Tuesday, May 21, 2024

summer

Greetings Starfighters,

I’ve just spent the morning with a wonderful group of educators. For the first part of the day, I talked with two different groups about making small shifts in our existing lessons to create deeper learning experiences. Of course, this allowed me to share the 4 Shifts protocol with another group of teachers.

To say they were excited would be an understatement.

Then, I saw some great examples of student work guided by our graduate profile competencies. The most exciting work I saw came from freshmen Spanish students who created different guides for new ELL students, helping them acclimate to their new school.

Such important work will reap huge rewards in the coming years.

I’m so excited by the work our teachers have done this year and can’t wait to share more great things they do next school year.

Quote of the Day

"Teams need to believe that their work is important. Teams need to feel their work is personally meaningful. Teams need clear goals and defined roles. Team members need to know they can depend on one another. But, most important, teams need psychological safety." (Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better)

“Teams need to believe that their work is important. Teams need to feel their work is personally meaningful. Teams need clear goals and defined roles. Team members need to know they can depend on one another. But, most importantly, teams need psychological safety.” (Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better)

Musical Interlude

I’ve talked about Choir! Choir! Choir! before, but they just released a new video. This time, over 500 people sing the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah,” and it is amazing.

Long Read of the Day

Education increases voting rates, particularly for students attending charter schools in Boston. The study suggests that gains in noncognitive skills, such as grit and self-control, are crucial in boosting civic participation. Female charter school students show significant increases in voting likelihood compared to their male counterparts.

We look at five possible explanations of why education may increase voting: development of cognitive skills, civic skills, social networks, the degree to which charter attendance politicizes students, and noncognitive skills. Our finding of a gender gap in voting allows us to identify proxies for these mechanisms and test the impact of each one. If the gender gap we find in voting is also present on a proxy measure, that mechanism is the most likely to explain increased civic participation among female charter school graduates.

Education Next

Video of the Day

Ever wonder how a microchip is made?

Final Thoughts

It’s primary election day here in Kentucky. If you’re here, please head to your polling place. Every vote matters, every time.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Using Multiple Tools for Content Creation in the Classroom

We’re wrapping up the 2022-2023 school year, and several teachers in my district are continuing their journeys into deeper learning.

Rather than freaking out and focusing on end-of-year testing that means nothing (you know I’m right), I’m working with several 8th-grade classes on worthwhile projects.

One class is designing tourism resources for Bardstown. If you’re not familiar, the tourism industry is HUGE in this area thanks to two things: history and bourbon. Kentucky tourists spent $5.9 billion in 2020, and many of those dollars can be traced to bourbon tourism.

Students are working in groups to create materials for different tourist destinations in Bardstown. They got to choose the location, the format for their materials, and how they will ultimately present them.

Let’s connect this work back to the 4 Shifts and how we’re using it to foster deeper learning in classrooms:

Deeper Thinking and Learning

  • Students are researching famous local places. Some of them are taking tours after school hours, conducting interviews, and doing independent research
  • Students are discussing what information needs to be included in their information. What should be in a brochure? What do we need to mention in a video?

Authentic Work

  • Students are using design tools that are used in the real world to create and publish their work: Canva, YouTube, CapCut, etc.
  • Could these projects be used as part of a tourism promotion? Perhaps. This work will likely be a “first draft” of a potential business or tourism department collaboration.

Student Agency & Personalization

  • Students chose the format and tools.
  • Students chose the topic

Technology Infusion

  • Any technology usage is secondary to the research and information presented. Technology is merely the tool conveying the message, not the message itself.

I could go on, but I’ll save a further discussion for the project completion. Suffice it to say the kids are very interested in these projects and what they are learning about their hometown.

Student working on a brochure for a local restaurant
Student work on a brochure for a local restaurant

I came in to assist in the combination of technology with content. Students are creating on different platforms and need to tie the information together. Several have made videos that we’ve uploaded to YouTube. We created QR codes and added them to the brochures. We’ve used royalty-free music for the videos. Some students even used AI (yep) to help write the script before recording voiceovers.

My point for sharing this work is this: diving into deeper learning can be fun for you and your students. Will some resist? Yes. Will some still find ways to disengage and not really accomplish anything? Yes.

But it’s all part of the adventure of learning. For them, and for us.



Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

How the 4 Shifts Protocol Supports Teachers in Providing Deeper Learning Opportunities for Students

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a small cohort of teachers this year to redesign lessons for deeper learning opportunities. I called it the “Future Shift Fellowship” for two reasons: 1) I hoped that this group would begin moving our district into the future by focusing on student-centered lesson design and 2) we would be using the 4 Shifts protocol to guide our work.

To say that I’m pleased with what we’ve done this year would be an understatement. Each of the members of the cohort has stepped far beyond their comfort zone with their work. And, if you asked their students, I’m sure you’d hear how much they appreciate the opportunities for learning.

But you may be asking why we used the 4 Shifts for this work?

I’m happy to explain…

Whenever I work with teachers, my number one thought is that whatever we do together must be easy to implement. Teachers have little or no time to spend on new strategies or techniques in the classroom once the school year begins. Their days are filled with so many tasks beyond just those of teaching students that it’s difficult to squeeze in learning, even when there are demonstrable benefits to that learning.

So, any changes must be easy to make. Also, if the changes made can provide a visible impact on student learning, whether that be in the form of student engagement, assessment, or simply just changing how students talk about learning and school, then the changes are worth the time.

These two reasons above all others are why I chose to use the 4 Shifts protocol to guide the work of our fellowship.

The 4 Shifts Protocol, designed by Scott McLeod and Julie Graber, is a comprehensive framework that aims to help educators transition from traditional teaching methods to more modern, student-centered approaches that promote deeper learning opportunities. The protocol focuses on four key shifts: deeper thinking and learning, authentic work, student agency and personalized learning, and technology infusion.

  1. Deeper Thinking and Learning: This shift encourages teachers to design activities that require students to engage in higher-order thinking skills, such as analysis, evaluation, and creation, rather than just memorization and recall. By doing so, students develop critical thinking abilities and become more adept at problem-solving and decision-making.
  2. Authentic Work: The protocol emphasizes the importance of connecting classroom activities to real-world situations and contexts. This shift encourages teachers to create tasks with a genuine purpose, audience, and impact beyond the classroom, fostering relevance and meaningful student learning experiences.
  3. Student Agency and Personalized Learning: This shift focuses on providing opportunities for students to take ownership of their learning and make choices about what and how they learn. Teachers are encouraged to create learning environments that support individual learning preferences and needs, allowing students to progress at their own pace and follow their interests.
  4. Technology Infusion: The protocol recognizes the power of technology in enhancing learning experiences and facilitating the other three shifts. Teachers are encouraged to integrate technology tools and resources into their instruction, allowing students to access information, collaborate with peers, and demonstrate their learning in innovative ways.

By implementing the 4 Shifts Protocol, teachers can create more engaging and meaningful learning experiences for their students, fostering a deeper understanding and long-lasting knowledge. This approach prepares students for success in the modern world and cultivates a love for learning and a growth mindset.

Does the 4 Shifts protocol answer all the questions? Of course not. In fact, sometimes you have more questions than you started with after working through the protocol. This is why it is key to only focus on one of the shifts at a time when redesigning your lessons.

You could change a lesson to the super ultimate checks all-the-boxes learning experience in one go, but you and your students would likely be so exhausted and confused from all the changes that any benefit would be lost.

But, the protocol gives you the structure to make small changes to your lessons, whether you are a classroom teacher or an instructional coach working with teachers to make the changes.

I can’t think of a better tool to use to begin moving toward more student-centered learning.



Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Rethinking Student Work Amid AI Advances

Seth Godin has a point (as usual):

When AI is smart enough to write an essay, then what happens?

GPT3 is back in the news, because, as expected, it’s getting better and better. Using a simple chat interface, you can easily ask it a wide range of questions (write a 1,000 word essay about Clara Barton) that certainly feels like a diligent high school student wrote it.

Of course, this changes things, just as the camera, the typewriter and the internet changed things.

It means that creating huge amounts of mediocre material is easier than ever before. You can write a bad Seinfeld script in about six minutes.

It means that assigning rudimentary essays in school or average copywriting at work is now a waste of time.

But mostly it reminds us that attention and trust don’t scale.

If your work isn’t more useful or insightful or urgent than GPT can create in 12 seconds, don’t interrupt people with it.

Technology begins by making old work easier, but then it requires that new work be better.

Seth Godin

I think it’s always important to consider the work we ask students to do in our schools. As my teacher cohort works through implementing the 4 Shifts protocol, we ask questions around deeper learning and authentic work like:

  • Is student work deeply rooted in discipline-specific and -relevant knowledge, skills, and dispositions?
  • Do learning activities and assessments allow students to engage in deep critical thinking and analysis?
  • Do students have the opportunity to design, create, make, or otherwise add value that is unique to them?
  • Is student work authentic and reflective of that done by experts outside of school? 
  • Are students utilizing authentic, discipline-specific practices and processes?
  • Are students creating real-world products or performances for authentic audiences?

Of course, not every lesson or activity can be (nor should it be) an exercise in critical thinking and authentic, real-world application. But if our biggest concern about AI is whether or not students will use it to cheat, perhaps we have work to do on our classroom plans.

Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning (A Quick Guide to Educational Technology Integration and Digital Learning Spaces) (Solutions for Creating the Learning Spaces Students Deserve)
  • Scott McLeod (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 80 Pages – 09/21/2018 (Publication Date) – Solution Tree Press (Publisher)
Sale
Teaching for Deeper Learning: Tools to Engage Students in Meaning Making
  • McTighe, Jay (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 130 Pages – 01/22/2020 (Publication Date) – ASCD (Publisher)

Thinking about Lesson Redesign for Deeper Learning

There’s a project that I’ve wanted to begin for a few years. I thought I’d have the chance during my first year as a full-time digital learning coach, but then COVID happened, and things went off the rails.

Now, my project is running. I’m working with a group of teachers in my district; the Future Shift Fellowship. The teachers represent grade levels from K-12 and several different content areas. Our focus is on redesigning lessons to create deeper learning experiences for students.

In case you weren’t aware, this process isn’t easy. But, with the right outlook and tools to help, we’re making some headway on this journey.

The Right Tool for Framing Conversations

We’re using the wonderful 4 Shifts Protocol as our guiding light during all our conversations. If you’re not familiar with this protocol, here’s an overview:

The 4 Shifts Protocol is a questioning protocol that focuses on redesigning lessons in four areas: deeper thinking & learning, authentic work, student agency & personalization, and technology infusion.

It’s a simple tool to begin using, but it opens the door to much deeper conversations about what we ask students to do and how those tasks align with meaningful work in settings beyond the classroom.

purple and black computer keyboard
Photo by Syed Ali on Unsplash

Before this week’s meeting, I asked the fellows to read through the 4 Shifts handbook to guide our discussions. From the group, here are some of the thoughts they shared and their takeaways from the book:

The 4 Shifts Takeaways

My fellows know that one of my rallying cries about any change we undertake in our classrooms is to “embrace the suck.” It’s a military term used by trainers to get their trainees to understand that you must lean into being uncomfortable and push through difficulties. I use it to encourage teachers and students to keep going despite whatever difficulty they face with technology usage, rethinking lessons, or anything that “sucks” about change in education.

The fellows agreed that this book and protocol give them some support and encouragement to embrace the suck. And to know that things won’t always suck.

Next, they realized that lesson redesign will look different for different people because of the protocol’s flexibility. The 4 Shifts protocol respects teachers as professionals and masters of their craft. There is no dictation to use certain tools or methods in any of the shifts, merely yes/no/maybe questions to start conversations about how to change. It’s up to each teacher to determine how to best change each no to a yes.

people sitting down near table with assorted laptop computers
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

One fellow brought up how, when used properly, infusing technology into lessons can give students greater control over their learning. Good technology integration should provide students with greater agency and provide them with opportunities to present their work to an authentic audience and setting. Thinking about lesson redesign with deeper learning in mind makes this possible.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

We talked about our overachiever desire to do something spectacular with our students. If we’re going to redesign a lesson, we thought, we need to do something that’s never been done before and end the lesson or unit with some impressive technology project to show off to as many people as possible.

Of course, that’s not the point of this process. And the redesign doesn’t have to be difficult to implement or require huge changes to lead to deeper learning. Even small tweaks to your existing lessons can open new doors for students. Changing one small part of your lesson can give students a greater opportunity to think more deeply or, if appropriate, lead them down the path of becoming creators of content rather than consumers.

Ultimately, our goal in lesson redesign is moving students from inert learning to active learning, getting away from simple test prep to acquiring knowledge that sets them up for success in the world beyond our school walls.

What Happens Next

Our journey is just beginning with this fellowship. We’re starting small to spread this work across our school district. We will learn much along the way, and I’ll be sharing our work with all of you as we go. It’s an adventure for us and, we hope, for our students, too.

Change does not happen quickly, especially in education. However, our students are worth whatever changes we can make to help them be successful and live the life of their dreams, whatever that may be. The struggle is worth it because our kids are worth it.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!