You're in a rut and obsolete

One thing I love about Google Classroom is when I reuse assignments I can only reuse one at a time. It immediately opens to edit. Because when I do something a 2nd, 3rd…40th time I should update it for the kids who are in front of my face. Culture changes. Tech changes. What makes something relevant changes. Your lesson doesn’t incorporate “fidget cubes” or any current events; needs updating.

Math teacher Diana Herrington shares the story that her calculus student had beautiful homework showing all the steps but couldn’t do it on the test. “Mrs Herrington, have you heard of Wolfram Alpha? It shows you all the steps.” Rather than try to fight technology that these students WILL have access to 24/7 in their everyday lives, Diana realized that means she needed to change her assignments and ask questions that were not replaced by technology.

A Video and a Digital Quiz

I overheard a student the other day say “My teacher could be replaced by a YouTube video.” If you’re still teaching like we did 20+ years ago you may well be able to be replaced by a video and a digital quiz. It is an accepted norm that we learn from the Internet these days. Kids are constantly learning things outside of school. I learned how to code… no class, no teacher. Looked it up online.

I Totally Could Have Been Replaced

When I first started teaching math I would start class by going over the homework. I changed to assigning the same math problems digitally so students would get immediate feedback per question.

I would then write a problem on the board that no one cared about. I would list out the procedural steps to solve problems like this. I would wait for kids to copy it down. I switched to having students working in groups and accessing information they could easily copy without me. Or better yet, instead provide questions for students to look up.

What lesson do you teach that is NOT on YouTube?

We would do some guided practice of DOK 1 skills. I would wait for kids to work out a similar problem. Totally not the best use of my time and talent. I’m talking AT kids rather than with them.

And then the last few minutes of class students would start on the independent practice. I’d walk around like a creepster and lean over them “Can I help you?” But of course there was not even close to enough time for me to get to every student. Students spent so much time listening to me talk we ran out of time for sufficient enough time for students to do independent practice. So I sent them home to work on it, too bad if they had questions; they could wait until tomorrow.

I then got to grade the students work and return it to them way after they ceased caring about it, making my feedback pretty close to zero. I switched to the computer grading that stuff so that I didn’t have to grade anymore and the students got feedback when they still cared about it.

Online Courses

TODAY there exists many self paced “personalized learning” online courses that do exactly what I used to do. No qualified math teacher. Just videos, step by step instructions and digital assessment. No question, my old school style of teaching is OBSOLETE.

If education were any other industry we would be forced to keep updated or the competition would swallow us up. The music industry tried like crazy to squash Napster and sue little kids for downloading music in a pathetic attempt to cling onto their old school ways of selling entire albums of music. They lost. Technology totally disrupted and revolutionized the music industry. Google and YouTube and online education tools such as Google Classroom have totally disrupted how people learn. Information is free. I do not need a teacher to give me information. I can look that up.

Not Obsolete

Teachers are far from obsolete. Look at the research, study after study confirms the value of a high quality teacher. (There are also studies about the damage of ineffective teachers.) The value of the high quality teacher is not in their ability to throw facts at kids or mark things right or wrong on a quiz. It is how they design the learning environment, how they interact with kids, provide specific, high quality and timely feedback, and of course the biggie is the relationships they build with kids.

Technology does not make me obsolete, technology allows me to be a better teacher.

I get to spend LESS time doing things computers can do and instead use my time differently on things that research has proven makes learning better. I INTERACT more with students. I ask them questions and help them to develop their thinking. I sit next to a kid for an extended period of time. I design engaging lessons that students care about that center around the student rather than the focus having to be on me.

Get Real

Librarians make a practice of going through their books and getting rid of books that are damaged, obsolete or just need to go to make room for new books. Every single teacher should make a practice of doing “this” with our curriculum, activities, and lessons. Get real, what is obsolete, near obsolete or will be obsolete in the STUDENT’S FUTURE? The 21st century has brought in a ton of new life skills that didn’t exist 40 years ago (I’m 40). Digital citizenship? Didn’t exist. Social media marketing? Didn’t exist. Creating digital visuals that clearly communicate ideas…. well, visual communication has always existed but now more than ever this is something every single person needs to be able to do. Stop squinting that maybe in some unlikely circumstance a kid might want to read original source documents from hundreds of years ago in cursive, this let’s spend weeks teaching cursive. We need to stop clinging to outdated skills and always be thinking how can we prepare kids for their future. Of course it has value, all learning has value but GET REAL how much value does this skill have for the student’s future? Is it more important than other skills that newly exist or will exist?

Lesson Planning is Never Easy

Page 30 1-29 odd is not a lesson plan, it’s lazy. (I did this a ton by the way.)  Designing for student engagement, planning for collaboration, creating COMPLEX questions for students to answer, planning on how students will receive timely and meaningful feedback (it does not have to be from you by the way!), incorporating current events, trends and things kids care about, finding new ways for students to creatively demonstrate the learning objective, planning on how we will interact with the students, meaningfully incorporate technology so that it improves learning not just make it paperless, addressing the unique learning needs of each student in the room…. This is hard. This is our job.

Professional development should change your lesson plans.

I could teach 50 years and not be a total expert on everything that pertains to teaching. Teaching is HARD. I’m always learning new things about how to teach. This professional learning (formal or informal) should necessitate that my lesson plans I did last year can be updated and improved.

Research journals did not discover everything about teaching 50 years ago. Constantly new research is coming out. For this reason alone, our teaching should not be the same as 50 years ago. What new thing are you learning that is influencing your lesson planning and how you interact with students?