I am the director of a regional educational support organization called REMC 13. It is a regional subgroup of the statewide REMC Association of Michigan. One of the projects we use to support our educators instructionally is called #517EdTech.
Typically, we are able to support teachers and administrators because among the team, there’s a lot of experience in a variety of educational settings. But, when covid shut stuff down in March and we went remote, that wasn’t true anymore. No one (that I knew, at least) had any real experience with remote teaching – not like this. This isn’t online teaching – that is mostly asynchronous. And this certainly isn’t the face-to-face teaching we all have thousands of hours of practice doing. No. This is some kind of third way – live, remote instruction as an routine. No one that I was collaborating with had ever tried it before. And I suddenly had very little I could do to help besides simply train teachers on how to use tech tools and brainstorm with them possible ideas (transparently adding that all of the ideas on the table were going to be used in ways that I’d never seen tried before.)
So what to do?
Well, we needed some experience from the classroom. So, we started having conversations with classroom teachers. What are you trying? What’s worked? What’s not working? What does “it worked” even mean? What has surprised you? What has definitely not surprised you?
Like, let’s call this what it is – we are doing something for the first time and there is one subgroup of people who are developing the effective skill set – I need to talk to those people. And the things those people were sharing needed to be shared with other teachers. See? That’s another thing we’re struggling with at the moment – in most places, collaboration has sunk down to almost nothing. Teachers are reporting feeling quite isolated.
So, we started recording conversations – basically like a podcast. We call it “The Digital Instruction Network”. We’ve been meeting with teachers who are willing and feel like they are being somewhat successful. We record a conversation and put it out for other teachers to hear. Our hope is that…
- Teachers can watch these and learn a thing that they would have otherwise learned while chatting with their colleague at lunch (an interaction that has mostly been eliminated these days.)
- Teachers can hear a nuanced perspective on these topics (that is why they are about an hour long – I’m not sure more two-minute blasts are really helping all that much…)
- We, as a community of coaches, consultants, and analysists, can say the thing we know to be true: The teachers have done all the practicing, and thus all the learning. If there’s successful models to share, they are going to be the ones with the expertise to share them.
The conversations are mostly unedited and mostly unrehearsed. These are teachers who have been thrown into some tough situations and are doing their best to make it work. Be patient with them if they make a move that you wouldn’t have made. I know the internet can be a “quick-to-judge, slow-to-forgive” kind of place. I’m hoping we can agree to avoid all of that.
So, with that in mind, over the next couple of… I don’t know… days? Weeks? Months? I’ll be sharing out these conversations. I hope you (or those you work with) find them helpful.
If you can’t wait for the upcoming posts, you can find the whole playlist of them here.