Dr. Michelle Reinhard EdD
What is the future of education? I started teaching 50 years ago. Except for computers, classroom and educational theory haven’t changed much from my first day in the profession. Communication and record keeping has improved, but instruction has not really made great advancements.
We say we want students to read, write, calculate, think, and work in groups. That’s all part of what education hopes to impart to students. But how long will it take to genuinely pull education into the 21st century past using shiny toys without any real improvement?
I have been working with leading teachers and expert school technologists to develop an instructional method to break down many of the old barriers in the classroom. It’s called Interactivated Learning.
The first classroom to implement Interactivated Learning was an inner-city high school, bordering on an “F” school. The immediate positive results got the attention of the county school board which sent a video crew to record and broadcast the new method in action. In that video, I saw High School History come alive. The students participated and even enjoyed the presentations.
The implementation happened in two phases to measure performance. The first phase was to introduce the method in the second semester only of a full year course, the second phase was to use the method for the entire year. The 2015-2016 two-year school average before implementation was 47% of students meeting standards. After one semester of Interactivated Learning in 2017, 56% met standards (19% increase over base). After a full year of Interactivated Learning in 2018, 64% met standards (36% increase over base). Data source: Florida Department of Education.
The Three-One-Zero Class
The class period is divided into three parts focused on teaching one topic/theme per class. First part is exposition, second is guided learning through interaction, third is exploration. Introduction to the topic exposes students to vocabulary and foundational concepts that will be delivered that day. The second part is interaction through the Interactivated Presentation. The third part is an in-depth exploration and can take any form: projects, DBQ’s, games, etc. After class, there is zero homework assigned.
Note Taking, the Magic Bullet
The first part, the introduction, is where the students get ready for the information that will be presented in class (meeting Marzano DQ2). If the lesson involves new vocabulary, functions, characters, etc., having the students write the concept and define it from the book, or even from information online, ensures they will have exposure to the information before the main presentation starts. Next, have students read the text and outline significant ideas in their own words (using bullet points) to expand their exposure to the material. Each bullet point should be only four to six words to summarize the concept and never verbatim. Students can also get the bullet points from the presentation to complete their outline (for the visual learner). It’s important to have a timer projected somewhere in the class during this part. The timer keeps students on track, ensures there will be enough time for the next two parts, and helps students get used to working under time limits.
Presentation, the Big Show
It is the second part of the process, the Interactivated Presentation, that is the most important. Interactivated Learning occurs when the teacher and the students are totally involved. Using a 2-in-1 computer/tablet wirelessly connected to the projector or smart board, the teacher can leave the front of the room, breaking out of the theatrical fourth wall and engage the audience of learners. Walking around the room while giving the presentation, the teacher keeps students’ attention, while actively managing the classroom (meeting Marzano DQ5).
With presentation software, the teacher creates and uses a presentation that has videos, audio, graphics, maps and interactive formative assessments that give instant feedback to the teacher and the students (meeting Marzano Domain 2). The presentation software allows the teacher to zoom into images or graphics to highlight points. It’s vital that the teacher brings the 2-in-1 or tablet right to the students’ desks for them to take formative assessments or markup images based on questions. By having an interactive question or activity every 4 to 6 slides, students that pay even minimal attention will have the correct answer and that will apply positive pressure for all students to be engaged. Pro Hint: Only the teacher can move the 2-in-1 computer/tablet from desk to desk, students are not to take it, hand it back, or pass it to the next student. Students don’t leave their desks to interact with the board, it doesn’t interrupt the class flow, there’s no embarrassment from going to the front of the room, and the student can’t say “no.”
The Interactivated Teacher
The “old school” component of the Interactivated Presentation is an engagement for the tactile learner through entertainment and getting hands-on learning. The teacher should have at least one hands-on artifact a day, something for the teacher to wear or let the students hold to connect them with the lesson EVERY DAY. It doesn’t have to be a new item or outfit every day, but there must be something to connect (Interactivate) the student with the lesson. A school with a drama department might already have props or costumes that can be borrowed, and inexpensive replicas bought for the class can be shared/stored with the drama department.
- WWI helmet for WWI lessons
- A miner’s helmet for the Progressive Movement
- A Spanish Marion helmet for the age of colonization
- Minie ball or other artifacts from the Civil War
- Kitchen spices for the age of exploration
- Cotton, indigo, or rice plants for plantation economy/slavery
The third part of the process is an in-depth exploration consisting of small group work (meeting Marzano DQ3). Students use primary source materials to read and analyze or create projects (memes, posters, news presentations, etc.). Most importantly, the teacher never says how to do it, just says what the objective is. The project should allow students to use their strengths to demonstrate mastery of the topic.
Every Day a Grade
If the teacher isn’t there, there’s no learning going on. NEVER assign homework but work from bell to bell, every day. Daily work is due at end of class, no homework unless 504 or IEP requires it. If a student doesn’t complete the daily work on time, then allow students to check out a textbook or access online textbooks to complete the work at home. Do not mark down for late assignments but allow them to turn in work right until the end of the quarter (or before the end of the quarter or EOC testing) when you must submit grades. It’s about having the student touch the information, not how fast they do it or if they do it in school or at home. In a traditional system, by setting frequent, short deadlines, you make it easier for the student to skip assignments and the information contained in it. That starts the spiral of missing information, leading to bad grades, and then to low test scores. With Interactivated Learnings constant flow of work, grading daily work is streamlined by simply counting and adding the outline bullets and vocabulary, checking for understanding along the way.
If every teacher knows that every student is different, then why do we create complex rubrics forcing students into standardized grading, limiting students to learning styles that might not fit the student? Grading needs to be based on an understanding of the material, not a checklist of conformity. The rubric should be short, broad, and applicable to any project you might assign. Changing expectations causes confusion, wasted time, and creates a culture of failure while consistency builds confidence (Marzano DQ1).
In-class testing consumes instructional time and for states with EOCs, every day is precious. Using online testing such as MS Forms or Google allows students to take the test on their own time, allows for more substantial testing since you’re not limited to the regular class time and is self-grading. Change the wording on the standardized multiple-choice questions so answers won’t be easily searchable online. Insert videos for the students to watch and then answer questions based on the video. Add short research-based questions to the test that weren’t covered in class notes or project assignments. Students are going to use internet research to answer these or any questions, so turn the test into mini-research projects.
The reoccurring goal of having the student touch the information as many times as possible applies to testing also. Change the online testing settings to allow multiple attempts and unlimited time, but don’t show which questions the student answered incorrectly at the end of the test, just the final grade and allow the software to automatically scramble the question and answer order. Let the students try, try, and try again, researching every question until they get the grade they’re happy with. Microsoft Forms does all the grading so there is no increase in teacher workload. All the teacher must do is enter the highest score into the grade book (some districts have even integrated MS Forms into their grade book software so it automatically enters the grade). This method of testing meets accommodations for most 504s and IEPs and reduces parental issues since the final grade is determined by the student, not the limits of the test.
When implemented correctly, Interactivated Learning is fast-paced, engaging and effective. In the classroom, it’s proven to increase testing scores, increase student engagement, and even reduce discipline issues. But for it to work takes preparation and commitment. This is not a “Fire and Forget” here’s your packets and one research paper a quarter program. It’s the combination of state-approved text, technology, and most importantly, the teacher. Although there’s more to grade, grading has been simplified and streamlined freeing up teacher time. Time that can be used to be creative and have more fun in the classroom.