I am officially starting my summer off on the right foot. I just finished listening to season 2, episode 14 of Let’s K12 Better, a podcast hosted by @MomOfAllCapes and her KIDS!!! This is a collaborative family podcast where the kids are leading the questions and discussion. I am not only impressed but I am also inspired. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to any of their episodes yet, I strongly recommend adding this to your list of amazing Edu Podcasts.
The episode I am reviewing today included two guests, Grayson McKinney and Zach Rondot. Grayson and Zach are the co-authors of the book The Expert Effect: A Three-Part System to Break Down the Walls of Your Classroom and Connect Your Students to the World.
Garvey, Naima, and Sofia started the episode by sharing the one thing that they hoped people would take away from the episode. Their share-outs included ideas for teachers to go “off-script” and do fun/cool things in their classroom, allowing students to be the expert in their spaces and the impact of teachers sharing resources to help each other be better. After listening to the full episode, I would 100% agree with these takeaways. Zach and Grayson shared the provided ideas for fun and engaging ways to allow students to be the expert in the classroom. There were strategies and suggestions for going off-script, and for slowing down to allow for deep dives into critical content.
The Expert Effect
“Our goal is to break down the walls in our classrooms.” – Grayson
The interview started by asking about the book The Expert Effect. Zack and Grayson shared that they want students to put their own spin on activities and become the expert. Students should be sharing their work on the internet (globally) to get their message and voice out there for the world. As an educator, myself, this is incredibly valuable. Students have voices and need opportunities to share them out. Students should also be recognized for their expertise and be given opportunities to teach others, whether that is in the classroom, in the school, or through a global platform.
Amber (mom) also asked about bringing families into the conversation. The idea was shared around engaging families in virtual field trips along with many great examples of utilizing virtual field trips at home.
Project Based Learning
One of my favorite parts of this episode was the question around the difference between Project Based Learning (PBL) and general projects that we’ve seen in education. Grayson shared out that many general projects are afterthoughts. They come after everything has been taught. Projects are typically extra. With Project Based Learning, students are learning about a subject or content to complete a project.
Zach also shared that PBL allows teachers to go beyond the text. Often, educators can bring in experts and help students learn/grow well beyond where they would get to with just a textbook.
When the questions around standardized testing were asked, Grayson and Zach agreed that educators need to focus on individualized testing. Students aren’t going to leave a classroom remembering the things on a test. The biggest takeaway from this question was that students WILL remember the conversations that they had, the connections that they made, and the projects that they were engaged in.
Most educators (if not all) can agree with this response. The value that Zach and Grayson bring to the conversation was around ideas and strategies teach without focusing on standardized testing. They shared that they want to prepare students for future careers in creating and solving problems. Educators shouldn’t focus on problems that have already been solved but should encourage students to find solutions to unsolved problems of today.
Why Does Education Need Reimagining and What Would You Change?
While this question seems simple, it is quite deep and thought-provoking. I truly appreciated hearing both Zach and Grayson’s responses. They shared that educators need to prioritize the things that are the most important in content and curriculum. Slowing down and spending time bringing in PBL, experts, and think time will help bring joy back into the classroom. Schools need to be a joy for students and shouldn’t feel rushed. Teachers need to slow down and find a new “normal”.
I also agree with them that finding a new “normal” means looking at the past and understanding that schools were originally created based on compliance and preparing students to work in factories. As educators, we need to prepare students to find problems and solutions. Schools need to prepare students for true problem solving, and many strategies are available in their new book to support this way of teaching/learning.
Summer School Program
Can I be a student in the “Think Tank” summer program that Zach and Grayson are running in Oakland this year? I loved this whole episode, but I am most excited to hear more about the summer school experience that was shared out.
I genuinely appreciated this entire episode. Ideas around gamification, podcasting, and creating an authentic audience were all shared and could be implemented into any grade level. Grayson and Zach are definitely experts in the field, and I look forward to learning more from them when I read their book. For me, I could not get over how much I loved hearing from and learning from Amber’s kids, Garvey, Naima, and Sofia. This podcast is getting added to my favorites!