I just can't stop thinking about what the Fall might look like and how we will have to think so far beyond what we've always done to make any of this work. Regardless of what I think about or the conversations that I have, I always come back to this idea of Collaborative Experience Design. Now, stay with me...this isn't new. In fact, it's something that you've probably done at at some point in your career if you've been in the classroom for some time.
The idea involves creating teams of teachers to come together to design cross-curricular experiences for learners that will be meaningful regardless of where the learning happens. I don't think it's fair, realistic, or sustainable for educators to be expected to design different experiences for at-home and in-class learners. Instead, I think every learner should be given the opportunity to learn through the experiences are designed by a team and given the support that they need along the way.
Weekly, blended, cross-curricular learning experiences make sense right now. Here's what I'm thinking...
Team Up - In this situation, I'm not just talking about pairing up math/science teachers. Instead, I think we need to think bigger. Consider creating teams made up of educators that can support specific content, specific learners, and specific experiences. In order for the experience to be cross-curricular, it will require collaboration and a willingness from everyone on the team to contribute.
Gain Perspective - Starting with the standards is a good idea. Knowing what needs to be taught can serve as a road map for this journey that we are on. As a team, look at the standards from different perspectives. Looking at them from a bird's eye view can help the team see connections between content and big ideas that can be used. to create the experience. An up-close perspective can help us realize how the standard needs to be addressed or woven into the experience and what learners need to do in order to master that particular concept or idea.
Big Ideas - Next, the team will need to develop some big ideas for the weekly experiences. Often times, standards and concepts from science, social studies, or electives can serve as big ideas while weaving in the standards from other content areas. For example, I designed an entire cross-curricular experience for my 7th grade daughter around the big idea of hurricanes as she was expected to understand the Hurricane of 1900 in Texas History and catastrophic events in Science.
Design for Depth - After the big ideas have been developed, it's time to start designing the weekly experiences. This simply involves taking the big idea and considering how the other content areas and standards that need to be learned can be woven into the experience. The template below is something that can be used if your campus or district does not already have something in place. It's a good idea to design for depth by weaving in both life-ready and social emotional learning skills into the experience and thinking through what different learners will need depending on their level of understanding.
This was an example I put together for my daughter during the remote learning experience. It's not perfect and I did not collaborate with a team. I just wanted to see what something like this might look like and how long it would take me to put it together.
Provide Support - This piece of the design is super important! Being proactive and providing support as learners access the experience will give learners an opportunity to drive their own learning and become self-aware enough to know what they need. I think it's a good idea to create a digital repository of mini-lessons to support each experience. Each educator on the team can provide the information that will be needed for that part of the experience. Providing a form like the one below will also help you know who might need to connect virtually or meet in person (depending on the situation) for small group instruction, extra support, or an individual conference.
As I've said all along, I think we need to simplify learning and make connections a priority right now. Moving forward will require us to be realistic, flexible, and empathetic. I think these experiences will give educators the freedom during the school day to support learners regardless of where they are. Collaboration will build on the relationships that will be so important as we continue to move into this unprecedented time in education. Working together, educators will be able to learn from each other, lean on each other, and lead each other to try new things.
I'm not suggesting that this is the only solution. If I'm honest, I'm not sure it's a solution at all. The more that I hear about the idea of learning pods, kids learning at home, and many returning to campus, I can't help but realize how difficult it will be for educators to meet the needs of every learner in every place. Instead, I think designing this way will provide the content and connections needed for real learning to happen from anywhere at any time.
Just a thought...