How Can We Improve Assessment Practices?

Highlights from my learning at the 2019 CAFLN Conference

Something that my friend and incredible educator Rose Pillay has reminded me of more than once is that professional learning has a better chance of penetrating our consciousness and altering our practice if we actually take the time to intentionally reflect and write about that learning.

That was the motivation for this piece. My aim? To preserve some of the highlights of my learning from the 2019 Canadian Assessment for Learning Network (CAFLN) Conference. Welcome to my journal.

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Rose is pictured second from right. She’s incredible!

CAFLN exists to share and mobilize knowledge about Assessment for Learning (AfL). On May 2–3 of 2019, CAFLN held their sixth annual national conference and symposium in Delta, BC. The event was hosted by Delta School District’s Principal of Innovation and Inquiry, Brooke Moore, and the Director of Learning Services, Neil Stephenson.

I was thrilled to attend this event with a few of my middle school colleagues and administrators. What follows is a curation of Twitter highlights, photos, and short reflections from this event.

Day 1: School Tour

The conference started off with a tour of local elementary schools that have completely embraced standards-based assessment. Notice the learning targets for educators on the right side of our itineraries.

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Gray Elementary had a lot of signage that consistently articulated principles of formative assessment and learning targets. Student agency and ownership of learning is clearly a priority here.

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Over at Holly Elementary, we noticed a bulletin board display of educator learning. Each staff member answered these three questions:

  • What are you learning?
  • How’s it going?
  • Where to next?
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This is such a brilliant way to model a culture of learning and growth mindset in your school community. I was very impressed, and I hope our school does something similar in the fall.

Here are a few zoomed-in examples:

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I also liked the way another teacher added kid-friendly descriptors to each of the proficiency levels (emerging, developing, accomplishing, and extending). Notice how the students have placed post-it notes to assess their own progress.

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The Big Three Questions (below) came up often in our tour as well. These questions really capture it all, don’t they? This isn’t just a powerful metacognitive practice for students — it could also be used by us as educators as we think about further growth in our own professional practice.

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Delta Farm Roots

At the end of Day 1, we visited Delta Farm Roots. This is a highly innovative high school facility that is building most of our provincially mandated curriculum around project-based learning. These high school students are applying all the skills and content they are required to master as they run a small farm. It’s a brilliant concept and an impressive undertaking.

Here, Jacob Martens explains a little bit of what goes on in this multipurpose learning area.

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We also explored the gardens that students must hoe, cultivate, plant, and maintain. Lots of STEM skills and activities required!

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The conference hosts then invited visiting educators for a dinner behind the main building. Not pictured here is the ocean — just a short walk away.

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Delta Farm Roots is an exciting example of what is possible in pure project-based learning. Follow them on Twitter to see more of what they’re all about.

Day 2: Conference Sessions & Workshops

Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert opened the conference on day 2 with a powerful reminder of our collective WHY — what is education all about. According to these leaders from the Networks of Inquiry and Indigenous Education, these should be our three goals for every learner in K-12.

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Kaser and Halbert also reminded us of the Spiral of Inquiry, a powerful cycle that can drive continuous growth and improvement for any learning community.

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Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum

Then there were these gems from Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum, who tag-teamed on the philosophy and applications of formative assessment in the classroom.

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Although I didn’t seem to be able to tweet out much from Karen Fadum, she shared some gems as well. Here were a few things I got down in my notes in Google Docs.

First, Karen talked about the business of assessment in education as a collaborative experience. Traditional models of assessment relied exclusively on the teacher, but think of all the ways we can include students today:

  • Uncover the curriculum together
  • Learning intentions — set with students
  • Co-constructed criteria
  • Self-assessment
  • Peer assessment
  • Student-captured evidence of learning

Next, Karen unpacked these points a little further. Instead of “covering the curriculum,” why don’t we flip the paradigm and UNcover curriculum with students? We’re talking about …

  • Provocations
  • Wonder walls
  • Exploration time
  • Connections with student passions and interests
  • Digital portfolio organization

Karen shared a number of practical applications of co-constructed criteria, self-assessment, peer assessment, single-point rubrics, and student documentation of evidence of learning. She shared videos from her practice, too, and these were super helpful.

She ended with this challenge: How do you currently involve students in the process of assessment?

Christine Younghusband

After Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum, I visited a session led by Christine Younghusband — an educator I had long admired on Twitter but never met in person. She was amazing.

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YES. Building more checks for understanding and formative assessment into my Math classes is an important goal for me.

Then, this challenge from an assessment legend.

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And how about this mic drop?

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Jon Orr and Kyle Pearce

In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting two exciting educators who are doing amazing work in Mathematics. I don’t have a selfie or Tweet to share here, but this session summary gives you a feel for their message.

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Jon Orr and Kyle Pearce are two dynamic but down-to-earth practitioners who understand the challenges around engagement and the wide range of proficiencies in the modern Math classroom. They’re worth following!

I was also thrilled to learn that they have a podcast, Make Math Moments that Matterand I got a promise from them that they would come on my own Teachers on Fire podcast. I look forward to more learning with these two in the future.

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Conclusion

This was my first CAFLN conference, but I hope it won’t be my last. To put it simply, I’ve never been part of an assessment event so focused, so progressive, so high value as this one.

If you’re ready to rethink your assessment practices and learn more about your assessment FOR learning, connecting with CAFLN on Twitter would be a good place to start.

We Already Have Google Classroom. Why Do We Need Seesaw?

These two learning management systems are a match made in LMS heaven.

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Photo by airfocus

My history with Google Classroom

I’ve been using Google Classroom since 2016. I’ve taught in a total of three Google-hosted schools in the years since I first started using it, so I’ve had plenty of time to build competence and confidence with this learning management system.

For the uninitiated, Google Classroom is a platform that utilizes the storage and sharing powers of Google Drive. It’s not especially powerful and doesn’t offer the nicest user experience. But it’s clean, efficient, and does most of what teachers, students, and parents need it to do.

I remain a big fan of Google Classroom and respect the ways this (still free) platform has iterated over time to improve its management of teacher instruction and student learning.

My history with Seesaw

This is now my third year using Seesaw as an eighth grade teacher. When I was first introduced to this learning management system in 2018, I was skeptical.

What was the point of Seesaw when we already used Classroom? Wasn’t it a little redundant? Wouldn’t parents be annoyed by yet another point of contact?

It didn’t take me too long to become a Seesaw believer, however. It was slow at first, but over time — with more risk-taking and experimentation — things started to click. I began to recognize what sets Seesaw apart, and how it could play a powerful role in the learning process for my students.

Experiencing both platforms from the parent perspective

With my own middle schooler also plugged into both platforms, I was able to experience Google Classroom and Seesaw from the parent side as well. It was a great experience.

From Google Classroom, I received daily automated emails informing me of class announcements, learning activities that were due soon for submission, and any assignments that were missing or overdue.

From Seesaw, I received notifications that let me know when my son (or his teacher) had posted photos, videos, or other products of student learning. I was able to view, like, and comment on his work in real time.

From Google Classroom, I received raw information and dates about my son’s learning. From Seesaw, I could see it and hear it in practice.

It was a great tandem.

Why should teachers, schools, and districts use Google Classroom?

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Let’s start at the beginning of the learning management conversation. Why should schools use Google Classroom at all?

In my view, there are lots of reasons. Here are some of them:

  • It’s free.
  • It’s completely cloud-based, allowing students to use Chromebooks as their primary device for learning (significant cost savings for schools and districts).
  • Smooth integration with Google Drive allows teachers to create learning activities in the G Suite and share them with ease.
  • Google Drive education accounts offer unlimited storage. Also for free.
  • The Google Classroom to-do list allows students to track all of their outstanding work in one place.
  • The ‘Make a Copy for Every Student’ option allows teachers to drop into student work (on Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings, Jamboard, etc.) and offer feedback in real time. Amazing!
  • It also tracks assignment submissions in real time, so teachers can see at a glance how many assignments are outstanding and who the holdouts are.
  • Its integration with Google Meet allows a convenient and secure way to meet virtually with remote learners. Google admins can disable student creation of Google Meets, making the link in Classroom 100% secure.
  • It allows teachers to design numberless rubrics based entirely on curricular competencies and proficiencies.
  • Integration with Google Forms allows teachers to post formative assessments that score themselves (if you’re into that) and give students instant feedback.
  • Private comments on every posted assignment allow for efficient teacher-student communication, feedback, and support.
  • Tight integration with Google Calendar means that Classroom due dates appear automatically in teacher and student calendars.
  • Countless third party apps and platforms allow quick importing of class lists or quick exporting of learning activities (from the app to Google Classroom). EdPuzzle and Khan Academy are two well-known examples.
  • The ‘Guardian Updates’ feature automatically does the important work that teachers have done manually for decades: they let parents know which learning activities are due soon for submission, and which learning products are missing or overdue.
  • It allows for quick and convenient email communication with selected guardians.

Okay, so you’re sold on Google Classroom. If you’re reading this post at all, perhaps you already were. Let’s move to the question that brought you to this post in the first place.

Why should teachers, schools, and districts use Seesaw?

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If Google Classroom already does so much, why should we use Seesaw as well?

Here are some of the reasons why schools and districts should also use Seesaw (and to be clear — this is NOT a paid promotion).

  • It’s more mobile-friendly than Google Classroom. There’s a designated app for parents that optimizes beautifully on mobile devices.
  • It’s powerful but simple enough to allow students of all ages to construct, share, and reflect on their learning.
  • It makes the learning journey more visible for all parties: for students, parents, and teachers. Google Classroom never shows learning activities to parents, and it can’t track work effectively over more than one school year.
  • It’s built for engagement, interaction, authentic audiences, and shared ownership. By allowing parents to view images, videos, and content, and then like and comment on those artifacts from their child’s learning, we’re letting them into the process. We’re also letting students know that their learning matters and that it happens in community. It expands the audience from the narrow vertical experience of teacher-student and student-teacher.
  • It allows in-app screencasting, allowing students to discuss their learning while typing, writing, or manipulating a stylus (without leaving the app). Thanks to Seesaw, I can watch and listen to every one of my 25 eighth grade Math students narrate their process as they provide solutions to given problems. That’s the kind of magic that is difficult to pull off on Google Classroom without a lot more clicks and the use of third party applications.
  • It allows teachers to easily add audio instructions and feedback.
  • It redefines teaching and learning for all stakeholders. Seesaw helped me evolve in my thinking about the nature of the learning process itself. Sure, I was already using learning targets to plan my lessons before Seesaw, but my teaching practice on this platform has only clarified my vision around purpose. Every time I share a photo or video of student work or students in action, the rationale should be more than just assembling a scrapbook of moments. These artifacts should show learning in motion toward clearly defined goals. And that’s a critical paradigm.
  • Seesaw allows us to build a more complete picture of a student’s learning. A child’s Seesaw journal is a record of all of their learning artifacts and reflections, viewable in a single stream or filtered by skill or subject folder. These pieces of learning don’t need to represent perfection — instead, they should show learning happening over time.
  • Seesaw allows schools to build longitudinal records of student learning over multiple years. Although I’ve never seen this in person, schools should be able to track a single student’s learning over 13 years in a single place. To track a student’s journey of growth for even a portion of that time — say, a student’s middle school learning journey — would be incredibly powerful.
  • Seesaw makes student-led conferences more impactful and interesting. It promotes agency, ownership, and student voice by allowing students to walk parents and teachers through their learning journey in a user-friendly format — basically impossible to pull off in Google Classroom.

A shorthand way to think of the two platforms

In short, Google Classroom remains the place where students DO most of their learning. Seesaw should be the place where they SHOW it.

That isn’t a perfect way to understand the partnership between the two platforms, but I think it’s a good summary.

Won’t students and parents be overwhelmed by two learning management systems?

That’s a fair question, but it hasn’t matched my experience.

Helping students understand how to manage both platforms has been fairly simple. What it comes down to is maintaining Google Classroom as the primary place for students to track learning activities. By posting any Seesaw activities on Google Classroom, students are reminded to complete it simply by checking their Google Classroom to-do list.

I’ve been on the parent side of both platforms at the same time, and it was far from overwhelming. But for any parents concerned about a perceived blizzard of communications and notices coming from multiple directions, my advice is to make their inbox their one-stop-shop.

Google Classroom and Seesaw both utilize email, so parents should feel no need or obligation to visit either platform without an emailed notification (they actually can’t visit Google Classroom, anyway).

My recommendation: centralizing teacher communication

Schools and districts who live in Google Classroom and Seesaw will want to talk about how and where teachers communicate with parents. Yes, both apps generate a fair number of automated notifications, but that’s not what I’m thinking of here.

I’m talking about particular messages, updates, or information that teachers need to share with parents. Things like class newsletters, field trip forms, or important announcements. Which app should teachers use?

There is no right or wrong answer. Both Classroom and Seesaw can be used to communicate quickly and easily with parents. In my context, our school is asking teachers to use a school app to share and access news, reporting, and class communication. Whether your school decides to communicate through Classroom, Seesaw, or a third option, the key will be consistency.

The learning business is now the change business

This year I have the challenge of helping to introduce Seesaw to teachers who have been using Google Classroom for years. As teachers, it can be frustrating to get the sense that we’re being asked to make another fundamental change to our practice every time we turn around. I completely get that.

Educators should never be asked to give up our capacity to think critically. We’re fighters, and I’d be less concerned as an administrator if I heard strong and sensible pushback to a policy versus hearing nothing at all.

But I also want to remind educators that we are in the learning business. And because it’s the twenty-first century, we are also in the change business. Our profession was turned upside down by COVID-19, but we’ve been in flux for a long time before the pandemic.

Ten years ago I used an overhead projector in my classroom and carried monstrous stacks of papers to and from school each day. A lot has changed in the years since.

Adapting to change is going to be a part of our profession from here on out, and it’s a necessary part of our growth and improvement as learning leaders. Whether it’s Seesaw, another LMS, or another fundamental change to our assessment practices, it won’t be the last change we’ll make.

Adopting a positive mindset that embraces growth will be essential. And as we model that lifestyle of learning, our students will recognize it and benefit.

Our ultimate filter

When it comes to curriculum, instruction, and assessment of learning, our decision-making should always come down to two questions.

Is this good for kids?

Is this good for learning?

When it comes to these two platforms, I believe the answers are yes and yes.

Why I Podcast

“Podcasting is the new blogging.” — Seth Godin

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Image credit: @Farber on Unsplash

I just hit 171.

One hundred and seventy-one episodes of the Teachers on Fire podcast.

149,900 plays.

It feels great, because creative projects of this sort don’t typically enjoy a long lifespan. I’ve read that the average amateur podcaster lasts less than seven episodes before the novelty wears off, the shine is gone, and the grind of the work required to sustain it begins to wear.

Most quit.

Ditto for bloggers, vloggers, authors, artists, and an army of other dreamers and would-be content creators whose enthusiasm for publishing falls victim to the steady onslaught of life.

Consistent creation is never easy, but it’s complicated even further in education — a field that demands hours of professional work before and after the start and finish of each day during the school year.

To be an educator and also a consistent content creator can be a daunting challenge. Fortunately, my professional learning network is filled with edu-creatives who inspire me by managing this feat. Pernille Ripp and Annick Rauch are just two examples of full-time teachers who blog with astounding consistency. And oh yes — they’re both mothers of four.

So consistent content creation is possible for basically everyone, but make no mistake: it requires discipline and sacrifice. It has to be more than a passing interest — it demands concerted commitment and passion.

To make it work, to sustain it over time, you have to think of content creation as a job. A job that you absolutely love, sure, but a job.

There’s no other way.

Reviewing My Mission and Vision

So why do I do it? What propels me to invest the hours of scheduling, recording, publishing, and promotion each week?

As Justin Belt once wrote, “Our why is both the battery within and the force around us. It keeps us going while also pushing us forward.”

I’ve written a little bit on my website about why I podcast, but this question could use a little more exploration. A little more digging.

My WHY

1. Podcasts share best practices for teaching and learning.

“How do we make great learning go viral?” asks George Couros. Podcasts are one answer to that question.

With simultaneous syndication, instant delivery, and universal access, podcasts are consumed by large audiences. Though 73% of Teachers on Fire listeners hail from the United States, educators from over 100 countries tune in. That’s learning gone global.

There are other ways to share inspiring ideas, of course. But the podcasting medium does so in a uniquely compelling and intimate way that other mediums can’t match. Since the consumption of audio content doesn’t require stopping other activities, listeners will often listen to episodes in their entirety while driving, exercising, walking the dog, or doing household chores.

Though they’re each powerful in their own right, blogs and YouTube videos struggle to match the kind of sustained attention that people will gladly give podcasts.

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Image credit: @Henry_Be on Unsplash

2. Podcasts amplify the voices of inspiring educators.

There are so many amazing educators out there whose practices should be shared and whose views should be heard, but they aren’t being heard because no (metaphorical) microphone is available. They don’t have a platform to speak from.

You know the type I’m talking about: what is happening in their classroom is jaw-dropping, and they’re excited to share their ideas, but they’re just not sure where to start or how to go about it. Maybe they’ve never engaged on social media, and few outside their own building know who they are.

Podcasts bring their voices and ideas to the world.

3. Podcasting continues my own professional growth and learning.

Every interview I conduct for the Teachers on Fire podcast puts my mind back in a place of professional learning. Every conversation forces me to engage with important ideas, grapple with challenging problems, and interact with fresh perspectives from other agents of transformation in education.

The podcast continuously encourages me to consume more professional content in my discretionary time and pushes me to constantly re-evaluate my own professional practice.

The effect is like scheduling a coffee session with incredible coaches, mentors, and leaders in education once a week. It leaves little room for stagnancy in my thinking.

4. Podcasts connect me with other leading practitioners.

Thanks to Teachers on Fire, I enjoy daily interactions with incredible education leaders across North America and the world. Through Voxer, Twitter, and other platforms, I’m inspired, encouraged, supported, and cheered on in my work.

I’m finding my tribe, my people: educators who share my passions, my goals, my dreams for my learners and visions for future directions in education.

Some of these connections have led to real life meetings, and I know more will materialize in the months and years to come. The podcast functions as my press pass, enabling me to build relationships with people I would never meet or have the opportunity to engage with otherwise. And for that I am grateful.

5. Podcasts allow me to build a platform and find my voice.

I’m no star in the education world — I’m just an 8th grade homeroom teacher and rookie assistant principal who is trying and failing and growing and learning to improve my practice one humble step at a time.

Back in early 2018, my teacher account on Twitter was inactive and invisible. I had yet to grasp the incredible power of professional connectivity.

But thanks to Teachers on Fire, I’m learning to share my voice with increasing confidence and I’m building new professional relationships every single day.

Building more professional connections and adding more listeners isn’t about padding my ego. It’s about developing the opportunities to increase my learning, hear from more voices, and build life-giving relationships.

People will listen to those that they know, like, and trust. The podcast gives people a way to get to know me, like me, and trust me. It means that when I get around to other fun content creation projects like speaking at conferences or publishing a book, some people may actually listen.

6. Podcasts are highly valued by listeners.

In May of 2019 I surveyed listeners of the Teachers on Fire podcast regarding the impact my content — and the podcast medium in general — was having on their professional thinking and practice. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and passion of the responses. Here are two samples:

“Right now podcasts are my most significant and consistent source of professional growth, because I listen to podcasts while I drive to and from work (approx. two hours per day). If it weren’t for podcasts I wouldn’t be able to expose my thinking to new ideas or find kindred spirits and critical friends while I am also driving. It is a way for me to ‘stack’ my life and helps me feel more positive about being able to accelerate my pedagogy more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

I think it’s really good for my health because I feel less stressed while driving, plus I feel engaged in life in general because I am learning and feeling optimistic about my growth. I feel excited about ideas and touched by the stories of struggle. If I had to wait to read a book months might go by, but podcasts allow me to actively engage in learning every single day with next to zero extra effort. I can spend the time I might be reading exercising instead. It’s a win-win!”

You can podcast, too.

This piece reaffirms my why: my mission, purpose, and vision for Teachers on Fire. I love the podcast, the process, and the results, and I’m going to continue this journey for as long as I can.

But what about you?

“Everyone should have a podcast,” claimed Adam Welcome in episode 77. And I think he’s right. You have a voice, you have ideas, you have the means, and the barrier to entry is lower than ever.

So share your voice, and make great learning go viral.

Start podcasting today.

Create to Contribute

Growth mindset and the Power of YET have put me on a new course.

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Speaking at EdVent, a gathering of educational stories and ideas presented ignite-style.

In 2017, I began a Master’s program at Vancouver Island University. As I entered the program, I read a book that would change my life.

In Mindset, Carol Dweck writes: “When do people with the fixed mindset thrive? When things are safely within their grasp. If things get too challenging — when they’re not feeling smart or talented — they lose interest.”

I realized that there were steps I was not taking and moves I was not making — because they weren’t safe. They were risky.

But growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone. After all, my fixed mindset was the reason it took me 16 years to begin working on my Master’s degree!

The Power of YET

As I read about the Growth Mindset I also learned about The Power of YET. You know about the power of YET, don’t you? In our classrooms and for our learners, it sounds like this:

  • I don’t understand this Math concept … yet.
  • I’m not a talented artist … yet.
  • I’m not a tech person … yet.

The Growth Mindset says that anyone can learn anything if they will simply apply effort over time. As educators, it reminds us that we never know the full potential of our learners.

I’m Not a Podcaster … YET

As I continued to read great books and engage in rich education conversations, the Power of YET started to whisper in my ear in another way.

I’m not a podcaster … YET.

You see, as I made the 30-minute commute between Surrey and Burnaby each day, I wasn’t listening to sports talk or pop radio. I listened to podcasts — because I had an insatiable appetite for learning.

I started to dream. Could I start a podcast that profiled great educators? Could I share their amazing ideas and practices with teachers around the world?

Carol Dweck says that we can look back at what could have been, or we can look back and say I gave my all for the things I valued. And so I jumped on the track of content creation with both feet, knowing that as terrible as I was at the beginning, I would continue to grow and improve my craft over time.

Two and a half years, 166 episodes, and over 130,000 downloads later, I can safely say that the Teachers on Fire podcast is impacting the education conversation.

Creation in the Classroom

But how can this passion for creation shape our classrooms and practice?

For one thing, creative activities in the classroom challenge us to move AWAY from cultures of passive compliance.

David Guerin says the ones who are doing the talking are doing the learning. And according to Jennifer Gonzales, our learners need to be DOING something.

In the classroom context, this looks like …

  1. Agency + Ownership
  2. Authentic Audiences
  3. Design Thinking & the Design Process
  4. Genius Hour + IBL + PBL
  5. Voice + Choice
  6. A culture of 5 Cs

So how does creation show up in my 8th grade classroom?

  • Through creative representations of learning on Seesaw.
  • Through collaborative design projects on CanvaGoogle Drawings and Slides.
  • Through authentic product development, marketing, and sales.
  • Through movie making on WeVideo and screencasts on Screencastify.
  • And of course, through podcasting, including the Gr8 Expectations podcast. One student is even starting his own podcast!

Educators Have a Mandate to Create

My #OneWord for 2019 was CREATE. Create new content, new learning, new relationships.

But why should other educators take part in content creation? Because content creation …

  1. Allows us to reflect more deeply on our own professional practice,
  2. Allows us to share our learning with others
  3. Allows you to build relationships with other great educators — like Rose and Gabriel Pillay (the organizers of EdVent).

The Teachers on Fire podcast is my weekly Pro D session. It’s my scheduled appointment with great educators around the world. I learn something in every conversation, and every single guest shapes my thinking and inspires my practice further.

So let me ask you: How will you contribute to the education conversation?

Don’t let your fears stand in your way. Remember, growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone.

We were created to create. So embrace the growth mindset, share your learning, and change the world.

That’s what’s keeping me ON FIRE in my practice.

We Write for Life

The more reflective you are, the more effective you are. — Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

Last year I read Sparks in the DarkLessons, Ideas, and Strategies to Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in All of Us by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney.

Wow. What a powerful and inspiring book.

If you’re passionate about literacy, about promoting the place and pleasure of effective reading and writing in your classroom, I strongly recommend this title.

I said “in your classroom,” but one of the things that comes across so powerfully in Sparks in the Dark is the fact that literacy must be a lifestyle.

To be genuine, to be vibrant, to be contagious — reading and writing must spill out of our personal lives.

And this goes for all teachers — not just those who teach English Language Arts. As educators, as thinkers, as lead learners, we must model a life of constant reading and writing.

Literacy is Breathing

If we say that communication, creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking are the core competencies at the foundation of today’s education, we must practice what we preach.

In an age of digital amusement and easy-everywhere distraction, we must show our learners what it looks like to mentally breathe. To stop, be still, and practice the acts of mental inhalation (reading) and exhalation (writing).

One of the most important reasons that we write is to know ourselves. As Don Murray says, “You write to discover what you want to say.

It sometimes feels like the act and art of self-reflection is a vanishing habit. But we must show our learners that these practices are essential aspects of living a healthy and productive life.

When Our Reading Lives Are Shallow, So is Our Teaching

Speaking especially to educators, Crowder and Nesloney write “We prioritize what we value, and when we do not value reading or learning, it shows. Our instruction is a mixture of what we have read, and when our reading lives are shallow, so is our teaching. It isn’t an insult; it’s the truth.”

We cannot be effective educators if we are not regularly reading and reflectively writing.

Becoming a Writer

To those who feel defeated by identity before they even start (“I’m not a writer”), James Clear describes his own evolution as a writer in his recent book, Atomic Habits.

You may not be a reader or writer today. But you can and will become one — one paragraph, one page, one article at a time.

So pick up a book. Grab a pen or sit down at the keyboard. Score some small wins, and begin the gradual process of redefining yourself.

Start breathing.

Because the more reflective you are, the more effective you are.

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Image Credit: Green Chameleon on Unsplash