A few weeks ago, I was listening to the Innovators' Mindset with George Couros as he was interviewing Catlin Tucker and Katie Novak. This is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to because I always learn something new, but while I was listening to this interview, I was also inspired. They were discussing Catlin's and Katie's new book, UDL and Blended Learning. I have to be honest when I first heard about this book, I initially figured since these were two of my favorite subjects that I probably didn't need to read this book. I have spent a lot of time studying and sharing about both of these topics. But I was wrong- as I listened to the podcast, I became more and more intrigued and after listening to the podcast, I went and bought the book on Kindle.
Looking back, I should have waited and bought the book in paperback and probably will. It is the kind of book that I probably want to keep at my desk for reference, It not only inspired me, but made me reflect on my practice in a way that I really needed after a totally crazy and hectic year. There are so many takeaways that I got from reading this book, but for the sake of this blog post, I am going to share three big takeaways as we plan for the 2021-2022 school year. I hope after reading this post, you too check out this book. I love how both authors incorporate stories to engage the reader first and then share essential pieces of knowledge with the reader.
Takeaway #1: Planning with asynchronous and synchronous options in mind
So much amazing work was done this past year as we innovated to meet our students' needs from a distance. Now, that we are back face to face in the fall, that does not meet that we need to abandon some of these innovative practices. A great example of one of these practices using video. In UDL and Blended Learning, the authors share some best practices using video. If the content that you want to share is the same content for everyone, then a video is your best option. This way, students can control the pace of the video and review the video as needed. This flipped model puts the student in the driver's seat and allows teachers to use synchronous class time to address any reteaching or enrichment needs with small groups and/or individuals.
Takeaway #2: How are we fostering metacognition?
Another big takeaway that I left with was focused on metacognition. In the book, the authors identify three different types of metacognition to look for: meta-attention, metacomprehension and metacognitive reflection. Each of these types correlate to where the student is in the learning process. Meta-attention occurs before learning and helps students be aware of the learning goals and how they relate to them- what will their approach be? Metacomprehension happens during a lesson and has students reflect and self assess their learning during learning. FInally , metacognitive reflection happens after a lesson. This is the type of metacognition that educators often think of. We ask students what worked and what didn't work and sometimes ask students what they could have done differently.
As a firm believer in thinking routines and their impact, this made me consider what type of metacognition do I foster when I use these routines. How can I better incorporate these ideas into my educational practice. Do I give learners the opportunity to flex these muscles? If I truly want to promote agency, this is an area that I need to be intentional about and this book has tons of suggestions to help me.
Takeaway #3: How can we promote more Community of Practice in our schools?
Being a huge supporter of being a connected educator and of the importance of a PLN, the ideas that the authors shared in Chapter 8 on promoting a Community of Practice (CoP) also really resonated with me. Too often, educators work in silos and do not have these interactions. But that doesn't need to be the case. The authors shared that we can form a community of practice (CoP) with colleagues that share a common issue or concern and work together to develop resources and build knowledge. These CoP are made of individuals that are committed to nurturing their relationships within the group socially and instructionally,
As I looked at the characteristics of a CoP, I realized that I am already part of several of them: Teach Better Ambassadors, the Teach Better Administrator Mastermind, and the Teach Better Edupreneur group. I have also participated in book clubs, bloggers' groups, etc. What can we do to promote these practices inside of our schools. This quote from chapter 8 really struck me. "If we want to create a culture of learning and risk taking, with all of its ebbs and flows, we have to ensure we have a network of support even when we run deep into the woods."