Educational Theory, Professional Development, Recent + Research-Based, Technology

Looking to 2020: New Year’s Teaching Resolutions!

With a new year comes new opportunities to reflect one the year, which many do with a look towards health, habits, and perhaps even new gym memberships (go for it!). Why not do the same in the classroom? In January, I wrote about how teachers can use the new year as an opportunity to re-evaluate classroom norms, habits, and goals. As we round out the year, let’s take a look at what we can reflect on and look forward to as teachers in the new year. What will I be doing? Check out my 5 resolutions!

Audit My Classroom Library

Library Audit BINGO, created by Dr. Katherine Fishman-Weaver; from Edutopia

Dr Kathryn Fishman-Weaver, faculty at the University of Missouri, recently created a brilliant Classroom Library Audit BINGO, as featured on Edutopia. The audit itself addresses common problems in classroom libraries and is an invaluable, even fun, resource. Fishman-Weaver’s BINGO game is especially helpful for any teachers who feel intimidated by the grand task of ensuring they have representative and inclusive libraries.

Expand Classroom Inclusivity

It’s 2020, and dialogue has changed significantly. Things on the news become more and more raw, real, and scary and include difficult topics, such as consent, racism, homophobia, violence and terror, hate speech, and more. Our students are witness to these things daily, from the news to YouTube to all sorts of social media platforms, and beyond. While it’s ultimately up to each family to decide how, when, and in what manner they talk to their children about the real, raw, and scary, as teachers it is a disservice to ignore these topics. At times, however, it’s challenging to know where to begin. The most trusted and courageous resource I have found is Teaching Tolerance. This website includes easily adapted lessons, learning plans, student tasks, teaching strategies, learning plan tools, film kits, and posters on a wide range of topics for grades K-12. My resolution is to use 1 resource per month from Teaching Tolerance.

Experiment with Apps for Inquiry

Just a small sampling of the TONS of games and resources available through the Goose Chase app.

Confession: technology is not intuitive for me, particularly when it comes to using apps. I find I’m always a bit clumsy with respect to how to best incorporate apps into the learning, rather than have the app take over the instruction and learning entirely… though I’m learning sometimes this is okay, too (for example, MathGames or RAZKids). I’m going to challenge myself this year to get comfortable and plan a lesson around ONE app, and go from there. (I like setting goals I know I have some hope at achieving!). The app I’m thrilled to try is Goose Chase: an interactive, customizable scavenger hunt app and one that is easily adaptable and lends itself well to discovery, student-directed learning, and inquiry. I was introduced to the app as an online Learning Design student through the Harvard Extension School, and I loved it! I’m particularly excited to dive into the full Game Library that Goose Chase provides, which includes topics from Christmas wreath coding (cool!) to English language learning to ecology to field trips, and seemingly everything in-between!

Practice Responding Over Recreating

As mentioned in my November post regarding B.C.’s curricular overhaul, Indigenous knowledge and philosophy are critical pillars and lenses for learning and teaching. One of the key learnings for me in navigating and re-calibrating my positionality in response to these curricular changes has been the notion of responding to, instead of recreating, cultural practices, traditions, and art. My resolution in this regard is to continue to challenge my lessons and applications of the First People’s Principles of Learning, particularly in the way of how students can respond to art, stories, and lessons. Specifically, I’m creating my own essential question: What is the most valuable, meaningful, and authentic way students can connect to their own and other’s cultures? Luckily for me (and all B.C. teachers), there is the First Nations Educational Steering Committee (FNESC), who have SO generously provided extensive lesson plans and classroom resources addressing this very need. B.C. Ministry of Education also has some excellent resources to help guide me on this question.


This one may seem like an obvious one, but too often, teachers can get bogged down in the many day-to-day details that go along with loving and wanting the best for our students and their learning…that we forget to take a breather and look around. My goal/resolution there is simply to keep my ears perked and stay curious about new ways of teaching and learning. All of our students are so beautifully unique, and any expansion of our pedagogical toolkits can only help everyone. Recently, I’ve been diving down the rabbit hole of Whole Brain teaching...which seems great and also quite controversial (is this not true of everything to some degree?). To be honest, I don’t know much about it! If you do, what should I know?

  • What are your teaching resolutions for 2020?
Instructional Tools, Technology

What the Flip(ped Classroom)?!

Ever meet one of those people who’s a soulfriend? You’ve got the same energy and pace, and you can chatter on and on about nothing/everything? And, one of those people you can emphatically disagree with till you’re blue in the face? I was lucky enough to study with one of these fine people- Marc Bliss– and we still engage in lovingly heated arguments that encapsulate everything from emoji use to echinoderms to pedagogy.
Both Marc and I are science teachers (I’ll still identify as that- sure!), and we both identify as innovative instructors… or at least we strive to be! Marc flipped his classroom last year as an experiment, and we had a great time discussing it this summer in Madrid. Marc is patient and sarcastic, which are 2 qualities I deeply appreciate, and are excellent for any colleague of mine to hold, as I’m often persistent, curious, critical, and have a wry ‘n dry sense of humor. So when I say we spent hours discussing every possible asset, circumstance, and case study on flipping one’s classroom, I’m not exaggerating.
I have to admit that unless prompted, I rarely take the time to peruse primary literature and keep tabs on instructional strategies from a research point of view, so any excuse to do this (in this case– trying to somehow find a counter argument for Marc’s flipped classroom advocacy!). I find overall beneficial to my professional practice as an educator. So off I went, trying to prove Marc wrong (ugh, it’s painful to say that!), digging through tens of research articles on flipped classrooms in the bowels of EBSCO.
And, long story short, Marc’s right (GAH!), and flipped classrooms are, too.
Despite the critical motivation for my search, I really did appreciate seeing studies published from 201x that continued to validate flipping the classroom as an effective and high-impact strategy. I was most encouraged by some of the case studies we read about on medical and pharmacy schools employing flipped classroom strategies in order to create more time in class to practice bedside manner, collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation– skills I typically do not associate with the mind-numbing grind medical school seems to be (based on my completely informal research in what I hear from my med school friends at happy hour, Facebook, etc.).
Using time at home to study potential symptoms associated with illness or disease and class time to engage with others as part of these professional programs is an excellent way to model educational and instructional practices from the top. It seems that many innovative strategies begin at the bottom (primary or middle school and some high schools) and tend not to transfer to “the top” (college/graduate school), which are still quite traditional by and large in their professional practices.
Many times my colleagues and I (high school and middle school teachers) bemoan our school’s title as a college prep school because so many of our graduates struggle their first two years in college. While many students from many different backgrounds may take a bit longer to adjust to college, our progressive school that relies primarily on group work, discussions, and PBL does not prepare students for Scantron exams or long didactic powerpoint lectures, or extremely particular tests that come directly from textbook readings, which are quite commonplace in the introductory classes in the first two years of introductory college courses.
So, I remain convinced curious on flipped classrooms. Where else can flipped learning be employed? Where does it work best? When should it not be used? When will it become obsolete? Or essential?

[Photo by Ben White on Unsplash]

Instructional Tools, Technology

Let’s Make Webinars Great Again!


“I can’t wait to get home and watch a webinar!” -said no one ever.

But, come on. Webinars have SUCH POTENTIAL! Why, oh, why are they so notoriously awful?

Webinars are something I’ve been optimistically toying with creating in tandem with an ongoing teacher training project at my work. I may have mentioned the work I do with teachers in previous entries, so I’ll keep the background curt.

I coordinate curriculum for a wide range of global education programs in schools across the country (and in Canada). Schools’ global education coordinators work with my company in order to go off the grid a bit more and work with some of the communities away from tourist centers to ensure high quality, meaningful intercultural exchange between students and community members. The program requires a fair degree of rugged travel traveling as locals do (trekking to rural villages; taking non air-conditioned trains or local busses) in addition to “austere” lodging (usually home-stays or 1- to 2-star guest houses). The students do fine and may struggle here and there, but are for the most part, readily adaptable and invested. Teachers, however, seem to be the least prepared, particularly where rugged travel and accommodations are involved, as well as in facilitating students in a more experiential/less didactic manner. After each course, the instructors at my company usually give the feedback that teachers could me more prepared, which naturally yields the question: how can we better prepare teachers for these courses? And, upon further thinking, the questions distills into:

  • How might we more efficiently prepare teachers for these courses? (ie: without providing too much more work or materials?
  • How might we speak candidly about the experience more so than curriculum?
  • How will teachers be most empowered to prepare themselves for a rugged travel course?
  • Who is the best mentor to help prepare teachers for immersive student travel abroad?
  • What might the safest audience be for teachers to ask candid questions?

I recently read an Endicott classmate’s discussion post about webinars and thinking about it in the context of professional development. Having been a teacher myself (I’ll be back in the classroom again one day!), I more readily trust another teacher’s recommendation or advice at face value versus that of a third party provider. In looking at these questions, I’m inspired/curious to start a “Teacher Ambassador Program” through my company, which might take the form of a variety of webinars. Essentially, it would involve expert, veteran teachers with global programming experience imparting wisdom, best practices, and lessons learned in the field. The webinar series may take place 3 times over the course of the year and could involve a few different topics (such as: facilitation or chaperone vs. mentor, or something like “How to Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable 101,” etc.).

While but a start, I’m intrigued to expand my (somewhat informal) research and reach out to a few veteran teachers with respect to their initial thoughts and ideas as it relates to an ambassadorship.

Come on, people! Let’s make webinars great again for the first time ever.

[Photo by Julien-Pier Belanger on Unsplash]