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Dec 20, 2022

Embracing the Evolution of Blended and Student-Led Learning

Screencastify Squad

Even with the return to the classroom, educators constantly face challenges — new and old. 

And with those challenges come the need for a solid support system for teachers to help them get comfortable with the solutions and improve their classroom outcomes while communicating better with parents and the administration.

Olivia Nelson, the professional development lead at Screencastify, joins EdTech Heroes to share her insights. We discuss video’s  positive impact on education, and how a partnership between teachers, parents, and the community is vital for students' success at school.


👋 Name: Olivia Nelson

🖥 What she does: Olivia is the professional development lead at Screencastify.

🎬 Company: Screencastify

✍️ Noteworthy: Olivia is a former K-12 teacher and administrator. She has experience in standards-based instruction and culturally responsive pedagogy and leads all professional development for educators at Screencastify. Visit the Screencastify YouTube channel, where she talks about how to use Screencastify and push your classroom.

📱Where to find Olivia: LinkedIn

Key insights

Teachers do a fantastic job despite the challenges. And in this post-pandemic climate, there are so many things they must deal with, starting with policy changes, budget cuts, and workforce shortages. But, regardless of the obstacles, educators still come in every day and do their best with the available resources. 

''I've seen, overall and across the board, that teachers are sticking with it and doing whatever it takes to make sure that students are still learning and, quite frankly, learning even more.''

Every teacher willing to implement something new in the classroom a deserves standing ovation. And that's because people are often afraid to try new things and experiment with technology and methodologies, thinking that they will fail. But technology is here to stay, and it would have become increasingly dominant in education regardless of the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 crisis has just sped up the transition. So the teachers who are the harbingers of change need systematic support. ''I was working in a classroom with desks in rows, very traditional — me standing in the front of the classroom, disseminating information to students. Later, I moved to a school that had small class sizes where we did a lot of centers and rotational small-group learning. And that shift was difficult for me based on what I was used to. So all of the teachers that are teaching right now are going out and taking the risk of trying something new. 

It is probably out of necessity, but it's still not easy. So being that person willing to try out a new model and/or advocate to an administrator that what we have currently is not working is a big deal.''

We need parents to not only attend parent-teacher conferences but to also be a partner in their child's education. It is a two-way street. So we are past the time when teachers invite parents to meetings to elaborate on what they have done in a given period. Instead, it is critical for parents to build an open relationship with a teacher and not be afraid to seek advice regarding what they could do to help their child better understand and adopt learning. 

''I think getting parents involved is — if you ask any teacher anywhere, they're going to say that it is a critical piece of, you know, having successful student education. [...] Parent involvement is more of a summative conversation with parents. And I think what is exciting about the moment we're in right now is that I'm starting to see a lot of teachers view parents and families and the community at large as more of a partner in this process.''

Episode highlights

The first half of the school year unpacked … 🏫

''What has it not been like is the real question. I am blown away by teachers' resilience, resourcefulness, and the way educators are handling this year in education. Moving out of the pandemic as we knew it, some teachers expected this year to be easier and/or back to normal. 

And in my communication and interactions with educators, that has not been the case. [...] But teachers are doing an incredible job with all these things that are being thrown at them.''

Video helps ‘level up’ communication 📢

''I, as a teacher, can't physically teach two classes at one time, especially if they're in two different physical locations. But when I'm using video as an instructional tool — particularly for the direct instruction portion of any given lesson — all of a sudden, video is a resource that can be used simultaneously in up to hundreds of places at a time. [...]

Talk about time-saving. When I'm a teacher, I have all of these things to do, particularly when I have teachers who have quit or left and have had to take on more responsibility. That staff meeting for an hour after school is going to make it difficult for me to get everything done. So I've been excited about the way that administrators have leaned on video to communicate with teachers and help teachers have more autonomy over their time.

And teachers can do the same thing with students and families. I can create a video as a teacher and share it with students and/or families, and they can view it when and how it makes sense for them, whether that's classroom announcements or actual instructional materials. It's an important way that teachers have been able to stay on top of that communication with families, even with all of the other things they have on their plates.''

Blended learning and self-paced learning 🔁

''Flipped learning [is about] doing some core learning outside the classroom and trusting that I can share instructional materials via video and that students can engage with those materials when and where it works for them. 

And we can use instructional time in more innovative ways — whether that means small group work or giving students a little bit more choice and autonomy within the classroom.

The other one I've seen people get excited about is student-led learning. I have seen student-led learning happen in various ways, whether it's just students choosing from a variety of activities — video being one of those. It can encourage students to learn [about] themselves as learners. 

So now, [a student can say], 'Ms. Nelson, I watched the video last time you gave a choice, and I had a hard time paying attention. I need to be in a small group with the teacher because I need more back and forth there.'

In addition to students knowing themselves as learners, I've seen that it allows teachers to be more purposeful in understanding their students as learners. Now I can think about who my students are as learners and give them the option to engage with the material in a way that works for them. 

Another kind of student-led learning model is self-paced learning [...] where I, as a student, am moving through the actual objectives and unit at the pace that works for me. So it's not just the activity itself that is different. 

The objective and the thing I'm learning are different based on how much time I need to learn, how difficult it was for me, and what kinds of activities I need to engage in to understand the material. So I've seen video be successful in those self-paced environments.''

Highly quotable

[01:33] ''I am blown away by the way that educators across the board continue to show up every day for students and make learning possible no matter what.''

[16:30] ''It's not that my job is to teach and then update you on what I've taught. Instead, it's our job as parents and families and the community and educators to come together to make sure that students have everything they need to be successful.''

[22:28] ''When we see other people experiencing success with new technology, new classroom models, it can feel like, 'Oh, I don't wanna try that because I don't want to be new and unsuccessful.' And I want to remind folks that everyone was new at everything at some point. So don't be afraid to try something just because you're going to be new at it. The first step to being good at it is being new and bad at it.''

Screencastify Squad

Helping educators accomplish more, create visible success and inspire new ways of teaching.