“Be prepared to teach online starting Monday.” You probably heard these words, in some form or another, this spring as schools abruptly closed down due to COVID. The transition to remote teaching was a tough one for everyone, but I was prepared, and so were my colleagues and students. One reason that we were able to move seamlessly from face-to-face class time to remote teaching and learning is because we were a Summit Learning school. For three years prior to the school closures, our students, teachers, and parents used the Summit Learning platform for everything, from finding class curriculum, to tracking grades, to communicating with parents, teachers, and students.
It wasn’t always easy. I remember attending my Summer Training three years ago and, at first, I was overwhelmed. I considered myself a pretty competent teacher, one who knew her way around technology — at least Google Classroom. When I arrived in Denver for a week of training and met my fellow teachers on Day 1, I began to wonder what I had signed up for. Little did I know, all of the new information I would learn over the course of that week prepared me for a rewarding, challenging, and exciting journey with Summit Learning, that would help me and my students grow for years to come.
As you begin your first experience with Summit Learning, here are some tips to help make the transition easier.
- Remember, you are a good teacher and you are surrounded by support. At every Summit training I have attended, I met talented teachers from all over the country. Every training is facilitated by exceptional and knowledgeable coaches who share great insight and instruction. Reach out and ask — someone nearby will be able to answer your questions. When you are back at school, the staff who monitor the help icon in the platform respond quickly and stay with you until the issue is resolved. Ask them your questions, they are there to help — and they do.
- The Summit Learning platform is a place to put your great ideas. It is a digital basket to help your students find their handouts (they will never be lost again!) and to work on building their skills. Once I was able to understand that the Summit platform is built on a “backward design” model, and that checkpoints are really checks for understanding and formative assessments towards skills development, it began to click. My teaching began to transform. The program is so much more than JUST a platform.
- Don’t let the vocabulary paralyze you. One of the hardest concepts for me to wrap my head around was the vocabulary – project, product, checkpoint, SDL, Focus Area, Content Assessment, Cog(nitive) Skills. I felt like I was back in my Masters class learning how to be a teacher all over again. It didn’t take long to make the connections:
- Project = Summative Assessment (the big project at the end of a unit)
- Checkpoint = Formative Assessments and Checks for Understanding. Checkpoints are mini skills builders where students can practice the skills needed to achieve success in the final product.
- SDL = Time for students to practice what they need to do, in order to master skills and progress. Once I had the system in place (name and goals on the board; name and time for Content Assessments on the board) I was able to manage collaboration teams, provide 1:1 or small group help to students, open Content Assessments, or observe as students taught each other or engaged in independent learning.
- Focus Areas (FA) and Content Assessments (CA) = FA the practice: CA the test. Students can learn discrete skills on their own and take tests when they are ready. Students can help each other learn these skills, and I have the opportunity to work with the students who need intensive help.
- Be patient with yourself. You have time to grow and make mistakes. Take the risk and dive in. You, your students, and your fellow teachers will be learning together. The students will quickly adapt and show you things. If you choose to use the platform, your teaching can be transformed from worrying about “getting through the unit” to really focusing on student learning; and isn’t that what we all signed up for?
These tips took me time to learn, but once I did, I was a more involved teacher who spent more time teaching and engaging with students. The Summit Learning program helped me get to know my students, their skill sets, and what we needed to work on together. Happy summer training to all new Summit Learning teachers!