Professional learning communities (PLC) guru Rick DuFour wrote about the importance of using time as a variable to ensure learning for all students. He argued that although we know students vary in the amount of time needed for learning, we often provide all students with the same amount of time and expect all students to learn. This view holds time as a constant, which results in learning that varies by student. As long as time for learning is a constant, student learning will always be a variable (DuFour, DuFour, & Many, 2006).
To shift this formula, we must view time as a variable so that learning can be constant for all students. This requires us to think about time flexibly and consider ways to give all learners the time and instruction they need.
In chapter three of The Blended Learning Blueprint for Elementary Teachers, I propose three ways to leverage technology for maximizing instructional time for learners: determine how best to use face-to-face and online learning time, rethink how to structure the school day, and clone the teacher.
No, I’m not talking about lab experiments and test tubes. I’m talking about using technology to create opportunities for you to be in multiple places at once. When you clone yourself, you can provide targeted instruction for multiple individual students and/or small groups at once, maximizing your impact and increasing instructional time for students who need it.
We know that small group instruction is one of the most powerful uses of our time as teachers. However, you may sometimes worry about losing instructional time for students who are not in your small group lesson at any given moment. The solution? Push your small group instruction out to students. Use technology to design multiple targeted learning opportunities and push them out to students’ devices.
When you clone yourself, you can come close to replicating that powerful small group instruction experience for every student at the same time. Envision a classroom where all of these instructional opportunities are present for students simultaneously:
- Teacher facilitates a targeted small group lesson with four or five students
- A small group works through a Nearpod lesson that includes screencasts of the teacher and interactive practice opportunities
- A small group watches a teacher-created video using Playposit and uses embedded prompts to take guided notes
- A small group watches a screencast of teacher feedback on a student writing sample to make revisions to drafts
In this scenario, the entire class can be working through targeted small group instruction aligned with students’ specific learning needs. This is only a glimpse into one 20-30 minute chunk of time in one day. Imagine the impact of this type of instruction multiplied over time as you work with small groups day after day. As you work directly with students and spend time reviewing the work they do in their other small group opportunities, you will continue to gather feedback about their progress, allowing you to be increasingly responsive to student needs.
This approach gives you the freedom to use flexible grouping, providing students with the instruction they need at the moment they need it. As all students work through targeted learning opportunities, you can trust that you are maximizing instructional time for each student, not only the ones in your small group lesson.
Another benefit of creating these targeted learning opportunities is that, over time, you will build a database of teacher-created lessons and resources for students to access when and where they need them. Through feedback and conferences, you can direct students to specific resources to provide more opportunities for them to engage with instructional materials. Increased instructional time aligned with student needs can move us closer to DuFour’s vision of learning as a constant for all students.
To read more about strategies and tools for maximizing instructional time to meet student needs, order your own copy of The Blended Learning Blueprint for Elementary Teachers.
DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2006). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.