The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, Episode 149 Transcript
Jennifer Gonzalez, host
It’s a pretty safe bet that most teachers will be doing some form of online teaching in the coming year. Maybe you’ll do it full-time, maybe it will be some kind of hybrid model, but one thing is for sure: This time around you won’t be dropped into it without warning.
So with this chance to take a breath and do more thoughtful, intentional planning, the next question is What do we do differently? What shifts do we need to make in our face-to-face teaching practices to make the most of online learning?
To find out, I sought the help of Melanie Kitchen, a Coordinator of Instructional Technology and Staff Development serving 19 school districts in Western New York state. Melanie has years of experience working with teachers on developing blended learning and has now shifted to helping teachers develop best practices for remote learning.
I asked Melanie to share some ways online teaching should be different from face-to-face teaching. She came up with nine: three that are specific to community building and communication, and six that focus on instructional design. Along with these differences, she also shared a few things that should stay exactly the same.
Before we get started, I want to thank PowerSchool for sponsoring this episode. PowerSchool knows that teachers go above and beyond for students. But teachers need help too, especially as they’re asked to do more every day. That’s why PowerSchool, now with Schoology, combines SIS, LMS and assessment technology, empowering teachers with more time for what really matters. Visit powerschool.com/timeforteachers to find out how teachers are using technology to unlock student success.
Support also comes from ISTE U. Sharpen your skills and learn to accelerate innovation in your school or learning community when you take a course from ISTE U. These flexible online courses put pedagogy first, and they’re built to help educators, librarians, tech coaches and leaders develop digital competencies and advance their careers by exploring critical topics in education like project-based learning, game-based learning, the learning sciences, and ensuring equity and inclusion in online learning. Choose the topic and time commitment that fit your needs. Learn more at iste.org/cult.
Now, here’s my interview with Melanie Kitchen.
GONZALEZ: I would like to welcome Melanie Kitchen to the podcast. Melanie, thank you so much for joining me.
KITCHEN: Thank you so much for having me.
GONZALEZ: I contacted you a couple of weeks ago because a friend of mine, Angela Stockman, recommended you to me. She had been doing a lot of talking about how important it was for teachers to understand the difference between how one teaches online and how one teaches face-to-face, and that there were some really specific things that if teachers understood, then we would be doing a better job. Especially as we are approaching this new school year where a lot of teachers are going to be going back and forth between online learning and face-to-face learning. So I said, who would be a good person to talk to about this? Without hesitating she said, Melanie Kitchen.
KITCHEN: She’s so [inaudible]
GONZALEZ: So that’s what we’re going to talk about today, but before we do, just tell me a little bit about the role that you play right now in education and how that relates to online learning.
KITCHEN: Sure. I am a coordinator for instructional technology and staff development. We service districts and teachers in the Western New York area, so we provide support around technology integration, best practices and any other support teachers may need.
GONZALEZ: So what we did was, I sort of asked you to come up with a list of things, ways that online teaching should be different from face-to-face teaching and what you ended up coming up with were nine things. And the first three are specifically about community building and communication, and then the last six related specifically to instructional design.
GONZALEZ: So why don’t we just go ahead and get started, and we’ll start talking about some of the ways, and then you’ve actually got another little list at the end about things that should be the same, regardless of which space you’re teaching in. Let’s start with this community building and communication. What’s the first thing that should be a real difference when a person is teaching online?
KITCHEN: The first few days and even weeks of school really need to be devoted to community building and attending to students’ social-emotional needs and really thinking about how we are communicating with students and parents. So we know that when we build the social-emotional skills of students that that will increase academics and it also helps with student behavior. We’ve been through some trauma, so trauma is any change in what was planned or expected, and everything has changed. Students are dealing with all different kinds of things at home, all different variations, schedules, family life, confusion. So we really need to be addressing that and talking with the kids about those issues. I think most of us do start the year with building relationships with students. It’s just that now is even more important. It’s very vital just to know what’s going on with the kids and where they are.
GONZALEZ: So how would you recommend, is there a specific approach that you would recommend? You’re right. I think that a lot of teachers do start the year with some type of community building and getting to know their students. Is there an approach that you would recommend for online?
KITCHEN: Yes. I would recommend going to the CASEL competencies and taking a look at their resources that they have there. They have a ton of lessons and resources to read and educate yourself and be able to put right into practice. Those things are things like self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, decision-making, social awareness. They are also very much related to the habits of mind. I actually have worked with a teacher who submitted to a journal a crosswalk between these two. So habits of mind would include things like persisting, managing impulsivity, thinking flexibly. A lot of skills overlap, it’s just that some teachers, possibly secondary teachers, might prefer the habits of mind, but they’re all based around the same types of concepts.
GONZALEZ: What about the tools that students are going to be needing in terms of remote learning?
KITCHEN: To best prepare our students, ourselves, our parents and guardians, we should be explicitly teaching the tools that they may need throughout the year. Regardless of how we begin, we want to start off with explicitly teaching the tools in conjunction with these competencies that we want them to have. What I mean by that is if you are explicitly teaching persistence, so we’re going to talk about what persistence means, and maybe I’m going to give you a challenge that’s not content-related, but something that you might have to kind of grapple with. But when I assign that, if I’m using Google Classroom, then I’m going to assign that through Google Classroom and teach you how you’re going to open an assignment, how you’re going to submit it, how you’ll be receiving feedback. So you are teaching these skills all at once, and it’s not something separate or extra. It’s just all done together.
GONZALEZ: Okay, so in these first few weeks of school, we’re focusing on social-emotional skills, community building. Now one of the things that I’ve talked about on my own side is doing some sort of icebreaker to help the kids get to know each other. How do you do this in an online space? How do you build community?
KITCHEN: That’s a great question, and one that most teachers are asking, because they just have not been faced with that before. I like to recommend using virtual meetings. If you are solely online, the virtual meeting time is a great way to connect with students. You can do this by whole group, and you can do those icebreakers. There’s different strategies, like roses and thorns, fist of five. Those all are just check-ins with students, seeing how they’re doing, kind of going around. In a whole group setting, they can all have an opportunity to interact with each other, and then as we move forward with content or talking more about safety and inclusion, we might go into smaller groups and do some team building within those settings.
GONZALEZ: Okay, and so the teacher and the students would all need to, part of the learning would be, learning of the tools would be understanding how to use the breakout type rooms and that sort of thing on platforms like Zoom?
KITCHEN: Right, right. Exactly. So there’s no longer any kind of separation between technology integration, digital tools and the content, the understanding, the relationship-building that we do with the kids. It’s all interwoven now that we are online or partially online.
GONZALEZ: Okay, okay. The second way that online teaching should be different from face-to-face has to do with communication with parents. Tell us about that.
KITCHEN: Yes. Yeah. So it really needs to be parent-focused and thinking about how parents are receiving the information. Communication should be multimodal. What I mean by that is any type of communication can be offered through print or text media as well as audio or video. It is the same information, just provided in multiple ways. However, it’s important to keep in mind that using a consistent platform is really important, the way in which you disseminate this information. I think that a lot of us have learned that whether you’re a parent or a teacher or you are hearing what’s happening is that there’s been some confusion and frustration with teachers using different types of tools. So if you are a secondary student and you have one teacher going through Google Classroom and one teacher using Remind and one teacher emailing, it gets really frustrating to know where and when you’ll be receiving this information.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. So ideally what we want is all teachers in the same school to be using the same platform if that is possible?
KITCHEN: Right, right. And I started off with this should be parent-focused. That just helps the parents support the students, and also know, because we really need the parents to be our partners in this learning community.
GONZALEZ: Right, right. The multimodal, in terms of maybe offering audio and print, for example, is this more just an accessibility concern?
KITCHEN: It’s accessibility, but I think it’s also just preference. I know my personal preference, I am very much a visual learner. So when something as simple as directions for a board game that my family is playing, I have to read the directions. I can’t have the directions read to me.
KITCHEN: It just is, makes it accessible for everyone and more personal.
GONZALEZ: Okay. Okay, great. What are some other tips in terms of communicating with parents?
KITCHEN: We really need to be preparing and teaching our parents the technology that we want the students to be using as well. Again, they are going to be our learning partners, so we need to be able to offer them support in that. They need to know how to use the technology, but also who do they contact if they are having problems or issues or questions? I would also say that there needs to be clear expectations and boundaries as well from teachers to the parents. So everyone knows exactly how to get in touch, when to get in touch, where to get in touch. I think many educators felt like at the start of remote learning, of emergency remote learning, they were kind of on-call 24 hours a day, receiving emails at 11 o’clock at night and feeling a responsibility to answer them, because we’re in crisis mode. But that’s a great way to get burned out.
KITCHEN: And I think we all realized boundaries are important.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. That seems like it would also be a good bit of information to have in a place that people see frequently. So if you, for example, are giving out your weekly updates on what the assignments are to have there be like a footer or a header that says, remember, my office hours are blah, blah, blah. As opposed to just giving it in one email and asking people to dig around for it, or having it posted somewhere so that people can constantly be checking. It’s almost like if I go to a website for a car wash or something, they’re going to have their hours listed at the bottom where I can always look them up.
KITCHEN: Absolutely. So we recommend a learning hub. I’ve already mentioned Google Classroom. If you use Schoology or Microsoft Teams or some other sort of learning management system. That’s kind of the home base where everyone can receive the information. You could post a syllabus with that information. But all of the expectations should be evident and posted for both the parents and the student.
GONZALEZ: Great, great. You have it listed here too. You mentioned this before about training parents with the technology also. One thing I just sort of thought about too is that most teachers I think at this point have learned how to screencast. So sometimes creating screencast videos, even for parents in terms of, this is how you use our learning hub, this is where you’ll find my office hours, this is where you’re going to find your child’s name. Just a simple screencast tour of the platform would be a really good starting, I think, introduction to things.
KITCHEN: Absolutely. And I think if we really think about how we prefer to receive information, and if we would rather read a five-paragraph email or a five-minute screencast, I think most of us would go for the video option. So really just being empathetic and considerate of how we prefer information is likely to also support the parents.
GONZALEZ: All right. So what’s the third way that online learning should look different in terms of this community-building?
KITCHEN: So the community, our learning community, includes students, building that community within our classes. It includes parents, how do we build the relationships with the parents and make sure our communication is clear. But also community is really important for teachers as well. Teachers need to connect with each other now more than ever. Continuing staff meetings, I have heard of some people not having staff meetings at all in the spring. I think that’s really difficult for teachers. They need to hear from each other. They need to connect with each other and be seen, be heard. I run several different types of PLCs or consortiums and some of the teachers who joined said, you know, I really don’t have time, an hour, to take out of my day today. This feels like a luxury, but I felt like it was something I really needed. And in the first month or so, I had people, I had teachers crying during those meetings, and they really just needed that support.
GONZALEZ: I think when there’s so much to get done that’s measurable, it’s tempting to cut out the more emotional types of things or the more social types of things, especially now when we’re so separated from each other. It does definitely seem like a worthwhile investment of time that’s going to make everybody feel grounded and supported and heard and validated in all of their different concerns, yeah.
KITCHEN: Absolutely. I don’t know of any research behind it, but I’d be willing to bet there’s something out there. We know that the research supports students in this way, so I would imagine it is the same for adults. You will be more productive, you will be more clear, you will get your goals faster if you have that emotional health and that emotional well-being.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. One of the things I want to mention too before we move on is that I’m going to be putting together a blog post that summarizes our conversation today, and you have provided me with a lot of links to different types of resources that can support a lot of what you’re saying. You and I are working our way right now through a shared Google Doc, and I’m seeing a lot of these things that I just wanted to let everybody listening know that they should definitely go look at the post, because we’re linking out to some great resources that can help.
KITCHEN: Yes, definitely. That was the first three ways to make online teaching different: Community-building, really focus on getting the parent communication down, and also community-building among the teachers. So with the class itself, among the students, and then also between the teachers and making sure that the teachers are supported. So let’s move on now to the second half of this, which is the instructional design component. What would be the first thing that you want teachers to know about how online teaching should look different?
KITCHEN: Well I would say that how teachers plan and with whom they plan will change dramatically.
KITCHEN: This virtual environment has provided us the opportunity to break down those walls, to break down those silos. Even within our schedules and our time constraints that we may have had before, all of that will come down, and we really have to think outside. We say outside the box, outside the walls, outside those silos. Think about planning differently. We may have more opportunity to partner with people that we didn’t have the time or the space to be able to do that before. As we’re all trying to get to know these students better, we need to be working together to do that. So an equal partnership with your special education teachers in the planning of the lessons. Including your related services personnel. Working with special areas in different content areas, trying to communicate across the board what it is that you’re all trying, we’re all trying to get to the same goal. We want to provide an effective education for the students and attend to their well-being. So we can work together in order to do that.
GONZALEZ: Okay. And in terms of how to actually make that collaboration happen, definitely our schedules are going to look different and everyone is home or sometimes we’ll be home. Have you seen any sort of arrangements or tools or pathways for making that collaboration work?
KITCHEN: I work with a team of about 40-ish people who either do the technology integration or content or social-emotional learning. We have been trying to work through this now. How are we starting off the beginning of the school year to do all of these things that we just talked about, but also to support teachers in a pathway? How do we help them schedule this time? Elementary might be a little bit easier just because you might have just one class as an elementary teacher. If I’m a second grade teacher, I have 25 kids or whatever it may be. If you’re secondary, you have a lot of different classes, a lot of kids. We were thinking about how we might split up some of these skills that we talked about earlier for social-emotional learning and digital technology. So you may be talking within your department. If I’m a math teacher, I talk to my math department in the high school, but also if I’m a ninth-grade math teacher, I may be needing to talk to my grade level teachers, so we can talk about how each one of us will address each of these skills in order to not have students repeating information or the same feelings, getting that feelings fatigue throughout the day. If someone’s always asking me to share my rose and my thorn ideas in every class, I’m going to get pretty tired of it by the end of the day.
GONZALEZ: Okay. So we really need to do some very intentional planning and collaboration with each other so that nobody’s getting burned out, and we’re not replicating each other’s efforts and we’re sort of dividing up the labor in a way that makes sense.
GONZALEZ: Okay. So that was No. 4. What is No. 5?
KITCHEN: The biggest question to me with instructional practice and design is what is the best use of face-to-face time? That’s something we really need to keep in mind when we are planning our instruction. I think a lot of people started to get a little bit tired of hearing the words synchronous and asynchronous, but those are the terms that we still continue to need to be thinking about. What is the best use of that time, face-to-face, and that might be in person if we are able to be in the brick and mortar building. But that face-to-face time might also be synchronous learning. It might be those virtual meetings that we’re hosting. How can you best use that time with the students?
GONZALEZ: Well, and that’s it, because being able to make it happen at all is such a rare opportunity. I’m hearing about schools that are requiring synchronous lessons, which is a concern for me, because I know that if you’re requiring kids at time to be sitting at a computer at a specific time, attending a lesson, the chances of that happening are slim, depending on what the environment is at home, who else needs the computer, who else is there, what the internet access happens to be at that moment. There’s so many factors that are going to make that hard to achieve. If it is achievable at all, you’re saying we need to be choosing activities that are really worth all of the effort that it’s going to take to actually get people face-to-face in some way.
KITCHEN: Absolutely. What I think you are referencing is really instruction equity. We want to make sure that all of our students are receiving the same quality instruction no matter what their situation is at home, no matter what device they may or may not have, and what kind of internet access they may or may not have. If we are solely providing the information that we want the students to know through synchronous meetings, it is not an equitable practice, because we know of everything that you just said. We are likely to not get 100 percent attendance, through no fault of their own. In delivery of information, I prefer the asynchronous models of recording a video, that video being 10 minutes or less, and we’ve heard a lot about packets. Packets aren’t necessarily bad, but we do need to consider non-digital instruction as well. The asynchronous could be more of the facts and definitions. Maybe typically what we would have done in a lecture-style previously. These are skills that are more like remembering and understanding, and then as you move forward with the learning, you can start to go into a more synchronous model where you are having the students apply that information and interact and engage with that. That might look like small groups, which would be a lot more manageable to do those kinds of activities in a smaller group rather than trying to have 25 or 30 kids attending at once and interacting at once.
GONZALEZ: Okay. So we could sort of assign kids to meet in a group whenever they can do it. We’re trying to line up the schedules of maybe three or four kids as opposed to everybody?
KITCHEN: Exactly. Then if students are still not able to make it to those small group meetings, that’s the purpose of office hours. We can meet with them individually. It’s really, we’re looking at a lot more of a personalized education.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. So I want to see if I’m understanding this. If I’m a teacher and I’ve got sort of content to just deliver in some way, that would be best done through video, that way students can consume that whenever they have a chance. But then maybe we talk to the students. As part of their assignment would be to meet with a small group at a time that they can all do this, and then produce some sort of an end product for that, whether it’s just a reflection that they write about their meeting or something like that?
KITCHEN: Right, yes. Exactly.
GONZALEZ: Okay, okay.
KITCHEN: So I really like the idea of a campfire group, which is a small group that is consistent in its members. You really build up that sense of safety and comfort with each other. When you do that, you are more prepared to be able to be vulnerable in sharing ideas and sharing thoughts. So it allows students to take some of the risks with this small group that they know and they trust. When we’re asking students to do a rigorous task, something where it’s really going to take a lot of cognitive power, they are going to feel okay with doing this in front of students that they’re comfortable with.
GONZALEZ: Are we talking about maybe four? Would that be about the size?
KITCHEN: Yeah, yeah.
KITCHEN: That’s what I would usually go with, something like four or five.
KITCHEN: An even number is nice if you need to then pair them up.
GONZALEZ: Right. Would these be homogenous groups, heterogeneous groups, in terms of abilities? Would you have a recommendation for that?
KITCHEN: Yeah. Because of the cognitive load I would say homogenous groups would be best, and then as you switch the small groups around or you have a whole group, they’re able to interact with the other students as well.
GONZALEZ: Okay. Okay, great. Any other guidelines for these small groups, or other thoughts on small groups?
KITCHEN: I think that we just need to keep in mind that engagement is really important. That’s one of the things that we’ll speak to later that is the same. If we want students showing up, if we want them to know that this is worth their time, it really needs to be something active and engaging for them. Any time they can work with the material, categorize it, organize it, share further thoughts on it, discussion, all of those are great things to do within a small group. One other small group possibility is using the jigsaw method. What I like about this is it has a high effect size, meaning that there’s a lot of research to support that it works, and it works well. This in a virtual environment could look like a group of students is the expert group in a piece of information. That could be your small campfire group. Those students then, once they’re comfortable with the piece of information that they are responsible for can then break out into other groups where they each share the responsibility of the information. That’s one way that you can have the students feeling comfortable and working with information, but then also giving them an opportunity for some empowerment, to share that information with other students in the small group setting.
GONZALEZ: I’m just trying to think like someone listening right now, and my first thought is how on earth do I manage this? If I’ve got some kids who may not be as good as others at teaching this information, how on earth do I manage for quality control across groups?
KITCHEN: Well, you know, I think this is going to be done in breakout rooms and breakout settings so that the teacher would be able to monitor and support the students in that learning. This is where we really need to be good with the digital technology, because we’re looking at them to be able to be responsible for that information so they need to show us that. We need to have some documentation that we’re all on the same page here. If you’re using something like Padlet, where the students are able to put the main points, put the information so you can view it, you can visit their breakout group and just check for understanding and then break out into the other groups.
GONZALEZ: Okay. So it sounds like if I was thinking about doing jigsaw, this is not something that I want to just do haphazardly and just say, hey, let’s just give it a try. I think it would need to be pretty well planned out and thought through and with content that really lends itself to that kind of a format.
KITCHEN: Right. And the reason why this is really worth your time, as I said before, it is highly supported by research. So it’s something that you can use over and over again.
KITCHEN: So if you get kids into the rituals and routines of what a jigsaw looks like, the tools that they would need, you’re able to continue to use that, so that time is not lost.
GONZALEZ: Okay. So it may be something that would be good to use early in the year with really simple content just to teach them the structure?
GONZALEZ: And then eventually increase the rigor of the content as they get used to how this system works?
GONZALEZ: Okay, okay. Great. So lots of possibilities for small groups, and I think that’s going to be encouraging to people listening, because that seems like the first thing that would have to just go with remote learning. And so if there are possibilities, I think that’s exciting. We just have to be patient with it.
KITCHEN: Right, right.
GONZALEZ: It’s not going to be the same. Okay. All right, anything else in terms of this use of face-to-face time, before we move on to No. 6?
KITCHEN: I would just add that there’s, beyond the application of knowledge in the synchronous, the face-to-face time, that’s a great time to be building your community.
KITCHEN: That’s a great time to just be checking in with the kids. And you may have meetings that have zero content in them, and it’s just maybe you play a game. Maybe you just check in and say, how are you today? I think that is really worth its time. Some people are afraid to move away from that content, but you are going to receive that time back in large dividends.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, I agree, I agree. I think people need that reminder all the time. Okay. Well, along those same lines, I’m looking at what No. 6 is, and that really does sort of fit with the message you just sent, so let’s move to No. 6.
KITCHEN: Right. So when we are thinking about content, we need to think about simplifying and slowing down. By simplifying, we’re looking at what are the power standards, what are the priority standards. What is it that really holds leverage for the students and has endurance and is essential to their knowledge? What is it that they need to have before they move to the next grade level or the next class? There are practices that are from the standards, ELA and math, science all have practices, so does social studies. Those are skills that go across the board. So that’s one way that we can look at it. There’s skills like analyzing, constructing arguments, building a strong knowledge base through texts, speaking, all those things really go across the board. So when we are thinking about the tools that we use for teaching and learning, we’re often talking and listening about the digital tools, but we also need to give consideration to the non-digital tools.
KITCHEN: So some of those things that students can do that would maybe replicate what they would be doing digital and giving them some choice and voice in that. For example, I have given the assignment of creating a comic. Now you can do a comic digitally or I would also give them the option, if you want to draw, if that’s your thing, that’s what you like to do, you like to paint, you can paint your comic. So there’s some simple ways that you can include some voice and choice for the students and also have them step away from the screen for a little while too. We’ve been concerned about screen time forever for our students, and my argument has always been screen time isn’t necessarily bad if it’s purposeful.
KITCHEN: We don’t want to create digital busywork for our students. We’re looking for things that really are multipurpose and multimodal, and that’s digital and nondigital. What things can we use, what tools can we use? I mentioned Padlet earlier. It’s one of my favorite tools, because there are so many purposes to it. There’s drawing features, there’s audio, video, so many different ways that you can use it. You’re going to get the most bang for your buck on something that has multiple purposes, the same kind of thing for your tools. Obviously paper, markers, pencils, those kinds of things. But it could be paper towel rolls, anything that’s kind of laying around the room that students can easily have access to and just create and represent ideas.
GONZALEZ: Okay, good. And then if there are options for using non-digital tools, those can always be sort of submitted just by taking a photo and turning that in, right?
GONZALEZ: Okay, okay.
KITCHEN: Right, right.
GONZALEZ: All right, great. Okay. Let’s move on to No. 7.
KITCHEN: So we talked a little bit earlier about communication and this partially falls under that too. The instructions that we give need to be explicit, and again, that word, multimodal. Our weekly and daily plans should be introduced in a synchronous manner through our weekly virtual meetings. Some teachers really got into the habit of having the morning meetings. That way you can disseminate the information, let them know what’s coming up in the schedule, any news, updates, that kind of a thing. Then also provide that information in a print or text format. So as we mentioned before, your learning hub, your communication area, that would be posted there as well.
KITCHEN: What I think is interesting about this idea is again, we have to go back to thinking about, we don’t have walls in a virtual environment. If you are a secondary teacher who has five or six classes, and if it’s the same topic, those walls come down, and you can have students join at any time that you’re going to be having those meetings. It’s not necessary we all have to meet at 9 o’clock for first period.
KITCHEN: It might be, if 9 o’clock works for you, but we have a lot of kids who more, like, 1 p.m. works better for them.
GONZALEZ: Right, 1 p.m. is now my kid’s first period, for sure.
KITCHEN: Exactly, exactly.
GONZALEZ: Okay. That’s an interesting thing to think about, that we are tied by so many restrictions now, but other things have gone away. We don’t have to necessarily have separate class periods all the time for things.
KITCHEN: Right, right.
GONZALEZ: That could be really freeing. Okay. And so the multimodal and the explicit instructions, and just generally consistency in terms of students and parents knowing where they’re going to be able to reliably find things every day or every week.
KITCHEN: Mhmm, exactly.
GONZALEZ: That’s really important. Okay. What about No. 8?
KITCHEN: Our traditional grading practices will definitely be taking a backseat to feedback.
KITCHEN: We saw a transition during the emergency remote teaching where each of us had different requirements about grades or no grades, pass and fail. This whole environment really needs to be supported by communication and connection. If I’m to receive an A or a 95 or a 65, that doesn’t necessarily tell me as much as verbal feedback or print feedback to what I’m doing right, what I can improve on.
KITCHEN: So really there’s going to be an emphasis on teachers giving students feedback rather than their grades. And that feedback should be often, that should be happening continuously so that you build that connection and keep that connection.
GONZALEZ: Okay. Do you have a favorite platform or system for giving that feedback?
KITCHEN: We’ve always encouraged teachers to use what their district is providing, and it starts with their cloud-based computing platform. That’s the first place you want to start, so in Google Classroom, you have lots of different comment areas, feedback strategies. In Microsoft Teams, you also have those same kind of strategies within Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. We start there, and then if those tools are not meeting your needs, then we start to look for other things, but we like to kind of keep it encompassed with the basic tools that you have.
GONZALEZ: You already have, yes, yes. And then what about the other direction of feedback, the receiving it as a teacher?
KITCHEN: Yes. So asking students for feedback and parents as well is really important. This is new to everyone. This is new to me. No one has been through this before. So by asking students and parents for feedback, how did you do with this lesson? How much time did it take for you? What do you need that I didn’t give you to do this well? Anything like that. It first gives the students a time and place to reflect, but also gives you information for improving. I think it also feels empowering to the students to be able to say, hey, this worked really well and this didn’t work so well.
GONZALEZ: Right, right. Okay, we are ready for No. 9, the last way that online learning should be a little bit different from face-to-face learning. What is that?
KITCHEN: To truly assess our students, the summative assessment should focus on creation.
KITCHEN: There are so many ways that students can cheat, so if we’re giving them just the traditional quiz or test, it’s really easy for them to be able to just look up that information.
GONZALEZ: Yes. I watched it with my own kids. They said, really, all that NTI taught us was how to cheat better. I was like, you have the tools available. I get it, yeah.
KITCHEN: Right, right. And you know what? There’s something to be said that they’re still learning. They still have to look up the information and repeat it. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but if you really want to know, do they get it? Have they really gotten the true understanding of this information, and what can they do with it? We really need to focus on creation. It’s a lot more difficult to cheat when you have to make something or do something. And it also integrates all of the areas and it builds up, all of that learning builds up into this creation that they will do.
GONZALEZ: And we’re going to be, you’ve given me some links to some ideas, actually, so if a teacher is not really in that mode of asking students to create something as a final assessment, we’re going to give them some ideas for things that can be those end products.
KITCHEN: Right. And I think we need to focus first on what is it that we want them to do with it? And when you are answering that question, it’s going to be more things like raising awareness, changing minds, how do I take action on this? How do I drive change? And then there will be a link to student products of what are the tools in order to raise awareness. So we think of the purpose first, and then the tool to support it.
GONZALEZ: Right, right. Great. Okay. So just as an endnote to this, we’ve talked about all the things that teachers need to be thinking about with remote learning and how their teaching needs to be different. What are some things that are going to be just the same as they are when we’re all in school together?
KITCHEN: Right. So there are a lot of things that we touched on, but maybe they’re just done a little bit differently. So that clear and consistent communication has always been important, is always something that we need to do with our students. But the way that we do it now might be a little bit different. Setting our rituals and routines with our students, being explicit in our instructions and being consistent in how we do things. Always been important, just looks a little different. And I cannot emphasize enough that the research-based instructional strategies that we use, I mentioned jigsaw earlier, discussions, all of those things that we know are really good practices can still be done virtually. It just might look a little bit different.
GONZALEZ: Got it.
KITCHEN: You know, it is a real skill to be able to know when a digital tool is appropriate, which tool to use, and then also when nondigital work is appropriate. Always needed to consider that, still need to consider that.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, yeah.
KITCHEN: And then last but definitely not least, authentic learning, giving kids voice and choice, having them create, that has always been important, but now we’re really thinking about this in terms of engagement and motivation. When we have complaints of why do I do this, or what does this mean? Or I shouldn’t say complaints, questions about that, those are legitimate questions, and if we want kids to show up, then we need to make sure that they understand why they’re doing something and what purpose it serves.
GONZALEZ: Right. Absolutely. One of the things I’m going to link people to at the end of the blog post for this is a guide that you have put together that you’re calling best practices for remote learning, and it’s just really full of a lot of different guidelines and templates that teachers can use if they want to. So just check that out and see if it helps. So if somebody hears this and wants to learn more from you, where should they go?
KITCHEN: Well you can visit my website, which is creativecuriosity.org. You can also find me on Twitter, @MelKitchenEDU.
GONZALEZ: Okay, great. Thank you so, so much for helping us out with this and just sharing your knowledge. I really appreciate it.
KITCHEN: You’re so welcome. It was my pleasure.
GONZALEZ: Thank you.
For links to all the resources mentioned in this episode, visit cultofpedagogy.com, click Podcast, and choose episode 149. To get a weekly email from me about my newest blog posts, podcast episodes, courses and products, sign up for my mailing list at cultofpedagogy.com/subscribe. Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.