Friday, April 17, 2020

Balancing Consistency and Choice

About two years ago I set a personal goal to improve my blended learning teaching by designing online learning experiences that empower students. I wanted to help my students own their learning and make decisions for themselves. It resulted in offering students choices in: 
  • which materials to learn from
  • how much scaffolding they need
  • pacing their lessons to ensure growth
  • self-assessment and reflection 
  • final project format, audience, and topic 

I’ve been reflecting on promoting student agency this way in the classroom and considering how to continue to foster independence while my students are learning from home. 

I’ve had numerous conversations around the topic of balancing consistency and choice as I’ve been working with educators in my building to plan remote lessons. Consistency for students and parents helps to prevent confusion and frustration, but creating lessons that follow the same learning path with the same tools can cause students to lose motivation and interest. 

So, how can we balance consistency and student choice in order to create engaging learning opportunities? 

Consider consistency when making choices involving:
  • Platform for delivering content and turning in work
  • Schedule for posting work each day
  • Means of communication to students and parents
  • Clear directions
  • Central location for troubleshooting resources

When designing learning opportunities to promote student choice, it’s all about firm goals and flexible means. Set goals with and for your students, and then give them choices:
  • multiple formats to access the learning 
  • continual opportunities and support for self-assessment
  • options for demonstrating their learning 

While I enjoy designing ways for students to creatively demonstrate their learning, I don’t think this is the time for introducing a ton of new tools that they have no prior experience with. This will lead to confusion and frustration for both students and parents. Instead, consider how you can use familiar tools in different ways so that students can have choice. 

Earlier this year, I created choice boards for my students to use in response to our reading lessons. Most of the choices use common Google tools in different ways. To foster independence, I also created animated gifs reminding students how to do tasks like inserting an image, highlighting text, creating a text box, etc. I plan to re-purpose some of these choice boards during our distance learning. 

You can access, copy, and use the choice boards, templates, and my gif library using the links below. For each activity template, click the link for each choice for an additional template. Zoom out on each slide to see directions and tips.  

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