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[Educator Network] Summit Recap: Teaching 2.0

[Educator Network] Summit Recap: Teaching 2.0

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During the Edmentum Educator Network Summit, three educators were chosen from a diverse series of applications to presented on thought leadership concepts that were near and dear to their instructional process. The application process was rigorous and left us with some amazing presenters Tonya Davis the science department chairperson and educational technology specialist at Orangeburg High School for Health Professions in Orangeburg, South Carolina, presented on her reflection of the past few months.

Tonya identified skills she had gained and insights into what she lovingly refers to as “Teaching 2.0.” Her thesis for discussion centered on the concept that it is through collaboration and support that equity in education will survive.

She began with some simple observations on instructional challenges from both the student and the educator points of view:

  • Teachers want to make teaching meaningful for students.​ This is not necessarily a new concept, but it became more significant as students struggled to return to the classroom.
  • It is difficult to grasp and sustain student interest because students are accustomed to the “freedom of home.”​
  • Many students have missed social milestones with the interruption in traditional schooling. They have aged into high school but may not have had the opportunity to follow a traditional route. 10th graders were 8th graders the last time they were in a physical classroom. This has left some soft skills behind.
  • Skills-based and hands-on must become prevalent teaching modes. When we have time with the students in a face-to-face environment, it is precious time and must be used in activities that face-to-face driven.

In order to achieve the best for their students, Tonya and her fellow teachers in the high school often work collaboratively across the curricular. They build projects where content areas may overlap or are connected.​ They explored where this hands-on experience could align by reaching outside the classroom. They leveraged conversations with students, discovering what they knew and wanted to know more about. They adapted TV shows, websites, professional development to spark project ideas. They built in time to talk as collaborators in instruction and brainstorm and coproduce lessons. Faculty, staff and students support active learning and willingly participate when requested.​ They approach instruction on a team level vs individual lessons in individual classrooms. The excitement of teaching and learning was finding its way back to  instruction.

What was discovered was that community projects were developed while critically thinking about content. The application of concepts played out in real world scenarios became reality with projects overlapping curriculum and content.  It was through collaboration and conversations with instructors that an environment of shared vision and support was created. This was due in a large part to the circumstances generated by the educators and administrators responding to school closures and stretched resources.

Returning to in-person instruction after quarantine has provided a new set of challenges educators must address to successfully provide the best educational experience possible for students. Instead of placing great emphasis on benchmarks, assessments, and grades, teachers at the High School for Health Professions have prioritized easing students back into the formal classroom. Socioemotional learning became a priority as teachers utilize student interests to teach content. While sharing out the school’s response at the Educator Summit, Tonya called attention to the various collaborative responses’ educators at HSHP tried and their outcomes.

  • One educator had his students research and develop pitch ideas for outside businesses and students presented their ideas ‘Shark Tank’ style. Follow up with community business came next.
  • Another educator worked with her pharmacy tech students to create lip gloss, and sales pitches and order forms that ‘sold’ to faculty and staff.
  • A third educator addressed globalization with her world history students by writing yelp reviews on academic articles.

Teaching 2.0 has had its challenges. However, when you make a concerted effort to engage students in their learning, they’ll be better able to maintain focus, sustain positive behavior, and grasp and retain the material you’re working so hard to deliver—a positive outcome for everyone. Students and educators alike are enjoying the connections and collaboration. The school works together toward a positive environment. Student absences are down and teachers work together for success rather than in isolation.

While the transformation was brought about by the pandemic and stresses that it brought, the pedagogy is solid. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Connect what you are teaching to real life: Include culturally relevant materials, specific everyday examples, and promote learning through classroom routines.
  • Use student interests: Literacy, history, math, science all have real world connections—use them!
  • Be flexible: There are many ways that students might connect content to their interest, if you listen you might find a new resource in them.
  • Engage, laugh, and connect: Make transitions fun; have a dance party, sing, lead a standing ovation at a really good lesson. Don’t forget to take time to stretch, and weave in a mindfulness breaks.

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