One of the best ways to accelerate student learning is to ensure grade-level work is offered to all students and that students are able to engage in the work with “productive struggle.” It can be challenging to do that when students are several grade levels behind. Scaffolding is one way to support students in taking on the work – as long as the scaffolds are just enough and still allow for productive struggle.
One way to scaffold is to pre-emptively decide how much scaffolding to give to certain students, but that runs the risk of giving too much for a particular assignment.
What if, instead, you use your ability to edit whatever GSuite tool you have used for the assignment once you have assigned the work through Google Classroom?
August is upon us and if you haven’t already started thinking about your first few days of school with students, you soon will. A big part of the first few days is building community, setting up routines and procedures, and plain ol’ “getting-to-know-you” type stuff.
Nothing wrong with any of that; in fact, it’s essential. Relationships, community, and routines are crucial to the success of any classroom.
But put yourself in the shoes of a middle-schooler (or high-schooler, for that matter) who has just filled out, for the fourth time, a “Getting to Know You” worksheet or has played “People Bingo” for the third time in one day.
Earlier in my career as an educator, I coached my high school’s fastpitch softball team. Then, as now, I believed the best way to make my team successful was to coach them in the skills and knowledge they needed to excel and then I let them go out and play. I was often asked (by parents, never the players) why I didn’t call pitches for my catchers. The answer was simple: It wouldn’t be in alignment with what I believed made my players the most successful.
What Does This Have to Do With Education?
Fast forward a couple of decades: I was invited to attend the SXSWEdu in Austin, TX and am lucky enough to see Will Richardson speak. What he said really stuck with me – so much so that I had to get it all out in a mind map to feel like I was truly understanding.
Across my Facebook feed yet again came the discussion about taking notes by hand versus on a laptop. Like clockwork, every couple of months, one of my facebook friends shares an article that champions note-taking on paper over note-taking on an electronic device. This time, it was from the Washington Post: Why Smart Kids Shouldn’t Use Laptops in Class. This is not news. We’ve known this for a while and the research is really clear: If you are going to sit passively for 50 minutes and listen to a lecture, your best bet for retaining information is writing out notes on paper by hand.
Socratic Circles are a great way to engage students in a provocative question. Students are engaged with the topic, encouraged to think about complex topics with a critical eye, and inspired to explore big ideas.
However, Socratic Circles can be a challenge in a classroom with 30 or more students. In a large class, it can be a challenge to ensure all students have a voice. There are time, space, and personality constraints that sometimes mean the conversation is dominated by just a few voices.
A Simple Tool That Can Help
By leveraging digital tools, you can mitigate these constraints and give all of your students a voice. Google Classroom features tools that will ensure all students have the opportunity to explore their own thinking as well as their classmate’s.
I’m taking a page out of current political discourse in this country and naming this post the exact opposite of what it actually is.
It would be much, much more accurate to say that the “case against personalized learning” is actually “the case against algorithms making learning decisions for students” but that’s not very catchy, is it?
There seems to be the assumption that “personalized” must mean an adaptive software program. Along with that assumption is the idea that it is the tech industry trying to make a profit. Now, I think y’all know me well enough to know that I’m always going to “follow the money” when talking about choices schools make for curriculum. In that sense, I agree whole-heartedly with the secondary premise of tech industries trying to make a profit. However, it’s the first premise – that personalized means software – that I find so discouraging.
As an ed tech coach, I am often asked questions about limiting internet access to students. “Can we block youtube?” “Can we block this game site?” “We need to block facebook.” My district has a progressive view on website availability: we recognize that there can be excellent academic and relationship building reasons to leave social media sites accessible by all and we also know that shutting off one game site just means another game site is discovered the next week.
BUT…I can empathize with the questions. It’s understandable that teachers and principals might want limits on availability. Students finding ways to spend their entire class time on youtube searching for music videos instead of researching the Civil War is frustrating – and the least scary thing about open access. Cyber-bullying, violent or sexually graphic images and videos, and child predators on internet sites aimed at children are infinitely more concerning.