In this episode of UEN Homeroom, Dani and Matt chat with Scott McLeod, a Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Colorado Denver. Listen as he shares his expertise on Deeper Learning and how educators can use it to enhance learning in their classrooms.
In this episode of UEN Homeroom, Dani and Matt chat with Scott McLeod, a Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Colorado Denver. Listen as he shares his expertise on Deeper Learning and how educators can use it to enhance learning in their classrooms.
Dr. Scott McLeod
Learn more about Deeper Learning:
4 Shifts Protocol
Podcasts and Recent Books
- Redesigning for Deeper Learning (redesigning lessons live on air)
- LeaderTalk (talking with leaders of deeper learning schools)
- Leadership for Deeper Learning (2021)
- Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning (2019)
- Different Schools for a Different World (2018)
Stay connected with UEN 🤳
[MUSIC PLAYING] Hey, Matt.
How are you today?
I'm doing great. I am so excited to talk deeper learning today.
Oh, my gosh. Deep versus shallow learning is one of my favorite things to talk to teachers about because I really feel like educators want to do deeper learning and want to have these really creative and exciting experiences with their students. And then they feel so shackled by end-of-level testing.
And they're like, oh, yeah, that's such a great idea. But we just-- we got to go do the lower level of Bloom stuff. We got to get that really hammered in.
Yep. And thankfully, our guest today is a deep expert on deeper learning. His 4 Shifts Protocol, deeper learning, all this stuff has been influential in the field trying to get people to understand how to do deeper learning at a much richer level. So we're lucky to have Scott McLeod, professor from Denver, to talk to us a little bit about deeper learning.
And I do have a bit of confession, Dani.
I didn't tell him this. But I saw him at ISTE '22, and I didn't know who he was. And I kind of grilled him because I was so excited about what was going on, his ideas.
And then I posted on social media, and you're like, oh, yeah, I use him in my classes.
I was like, I know that guy.
And I didn't realize who I was talking to, and then you told me otherwise. So I--
You didn't know he was an "edu-lebrity."
It's true. And I'm very excited to talk to him and get into it with him.
All right. Well, let's have a listen in.
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We are so lucky to have Scott "McLloyd" here with us. And I'm going to ask you, for those of you-- for those of our listeners who are maybe less familiar with your work and your work in education, can you tell us a little bit about your educational journey?
Yeah. Hi, everybody. Dani, it's Scott McLeod, so rhymes with like cloud in the sky. So a former eighth-grade social studies teacher, grew up in Virginia. I did my first teaching gig in Charlotte, North Carolina. Loved that. Still miss those kids. It's been a long time.
My wife and I knew we wanted to go back and get final degrees, somehow ended up in Iowa getting both a law degree and a PhD. And since then, have somehow been on this weird professor track as a professor of school leadership at a variety of different universities, except for a four-year break where I kind of stepped away from higher ed and was the director of learning, teaching, and innovation for a regional education agency in Iowa serving a geographic area about the size of New Jersey. We served about 40 school districts.
Currently a professor of school leadership, University of Colorado Denver, serving the state of Colorado and beyond. And I'm also the founding director of a center called CASTLE. CASTLE is the only university center in America that's focused on leadership and innovation, technology and deeper learning, all the fun stuff. And in that role, I get to work with schools all around the world.
Before we started recording, you were telling us about all of your site visits you're doing, these wonderful visits where you're hitting five schools in three different states or four different states in, like, one week, which is incredible. I saw you present briefly at ISTE '22. And I was taken so quickly by your research with the 4 Shifts Protocol and deeper learning. But for educators or parents or community members that are less familiar with deeper learning, what does that mean? What does it mean to be involved in deeper learning? How does it tie to other models of learning that communities may be familiar with?
So the concept of deeper learning is a simple one for most folks to kind of wrap their head around. It's just this idea that traditionally, in schools, we've privileged what we might call lower-level learning. So that might be content recall, like spit back some facts that you were recently exposed to, or some basic procedural skills, like here's a fundamental math formula or science formula. Can you now use that and give that back to us in a couple of worksheets or on a test or whatever?
And those are-- facts and procedural skills are important. They're sort of fundamental building blocks of our learning. But there's lots of stuff that doesn't fall under sort of the lowest levels of thinking, which is what we've traditionally privileged.
So the idea of deeper learning is that we're looking at things like how do we make sure that kids are rich, robust thinkers and problem solvers and engage in sort of those higher-level or higher-order thinking competencies. You're collaborating with others to do really interesting, complex work. You're an effective communicator. You're getting a chance to be creative and tap into those pieces of the brain.
And those aspects of the thinking and learning and teaching work often are less privileged in most schools. We have some research that seems to indicate that about 80% to 85% of a kid's day-to-day learning experience in most schools is focused on the lowest-level stuff, which fits very nicely into sort of the traditional transmission-regurgitation model of education.
So the teacher or the textbook or the website or the YouTube or whatever is going to push something out. It's going to transmit something to you. And then your job after some span of time, 5 minutes one day a week, is to regurgitate it back. And if you regurgitate it back well, we give you an A. And if not, then we go into remediation and intervention.
And that's the game of school for most kids and most educators most of the time. And we have assessments and curriculum that drive that transmission-regurgitation model.
Deeper learning tends to be much more open-ended. Like here's an authentic problem in the community or in the real world. How might we tackle that? There is no right solution to regurgitate. It's really us working together to figure out how do we do impactful things in the world and our community around us, and how do we work together to make that happen.
So that's kind of deeper learning in a nutshell. It usually has really high levels of student agency and voice and choice. We're usually connected with authentic real-world work as we're doing that rich, deep, complex thinking stuff beyond-- and you have to know stuff to be able to problem-solve around it. So that content and the procedure is still important. But we're going far beyond sort of that lowest-level thinking.
Thank you for that, Scott. We all super-appreciate that deep dive into deeper learning. Still around this idea of deeper learning, we're wondering, as educators or even as site administrators, how can we negotiate or balance this desire for deeper learning? Because I think kids enjoy it more, and teachers enjoy that process more. But there's still that enforcement of standardized testing that definitely falls into that regurgitation-type knowledge.
Sure, absolutely. And this is the crux of the challenge. So Utah has this new profile of a graduate that leans heavily into deeper learning. And you look at some of the competencies that you're looking for as you think about what kind of learners and graduates do we want in the state of Utah.
And you just literally say, you want students who are able to be good critical thinkers and problem solvers, who are creative and innovative, who can collaborate well and engage in teams, who learn great skills like honesty, integrity, responsibility, hard work, resilience. And those are hard to accomplish in worksheet- and textbook-driven environments because those opportunities to do that work just aren't there.
What are you going to do? You're going to be creative and innovative on that worksheet that you were handed? It's just like-- the connection just is lacking.
But we still have these other assessments that are important to us and that we're trying to have students do well on. And what's fascinating to me is that in these deeper learning schools, they actually do better on those tests generally than our students do.
So in traditional schools, educators will say things like, well, we can't do deeper learning work because of the curriculum, the test, the content, the standards, whatever. But these deeper learning schools are navigating the same curriculum assessment environment. And their students are doing better. And they cover less content, which is fascinating to me.
So we have research study after research study that shows us that in a deeper learning school, they might cover 50% to 60% of the traditional content and procedures that's done in a school down the street, but they do better on the state test of content coverage. And the reason is because they're able to hone in on what's really important within that content space for that grade level. And they go deep, hands-on, applied, conceptual-- like, kids really understand it and hang onto it and have wrestled with it.
And then when they hit the assessment, piece of cake, right? That assessment is much lower-level than what they've had-- been doing around that content space, whereas what we're seeing, particularly on these international assessments, is that if the problem that you're given on the state assessment or international test doesn't look exactly like the thing that you practiced in a rote way over and over and over again, then you're lost because you don't have any conceptual understanding of the topic at hand, because all you've done is you've stayed shallow because you're trying to cover a whole bunch of stuff really fast throughout the school year.
So what we're finding is that it's not deeper learning or success on standardized assessments. It's success on standardized assessments through deeper learning. And a lot of places are finding that they're actually getting better results because of the deep, hands-on way.
Now, what we're also finding in these deeper learning schools is that there's a whole host of other positive outcomes that come along with that. So, for example, students in deeper learning schools show greater collaboration skills. They have greater feelings of belongingness within the building. There are much higher levels of academic engagement and motivation to learn.
Their self-efficacy is off the roof because they're doing rich, complex work and are succeeding at that. They're more likely to graduate high school on time. These deeper learning secondary schools do a great job of capturing struggling ninth-grade low achievers and getting them back on track.
They're more likely to go to college. They're more likely to graduate college. So all the things that we sort of say we want for our young people in terms of outcomes seem to be doing better in these deeper learning schools. And yet we say that we can't do deeper learning because of those very things. So it's sort of-- it's like this unfamiliarity with the deeper learning space prevents us from leaning into sort of this newer work.
That's absolutely fascinating. I like the discussion about international testing that you just had. I find that absolutely fascinating about the-- especially the rote memorization and the problems looking the same, but it's the same problem but different styles and things like that. I think that's a key component of what's going on because I've heard a lot of critics talk about these deeper learning schools or PCBL schools or whatever you want to go with.
And they'll say, well, it's smaller class sizes. There's more attention to coaching detail, those sorts of things. But what you're talking about here, in essence, is the idea that there's so many ways for the student to learn and then do it in different ways that are engaging. I love that.
Yeah. And I think what I would add there is that if you talk to families and parents and employers, and sometimes policymakers, and you say, what do you want graduates to look like? What competencies do you want them to have when they leave? They'll list a whole bunch of things that aren't academic content, like we want them to be good thinkers and problem solvers. We want them to be good collaborators and teammates. We want them to be able to be difference makers out in the community.
And my question always back to them is, cool. I want that, too. How much content are you willing to give up for that? Because how you answer that question determines the entire arc of your school year.
So if you only dedicate 5% to 15% of your school time to those other outcomes, then you really don't want them. You really just want academic regurgitators right? And that's how most of our schools are set up. So we say-- we give lip service that we want these other things. But we don't actually create structures and activities and experiences that would accomplish those in our young people.
So that's the implementation piece. So if we're going to have a new profile of a graduate at a district level or at a state level in Utah, for example, then the question is, what are you going to give up to create space for those other things and those other outcomes to happen? And that's what these deeper learning schools do.
I think this is such an interesting conversation because earlier, you said something about worksheets and textbooks. And I was thinking to myself, I haven't seen a textbook in a really long time. But I think we're still teaching like it is all worksheets and textbooks, even if we are using technology. We could be in a very technology-heavy school and still be teaching like we have copy machines and textbooks.
Well, and, Dani, if you're marching kids through some kind of digitized curriculum, that's your textbook. Just because it's not a physical paper form doesn't mean it's not still there.
So, Scott, I just want to take a second. You've given us some great theory and some of the overview of deeper learning, particularly with this interesting side note of-- well, not even side note-- of state testing and core testing. But you've also pointed to these ideas of hands-on, experiential learning. And I know that you're doing site visits to a lot of schools across the United States, across the world. Can you give us some concrete examples of how you've seen educators or schools approach experiential or hands-on learning in a way that exemplifies deeper learning?
So I'll pull a couple of examples from here in Colorado, just because you're near and dear to me. There were some scientists in Peru who were studying the declining frog population in Lake Titicaca, which is about 12,500 feet above sea level, one of these alpine lakes. And because of pollution from the local villagers and population, the frog population had declined down to, like, 30% of what it used to be over just a few decades. So we had some students in Colorado who got wind of the project through some scientists here in Colorado that the Peruvian scientists were working with. And they enlisted the students to help.
So the students started creating these aquatic robots, both surface-level robots and underwater robots, because one of the things that's challenging about collecting data in aquatic environments at high altitude is that all of your scuba diving tables and calibrations are set for sea level. So the rule when you're diving at altitude is, stay down for short periods of time and stay shallow. So it's really hard to collect data down deeper where the frogs were around the conditions of the lake that were affecting their biome, and so on.
So the students were creating these robots that could either collect surface-level data or go down underwater and collect data. Then they were shipping these robots down to Peru. And then this is in a district where a lot of the students working on the team, English was not their primary language. They were multilingual.
And they were able to troubleshoot the robots and communicate directly with the scientists in Peru in their native language of Spanish. So now all of a sudden, their multilingualism was an asset, not a challenge. And then they're also, in addition to collecting data and analyzing it in combination with the scientists and building-- so they're doing robots. They're doing scientific analysis.
But they're also trying to help the local citizens understand the importance of the frogs and why they should care about them. So they created Spanish-language comic books and environmental awareness campaigns. And they were conducting those.
And so this is a great project, right? This is, like, holy wow. This is amazing. Put this on your college resume. And that's an example of deeper learning.
So what we're doing is that students are learning just a whole bunch about writing and arts and communicating with an authentic audience and scientific data and analysis and robotics and math and physics. And it's all wrapped up in sort of this holistic, real-world challenge where they're working with some caring adults who are guides and facilitators. But they're essentially peer-to-peer collaborators and essential partners in the work, and they're doing really cool stuff. There's an example for you.
We've got another high school here west of Denver where they are participating in NASA's HUNCH program. So what they do is they try to identify challenges that exist in outer space, like how do you stay fit and exercise, or how do you wash clothes when you don't have any water or minimal water.
And then what students do is they prototype solutions, and then they pitch them to NASA down in Houston. And they keep sending projects up to the International Space Station for further testing.
So a couple of instances, for example, is that I saw a group of students, they were working on this sort of ultraviolet collapsible bucket thing where you could put, like, 10 milliliters of water and some UV radiation and some chemicals, and you could wash a T-shirt. I saw this other group of students, they had created this water-repellent harness from scratch because you didn't want it to absorb sweat. And it had D-rings attached in different places.
And the idea was, you're not going to put a track or a weight set up in space because you don't have the space or the weight. But you could attach tension cables to different parts of the station. So you could work different parts of the body attached to D-rings on the harness. And you could do tension resistance and stay fit that way for your six-month stay at the International Space Station.
So they're prototyping these things physically. And then they're literally testing them on the space station. So those are just a couple of examples of deeper learning in practice.
Down at the elementary level, it might look a little smaller, for example, like we have this unused courtyard that needs some work. And so we're going to have kids-- we're going to turn fourth graders loose on that. And they're not only going to help us come up with 3D scale models of what the courtyard could look like that would be student-friendly and empowering. But also, we're going to learn concepts of scale and measurement and geometry and arithmetic that's part of that work.
They're going to pitch their designs to local architects, which means that they're going to practice their writing and public speaking skills, and so on. And then ultimately, we will fold in some of the kids' ideas into our budget for the courtyard redesign. And they will see that they can impact their immediate surroundings in a way that improves the community. So those are just some examples, quickly, of deeper learning in practice, where we're still folding in those fundamental knowledge and skills that we want kids to learn, but we're putting them into these larger, more meaningful and relevant experiences that really drive the learning work in different ways.
That's amazing. Thank you so much for sharing those examples. The one where the high school is collaborating with NASA, it makes me think of something that happens at the LaFont Institute at the University of Utah with college students in their Bench to Bedside program, where they're taking people who are not necessarily doctors or even in the medical field, but are innovators, to help solve those kind of actual, real-life, concrete problems.
And something that I recognized throughout these examples that you gave us is that there's a lot of-- they're tech-powered, but they're not necessarily like all tech-reliant. So I've been using the 4 Shifts Protocol with some of my instructional design students in the past, where I've regrettably been telling them that your name is Scott "McLloyd," which I will change this summer semester, I promise, Scott. Scott McLeod. See? I've got it now. It's fine.
But I'm wondering, how can educators use the 4 Shifts Protocol to make sure that the text that they select for their classroom is a deeper learning experience? And maybe you could explain the 4 Shifts Protocol a little bit.
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Dani, for using the protocol with your students.
A little history here-- so back in the late 2000s, Iowa became the first state to really dive in deep in terms of a grassroots 1-to-1 movement. We had [? MAIN, ?] which was sort of like a top-down 1-to-1 movement where we were going to give every kid a device.
And Iowa kicked off this, like, six-year run where every year, the number of districts that were providing kids laptops or tablets was doubling. So we went 15, 45, 90, 140, 190, 240. We went from nobody in the state to over 3/4 of the districts in the state in, like, half a decade. It was this massive 1-to-1 movement.
And my center, CASTLE, was helping driving a lot of that work. We were having an annual Iowa 1-to-1 Institute, where people could come for free and learn from each other. There's lots that we were doing on my end and CASTLE's end.
But ultimately, what we were finding, of course, was that just because you stick a device into a classroom or a school building doesn't mean the learning model changes. And so what was happening is that we were starting to visit these schools that had been 1-to-1 for three or four years, and learning still looked the same.
And to the extent that they were using technology, it was mostly digital worksheets and SMART boards, where teachers lectured with a $4,000 board instead of a $150 board. We just spent $10,000 on this curriculum system to do what we were doing for $1,000 with paper. You get the idea, right?
My colleague Julie and I, we were trying to say, what can we create that will help drive a different kind of conversation. And after four-plus years of pilot testing with educators in Iowa and elsewhere, we eventually came up with the 4 Shifts Protocol. And the idea of the protocol is it's meant to help us answer the question of technology for the purpose of what? Or instruction for the purpose of what?
And the protocol has four sections. So it has a section on deep, rich, complex thinking and problem solving. That section A. It has a section on real-world, authentic work. That's section B.
Section C is really around student agency and voice and choice and personalization. And then section D is some additional things to think about around tech integration, particularly around communication and collaboration and audience.
And so the idea of the protocol is that it's meant to exist in this sort of in-between space where on one end is maybe more traditional teacher-directed instruction and traditional uses of tech. And on the other end, it might be really full-blown blow-your-mind, gold-standard, project-based and inquiry-based learning, like some of the examples I gave you.
And the 4 Shifts Protocol is meant to exist in that space in between where we say, how do we start bridging folks from one to the other? Because most traditional teachers can't leap to full-blown gold standard PBL. That's a really big jump. And to say to your average classroom teacher, hey, guess what? That thing you're doing? Well, now it's going to be four weeks long, and you're going to hand it all over to the kids, and you're going to sit back. And the teachers are going to be, like, [GROANS], lots of anxiety there.
But the protocol is meant to allow us to start building capacity in smaller shifts. So just to take section C as an example, section C asks nine key questions around student agency, like, for example, who got to pick what the thing is that's being learned? Who got to pick how that thing gets learned? Who gets to pick how you show your knowledge and what you can do and how it's assessed?
Who is picking the technology that's being used? Who's the primary user of that technology? Who's driving the talk time? Who's driving the work time? Questions like that.
And so the idea is that with the protocol, we could take any existing lesson or unit, and we could pick just one or two bullets within a section. And we could say, what if I wanted to play with this. Right now, when I look at this activity that I got planned for next Tuesday and Wednesday, I'm the primary driver of the talk time. I'm directing traffic. I'm deciding who talks about what and when.
But I know that kids need to learn how to be effective collaborators and communicators. So how can I redesign this activity so that kids are driving more the talk time? And what kind of structures can we create, and what kind of scaffolds do we need to build in so that kids can learn how to drive conversations in a different way?
And so what the protocol is doing is that each section and each bullet within a section is inviting us to think about that in the context of an existing lesson or unit and say, if we feel like we've still got a ways to go on that, how might we move in some directions. So just to give you another example bullet, there's a contribution bullet in section B, which is the real-world, authentic work, where it says, is student work making a contribution to an audience beyond the classroom walls to the outside world? And that's inviting the teacher to say, even when we're working on a project, like, "All right, kids, let's learn how to practice some of our math skills by designing birdhouses." That would be a cute little elementary project.
But the birdhouse designs and the math calculations would never go outside the classroom. The only person who would see that would be the teacher. And what that question is doing is it's inviting us to say, how could we do the same work but also connect it to something outside of the school in the real world where kids can still learn their math and practice those skills, but also maybe make something or do something that would benefit somebody else outside the building, not just keep it penned in within the classroom and the teacher? And that elevation of the audience from the teacher herself to the outside world and an authentic audience can make a world of difference in terms of students' engagement and motivation and interest in the work and sort of their meaning-making around that.
So the protocol is inviting us to make these small shifts in places where we want to play and basically saying, on the tech side, what are we using technology for? Are we simply using it to replicate, perhaps in a more expensive way, the traditional low-level work that we've always done? Or can we use technology as an assist and as an empowering lever to make some of these other richer opportunities happen?
Scott, I could listen to you talk about that for, like, an hour. When I first was introduced to this in one of your presentations, I went, this is a great companion piece to SAMR because we're looking for that higher redefinition of technology use. This gives us a list of criteria to kind of build off of. And I think any teacher could really build off of the 4 Shifts and something like SAMR or PICRAT to really jump in. So yeah, I'd love to hear your thoughts about how does 4 Shifts work in concert with something like SAMR.
Right. So one of the challenges of frameworks like SAMR, PICRAT, TPACK, whatever, is that they're sort of generalized frameworks. They don't really tell a teacher what to do. And so I've always struggled with SAMR because, A, it's judgmental. if you're low on the SAMR ladder, and somebody tells you, oh, you got to get up here higher on the-- if the teacher knew how to do that, she would already be doing it. And there's nothing concrete that tells you what to shift.
The second challenge that I've always had with SAMR is that the way that-- SAMR is a technology continuum, not a learning continuum. So in other words, you can be very high on the SAMR continuum-- the technology allows us to do something that we weren't able to do before.
So, for instance, Zoom allows us to communicate in real time with somebody, like another class, that's extremely far away. So the technology is allowing us to do something that we've never done before. But what we do in that connective space can still be really low-level learning.
So you think about a popular activity like mystery Skype, where we're-- yes, it's great that your classroom is connected to another classroom in real time. But all you're doing is guessing each other's location in 20-question style. That's basically low-level learning. So just because you're high in SAMR doesn't mean it's high-level learning.
So what we're finding with the protocol is, it is turning out to be a nice complement to these generalized frameworks because what it does is reinserting the learning piece and saying, what kind of learning experiences do you want kids to have? Do you want kids to have high levels of agency and voice within that tech space? Do you want kids to be doing real-world, authentic work within that technology-enabled space?
Do you want kids to be rich thinkers and problem solvers within that rich technology space? Or are you just asking them to regurgitate and do low-level work? So we have to take some of these general frameworks and complement them with something more specific. And a lot of people have latched onto the protocol to help with that. It's been fun.
Yeah. And I see that working together and giving us that deeper learning that you're looking for when we have the technology in place to do the amazing things that we couldn't do previously, now we have a framework to actually work through those. And that kind of leads us to our teacher questions.
Hello. I'm Christina Herron with the Washington County School District. I'm a teacher working to build leadership capacity. How can deeper learning and the 4 Shifts help me to work with my fellow educators in productive ways?
So I love this question because what we have here is we have an educator who's looking to step up in terms of a leadership role and be a teacher leader, a peer-to-peer leader, a coach, a variety of side-by-side leadership perspectives here. And the question is, what do you want to lead around? And there's lots of things that you could lead around. You could lead around social-emotional learning. You could lead around culturally responsive practice.
One of the things you could lead around would be deeper learning. [LAUGHS] And if deeper learning is something that interests you, then I think there's robust opportunities for you to start modeling, as an educator yourself, how might you start integrating the protocol and these deeper learning shifts into your own work, but then also start finding allies and building a coalition within your building or your district or your region of other people who are like-minded, where together, you start growing the numbers of people who are playing around with these deeper learning shifts, who are trying to figure out what they mean for day-to-day practice, who are wrestling through the ongoing realities of trying to implement some of this stuff with young children and within school structures and policies, and yet also being cognizant of the fact that we need to change school because it's 2023, and it's not 1973.
And we know that schools need to start looking different. That's why we have these profiles of a graduate or a learner. And just sort of being able and willing to take the lead in that space and then using the protocol to help drive those conversations to do practice redesigns together, and so on, is just a fantastic space for an educator to live in.
So I see a number of educators all around the world who are saying, I care passionately about deeper learning experiences for kids. And I'm not only going to do that myself, I'm going to start building the coalition and sparking conversations at a larger level. And that can be-- as those people become more visible within their educational space, whether it's a building or a district, then opportunities start to arise.
Wow, you're doing some really great work. I see that you're starting to build your little set of allies here. Have you thought about being an instructional coach? Have you thought about being the assistant curriculum director? We could really use this perspective in our technology team because right now, we're mostly boxes and wires, sort of this great opening space where the protocol can help drive fantastic student work, really interesting teaching experiences, and also some career progression and advancement along the way.
I love that. And I think you're tapping into something that's so important for teachers, which is, how do we professionally develop ourselves in ways that are engaging for us, but also that engage our communities that we live in? And we're starting to see a lot of shifts away with school leadership for professional development with-- using Sir Ken Robinson's languages, like command and control, we're moving away from that towards climate control. How do we get people to feel comfortable and do things that get them excited about their own learning? So what are some ways that school leaders can provide a quality, professional learning environment with deeper learning as the core focus for that professional development in their schools?
So that's a really interesting question because, most of the time, when school leaders think about professional development, they, A, don't give it near the amount of consideration that it should. And B, they typically implement these one-size-fits-all models that don't. And I think it would be really interesting for school leaders to take a different orientation, which is that, first, we have to build this collective mindset that school needs to be different. There's no chance of success if we first don't have our people on board.
So I remember being invited to a school once where the principal was, like, Scott, I love the 4 Shifts Protocol, and I really want you to interact with my educators around that and do some lesson redesigns and show them how the tool works. And I've got everybody rotating through some time blocks with you throughout the day.
And I showed up, and it was very clear within five minutes that the only person that wanted me in the building to do this instructional redesign work was the principal herself. There wasn't a teacher there anywhere, not even the APs. The APs were sitting there with scowls and arms crossed, the assistant principals. And I was like, wow, this is going to be a rough day.
And it was, because all the teachers are like, who is this dude from the University of Colorado who's trying to tell me how to do stuff that I don't want to do? But there's possibility here, because in every school, in every system, we have teachers who are already doing some of this interesting deeper learning work or who would like to. And I think what we have always stressed with the protocol is that we always honor teacher choice and professional judgment and decision-making because they know their kids and their content and their context, and so on.
A professional learning model that's not one-size-fits-all, that instead says, here are three or four different things that we're going to lean into as a building, and those choice pathways for professional development were informed by you, not just me. And one of those might be a deeper learning pathway. And then within that, we can have teachers do some initial self-assessment and say, I really want to work on getting better at providing higher levels of student agency. Or I feel like I do a good job of giving kids agency, but I don't really connect kids to the world outside of the building very often. I would like to lean into section B of the protocol.
Or I'm looking back at my work and seeing that I could use technology in some more interesting ways around communication and collaboration. Or most of my work, I ask students is relatively low-level on Bloom's taxonomy. I'd like to elevate that up so that they're doing more thinking and problem-solving.
And what we do is we're creating these inquiry groups of teachers, sort of like deeper learning PLCs, if you want, where teachers are driving the work in the direction. But they're using the structures of deeper learning and maybe the 4 Shifts Protocol to help drive those investigations in ways that move them forward. But they're in charge of the process.
And I think that's the way to do it because otherwise, professional development is something that's done to classroom educators, as opposed to instead saying, we're going to provide this rich opportunity for learning and growth, and you decide which direction do you want to lean into that ultimately will benefit all of us.
I love that focus on teacher choice. Just like we want students to take their learning in the direction that they want it to go and trusting educators to be able to say, this is what my students need, and this is where we're going. So I really appreciate that.
And we know that disempowered teachers don't empower kids. You have to have empowerment yourself first in order to then give it to others.
I love that. So in that same vein, social media is a great way for teachers to kind of take control of their own professional learning. In Utah, social media has been a bit of a buzzword with a lot of negativity surrounding it.
So I want to focus on a positive use of social media. And I'm wondering about social media as a professional learning tool. And is it possible for educators to create a deeper learning experience through connecting with others on social media and the opportunities there?
So I'm old. You can see by my gray hair that I've been around a while. I started blogging in 2006. I think I was on Twitter by April 2007, so that's a long time. And I've been in a variety of other social media and platforms since then. As new tools pop up and emerge, I always try to establish my presence and see how they might work.
I'm a professor. And what I tell people over and over again is that I've probably learned 1,000 times as much from smart people outside of academia all around the world that I've connected with in social media than I have through reading journal articles in academic books and going to academic conferences, and so on.
The bottom line is this. No matter what your context, what your setting, what your job role is, there are other really smart people out there who are doing similar work, adjacent work, other kind of work that can inform what you do. And you'll never know it if you don't connect to them.
What I always encourage people to do is, if you're a seventh-grade science teacher, go find those interesting seventh-grade science teachers out there who are sharing what they're doing. And they're out there. You can find them through hashtags and online communities and groups, and so on.
And that's the best professional learning you'll ever have because it's somebody who's doing what you do, but elsewhere, and is willing to share what they're struggling with, what their successes are, the cool things that they've done with kids, new tools that they've discovered. I found this fantastic resource, and it's all free.
That's the best part. You don't have to travel. You don't have to pay for it. All you've got to do is find those people and add them to your network on whatever platform you're on-- Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok, whatever. And then all of a sudden, every time you open up that space, there's new ideas. There's new resources. There's somebody on the other end that you can contact and ask a question about, or you can connect with.
And this is gold. This is like-- I describe this as, imagine that you had a hole in your backyard, and you went out, and there was a gold nugget. And you're like, hey, free gold. And you took it, and you put in your pocket, and you went out the next day, and there's another gold nugget. It just appeared. It was free.
And so it's like this ever-replenishing gold nugget hole where every time you look, there's new stuff waiting for you. And some people get overwhelmed by it. It's like, well, there's so much going by, and I can't keep track of it all, and I'm going to miss things. And I'm like, that's all right. It's like fishing in the river. If you're casting your line in the river, you're not worried about all the fish you didn't catch that went by. You're happy about the one you caught.
Maybe you missed 47 blog posts in your blog reader, or you only have 5 minutes to spend in your Twitter group today, or whatever. But bottom line is, if you went in, and you got something good out of it, cool. You caught a fish. Don't worry about all the ones you didn't catch.
So weird analogies-- holes of gold nuggets, fishing in the river. But bottom line is, social media can be incredibly beneficial. And it's free. And you got really smart people who-- the best thing about the internet is that people are willing to share the cool things that they're doing and the challenges that they're facing with in settings like yours with kids like yours, and you just can't beat that.
So true, Scott. And I love the metaphors. I think those are fantastic. You obviously have a great sense of humor, and I do want to give you a second to prop up your wonderfully titled blog that you have, but also your social media, because you are an extremely solid follow on social media for educators. So if you can tell us where we can find you, that'd be great.
Thank you, Matt, for the kindness. My central hub is a blog called "Dangerously Irrelevant"-- I need to blog a little more often; recently, sabbaticals kept me busy-- where I share all kinds of resources and thoughts around learning and innovation and leadership and technology and deeper learning. You can find me on most social media platforms. Just click on the Contact link at Dangerously Irrelevant, McLeod on Twitter, Scott McLeod on Instagram and Facebook, and other places that you can interact with me. So I'm out there. Thanks.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Scott. We really appreciate you sharing your thoughts on deeper learning and the 4 Shifts. And hopefully, we can see you in Utah sometime soon.
Yeah, that would be great. And I always tell people I'm not an ivory-tower academic. I am in schools all the time. I'm engaging with educators every day in social media, email, text messages, whatever. So please don't hesitate to reach out. I'm always happy to set up a conversation and talk about whatever you want to talk about. Thanks for the opportunity.
So, Dani, I think the thing that I'm taking away from this that I really, really love, besides his metaphors for everything--
They were great.
Yeah, they're just fantastic-- is the conversation about providing choice as much as we do for students, as much as we do for teachers, having that equal amount of choice and professional development choice, and how teachers learn and that voice as well, and what they want to learn about, and what will support their classrooms. We need to do that for teachers as much as we do for students.
I couldn't agree more. And he said something about disempowered teachers do not create empowered students. And I'm like, yes, this is it. We can't be doing a professional learning training-type situation where we're training in a way that we wouldn't want to see our teachers teach.
Exactly. We need to be-- if you're a school leader, or if you're a teacher, even, you need to advocate for yourself and for the choices that you think will work best for your school. And we already know this. Every school is uniquely different and has different things that it needs to support its educators, its parents, its students. And so by giving that choice and not trying to fit every educator, every building into the same professional development can really up the engagement and the excitement about different concepts.
Absolutely. Well, it's been a really exciting day chatting with Scott today. I've loved this conversation. And I want to say to teachers listening to this episode, reach out to us with what you think on social media. We'd love to hear from you.
Absolutely. I'm @teacherwinters.
And I'm @daniksloan.
And we'd love to hear from you anything that you have to say about deeper learning and Scott McLeod's work.