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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Changing Role of Substitute Teachers

As an educator, one of our top priorities has always been the learning that is taking place in our classrooms.  For the longest time (prior to tech), if we were out, we had to rely on the sub to continue the learning or we had to give the students busy work since the learning happened with us.  Clearly, with technology, that has changed.  However, the biggest shift for me, that has happened over the past few years is that I am no longer the sole source of learning.

I don't know about your district, but we are very short on subs and extremely short on subs that are certified to teach your students in the subject matter you teach each day.

I recently had surgery that required me to miss a week of school.  When I planned the surgery, I intended to only miss the day of the surgery, but that didn't happen.  I teach Economics, US History, 2 sections of AP Government and Politics and Entrepreneurship this semester.  We have had 8 snow days and 10 delay days this year.  To say I was worried about losing another week of instruction time because of my surgery would be an understatement.

Here's how I kept the learning from being delayed during the week:

1. Schoology (or whatever LMS you are using) 
A. the calendar
1. housed my instructions for the period.  I could leave both written directions and audio ones by uploading an .mp4 file with directions explained.
2. housed the Google Slides that I was able to be updating as the days went on and was always a live version for them to look at. This housed the agenda for the each day.
3. housed any files or links that I needed them to access.

B. Discussion
1. allowed the students to ask questions in a public forum that could be answered by students or myself since I was monitoring each discussion during class periods.  It also allowed each student to see what questions had been asked/answered.

C. Messaging
1. Students were able to ask me questions they did not want in a public forum and I was able to answer them in real time.
D. Quiz
1. I was able to use this as a check for understanding at the end of each topic or unit depending on the class.
E. Individually assigning
1. Based on the data from the formative assessments (Quizlet, Kahoot, Schoology CFU, Bell Ringers) I was able to individually assign a remediation type activity to help my students close the gaps in their instruction.
F. Updates
1. One of my students was able to to record the presentations I was missing and then send me the link and I uploaded it to Schoology so that I could see them, give the students feedback and then allow the students to view it for reflection and growth purposes before their next presentation.

Had I known I was going to be out for the whole week (I was under the impression each day that the next would be my return to school), I would have also utilized the student completion rules so that the students could work more independently at a pace that worked for them on the whole week's instruction, assessment, tasks, etc.

2. EdPuzzle
A. I was able to screencast any direct instruction and then embed multiple choice and open ended questions to check for understanding.
B. I then used the data from the embedded videos to drive what they did the next day.

3. Google Drive
A. Google Forms for bell ringer questions.  The data from these would not only check for understanding, but it would give me feedback as to their level of understanding and then it would drive any reteaching  I also used Google Forms to ask students to evaluate the inquiry question, so for example, at that point in the inquiry each day, did they feel the evidence they evaluated led them to believe that the Cold War was an act of peace or an act of war.  We were able to track their changing opinion with the data pie charts.
B. Google Slides to house the agenda for each class period. This was also displayed by the sub on the Smartboard.
C. Google Docs and the commenting feature for those students that were working on their business plans. This proved invaluable for students who were stuck and needed some question, clarification and direction time with me.
D. Google Docs for my sub plans.  I was able to share them with my sub ahead of time (if I knew who my sub was the next day) and they could ask questions through the comment feature.  I was also able to share them with a colleague so they could help the sub if need be.

4. Google Hangouts
A. I used this to have face to face time with my classes in addition to providing the opportunity for my students and I to continue the discussions we were having in class for my AP Gov class as well as to discuss each day's inquiry in US History.  In Economics, I was able to provide a little bit of direct instruction about supply and demand to make sure that the students understood the intricacies of the two topics.

5. Quizalize/Quizlet
A. I was able to provide a formative assessment each day that was linked to the previous day's content that would give me data about the gaps in understanding that each student/class had. I explained above how that would drive the instruction/tasks for the next day.

6. Kahoot
A. This was a fun way to end the period (as it always it is) and another source of data in identifying the gaps in understanding.  A student would "drive" the game each day.  They really like to use the bluetooth keyboard when running the Kahoot game!

7. Tab  Cloud Chrome Extension
A. I was able to create a Tab Cloud of any and all tabs that the sub would need that day.  I had a colleague log me onto the computer and then I had the date on the Tab Cloud so all the sub had to do was click on the extension and then click on the plus next to the date and voila! All the tabs they needed (Google Slides, Kahoot games, etc) were up and ready to go for them.

What I would add next time I am out...
7. Flipgrid
I would add a link so that the students could answer a check for understanding in their own words or reflect on their learning in a quick 15-20 second video in Flipgrid.

My sub plans basically instruct them to open the Tab Cloud, which tabs they need for each of the classes, instructions about taking attendance and then giving me feedback to give shout outs to the students who were awesome and any issues I needed to address.

Needless to say, the learning didn't even suffer a hiccup with my week long absence!  I don't miss the days that a day I was gone lead to a day of busy work or instruction that didn't work out so hot from the sub. What are you doing in your classroom that helps the learning to continue in your absence? I would love to hear, in the comments of this blog, how you are continuing the learning!