Creating Culturally Responsive Environments

Guest post by Eva Cwynar

I want you to think about the last time you watched a movie where the main character looked like you, lived in a community like yours, or came from a similar background/culture. How often do you come across stories or texts where one or more of these characteristics are present? For some, the answers to these questions are that it happens all the time. For others, the answer may be rarely, if ever. Now imagine that you are a student in a school where the history that you learn is not the history of the culture that your family comes from, the scientists and mathematicians that you learn about don’t look like you or come from similar backgrounds, the literature that you read, music you hear in band, or sports that you play in PE don’t reflect your experiences or heritage. How do you think this would make you feel? This is a reality for many students that walk our halls and form our school community and this is why culturally responsive teaching is so important!

Culturally responsive teaching validates and affirms the culture of students in our schools/classrooms and incorporates that culture in meaningful ways in both the learning and the environment. It’s not enough to simply make mention of a race or culture or to change the names in a word problem so that they’re “ethnically diverse”, CRT is about leveraging and growing students’ existing funds of knowledge by connecting to diverse personal experiences. The following examples are simple ways to develop culturally responsive environments in your classroom:

  1. Connect learning to background knowledge – Take the time to learn more about your students’ homes, community, and interests. Parent & family surveys are a perfect way to learn about your students and their backgrounds. Think about providing the survey in multiple languages and in multiple formats so that it is accessible in multiple formats. Once you have this information, USE IT! Don’t just file it away in their student folder…incorporate these gems into the learning environment.
    • Create a library of non-fiction texts that focus on student interests and make them available in different languages that represent the home languages of your students.
    • Create a “Netflix” playlist full of documentaries showcasing diverse people, cultures, and countries, historical events from around the world, nature shows that highlight plants, animals, and natural phenomenon in different continents.
    • Bring the community into the classroom – connect social studies concepts to neighborhood events and/or landmarks, explore science concepts taking place in their backyards or local parks, engage in learning walks to identify geometric shapes in architecture.
    • Play music during transition periods that reflects students’ heritage or favorite genres.
  2. Encourage cognitive routines that foster critical conversations- Ask students to think critically about the relationships and connections between concepts or phenomenon.
    • Have your students engage in word play that’s both cognitively demanding yet fun. Taboo and Scrabble are great ways to build vocabulary about concepts students are learning while simultaneously repositioning the student as a leader in the learning by developing student agency. You may choose to have students do this by sharing the vocabulary terms in different languages, by having them define the term used in their own words, or by connecting the terms to something that they have experienced in their life.
    • Engage students in literature analysis by comparing the central idea of traditional texts in ELA and Social Studies to popular music and poetry (there is a library of songs as well as other resources that can support this type of learning at Get Free Hip Hop Civics Ed).
    • Provide texts that share diverse viewpoints and experiences to spur discussion about socially relevant topics that effect our community. These texts should provide avenues for students to think critically about current and past events in a classroom environment that provides a safe forum to share sensitive and thought-provoking concepts.

A critically important aspect of culturally responsive teaching is that these experiences, methods, and strategies do not become a single activity that you check off a to-do list once a trimester…these practices should become routine and be practiced over and over again throughout the school year and across the campus. A culturally responsive environment acknowledges that everyone brings something to the learning table and that everyone’s voice and experiences are incredibly valuable.

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**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

New ideas: App Smashing with Buncee and Wakelet!

There are a lot of great digital tools and technology devices out there that really do help teachers who are creating a blended learning environment, whether or not that was their intention or if it’s just a matter of circumstance. Buncee has been a great choice for my classroom for many years!

It keeps getting better! There are so many great possibilities for using Buncee in the classroom. Over the last couple of months, there have been some great new features added, including being able to create in augmented reality! This new feature has been great for the students in my STEAM class who have been creating with Buncee all year and are now learning about augmented and virtual reality. The Buncee team also continues to add so many new stickers, animations and 3D objects that it really does make creating a lot of fun. There are endless possibilities when it comes to creating with Buncee and even better, there are other tools that Buncee integrates with, which helps teachers to really focus on using a few tools that do a lot.

Earlier this year, Buncee and Wakelet teamed up which brought a lot of excitement for many educators out there who were already using both of these awesome tools. Now it just got even better! If you have been looking for an opportunity to do some app smashing, now is your chance. There are Wakelet community stickers available from within the media library on Buncee. Just look for the Wakelet category and you’ll see combinations of Wakelet and Buncee stickers together! If you are a fan of Wakelet, now’s your opportunity to combine these fantastic tools again and create a bunsy to share with other educators. Check out a few of these examples from Twitter.

Love this one from Ide Koulbanis!

Or this one from Joy McLean

And here is one from Deb Zeman!

And don’t just stop there, you can also try some app smashing with using Buncee and Flipgrid in your classroom. Explore the Discovery library and select from some of the many topics to plan some truly authentic opportunities for students to create and share their learning in a variety of ways. With all of these tools, we can use them to create and share content with our students and provide better ways to engage students in learning. What I love about these tools is that we can use them in a variety of learning environments, whether in-person, hybrid or fully virtual. They also enable us to work with small groups of students or use them in station rotations for example.

When it comes to Buncee, students can find exactly what they’re looking for and add in audio or video or any 3D objects, emojis, animations and more that they choose. Buncee can be used with all grade levels and content areas. Getting started is easy with thousands of ready-made templates available in their library as well as their ideas lab. With us shifting between learning spaces, it makes sense to have tools in place that enable us to do that. Buncee is one that I have recommended to many educators for this exact purpose.

And don’t forget to use Buncee for so much more! There are truly endless possibilities! Laurie Guyon creates activities for each month, here is November! I love creating my social media graphics and Twitter chat question cards with it! Check out a recent question for #EdAdventures chat.

Another fantastic idea, virtual parent-teacher conferences! Look at this one from Cheryl Graff!

Check Buncee out today and don’t hesitate to reach out to their team with any questions or even take part in their daily live training. They have Buncee 101 on Wednesdays and Fridays and Buncee 102 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you’re looking to just get started then I recommend the Buncee 101. If you’re looking for more ideas and how to share activities then definitely check out the Buncee 102.

And there’s still time to join in the Buncee gratitude activities that are going on. Check out the daily #Bunceegratitude prompts and share your Buncee to the Buncee board and see what everyone else has posted that they are grateful for. The board code is r693bh. Don’t miss out today!

360 degree inclusive feedback for learning through storying

Guest post by Virna Rossi @VirnaRossi

Inclusive feedback for learning is like a flower. A flower is both fragile and resilient. To thrive it needs good conditions, such as good soil.

Who is the learner in the feedback process? It is the student. But it is also the teacher. Both students and teachers can thrive with inclusive feedback for learning.

The roots

The roots of the feedback flower are the inclusive principles and values that underpin inclusive feedback practices such as:

  • Accessible
  • Dialogic
  • Iterative
  • Respectful
  • Timely
  • Personalised
  • Developmental

The Petals

To be multidimensional, feedback should come from a variety of sources. In the flower analogy, these are the four petals which form the 360° wide-angle view.

Self

Inner feedback is very valuable to develop self-efficacy. We ‘talk to ourselves’ about our learning, during the learning experience as well as once it is completed. If we journal or blog – articulating our inner feedback – our ongoing inner narrative becomes more explicit and is more easily shareable.

Others

This is to enhance peer-learning. For students ‘others’ can be fellow students; for teachers, these can be colleagues and the students themselves.

Top-down

For students, this is feedback from teachers and other educators such as librarians. For teachers this is feedback from line-managers, principals or anyone ‘above’ them in their institution.

Research/literature

For the students, this the body of research of the discipline that they are studying: learning what the ‘experts’ in the field say – and discovering the present boundaries of the discipline – helps the students situate themselves within their field of study.

For teachers, engaging with current educational literature (generic or subject specific) provides indirect feedback on their own professional practice and expands their pedagogical horizon.

The Leaves

How, in practice, can we educators receive and give this type of inclusive feedback?

One very effective way in which the feedback flower can thrive, fed by inclusivity values, is through the use of journaling, storying and blogs (one of the leaves at the base of the flower). This applies to all disciplines.

Learning feedback activities such as these promote pausing and reflecting; they constitute a personal, safe space; they are context rich; they help learners re-focus, articulate and share their learning experience.

Journaling can effectively be integrated into the course. Teachers can plan a dedicated journaling time towards the end of every lesson: everyone is invited to blog or journal for about 15 minutes. Each student’s inner feedback written in the form of blog/journal can then be shared, discussed and used for ‘comparative’ learning. It can be used for formative and summative assessment submissions; it can also be part of an ongoing, life-long learning portfolio. And it constitutes very rich feedback for the teachers.

To build trust and truly model a learning mind-set, teachers should also journal at that same time: to articulate, record and share their inner feedback on the lesson, the cohort, their own learning, successes or missed opportunities in the learning that just took place. This enhances teachers’ feedback literacies.

The pandemic has accelerated and emphasised the need to review assessment and feedback processes. Teachers must design learning experiences that enable and enhance feedback literacies through inclusive, learner-driven processes. Feedback literacies are situated. The emphasis is now on engaging and learning from feedback – rather than simply about teachers giving ‘good’ feedback. For all these reasons, storying, journaling and blogging are powerful, effective ways to encourage 360° inclusive feedback for learning.

Find out more

Watch my 5 minute video below about the why/what/when/who/how of inclusive feedback: What best practice in feedback can I embed in e-learning?https://player.vimeo.com/video/408054242?dnt=1&app_id=122963

References

Baughan, P., (2020) On Your Marks: Learner-Focused Feedback Practices and Feedback Literacy. [ebook] AdvanceHE. Available at: click here [Accessed 17 September 2020]

Nicol, D. (2019). Reconceptualising feedback as an internal not an external process. Italian Journal of Educational research, 71-84. Available at: click here [Accessed 17 September 2020]

Winstone, N. and Careless, D. (2019) Designing effective feedback processes in Higher Education, London: Routledge

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**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

How to Find the Right Space to Create and Engage

Earlier this school year, I thought about how I could be more consistent in my classroom. When I say classroom, I mean all aspects of where I engage in my work and not simply my physical classroom space. Some areas that I wanted to focus on were the building of relationships, making better and more consistent connections with families, and designing a comfortable and welcoming classroom space for my students.

I think about each of these, I see them as “spaces” where we interact and exist together. I recognize that as educators, there are a lot of different spaces that we need to create and stay connected within. Being able to find the best ways to stay engaged in each of these spaces is important, especially with busy schedules and demands of the work that we do. Having the benefit of digital tools that can assist us also makes it easier to provide more for our students and their families, both in and out of our classroom space. So what are the spaces that educators need to create and engage in?

A Professional Learning Space

For educators, it is important that we really look at our professional learning space differently today than we may have in the past. For myself, having been an educator for many years, I did spend the first 15 years of my career mostly in isolation. While I engaged in opportunities for professional development within my school or attended a local conference periodically, those were the only types of professional learning spaces that existed for me—because I limited myself. What is worse, is that I also placed limits on my students by not putting myself out there to connect, to learn new ideas and methods to bring back to my classroom. Years ago, finding learning spaces and making time to engage in them was more time consuming with fewer choices available. Today, we have access to so many different and more accessible professional learning spaces. We can find something that meets our interests and our needs especially when it comes to time and place. What are some options?

ISTE offers Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) focused on specific topics related to technology and roles in education. It is a great space to become connected and to share ideas and connect classrooms.

LinkedIn is a social media platform for professional connections and professional learning. Educators are using LinkedIn to connect, gather resources and even help students develop their professional identities in this space.

Twitter offers many ways for educators to connect and learn via Twitter chats happening on a daily basis, and by following specific hashtags related to education. It is a great space to ask questions, to crowdsource ideas and to build a PLN.

Voxer is a walkie-talkie messaging app that promotes instant conversation with people from all around the world. Educators use Voxer for creating small groups for a PLC, having a space to share ideas and collaborate with educators from around the world, and even for participating in book studies and virtual learning events.

A Classroom Space, Both Physical and Virtual

The look of classrooms and learning today is so different from what it was when I was a student and quite different than even five years ago. We have the potential to learn from anywhere around the world and at a time that meets our needs. We truly have the capability to provide more for our students than we’ve ever been able to before. Through the use of digital tools and purposefully leveraging technology, we can provide the support our students need exactly when they need it. The world becomes our classroom when we include some of these tools and ideas in our practice.

The physical space can look quite different when we use station rotations in our classrooms, provide more flexible learning spaces for students to learn in, and also connect our students with learning that happens in our school community. We redefine the “space” of the classroom and can provide something to meet every student’s interests and needs. We can also explore different digital tools that help us create a more accessible connection with our students and provide ongoing support when they need it. Here are some of the tools that we have used to stay connected in our learning space.

Edmodo is a digital space for students and teachers to interact in a safe learning network. It provides access to resources, has helped us facilitate global collaboration and build digital citizenship skills.

Padlet allows us to create a wall of discussion and share audio, video, music, photos and text. It has helped us to connect with classrooms from around the world in real-time interactions.

Flipgrid is great for extending classroom discussions and providing students with a comfortable way to express their thoughts through video responses. Students build comfort that transfers into the physical classroom space by being able to connect with their peers in the digital space.

Kidblog provides many ways for students to build literacy and digital citizenship skills, as well as create their online presence. It promotes class discussion and collaboration and gives students a space to share their ideas and track their personal growth in the process.

A Space for Promoting Student and Family Engagement

Being able to connect with the families of our students is critically important. In order to provide the best for our students, we need to make sure that we are building and fostering true family engagement. To do so, we must rely on the traditional methods we have used such as exchanging emails, making phone calls home or holding meetings in the school, but now we have access to doing even more. Being able to bring families in to see and experience what learning looks like for their students, to share in the learning that happens in the classroom or to participate in a student’s in-class presentation is possible through digital spaces we set up. Events held at schools such as Open Houses, or STEAM showcase events, for example, are great for showing families the amazing things happening in our schools. However, not all families can participate due to time constraints which is why having digital tools available that enable us to share these events can make a difference.

Remind is helpful for messaging and sharing photos and files with families to include them in the school events.

ParentSquare facilitates better communication and collaboration and helps to build a solid connection between the home and the school community.

Buncee is a multimedia presentation tool that can be used to design a class newsletter with audio and video, or for students to share their work with families and include it in a Buncee presentation. Using a tool like this is helpful for families that cannot attend events such as Open House.

Seesaw is a platform that enables teachers to share what is happening in the classroom with parents. Teachers can record and directly share each child’s progress.

These are just some of the spaces that we need to consider as educators today. There are many options available for creating these spaces and the best part is that we can find something to meet the needs of our students, their families and ourselves.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

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Choosing the Right Tools for Amplifying Learning Through PBL

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

During the last few months of the 2019-20 school year, we faced a lot of challenges in planning our instruction and making transitions from our classrooms into the virtual learning space. For me, the difficulty was in deciding what tools and strategies to use and knowing whether students had access to devices or their class materials. I wanted to provide meaningful and authentic opportunities that would enable all students to engage in learning, while being mindful of individual circumstances that may have made that difficult at times. We know there is definitely not a shortage of digital tools and options available to us as educators for expanding the how, when and where students learn, however there are a few important things we need to consider, not just now, but always.

As we continue in the new school year, there are still many unknowns when it comes to where learning will take place. It can help to choose methods and tools that enable us to transition. We should focus on these considerations first when thinking about the types of lessons and opportunities we will choose and design for our students.

First, what access do our students and their families need and what do they have? Second, are we using digital tools in our classroom that families will be able to help support students if they must learn from home? And third, what types of learning experiences can we create for our students that enable us to work together even when apart? Experiences that promote student choice in learning, leveraging technology where it makes sense, while also making sure that we can support and involve families are good options.

Choose a method not a tool

With school closures, it was an opportunity to try new ideas and tools, or perhaps to bring back some methods that we got away from. Project-based learning (PBL) is something that I believe worked well during this time, regardless of content area, grade level, or teacher experience with PBL in the classroom. I also believe that it will allow for smoother transitions in the event we have to shift throughout the upcoming school year.

According to the PBLWorks, PBL is “a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.” PBL is an iterative process requiring reflection, which makes it a good method to guide students to become more independent learners and to develop a greater motivation for learning. Through PBL, we help students to focus on the process of learning itself and not on a final product that serves as an end to a unit of study and is forgotten.

With PBL, the learning space itself does not matter, it simply requires that we set up guidelines and work through the challenges that may arise as we go. PBL gives students the opportunity to explore their passions, design their own problems or challenges, and have the time to focus more on the process rather than the product of learning. To best prepare students for the future and for navigating what may be a constantly changing look of school this year, we need to offer experiences which promote curiosity, independent learning, and working through productive struggle. PBL is good for this and is also a great option for addressing the 4 C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.

Tools for PBL

Moving beyond the traditional classroom time and place is easier with technology, and it only takes that first step to begin creating these opportunities for students. In my classroom, we leveraged some digital tools for students to explore global issues and broaden their cultural awareness and global understanding. The use of digital tools to connect with other students, educators and experts added to the authenticity and meaningfulness of the work they are doing.

While in the physical classroom space, PBL promotes the development of SEL skills, students also become better at collaborating and providing ongoing feedback and support to their peers. However, when not in the  same physical space, we need to find ways to foster the development of these same skills.

Tools that we can use:

1.Ideas for PBL: Students can find ideas on Wonderopolis that promote curiosity for learning about new ideas and challenges. With platforms like Thrively, educators and students have access to a project library of standards-aligned projects, including rubrics and resources such as documents, videos, and website links, making it easy to get started with a ready-made project or to start from scratch. With the tools available, students can work in real-time with classmates and teachers through the collaboration feed and also build digital portfolios to track their work.

2. Collaborative spaces: PadletWakeletTrello, LMS such as Edmodo. With these options, students can work together and interact in the virtual space and will help with the transitions we may need to make in this school year. The use of tools such as these also enables students to share their work with a larger audience, bringing in opportunities for global collaboration through these platforms.

3. Providing feedback: Being able to give students timely and authentic feedback is critical for learning. It is also important that our students be able to provide peer feedback and develop their skills of communicating and collaborating with their classmates. Some of the tools that help this give students the opportunity to build confidence in learning and be able to share through voice or video or combination are FlipgridSynthAnchor, and Kialo. With Flipgrid, educators can even explore topics in the Disco Library for students to use as a  PBL focus and with the  features, students have many options for sharing their learning. Through Kialo, students have a space to ask questions, engage in discussions and exchange ideas.

4. Products of learning: It is important for students to have choices when it comes to sharing what they have learned, especially for creating something to share with a public audience. Leveraging some of the different digital options out there will give students choices such as blogs, infographics, podcasts, videos, and interactive, multimedia class presentations. Students can create a multimedia presentation using Buncee and then all students can share their work on a Buncee board, with the ability to comment and give feedback. Using a tool like Nearpod, students can include additional content such as virtual trips, polls, collaborative discussion boards and more.

5. Reflections, revisions and project workflow: It is also important to provide students with a space to work through the different phases of PBL and develop a system for project management and working through feedback.  The use of tools like Google Forms to submit ideas, voice recordings within Google documents or Microsoft OneNote are quite helpful. In addition to these, there are larger platforms available for an all–in-one PBL work. Headrush is a PBL management system that enables teachers to provide a space for students to design their learning journey.

Asking students for feedback about the methods we use and the tools we bring into our classroom is also important. One student shared this with me after our recent PBL experience during school closures: “Using different digital tools helped me to really understand and see what school is like in other countries. Being able to connect and ask questions directly to students my own age helped me to sculpt my project in a way unlike anything I have experienced.”

It is all about having choices. Promoting student choice and voice through PBL and leveraging the digital tools available will engage students in more authentic and personalized learning experiences regardless of where learning is actually taking place.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

“Do you care about your students?”

Guest post Chris Stuchko @chrisstuchko

I have been a teacher for 15 years. I have been in 100s of meetings over that time span. It probably is closer to 1,000 really. I have been asked many off-the-wall questions and have had conversations that only Special Education teachers, like myself, could appreciate. But never have I been so flustered by a question from a parent during a meeting.

“Do you care about your students?”

In the middle of a Zoom meeting that filled all the required Brady Bunch squares – a supervisor, an assistant principal, a school counselor, regular education teachers, special education teachers, a parent and a student – I stammered and was taken back by the question.

I repeated her query out loud, using a classic stall technique, while quickly trying to process if this was indeed a trick question.

Had I not done something to help this student? Did I misrepresent myself as I was speaking about the student and the start of the school year?

After several stammers and some real thought, I gave an “eloquent” answer.

“Of course I care about my students.”

What teacher doesn’t care about their students, I quickly rationalized.

There really can’t be any other answer, right? That has to be the automatic response. Like the answer that follows the question, “How do I look in this dress?”

As every single one of us in our profession today struggles with our teaching reality, hybrid reality, or virtual reality, I know the one common thread amongst educators everywhere is the high level of care we have for all of our students. We are all trying to do the best we can given what we are up against.

But after my amazing, ground-breaking answer, I quickly learned that the parent wasn’t negatively questioning my care for her student.

Rather, she was trying to make a point about the student’s ability to understand and evaluate if his teachers really cared about him. Her point in that question was to reinforce a simple, yet oft overlooked advice for life: people will do things for those that have their back.

My co-teacher and I in that particular class don’t have a magic formula for how to reach kids. If you really want a listicle that will give the 10 most groundbreaking, 100-percent guaranteed tips on how to show students you care, feel free to click off of this story and go somewhere else. But if you have chosen to keep reading, just know that anything you do to reach out to students can make an impact.

Remaining positive with a student who hears only negative can make an impact.

Noticing that a student drinks tea every day at 7:31 AM during class can make an impact.

Complimenting a student on a newly painted ceiling after seeing it day after day can make an impact.

Making silly jokes to a room of teenagers with their microphones dutifully silenced following virtual meeting etiquette can make an impact.

Letting everyone in a classroom, including yourself, know that it is OK to not be OK can make an impact.

After finishing with that meeting, and realizing that my co-teacher and I were doing our best to pass the care test with that particular student, I returned back to our virtual class session and made it a point to talk with everyone about that thought-provoking question

“Do you care about your students?”

It was the end of our sixth week with students. My co-teacher and I had only seen them in person one time for less than an hour before our school went virtual. We are scheduled to come back together in a few weeks, but like many things since March of last year, the only certainty is uncertainty.

We had to let them know and remind them that yes, we do care. We wanted them to know that even though all of us got to know each other as small boxes on a computer monitor for weeks, we are attempting to build relationships. We are all learning together how to show others we care when all we can do is show it through the computer.

It is a challenge and we are all struggling. But as educators, we know it is all about making those connections. That is what ultimately matters in the end.

When was the last time you thought about the teacher who taught the amazing lesson on parts of a plant? But the teacher who reached out to you in a time of need or saw something special in you? For many of us, the person who made the connection is the reason we are in this profession today.

“Do you care about your students?”

Now, more than ever, we need to show and reinforce the answer to that question with our students, and not just reflexively say “Of course!”

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

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What if Students Designed Their Education?

Originally published on Getting Smart, updated

In education today, there have been a lot of discussions in regard to what skills students may need for the future. We hear conversations about “21st century skills” and how to best prepare students for life and work in the 21st century. Often these 21st-century references are followed by reminders that we are well into the 21st century.

According to Alan November, keynote speaker and international leader in educational technology, there are certain skills that students need and that teachers need to promote within the classroom. Students need to be taught “how” to learn and prepare for more than knowing the content, by developing skills that are transferable to multiple areas of life and work. During a keynote presentation, November stated: “I think we should begin to move more and more toward the skill side, because if we teach you to memorize and regurgitate content and your job is wiped out by technology, you’re not well prepared to reinvent yourself if you didn’t learn how to learn.”

November’s message reinforces the importance of students developing skills such as being able to communicate, collaborate, problem-solve, think critically, to name a few. These are some of the key skills that will enable students to be adaptable to whatever type of work they ultimately find or whatever the next steps are once they leave high school, whether enrolling in college, seeking employment, pursuing specialized training.

With changes in technology and in the capabilities when it comes to learning and the future of work, we don’t know skills will be needed years down the road. The best we can do is to provide students with access to the right tools to equip themselves with not only the content that we are teaching, but infuse the curriculum with choice through independent learning and exploration of interests that students have.

Changing the Look of Schools and Learning

We’ve heard about the “gig economy” and how students need to have the capability of working in different industries and with different types of work. In a gig economy, each job or work assignment is comparable to an individual “gig” or temporary employment.  We need for students to do more than simply consume content, we need for them to create and beyond just creating with the content we have given them, they need to come up with their own questions and problems to be solved. Students need to be the designers of their learning journeys.

So what can we do to help our students become part of Generation DIY?

Students need space to design their own learning path and to take charge of their education. There are instructional strategies that lend themselves to this “generation do-it-yourself” such as a genius hour, project-based learning, service-learning, experiential learning, and makerspaces, among others. As educators, what can we do to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to explore and have access to whatever it is that they might need? How can we truly know what they will need in the future to enable us to help them? We can best prepare by giving and being open to options that diverge from the traditional look of schools and learning.

Schools around the country have started to offer more courses based on emerging trends and what the “predictions” are for future-ready skills. Some courses or components of courses available in schools, including my own, are entrepreneurship, web design, sports and entertainment management, and other courses with content and opportunities to help students develop the skills necessary to design their own learning journeys. Students need more real-world opportunities to engage in that connect them with their community and develop the skills to assess needs in the community and globally, and brainstorm ways to offer services that will be beneficial for others. It happens that educators often assume that students have certain skills, for example, they know how to use and leverage technology effectively because they have grown up in a technology-infused era. However, the reality is quite different. Students need time to learn to adapt and be flexible and move beyond the traditional format of school and move into more learning that does not necessarily have clear-cut specifications.

Options for Generation DIY

You might wonder what options exist for students in the Generation DIY. Here are a few ways for students to explore different choices after high school that would promote some of the skills they will need as they prepare for the uncertainty of the future of work and learning.

  1. Schools can consider creating more opportunities for students through Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Through these programs, students can explore careers and work on building skills that are transferable to diverse types of work. When students have access to  CTE programs, they get to look into emerging trends in the workforce, explore different careers and walk away with certifications that can increase their marketability in the workforce. For students who may be unsure of the next steps after graduation, CTE programs can offer them time to be curious by exploring possible career options, while developing their skills in high school.
  2. Place-based education gives students the opportunity to explore their communities, learn about the geography and immerse more in authentic learning by stepping out into the “real-world” for more meaningful ways to develop skills in math, social studies, science, language arts, and other content areas. There are six design principles in PBE, which are not required as part of the place-based education, however, when they are included, lead to more authentic and higher quality experiences. The Place Network is a collaborative of rural K-12 schools which provides a wealth of resources for learning more about PBE and becoming a PBE school.
  3. Service learning programs give students an opportunity to learn by exploring real-world issues, even investigating on a global scale and then taking action in their own community. Educators can implement methods such as project-based learning or inquiry-based learning to engage students more by addressing problems or challenges identified in their local environment. Involving students in service learning programs gives them the chance to build skills for the future and learn about their own interests in the process.
  4. The Generation DIY Campaign is aimed at giving students the chance to “chart” their own course through high school and college by exploring different careers and developing diverse skills that are transferable to multiple areas of work. The Generation DIY toolkit provides information and resources for educators and students to get started and also includes personal stories about the process and impact of Generation DIY.
  5. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a growing area in which students can design their own technologies to address issues they identify in the world. AI use is increasing and students can become the creators of AI that can possibly change the way students learn, by creating things like chatbots, or learn how to code and create a virtual assistant. There are many tools available for students to explore how AI is used in everyday life and design their own project based on  AI. These technologies help students to build skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity, to name a few, which are essential skills for whatever the future holds for them.

In the end, it comes down to the different choices that we make available for students in schools today. While we certainly cannot predict the jobs that will exist in 10 years, when the current kindergarten students will be entering their high school years, the best way to prepare is by having options in place and connecting school and community.

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Why we should all go to the staffroom

Guest post by Alice Codner, @MsCodner

Let’s all go to the staffroom! ( oh wait … )

It was a year ago that I remember a visitor from another school walking into our staffroom and stopping short. “What’s happening?” he asked me, bewildered at the merry scene that greeted him, “Is there an event on or something?”

A past foray into supply teaching confirmed my suspicion that in many schools, except the occasional teacher flitting through to grab a cuppa on the flypast, the staffroom generally lies empty and unappreciated. Yet staffrooms have the potential to be a centre of professional development, the focal point for community cohesion and an effective resource for staff well-being. In these days of social distancing and contact tracing, when visits to the staffroom feel more uncertain or even precarious, it is important to remember just what they contribute to school life, and an opportunity to reflect on the value of their place in the school.

Those who imagine that teachers have a whole hour lunch break have clearly never worked in a school. After morning lessons have been eked out and the last child has finally left, there’s marking, going over the plan, setting up resources and a myriad of other jobs that should have been done by yesterday. An hour is not a long time.

Oh. And there’s eating.

Time in the staffroom so easily gets classed as an extravagant luxury. After all, what isn’t done during the day will have to be done after school. Nevertheless, over the years, I can honestly write that I have learnt more in the staffroom than on any course I have ever been on.

I should say at this point that I know I am incredibly lucky. Staff at my school are overwhelmingly kind, friendly and fun, and I do not find the friendship groups and teams cliquey. Not everyone gets on all of the time – that would be impossible in such a large group – but in general, we enjoy each other’s company and understand that we all have a lot to learn. I know that I do.

The staffroom is the first port of call when something hasn’t worked out as planned. In particular, staff members can give and receive bespoke advice on improving lessons and on effectively supporting the needs of particular children in each other’s classes.

Common phrases used in our staffroom include:

  • “Have you tried …?”
  • “x worked well with him in year 2 – you could try that”
  • “What do you think we could do for our [e.g. Vikings] topic?”
  • “Tell her she can come and show me her next piece of writing.”
  • “He can definitely do better than that. Have you spoken to mum? She’s very helpful.”
  • “That’s really good for him! You must be doing something right.”
  • “She never used to do that. What do you think might be causing it?”

The advantage of this system is that staff members can get immediate help from those who know the particular families and children that they work with without going to the leadership team, freeing up their time and getting a broad range of input as groups pool their ideas. It also means that many questions get answered before they become problems. More than simply being a luxurious space to relax, the staffroom can be a vital place of casual exchange of expertise and information that benefit the children, the staff and the leaders.

Of course, not all staffroom chat is work-related. Common topics in our school include cooking, weekend plans and Love Island – and believe me, it gets loud! Though superficially this could be judged a ‘waste of time’, in reality, these positive, relaxed conversations perform a range of important functions. Most obviously, they balance out the intensity of day-to-day teaching life and act as an emotional reset button, making it more possible to start afresh after lunch. Even if it is only for 15 minutes, making the deliberate choice to have a break tells your body that despite the pressure and speed of school life, you are not out of control, and stress levels can be kept in check.

Moreover, these light-hearted conversations form the basis of trust, preparing working relationships to be able to carry the weight of deeper or more difficult conversations when they need to happen. It is always easier to ask a favour from someone you already trust and it is always more enjoyable to do a favour for someone you already like. Schools are places of incredible interdependence. Investing in building positive relationships with other staff makes this interdependence a joy and not a burden.

Working in a school that has a ‘staffroom culture’ has not only been beneficial to my mental wellbeing, it has also played a significant role in my professional development. At a time when we might not all be able to be physically present in the staffroom itself, we might remember that ultimately, ‘the staffroom’ means each other. In a school, we are each other’s greatest resource, be that in a classroom, in the playground or anywhere else. Let’s use that. Just because it’s fun, doesn’t mean it’s a luxury.

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Alice Codner is a class teacher and outdoor learning leader at an inner-city school in NW London. As such, she has led a team to start a school farm including growing vegetables and keeping a range of animals, winning the ‘School Farm Leader 2019’ award from the School Farms Network as well as the ‘Best Garden for Wildlife’ award from the London Children’s Flower Society. She is passionate about school as a hub for community and is convinced that education is the most effective way of addressing social inequality.

@MsCodner   https://partwaythere.co.uk

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

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 Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

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Explore New Ideas and Learning With Buncee

Explore New Ideas and Have Fun Creating With Buncee!

Now that the school year has started and for many, some are moving toward the end of the first grading period, you might be looking for some new ideas to try. Don’t worry, once he definitely has you covered when it comes to finding new ideas to use in your classroom. Whether you check out the many visually engaging tweets of Buncees created and shared by educators from around the world. Educators are posting how they are using Buncee in their classrooms with their students or in their roles as administrators and tech coaches. You should also explore the many templates available or ideas in the Ideas Lab, you can find exactly what you need.

Join the Buncee Educator Facebook community Check out some recent Idea o’clock live sessions that were held. The past couple of weeks had Shannon Miller, Amy Storer and Karina Q sharing ideas for journaling and time capsules, tips for instructional coaches and interactive Buncee journals and OneNote.

Sometimes we just need a few ideas to get started with and then before you know it, we come up with a bunch of ideas and what I find even more often, our students come up with many of their ideas as well. One that I start with in my Spanish and STEAM classes is creating an About Me. I love creating a new one each time with them! We are just getting started this week and I cannot wait to see what they create!

More Ideas to Try

With many schools looking to hold events for families virtually, why not try using some of the templates available within Buncee. It would be fun to have students create their own Buncee to share what they have learned and how they are enjoying their class. Students can add in a video of them talking about their experiences so far and add 3D objects, animations, stickers, emojis and more! All of the student Buncees can then be shared on a Buncee board to share with families. Imagine how fun it would be to see and get to know classmates and post comments even!

Perhaps create your presentation to share all of the information about your class and design your virtual classroom choosing from many the templates available. Why not also include your bitmoji and then record audio and video to go along with it. It’s very important for our students and their families to be able to see and hear us and our excitement for teaching and working with the students. What better way than to create a Buncee virtual classroom

Love these ideas shared from Buncee! Find the templates available in the Buncee library:

Meet the teacher flyers

Virtual classrooms

Daily remote learning journals

Time capsule activities

Digital citizenship lessons

Social media profiles

Record a video for genius hour

So many choices!

Get involved in the upcoming Global Write with Buncee and help to connect students with students from around the world. Daily prompts are provided for students to create and share stories. Learn more about this amazing collaborative project and get involved today!

Check out the many ideas that have been shared by Holly Clark. Look how many great ideas are listed in this graphic! Check out what teachers and students can do with Buncee and see which apps you are using that integrate with Buncee too! My students love using Buncee with Flipgrid and I love being able to share Buncees through Microsoft Teams and even schedule meetings! The possibilities are endless!

Explore the many new templates and have students create vision boards and more with Buncee! Virtual lockers, class schedules, organizers, newsletters, About me Buncees and so many other options to get started with here.

Learn about how other educators are using Buncee in their classrooms. Read about how Teresa Liu is using Buncee to engage special needs students in this blog post.

Updates and training!

If you’re looking for some help in getting started with Buncee, don’t miss out on the daily live training that is offered throughout the week. Each session is focused on helping educators get started with Buncee by showing some of the many possibilities and where to find all of the amazing graphics and the options that are available within Buncee. There really are endless possibilities when it comes to creating with Buncee and there is something in it for everyone.

I love taking courses through the Microsoft educator program, check out the Buncee course on Creative Expression & SEL with Buncee.

Buncee is always adding new features and expanding all that they provide for educators and for student learning. Recently they had a partnership with Flipgrid where now you can find many Buncee templates available to use in combination with Flipgrid, especially some for promoting SEL and also for organization. Stay tuned for some new updates coming with Buncee’s partnership with Microsoft.

Get involved!

Buncee is currently taking applications to become part of their Ambassador program. Applications are due on October 9th and if you’re looking for a supportive network to become a part of and to learn more about the power of creating with Buncee, I definitely recommend that you check out the ambassador program and see what is happening in the community. Especially at a time like now, where we are working through a lot of challenges in the world and an education, we need to have a supportive network to learn and grow with, especially one that is focused on promoting student voice and choice!

One of the ambassadors, Ilene Winokur has been telling the story of Bunceeman’s adventures! Bunceeman is visiting all of the Buncee ambassadors and this is a fantastic way to collaborate and learn about people and places from around the world! Check out his adventures here!

Global Events Coming up!

DigCit Summit happened on October 14th and Buncee was a sponsor of the event. See all of the digital citizenship templates and graphics available in the Buncee library! One of my first Buncees was a digcit lesson! Add in links, videos, audios, questions and more to create a lesson for students and then have them create their own digcit PSA! Join in the #Usetech4good Buncee challenge!

Global Maker Day is coming up on October 20th! Sign up to join in this day of amazing learning opportunities! Looking forward to seeing some Buncees created and shared throughout the day!

Zigazoo: Start Creating Today!

I have been recommending Zigazoo to many of my educator friends lately because of all of the wonderful opportunities available for having students engage in more authentic and meaningful learning opportunities by creating their own videos! I learned about Zigazoo about two months ago and have had fun checking out the videos being submitted by kids! 

When people ask me what Zigazoo is, I explain that it has been compared to popular social media tools such as Instagram and TikTok. Because of the similarity, this means that students feel more comfortable with the user experience and are more likely to enjoy the learning process on Zigazoo. It also is a good way to help students build their digital citizenship skills and become involved in more active learning and be creative!

What is Zigazoo?

Zigazoo is a free video sharing app that gives students the chance to create a short video in response to daily prompts and other activities. Teachers have been using it to provide students with a different way to share their learning and explore new ideas.  It is easy to get started with Zigazoo and find some prompts to assign to a class or to create your own.

Each video created can be up to a length of 30 seconds. There will be daily featured projects and the Zigazoo app gives kids a fun way to think about and try new things. It is a good way for parents to be more involved in learning with their kids. Creating their own videos also helps students to develop their understanding of privacy and social networks. Teachers can also record responses to student videos. 

Beyond the prompts that teachers can create, Zigazoo also gives families and teachers access to many prompts provided from a variety of educator channels that are now available. With these channels, we have the ability to share video-based responses to projects and interactive media from museums, zoos, educators, children’s musicians, and education organizations. In a recent article by TechCrunch, Zigazoo was referred to as the “future of remote learning.” There are so many possibilities for creating videos during remote and hybrid learning and exploring the new channels is a great way to start.

Through the addition of channels, there are many new possibilities for students to learn from global organizations! Check out the channels that have been added so far and stay tuned for new channels that will be added!

Some of the educator channels available

Zigazoo is an app that can be used to offer new and more engaging ways for students to share what they are learning in creative ways. Teachers and parents can find daily projects to explore or search through the hundreds of other projects available.  I also recommend checking out their Twitter feed and follow @GetZigazoo to see the videos and challenges being shared!

Explore the #dailyzigazoo to get started quickly. Here is one example, which was Kira Willey’s first project, “What is something kind you’ve done for someone?”

Many different topics to choose from!

In Zigazoo, there are challenges that offer kids a chance to explore and then create a video to talk about what they learned. It can also be a great option for project-based learning types of activities. What an opportunity to spark curiosity for learning and increase student engagement.

What do students think?

Here are some comments from educators about their experience trying out Zigazoo. 

“I love the energy behind it and the energy it brings out in my students!”

“My 2nd graders said it looked like Tik Tok (how 7-8 year olds know this, I do NOT know, lol).”

“The other video creation app that I have been using with my students in Spanish is Flipgrid. As I discussed the app with students this week, they hands down prefer to use Zigazoo for my assignments. They couldn’t adequately articulate why, but it basically comes down to the fact that Zigazoo feels more like TikTok or social media, which then makes it more fun.” (high school teacher)

A prompt for describing the weather

Zigazoo is free and educators can create their own classroom projects or choose from those available. Zigazoo is now offering a free premium account for educators, use the code ZPremium and sign up by October 31st. Parents can join in the global Zigazoo community. 

And join in Zigazoo’s Costume Contest! The contest is the first of several Halloween activities Zigazoo will host from now through October 31st. Other virtual activities will include haunted house tours, decorating jack-o-lanterns and telling Halloween jokes.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

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