#HamstraHighlights

Leadership · Curriculum · STEM

#HamstraHighlights

How Do You Evaluate Resources?

A major challenge we have in education is knowing our learners, exactly what we teach and learn, and how those two best go together–and in that order.

From teachers to administrators to tech folks, we all have standards to guide our instruction, and we strive to innovate inside the box. We want to facilitate experiences that are meaningful, memorable, relevant, and fun–while still learning the standards.

Knowing exactly what’s being taught and learned is only one piece in serving the needs of the whole child.

And I’d strongly argue that being efficient in this one instructional piece helps educators focus on the other pieces that matter so much more–even if only by saving time and money to do so. 

It’s like the first-year teacher getting the classroom management down before moving on to the learning; an administrator executing excellent managerial skills before growing as a leader; an educator fluent in the learning expectations so that there’s more time and energies to focus on the bigger picture.

It’s through this lens that we’re mindful in evaluating learning resources.

I’ve seen it happen a hundred times. And I’ve been guilty of getting swept up in it myself. In the past, I found fault quickly, blaming this side, that side, or the system overall. But now, I’m zooming out to get a different perspective.

How It Happens 

The educator was so excited to attend this big conference, and I do mean big. That mega conference ecosystem is huge. Especially for educators who don’t usually get a ton of praise or recognition, just walking around with a special nametag can make them feel special. Dressed to impress, conference goers get the full treatment of bright lights, dazzling sessions and presentations, invitations to VIP engagements, and access to famous educators, leaders, speakers, authors, and other thought leaders. The inspiration is downright euphoric. It’s the conference high. I love it.

And then comes the vendor hall. In a leisurely stroll down an aisle, you may get more than you bargained for. Being cordial, you listen to elevator pitches, literally play games, and walk away with a free pen, sticker, or t-shirt. Upon returning to school, you’re more than overjoyed to share with your administration all of those must-have products.

And then they ask you the big question about the big conference:

“How will those resources specifically enhance learning?”

Crickets. Denial. Anger. Debate. Disappointment. Acceptance. Repeat.

Why It Happens

It’s easy to get caught up in all that shines. The latest and greatest can draw you like a magnet, tugging at the little child inside of you who screams: “I HAVE TO have that!

But I’m not blaming the vendors, third parties, or companies and edu-preneurs that I may never meet face-to-face again, and who will definitely never visit my classroom. After all, they may be providing a great product in a free market enterprise. It’s really up to me–the educator using my own professional judgment–to decide which tools will be most appropriate to enhance student learning experiences in my spaces.

And I’m no longer directing blame or preaching something to fellow educators that I sometimes struggle practicing myself. Instead, I’m praising educators. Implementing new tools into instruction can be a risk. Change is hard, and many things that were once reviled because they defied tradition or the status quo have become commonplace over time.

While the “learning over technology” crowd is usually right, I regularly wrestle with the binary of it all. Does it always have to be this OR that? Does it always have to be learning OR technology and flashy tools? Does it always have to be standards-based OR fun?

Why not BOTH? After all, don’t we live in a both world?

How #Hashtag180 Can Help

There are so many appropriate, standards-based learning opportunities all around us every day. When educators see ideas, projects, lessons, media, and resources that align to what they’re teaching and learning, they can tweet or post those with standards-based hashtags. Literally, the challenges is to hashtag one standards-based resource every day (on a 180-day school calendar = #hashtag180).

Why #Hashtag180 Matters

Every time educators hashtag their standards, they:

  • Build an archive from which to quickly access and reference for future review, preview, and lesson planning;
  • Share their learning journey with fellow educators, opening up opportunities for integration and vertical alignment;
  • Tell their classroom and school’s learning journey;
  • Commit to memory exactly what they’re teaching and learning;
  • Grow more fluent in communicating expected learning outcomes; and
  • Invest less time aligning resources to standards, buying those kinda-aligned lessons on third-party websites, and reinventing the wheel.

Even More Why #Hashtag180 Matters

Being literate and fluent in your standards helps with:

  • Seeing the world around you in terms of resources that can help your learners;
  • Evaluation of resources even before seeking district or site-based approval;
  • Efficiency in the planning-implementing-assessing-reflecting cycle; and…

Perhaps the best reason of all? Knowing your standards really well helps with:

  • Freeing up time spent on curriculum to invest more time on serving all the other needs of the whole child that matter so much more.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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