The Balance with Catlin Tucker: Featuring Lisa Highfill

In this episode of The Balance, I talk with Lisa Highfill, a mother, educator, instructional coach, and co-author of The HyperDoc Handbook. Lisa describes herself as a thinker, philosopher, debater, and geek. She was a classroom teacher for over twenty years and is currently a technology integration coach in the Pleasanton Unified School District. She has been working in the field of educational technology since 1998 when she earned her Masters Degree in Ed Tech Leadership. Lisa is the epitome of a life-long learner. She is a Google Certified Innovator, YouTube Star Teacher, Merit Fellow, and Leading Edge Digital Educator.

In this episode, Lisa and I talk about lesson design and how teachers can create balanced lessons that allow them to connect with students in meaningful ways. Lisa highlights the ways in which traditional routines and lessons “steal face time with students.” We discuss the importance of viewing our classrooms as laboratories, designing lessons that help us maximize our minutes with students, and escaping the traditional role as the disseminator of information at the front of the classroom.

If you are part of a professional learning community, the questions below are designed to facilitate a conversation–in person or online–about the issues discussed in this episode of The Balance. If you do not have a PLC at your school but you want to engage in an online conversation with other educators, check out the Facebook page I created to encourage conversations about achieving and maintaining balance! I will post a question a week to encourage an ongoing discussion about issues related to balance.

  1. If you treated your classroom like a laboratory focused on improving your craft and learning about your students’ needs, how would that change your teaching practice? How would you design lessons so that you were learning about your students during the lesson?
  2. Think about your daily or weekly routines (e.g., welcome task, daily oral language, number of the day). How long do you spend on these types of tasks? Are they the best use of your limited time with kids or do they steal your face time with students? What adjustments can you make to these routines to create more time in class to connect with students and work side-by-side with them?
  3. Do you feel exhausted by endless initiatives? Is it clear how initiatives complement one another or do they feel disjointed and unrelated? Does your district follow through and support staff when a new initiative is introduced?
  4. Do you strive for balance when designing lessons? Do you think about how the elements of the lesson are balanced–online vs. offline, the individual vs. the collaborative, teacher talk vs. student voice?
  5. What do you think of this idea of balancing our approach to assessment? Can you imagine giving students agency in the way they demonstrate their learning? How might this impact your engagement and your students’ engagement?

If you want to connect with Lisa, you can follow her on Twitter @lhighfill or check out the Facebook page she created for educators using hyperdocs. I also recommend visiting https://hyperdocs.co, which is the website Lisa and her co-authors created to encourage educators to share the dynamic hyperdoc lessons they are creating. The website is a fabulous resource for any teacher interested in designing multimedia lessons that allow students high degrees of agency.

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