Living in the Learning Moment

Last week I wrote a blog post on Real-Time Feedback. I am a firm believer that students will write and revise better when teachers provide suggestions during class. This requires a teacher to occasionally sit at her desk. The concept is not new. Catlin Tucker blogged about Synchronous Editing with Google Docs to Teach the Common Core in 2013 and reiterated the value of real-time feedback at the California League of Schools Teaching with Technology keynote earlier this month.

Of course, Real-Time Feedback does not happen every day. Lessons must be taught. Discussions must be held. Small groups must be utilized. Independent reading must be encouraged. Blogging must be nourished. Where the teacher sits or does not sit is important the success of these learning opportunities. Both the teacher and the student must live in the learning moment.

For the purpose of this blog, I would like to focus on a comment Nate Kellog made during a brief conversation we had last Sunday at the Napa Valley 1:1 Institute. We were discussing actively monitoring student computers from the teacher's computer. He was concerned that such programs encouraged teachers to sit at their desks and were used as a caught ya!

I have thought about this conversation over the past week. I am sure that Nate would have no problem with teachers occasionally sitting at a desk to give real-time feedback. But Nate made me evaluate how often I should sit at my desk. I do not give real-time feedback every day. Thus, the majority of the time I should be actively roaming my class. 

Our students need us to be actively engaged in their learning. More importantly, our students need us to design lessons that make them want to be engaged (and not play internet games). Sounds simple, right? Create engaging lessons.

You know that it is not simple as it sounds. We all need examples of such lessons. Some examples include

In addition to Catlin's suggestions, below is an example of last Friday's engaging lesson where I had to remind students that the bell had rung, that it was time to go to their next class, and that I was not writing late passes. This was a lesson that required me to roam the classroom despite a strong desire to sit down. This was a lesson that encouraged students to want to learn.

Fridays are blog days once again. Students are allowed to write a blog about a topic of their choice and label it as expository, argumentative, or narrative. I give the students a mini-lesson that reviews the skill we learned that week, such as incorporating facts in a fictional dialogue. The expectations and mini-lesson are posted in the Purpose Statement found on Google Classroom.

For this lesson, I was at my desk for 5 minutes to demonstrate the new skill of adding a hyperlink. Hyperlinks encourage students to cite their sources and use that information to support their writing.  Yes, I did use a computer monitoring program that I am piloting to project my screen on their Chromebooks for demonstration purposes. 

As students practiced adding a hyperlink to an older blog, I roamed my classroom to verify they understood the skill. Student desks, tables, bean bags, and bungee chairs were laid out so that I could see all student computers with a simple turn of my body. I had no need to sit at my desk. I forced myself to live in the learning moment with my students.

Blogs are different from Google Docs in that I cannot open everyone's blog  at the same time and give real-time feedback. Nor would I want to give real-time feedback on blogging days. Students need to be able to independently write for a sitting period without interruption. I did not want to interrupt the creative process.

Yes, I had to redirect some students at the beginning of the blogging session. Some individuals had no idea what to write. My job as a teacher was to give them ideas. Sometimes an individual had an idea but did not how to start writing. My job as a teacher was to give the individual a sentence starter. I did this while walking around the classroom, not sitting at my desk. Once students started writing on a topic of their choice, they did not want to stop when the clean-up bell rang.

This week I thought a lot about what Nate said. I had to put myself in check a few times when I sat at my desk and used the computer monitoring program. Our brief conversation reminded me that it is far more important to create lessons where students want to learn than it is to catch students in the act of non-compliance. As Nate reminded me, I want to live in the learning moment, not sit at my desk and watch it pass by.

I will continue to pilot computer monitoring programs keeping this philosophy in mind. No program should keep the teacher tied to a computer. In the end, I may decide that such a program is not necessary, or I may find one that increases learning opportunities. No matter what, I will remember to create an environment where students want to learn and want to live in the learning moment.


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