Friday, May 3, 2019

Pokemon Cards, Feedback and Blended Learning Model

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My wife, and fellow EdTech Coach, Katherine always says “Lead with learning, never with tech”. You may find it strange to hear us say something like that considering our job titles. Just because we are tech coaches does not mean we believe tech should be used for absolutely every aspect of lesson design. An approach I am rather fond of is a blended learning approach. In a nutshell, blended learning deals with delivering instruction and students submitting work in both electronic and paper/pencil/physical manner.

When I teach history, my lessons are screencasted and published to YouTube. My screencasting program of choice is Screencastify. You can get Screencastify for free in the Chrome Web Store. The free version allows you up to 50 screencasts per month at a maximum of 10 minutes per video. The paid version gives you unlimited screencasts and time per video. Students access the lessons from YouTube via Google Classroom. This gives them a “pause button on the teacher”. It allows them to go at their own pace. As they navigate the lesson, they take notes with pencil and paper, sometimes with a graphic organizer. On some occasions, students will use Dualless Chrome extension to split their screens so they can watch the video lesson and take notes digitally on Google Docs or Google Keep. For reflective purposes, students will take their digital notes and transform them into sketchnotes. The sketchnotes are used for projects and turned in for points.

When students receive their “lessons” pre-recorded, it is imperative that the teacher does not simply sit back and let the kids go completely unguided on their own. Delivering a lesson in this manner helps teachers become more of a “guide on the side” than a “sage on the stage”. How do you become a “guide on the side”? Create a feedback loop. Teach your kids to ask for feedback, clarification and help. Teach them to ask “the expert in the room”, you the teacher.

Nowadays, students are afraid to be wrong and often simply want to go through the motions just so they can say they completed an assignment or task. I have encountered many kids who shut down and give up when receiving feedback and having to tweak or re-do work. A feedback loop is good way to get around these hang ups. Kids need to know that learning is a process. This process includes trial and error. When kids play games and video games, they embrace the concept of trial and error. As I’ve attempted to find ways to foster a strong feedback loop, I found inspiration in Pokemon cards. In my younger years, I never played Pokemon or collected the cards, but saw people who did. I was a baseball card guy. A popular Pokemon catchphrase was “Gotta catch ‘em all”. People worked hard to collect the cards so they could improve their gameplay. Collecting Pokemon cards, like baseball cards, was fun and motivating.

To create a robust feedback loop when delivering pre-recorded lessons, I created feedback tokens. Students earn feedback tokens when they elicit teacher feedback. I distribute them to students when they ask for clarification and when they have me check their work/progress. These one on one meetings often lead to organic conversations that allow me to go deeper in my explanation of history. Kids ask follow up questions and the teacher-student relationship is taken to a new level. Kids sitting nearby see these conversations and are encouraged to do the same. Those nearby students often listen in and join in, further deepening the experience.

Depending on the task, a target number of feedback loop interactions are set for a class period. They receive an “A for the day” for participation if they meet that number. However many tokens they earn beyond the target number is extra credit. Immediately, engagement and feedback increased. The quality of work is improving as I catch mistakes, misconceptions and other errors while students go through the process of learning. Before, many dreaded it when I found mistakes and just wanted to finish. Now, they see the value of mistakes and how it helps their learning and the quality of their work.

The feedback loop, and tokens, has helped me strengthen some relationships with students and cultivate others. Organic conversations arise which give me insight into their thoughts and likes. I use this data to develop lessons that take into consideration what they like. If you’re looking for a way to boost your feedback loop in a blended learning model, give the feedback tokens a try. Click here to use my Feedback Tokens Google Drawing as a template.

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