Hello from the land of Hybrid

“I’m always looking for cool ideas to help people improve their hybrid lessons. Can I come by later this week to observe what you are doing?”  

My door is always open.  We even have these cool signs on our rooms at our school that say “The Door is Open” so that if my door is closed, you are welcome to come in.  But I wondered if observing me doing “hybrid” would be observable?

I thanked my colleague for the huge compliment of them thinking that I would be a good person to observe.  But what they would see wasn’t really what would be helpful.  Me in front of a class, and in front of Zoom is only the tip of the iceberg.

In our pre-Covid world, those of us who had been teaching for awhile could plan out a week’s lessons pretty easily.  We didn’t have to flesh it all out.  We knew what worked and what didn’t. We knew which digital tools were the best to do this job or that one. Not that what we did was brainless, or “winging it”, it is just that we had a workflow we had grown comfortable with.

And in a way many teachers moved to distance learning thinking they could continue to work this way.  They could just replicate what they did in the classroom via Zoom.  They figured, “I can ride this thing out with not much change until this whole thing is over.”  But it isn’t over, and it isn’t going to be over…maybe ever.

In a recent talk with heads of schools, Michael Nachbar the Executive Director of Global Online Academy stated that, “The prospect that online learning will become a forever part of your schools, should shape the way we talk about it now.  Lean into it.”  We can’t just stay the course until the end of the year in the hopes that things will go back to normal in the Fall.  We need to embrace the change and do the hard work that will make our schools models of what a truly innovative school can look like.

How do I go Hybrid? Who is doing it well?  What examples are there already out there that we can replicate?

The answer is…

There are no examples.  This has never been done.  No one out there right now feels they are doing it well.  No teachers, no administrator, no curriculum coach, has ever had to deal with teaching both face to face and virtually at the same time, ever.

But there is a solution.  First, let’s just drop the words hybrid, flipped, and blended. They aren’t helpful.  What we need to talk about is getting back to what we know is the key to any good lesson, module, or unit: PLANNING.

Most teachers have already scaled down their curriculum to bare bones while doing Distance Learning.  As we look to next year, we will have to continue to look at the curriculum with fresh eyes.  What is the most essential? When thinking about how to design lessons with kids in front of you and at home you have to begin with your standards or objectives in mind. 

First: What is it that kids need to know and be able to do?

What standards do the students need to meet with this unit/lesson?

What skills and content do you need to teach your students in order to meet that standard?

Get as explicit with this as you can so that your goal is clear for both you and your students.

Second: How should the content be delivered? How do you want your students to do?

Do you want to deliver a lecture? Or are they doing some reading for context? Or are you having them do some investigation?

How much interaction do you want them to have with you?  How much interaction do you want them to have with each other?

Who is responsible for what?  What is your role in the lesson?  What responsibilities do you want the students to have in the lesson?

What about feedback?  Who will give feedback to whom? What do you want the kids to do with the feedback?

So really be thinking about the input and output of the lesson.  Who is doing the input?  What do you want the output to look like?

And also consider that you don’t want to keep using the same delivery.  You and your students need variety.  Some kids learn better with different modalities, so you have to give students opportunities to learn and interact in multiple ways.

Third: Design the Activity.

Where do you want this to happen? Is this something that can be done from home? Or Is this something that can only be done face to face?

How will feedback be given?  Face to face? Video? Written? 

What about space and movement within the classroom?  Kids must be 1.5 meters apart and stationary.  

Did you notice I haven’t said anything about technology yet?  That is because that is what comes last.

What tech tools need to be used to make this happen? 

What tech tools are needed for delivery of content?

What tech tools are needed for interaction?

What tech tools are needed for giving feedback?

Are the pathways and transitions through the lesson at home and in school navigable for students and parents?

The answer to these questions might be that little to no tech is needed.  Or it might be that for all of these, a combination of tools might be needed.

It is hard work.

Doing this kind of planning is why this new school model is so exhausting.  Every lesson is new.  It is like being a brand new teacher again.  Even if we have taught a particular course for 10 years, the planning and execution of delivery of content in that lesson is completely different.

The planning is what is going to save us.  This doesn’t mean that you will no longer have moments of trial and error.  Iteration is a critical piece of becoming better at anything.  It is just that we must really think through all aspects of a lesson, try things out, adjust, redesign, try, etc. 

The design cycle is now more important than ever.  

The more we can concentrate on design and pedagogy the better.  The less we focus on the word hybrid, flipped, distance, remote, the lower the stress level and confusion will be for us and our colleagues. 

This is all stuff people can do and are doing, we just need to have time to sit together and plan for what we are doing, so we can make what we are doing better.

Looking for inspiration in this planning process? Here is a great unit/lesson planner that helps you organize all the above questions. There are also some great ideas here in Global Online Academy’s playlist on YouTube for their Catalyst Cards.

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