Tag Archives: Blended

Learning Will Be Disrupted

Alice (name changed to protect identity) officially attends Greenfields Primary, an outstanding school (name changed to protect its outstandingness) serving a diverse suburban catchment. 12 months into our global pandemic, Greenfields was still struggling to adapt. Remote learning comprised worksheets emailed home; blended pedagogy was tolerated – for now – ‘until we can go back to how it was before’; CPD was on hold ‘while we cope with the disruption’.

Alice’s dad, Mark (you guessed it) is not happy. His company switched online 72 hours into the first lockdown and since then they’ve wrestled with new technology, struggled with diverse work patterns and been frustrated by shifts in customer behaviour. But they stuck with it. They innovated, adapted and exploited the disruption – because they had to, because they needed to, because they wanted to. And now, they’ve emerged more productive, more agile and more creative than before.

Alice’s dad is not happy because if he and his team can grow through adversity, why hasn’t his daughter’s school?

So he talked to his sister Beth, a teacher, about her school, Bluesky Primary.

Bluesky Primary is RI and hard at work fixing that. A week into lockdown they’d realised a different approach was needed. So, they wrestled with new technology, struggled with diverse work patterns and got extremely frustrated by shifts in parent and pupil behaviour.

But Bluesky stuck with it. They innovated, adapted and exploited the disruption – because they had to, because they needed to, because they wanted to. And now, they’ve emerged more productive, more agile and more creative than before.

They LOVE face to face teaching. They LOVE remote learning. And, heaven help us if another lockdown comes, they’re ready. They’ll just flick a switch and seamlessly go online. They’ve developed a blended learning handbook (not policy, big difference); they’ve empowered pupils to be online power coaches; and they’ve recognised how this disruption has shoved them all into their children’s futures – and where else should you be, as an educator?

So, Alice, disrupting the system, subverting the normal, pushing the boundaries, began to attend her aunt’s school, Bluesky, remotely. Why not? says her father. Please do, says Beth. Alice engaged with high quality interactive teaching, made new friends, embraced her future. She didn’t bother completing the worksheets from her official school.

What if your school was open to all children? What if the quality of your interactive live teaching and your learning management systems defined you, rather than the number of worksheets emailed home?

What if the learning economy was so disrupted that your catchment area was global?

The elements above are true, just synthesised from different contexts to make a point. Since March 2020 I’ve watched pandemic disruption amplify and accelerate diversity. Sometimes this is good (teaching becomes better and more effective); sometimes it’s not (children who were behind find themselves further adrift). But the most startling amplification for me has been how teachers and schools that were already forward facing (Bluesky) have really seized disruption, tamed it and used it; and how those that were not (Greenfields) have stagnated, and done nothing new, innovative or interesting for their children.

Chew these over in the staff room:
– What kind of school are you in today?
– Are you preparing your children for their futures or for someone else’s past?
– How do you view ‘disruption’?

Why You Should Not Teach Live Lessons

Before COVID, we educators and trainers had this:

And then, early in 2020, we didn’t. All we had was this:

A rectangle. Our laptop screen, monitor, phone or tablet. The space in which we had to teach, to learn, to train, communicate, have fun.

And then, once we’d picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off, we made it work. Here’s what we did with our rectangles:

We opened up the world. We connected, we innovated, we created. We struggled, became frustrated and we persevered through fear, anger, and through a time of simply not knowing what to do – or how – and we got there.

But from the start, a dubious benchmark emerged. Teachers feared it, politicians didn’t understand it and parents used it as a yardstick (stick): The quality of online learning was sometimes judged – erroneously – by the quantity of live lessons.

Some folks embraced live teaching, others fought it – still do – but in my opinion the debate is mis-aligned. If we aspire to teach live online, replacing a day in school with a day on screen, then we miss a huge opportunity.

Puentadura’s model explains why. Aspiring to teach live is substitution. The professional focus is on replicating what you do in school. You’ll miss the vast opportunities that technology offers. You’ll not think to augment, modify or even redefine learning. You’ll fill your rectangle with the same pedagogy which pervaded your classroom.

I’m not saying don’t ever teach live. I’m saying that substitution is only the start of innovation. And if you want to improve your teaching, innovate with the tools that have come your way: Teams, Zoom, Connect, Blackboard, Basecamp, Slack, Padlet, Mentimeter, Desmos, Kialo-edu, Mural, Google Classroom, Remnote, Jamboard, GSuite Apps, Trello to name just 16.

Here’s the kind of blended approach I’m coming across in UK schools:

  • Confirm house rules and expectations (behaviour, interaction, technical).
  • Clarify risk assessment and safeguarding practices.
  • Begin the day with a live check-in and tasking session.
  • Set pupils to work, emphasizing the skills they’ll use to gain the knowledge required.
  • Open up themed breakout rooms where pupils can collaborate.
  • Open up a shared online space where learning is posted and where pupils get ideas.
  • Invite pupils to present their learning using a choice of five online platforms.
  • Schedule a short, interactive lecture from an expert in another part of the world.
  • Make yourself available for asynchronous chat support.
  • Take smaller groups aside for extra help, challenge or alternative provision.
  • Meet live at the end of the morning/afternoon to share work and to check out.

Please do teach live online if that’s your style or you’ve been directed to. But please don’t miss the wonderful opportunities to not teach live all the time that have appeared in our rectangles over the last year. Then maybe, when we do go back to school, vaccinated and resilient, we’ll be even better at what we do – adding value to the future.

www.thinkingclassroom.co.uk

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Knowledge is Dead. Long Live Knowledge.

I’m walking in the country with R. It’s a professional catch up. Executive coaching. (Coaching walks really work, try them). We’ve each got a Starbucks, black Americano, 4 shots. The sun is out, the air is clear.

We cut through bushes and emerge to find 40 beech trees spaced evenly and set in two parallel lines – just over 2 meters apart – stretching left and right. The trunks are too wide for us to reach around; they must be 150-200 years old. Looking up, the canopy is pastel green and sunlight washes through.

There is intent here, there is purpose. Someone, along time ago, decided to plant these trees – right here and in parallel lines. A car would fit between them and maybe, when the trees were younger, two carts could pass.

The trees are on a ridge. To the east is an ancient track, to the west an abandoned military camp. Neither offer any clues but our curiosity is peaked. We want to know – need to know – who planted these trees, when they did it and why.

We ask a man walking his dog. He doesn’t know. A phone search brings up nothing. As experienced educators it’s unspoken that neither of us will now rest until we have this knowledge. This is necessary knowledge.

We plan some blended, lockdown-ready learning for R.’s primary learners:

  1. Study trees. Become beech experts. Have 10 key facts to hand. Learn through expert lectures, online research, reading. Be ready.
  2. Visit ‘Beech Avenue’ (school visit or streamed live). Apply your knowledge. Come at the task visually, linguistically, existentially, mathematically, alone, in groups.
  3. Get creative. If you walk the full length of Beech Avenue, where will you be transported? If the trees talk when we leave, what will they say? What have these trees seen?
  4. Develop the absolute best question you can about Beech Avenue.
  5. Back at school, or at home, seek out local history experts. Zoom Q&A. Locals who’ve moved away are now within reach.
  6. Present learning live, online, face to face – whatever works best.
  7. Review the project. What do we now know and how does it connect to what we already knew and want to know next? How will we remember it? What skills did we need? What attitudes did we need for this?

COVID has forced us online. It’s forced us to consider how we teach.

If you taught in ‘way A’ before lockdown, you’ll probably seek out tools online to teach in ‘way A’. If you taught in ‘way B’ before lockdown, likewise, you’ll seek out tools online to teach in ‘way B’.

What if online offers way C? What are going to do?

The majority of the children whose futures you are nurturing will be alive when the years begin with ’21’. We’re going to need a pretty strong evidence base to continue to use teaching methods that dominated when the years started with ’19’ or even ’20’.

Let’s make the future work:

ZoomConTwo: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/113956159942