other.
This past spring posed a huge learning curve for me. But I am here…and ready to start the new school year.
I am ready to learn fast to implement well.
Bring it on 2020.
Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to improve: How America’s schools can get better at getting better. Harvard Education Press.
Hebern M., & Corippo, J. (2018). Eduprotocol field guide: 16 student-centered lesson frames for infinite learning possibilities. Dave Burgess Consulting.
Hebern M., & Corippo, J. (2019). Eduprotocol field guide book 2: 12 new lesson frames for even more engagement. Dave Burgess Consulting.