mathemachic x shopaholic (goes online)

The adventures of mathemachic x shopaholic strike again!

Closed! School’s closed, parks closed, and even stores closed! So what does a shopper do when she cannot go into a store and see people and try things on directly: she shops online!

As I continue to work toward and on my PGP (Professional Growth Plan) on Personalizing Math learning for my students; some things have changed for obvious and some for not so obvious reasons. My first post in this series of personalizing math was back in the Fall. Lots of ideas, plans ambitions, goals…and just when you’re about to stand in line to try on some new clothes, everything stops. Halts. Closes. In this case: COVID-19. Every post I’ve been reading, and every blogger, tweeter, insta personality, and social media guru on education either has COVID, coronavirus, or similar reference in their writing. This affected the world. Not just a city, a town, a country, the world. So as life continued (in a new setting and way), and I faced some personal and professional challenges in which silving linings were found and appreciated, education, goals, and learning continued amongst the rubble and sunshine within a new uncharted territory.

Let’s start with the obvious: we went online. Online shopping ( …I mean teaching) in itself, is not that bad. I have to admit. Yes, of course there are challenges; return policies, trust, quality, menu settings, delivery timing, and content interest. In the world of my learning for both me and my students, that translates to; passing in work, showing up in to Google Meets, participating online, navigating new mediums, having authentic experiences and assessments, providing feedback, and being engaged.

No matter what platform one shops, or learns, what keeps consumers, and learners coming back, is interest, curiosity, freedom and trust to try something new, and a sense of belonging and community. Stores offer discounts to loyal members, point credits toward items at a later date, and special events that make the consumer feel special, wanted, and important. All of which also lands in the world of personalizing learning, even through an online lens.

Before the world was shut down, I was on a great path. I was researching ideas from colleagues, diving into some new platforms for assessment, and even visited a local school for a day to explore and learn what personalized learning meant to them in their classrooms. I was ready for a spring trial of preparation and co-planning with a colleague, Lianna Krantzberg, who was also wanting to dive into personalized learning from a primary lens. I got as far as that…and life as we knew it paused.

There were some things I was still able to follow through with and implement and take risks on, even in a different way. I’ve researched, curated, and went through my year’s experience as an education consumer and purchaser both in the classroom and online. Let’s take a peek:

Purchased Items:

  • Setting up platforms where grouping students to complete personalized weekly tasks to display continued growth, effort, and learning. (Waterloo 7/8 Enrichment Courseware and Independent Math Programs (self-created)
  • Mindful scheduling. Offering and finding a balance between live classes and independent classes online. Purchased the plan, but decided on halving one periods a week to meet with small groups for more personalized catch up and review, and/or reaching and moving ahead
  • IXL Free Trial. Loved this, as it works to build a personalized diagnostic of student’s skills (all 5 math strands) and automatically provides a “playlist” of autonomous activities based on levels. Provides grade level equivalents. Great for diving into independent abilities and student accountability. I will be sad when the trial ends soon. Students loved it too.
  • Knowledgehook and Quizizz (online platforms) these helped support student review and exposure to material in a high interest manner. Also the ability to set different groups and levels depending on the needs of the students.
  • Math Teachers Hangout. Started this, and by far, one of the best (yet simple) acts that has brought so much in return. We all have great ideas and things to share. Being able to have an open platform to informally and easily share, ask questions, and just continue to have a sense of math community at the school-Wildly successful! This will be a keeper.
  • Office Hours. The latest phase of our virtual learning 2020 experience, included Office Hours. I love them, students love them. IT’s been a great landing spot of additional questions, homework help, and even just a drop in and laugh and chat!
  • Goosechase. Getting kids up and moving at home, and still have access to their understanding! Yes please! Started this late in Phase three, but it’s been fun a fun change of scenery and a needed excitement in classes, especially with the sun out more.
  • New and altered expectations. Setting new parameters that are attainable and reachable for all students at their levels. See starred (*) item in returned list. Students arise to the challenge. Students put in a place where strengths are revealed and struggle becomes curiosity. Definitely an environment that supported #dontstealthestruggle.
  • Coaching teachers. Through the shift to distance learning, the need and content of what I was asked of before, by my colleagues, has changed (as it should have a bit). Still being asked to coached for different purposes, has been great for different reasons. Seeing and collaborating with colleagues. Still working toward lifting teachers up and having them shine and become their own math stars and leaders in their own classrooms- all great coaching moments that continued.
  • Love of learning. When students know you love learning, and when you have a great attitude, it’s more contagious than you would think!

Returned Items:

  • Too many different platforms for students. There is so much out there, to sift through, to try out. The students were great, they tried, we experimented we all gave feedback, but had to say goodbye to some, as a lot doesn’t always mean better. We settled on three solid ones, and shared the rest with other math colleagues, who I hear are enjoying different ones for various reasons (again the power in the Math Teacher Hangout)
  • The entire math curriculum. Reality hit home, during the end of Phase One, and a new reality became more evident. We’re gong to be just fine. Focus on a few small things, and don’t stress about everything. The middle school curriculum is vast, and most struggle to complete it within a “normal” school year. Being okay with small focal points is students displaying mastery and exposure, not solely check marks to “get it completed.”
  • *Student Profiles. As teachers we know our students, and we think we know them well, and we prepare as much as we can for their success, but when something unexpected airses, new challenges bubble up, and things from the bottom, things we never thought, come to the surface. Accommodations or not. Modifications or not. IEP’s or not. Putting away all we that we thought we knew, and starting fresh to what is present and now is so important. Learning to know your students again, online, through digital learning displays many things. Supports remain in place and added supports are brought in. Social situations are diminished leading to either lack of involvement, or on the flip side, less social distraction. Putting a side and “returning” what I thought I knew about my students, and allowing them to get to know myself and each other, again has made classes open and honest.
  • Trying to do “normal” during “un-normal” times. Not much to add to here. Just be honest with yourself and your students. We’re all adjusting and we’re working everyday the best we can. Students need to know that as well- for them-for their learning-for their growth.

Still in my shopping cart:

  • Being aware of my colleague’s learning. I want, I need to dedicate more time to this in my professional life. I follow everyone on Twitter, I’m involved, but sometimes that’s not where the good stuff lands. I need to subscribe to more colleague blogs, visit classrooms more. With the absence of a faculty lounge, or hallway meet and greats as you walk by, this time has made some of us feel alone. I’m fortunate to have colleagues that are open to reaching out over Zoom, Facetime, Hangouts etc., but I could do more. It’s one of the first items I’ll be purchasing soon!
  • Providing a “take-away.” So many people have either commented on my blog or anecdotes, in some fashion or another (positive and negative) and one thing I would like to begin doing is summing up my lengthy (yes I’m aware) blog posts with a visual take -away. I’m wordy, and I preface everything (too much) but I’d like to learn how to sum up better my thoughts, and sometimes the more simple, the better. This is helpful to both colleagues and my students.
  • Student Blogfolios. So I can’t full say it’s a “Shopping Cart” item, but let’s say I tried the free trial version. I would like to explore this more in math. My previous post (that had a lengthy time in quarantine as as draft for months) displays how I incorporated math reflections into student blogfolios. It was a start. I’m not finished, but I need to put forth more intent to use them. They are there, ready to go, just need to keep it going.

So as we round out shopping PGP adventures of 2019-2020, in my latest shopaholic x mathemachic reflection… Was it successful? Sure. It wasn’t the same success that I intended. It was a pleasant surprise of ordering one thing and receiving a better substitution in its place. I wouldn’t order it again, but it gave me perspective into some areas and items I would typically never have purchased (or thought of) without trying it on, at least once. Perhaps it wasn’t even one item, but a brand or an umbrella of thought that captured me throughout this year. Not one student, or platform, but an overarching idea that students’ needs and requirements shift, and constantly evolve and change. We want oh so much to set them up for success, and doing what we can to avoid, what we assume may happen, but when we let go, we can sometimes be surprised with what occurs.

What a “distance” a year makes!

Read the item reviews, do your consumer research, and look back on some previous experiences, but moving forward is just that-forward. We learn from our mistakes, but have to jump forward to make new ones to learn from. Whether it’s pressing “Submit Order” online or just putting it out there for students to explore. and see what arrives in the mail…

Let go of assumptions, and be open to just see what happens. Trust in yourself, your students, your staff, and your school.

Together we can do amazing things.

Together we did.

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