The MOST Valuable Time

I found myself considering recently, in reflection about this journey into distance learning that we’re experiencing right now, what is the most valuable portion of the learning cycle? If you’re reading this, you are most certainly aware that many teachers are video conferencing with their students using a number of possible solutions available to educators right now. I began to consider how unrealistic it might be for a secondary educator to video conference with his/her students everyday. Not that I’m trying to indict anyone who may be doing so, but I tried to consider the nightmare of scheduling such times with secondary students who have 6-7 additional classes on their schedule. So in reflection, I thought of all the time in a learning cycle, what portions might be considered the most valuable time? This is a question I’ve proposed during blended learning trainings I’ve facilitated before, and I believe it can serve us even now. Let’s lay out a typical, albeit generic, learning cycle for students.

  • Teacher provides some instruction.
  • Students complete a learning experience related to the previous instruction.
  • Teacher reviews the student work, provides feedback, diagnoses misunderstandings, offers remediation.
  • Cycle repeats.

This is certainly a very general framework and is not intended to represent all classrooms at all. But in general, I imagine most classrooms loosely follow a repetition of a very similar cycle that often concludes with a test or exam of some sort before everything starts over.

I believe education will experience some tremendous changes once school does resume again. Perhaps we won’t see the fruit of those changes until the ’20-21 school year begins, but I believe we will no longer see the schools many walked out of just a few weeks ago. One consideration I believe all secondary teachers will begin to make is this: If my instruction has been outsourced to Google, Youtube, etc. where does that leave me? I would propose that the most valuable portion of teachers’ time, especially during distance learning, might be the portion of the learning cycle where teachers review student work, look at data, provide feedback, diagnose misunderstandings, and offer remediation and enrichment. This isn’t rocket science and many may read this and say “I’ve always felt that way, Derek.” I would propose that if you’re engaging your students in video conferencing, leave the instruction to Google, Youtube, your online textbook, etc. I believe we’re in the midst of a shift from Masters of Content to Managers of Learning.

Two of my favorite tools are Nearpod and Desmos Activities. I love the platforms both of these education companies utilize and I think they can provide a lot of merit for distance learning. Given the proposal I made in the last paragraph, how could teachers utilize tools like these to provide instruction, offer a learning experience, and review student work, give feedback, diagnose student thinking, etc.? When considering when to engage my students in a video conference where we might have real conversation that is tougher to manifest digitally, I would suggest letting your video recordings, your own screencasts, Google, Youtube, or Khan Academy provide the instruction necessary. Lay out the learning experience for your students. Then engage in a video conference to offer the component of learning that I believe is most human and most valuable. Engage your students in real conversation, through a video conference, to review student work samples you’ve previously collected, share data revealed by your learning platforms, diagnose misconceptions, correct mistakes, highlight divergent thinking, and have thought-provoking questions on hand that allow you some insight into your students’ thinking.

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