I just finished watching Eddie Obeng's TED Talk "Smart Failure for a Fast-Changing World". In it, Obeng describes our learning as being too slow for the world in which we currently live. I have said this before, making the point that we are teaching our students for jobs that haven't even been invented yet.
Obeng's diagram shows how our learning is behind where it should be. They (as I do not know this person's preferred pronouns) explain that we have known constants, or "answers", that we've held on to for decades (past). In our minds, the rules haven't changed. So our learning has stayed stagnent as the world around us has drastically changed, and has changed exremely quickly (now). Obeng jokingly states that it's because of the audience's use of technology. And honestly, I have to agree.
In one school I worked in, it was a magnet school for technology. Many of the teachers who worked there, were there prior to the magnet. They did not have a choice in becoming a magnet school. Adopting a theme of technology, for many, was out of their comfort zone. These were seasoned teachers. Some of whom had taught there for twenty years or more and never taught anywhere else. Some would say they "were stuck in their ways." Several were not willing to learn about the technology at the school. They did not go to trainings--whether during school hours or after school/weekends, or even trainings during the summer. And although I would consider some of them excellent teachers, I couldn't help but notice what a disservice this was to the students living in a modern society. After watching Obeng's video, I have to say that I would consider these teachers were excellent teachers...twenty five years+ ago.
Obeng says that there is a magical moment when all the rules changed. They call it, "midnight". In the diagram, the moment is captured as a dot where the line of the world, meets with the line of learning. Then a line is drawn with a clock added, to emphasize the exact moment.
The rules we knew about teaching and learning were flipped. I see this right now in the classes I am currently taking for my master's degree. Video games used solely for entertainment, is a thing of the past. There are many excellent video-game style educational programs. Prodigy, ST Math, iRead, and Fast Math are all examples I have seen and/or personally used with students.
Gamifying your classroom is a way to keep kids engaged without using video games, but using the elements of a video game. For example, students earn points instead of grades. They can earn XP points to "level up", or spend in the classroom store. You can create a live document on your website to allow students to see real-time stats and ranked standings. Students can be put into teams and subteams for even more game play. Gamifying your classroom to keep up with modern technology is also a fun way to add a new level of classroom management to your classroom.
"How many more minutes until recess?"
When I first started teaching (15 years ago), I must've gotten that question fifty times in the first day alone when I taught first grade all day. It's a simple, yet complex question. Almost a trick question, really. If I say the time, they won't understand the meaning of that. If I say "soon", they'll still not understand and think it is happening right now. And if I say, "School started ten minutes ago, it's not for a long time," well....they'll cry.
How do I instill a sense of time to someone who says, "Tomorrow, I went to the park. It was so fun!"? Back then, first graders needed to know how to tell time by the hour and half hour. I would teach, they took a test, end of story. But did they actually learn it? Do they understand how an hour is different from a minute, is different from a second, is different from a day? Surprisingly, some did. Of course, I differentiated the instruction to match all needs, but was it enough?
Personalized learning is different from differentiation. Personalized learning shows its appearance in many different ways. It might be each student using a computer program to teach math ideas, but at each students' own pace, while the algorythm is constantly restructuring the student's needs based on correct answers given. Dreambox Learning, is an example of this type of software. And Personlized learning might even look like each student is doing something completely different while the teacher walks around to support each student on their learning journey. It should also allow students to own their learning at their own pace with their own interests, strenghts, and talents taken into consideration.
And all this takes time.
Currently, as we are all on staycations, I am using Zoom and Seesaw to run my lessons for my first grade readers. I have found that Seesaw is an excellent way to differentiate student learning for these students. I am able to upload specific skills for each student based on their reading level. I am able to listen to their reading while giving specific feedback. But giving them the autonomy via Zoom isn't time well spent at the moment. I have 20 minutes with them. That's it. Only a few magical moments to teach phonics and comprehension before sending them off on the rest of their day, and hoping the lesson sticks as they work on their Seesaw lessons.
I will be teaching fifth grade next year. I am hoping to create lessons that will support student autonomy, critical thinking, and leadership. Through Google Classroom, research websites, and visual and performing arts, students will be able to create their own pathways to learn and present.
And again, it all takes time.
Sarah Magallano teaches 5th grade. She also coaches teachers on integrating art & engineering into their lesson plans.