Teaching Students to Own Their Learning, Especially in Uncertainty with Meg Ormiston
August 10, 2021
Teaching Students to Own Their Learning, Especially in Uncertainty with Meg Ormiston

With schools going back into session and, at the same time, COVID numbers starting to climb again, it’s difficult to know what this “new normal” will look like. 

The entire educational landscape has shifted, and it’s impossible to know what it will look like in the coming months and years. In this conversation with Meg Ormiston, we talk about how things won’t–and shouldn’t–go back to “normal,” whatever normal might have been pre-COVID.

This is a great time for teachers and educational leaders alike to take a look at what worked before schools closed, how they shifted to engage students remotely during COVID (and what didn’t work), and make changes to what day-to-day school will look like moving forward. It’s time to pivot to put the responsibility of learning where it should be…on the students. But to do this effectively, students need choices and empowerment.

Listen in to find out what Meg has done to help teachers navigate online learning and support them through learning how to teach with technology–even if they’ve never used a Google product before. It’s a mindset shift that no one expected but that we all need to navigate.


About Meg Ormiston

Meg Ormiston, in her role as a consultant, partners with school systems that have committed to 21st-century learning experiences for everyone. Meg creates a unique partnership in each district, reflecting the mission, vision, and direction that local leaders identify. Her districtwide projects include guiding teams through the visioning process, designing and delivering professional development, facilitating classroom modeling, developing student leaders in technology, and educating parents.

Meg is the lead author in the NOW Classrooms series of five books published in 2018. The books, written by 27 practicing educators, are organized into grade bands of K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and a leadership guide. The NOW Classrooms: Lessons for Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Technology books are practical and sequence technology skills K-12. The 3-5 NOW book was awarded a Teachers Choice Award by Learning Magazine. Also, Meg was named in “2018’s Most Influential People in EdTech” by Tech and Learning Magazine.

After twelve years of teaching and coaching in the classroom, Meg volunteered on her local school board, facilitated grant projects, and continued researching and writing about best practices.

To learn more about Meg’s work, follow @megormi on Twitter.


Jump Through the Conversation

  • [1:45] Meg as a tech inspiration before and during COVID
  • [2:30] Empowering students to own their learning
  • [4:40] Change in student energy
  • [5:26] Retraining teaching force
  • [9:06] The changing landscape of professional development
  • [12:20] One size does not fit all
  • [14:45] The importance of technology
  • [17:00] Why replicating the school day didn’t work in COVID
  • [20:40] Now is the time to not go back to what was
  • [21:45] Taking the paper out of teaching
  • [24:26] We need to give up control for the sake of learning
  • [28:38] Rapid fire round
  • [35:16] Meg’s magic wand: Let students work in groups, be empowered, and explore and make mistakes.


Links and Resources:

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Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:03  

Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of Education Evolution and the Micro-School Coalition, where we are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, to reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:50  

If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:09  

Good morning, Meg. It is so nice to have you here today. 


Meg Ormiston  1:13  

Hey Maureen. I’m excited to be here with you. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:16  

So folks, you may remember way back, Episode 12, so over a year ago, Meg Ormiston joined me, and she is a tech whiz. And then Megan and I became friends. And together, we were a team of four that created the EdActive Collective and put on the summit last spring. So it’s been fun staying in touch with Meg. And I’m really worried I just don’t think that this COVID is done as we’re looking at the Delta variant and numbers and stuff. And I think everybody’s like, so over it, they just want school to go back to the way it was, even though that wasn’t going well. And you were a tech inspiration, pre-pandemic, you’ve done so much during the pandemic to coach teachers in technology. I just think we need your wisdom so we have as many resources as possible. This fall is totally unpredictable. So Meg, I want to pick your brain again.


Meg Ormiston  2:20  

Well Maureen, I’m so excited to be back. And it’s fun to be one of your first people back to kind of talk about this crazy, crazy world that we’re living in. Pre-pandemic, I was doing some really exciting instructional coaching, really, as I look back and and think about it. Where I was empowering students to really own their learning, and really, really be in charge of their learning and their tech and everything. And it was so amazing to see the growth that we were having with kids. And all of a sudden, the whole world shifted last March. And we, and these kids, they were fifth graders, okay, so just take a moment to imagine that fifth grade energy, amazing Friday, Friday, they won a major award across the district for their leadership, they created a service group where they use their technology skills to service the other teachers and students in their building. And they were recognized on Friday and school closed on Tuesday. And it was like a balloon and it was just deflated. Their, all their forward progress and everything. 


Meg Ormiston  3:37  

I stayed with them, I stayed with one of the groups for the rest of the school year. And we did amazing things. I live outside of Chicago. And the teacher that I was working with actually put his phone in the front of his SUV and drove the whole class through Chicago, downtown Chicago, when it was closed. And somehow, we were using Zoom and I don’t know what happened, but I was like the translator between the students in the teacher. He could hear me, but he couldn’t hear the students. So it was like, it was jarring to see this. But just to experience it through a fifth grade perspective was wow. It was amazing and we took them to show where the hospital was going to be, and  McCormick Place, and, and things that yes, they might have seen it on the news, but to see their teacher driving them. It was amazing. So these students were incredible. But the pandemic took their forward progress and pulled it back and we spent, you know, March till the end of the year really trying to re energize them, and we couldn’t quite get them. We think they were learning, they were doing great things. But, we couldn’t get their energy, if that makes any sense.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  4:59  

Yeah. Yeah, well, I know that first spring, we’ve just come through the second spring, I had seniors, kids a fair amount older that were like, “I don’t even know if I can eat. I don’t know what this means.” I mean, everything was so unknown, the uncertainty factor was super jarring for our kids.


Meg Ormiston  5:17  

Yeah. So, so then my role completely shifted, like almost overnight, that yes, I was there with the kids. but we had an entire teaching force that had to be retrained. And that was, so I’m thrown into professional development. But of course, we couldn’t be together. So everybody had to quickly learn how to do professional development online.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  5:42  

I’m going to stop you for a second because, Meg, tech training is your jam. Tell us, don’t you have a series of professional development and training on Solution Tree? A bunch of books for teachers?


Meg Ormiston  5:55  

I do. I do. I’ve actually, in total, I’ve written 12 books. And, whew, I’m taking a break, taking a break from writing for right now. But five of the books that, my most recent book is called the NOW Classrooms series. And it’s an award-winning series, I’m really excited… There’s, they’re grade band books. So there’s a K-2, a 3-5, a 6-8, 9-12, and a leadership book. And it’s all focused on everything I’m talking about with technology, and integrating across the curriculum and everything. But the coolest part of this series is I wrote it with 26 practicing educators. Talk about herding cats. So everybody visualize a classroom of kids and we all were writing, but, but of course, I pick the busiest people in the world to write these books. And so, I used to actually stand next to them while I do my presentations. I’m just like, so proud of my co-authors. Together, we produce some fantastic resources for teachers. But, so interesting, teachers are too busy to read a book. And, and that’s hard. You know, it is hard. It’s like, you know, we have the best intentions. But we don’t always get to the book. And so, you know, here right, here I am, yes, I’ve been writing. But what I had to do is I had to pivot. And instead of putting it in book form, all of a sudden, it had to become interactive in some way. And that was super interesting is, is as when we really think about early spring, that as school got out last spring, we started training teachers. And in one class I had, I had 200 teachers that had just finished school on Friday, we started our series on Monday. Not knowing what fall was going to bring, but they wanted to get ahead of it. And I was like, yay. And they were so positive and optimistic. It was June. It’s like, “Oh, we’re never going to use these things. But let’s know them anyway.” 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  7:59  

And this was 2020. Before last grueling school year.


Meg Ormiston  8:03  

Yes. So this is like, this is like they just finished, you know, the the bad couple months. And then they said, “Let’s just get ahead of this.” And we did, it was really funny. It was kind of like Zoom 101: Lighting, and, you know, there was some of that kind of stuff. But 200 people at one time. And so, it was in a region that that has a lot of rural places. And they had such unique challenges, because they could not get internet to some of these homes. They just didn’t go that far. And so, but these people showed up, and they were, they were so excited they like, they felt like they were going to get this training done and then enjoy their summer. Then they had that group and we, that was awesome. Then the next group came, and the next group, and then the people that waited ’til August. You just felt the stress like growing as things were changing and we didn’t know what was going on. But professional development was going through a major change during this time. Because it used to always be that you drive somewhere, you’d go to a session, you’d sit and you’d get and then…


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  9:15  

Sit and get, one and done. I know that well.


Meg Ormiston  9:20  

And all of a sudden, it’s no, it’s like…and for the first time in I think, kind of in ever in professional development, they had choices. I, everything that I offered that summer is was synchronous and asynchronous. And you had the choice to attend whatever worked for you or for your family. So they were, and we did two sessions that were five sessions each. And so, you know if you couldn’t make it on this time when the cohort was going, you could join a different cohort or you could do it on your own. So all of a sudden people had choices, and the feedback was, “Wow, this is what I need for my family and for my life.” And so that was very interesting and I learned very quickly, that professional development can look very different in the future.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  10:15  

Absolutely. That, and hopefully that’s something that we never go back to. But my guess is, you know, pre-pandemic, it was like: technology, it’s kind of nice to have some bells and whistles, and we’ll do cahoots with the kids and have some fun. And then all of a sudden, it’s like, this is a scurry, we have to have these I, I don’t even know how to do Zoom or breakout rooms. So your PG can help and did help. And you you, didn’t you end up creating a vast library of PDO at this time?


Meg Ormiston  10:47  

Over this time I did. I ended up, when I actually could relax for a few minutes and look back, I created over 60 titles that were one hour each. So I’ve got this amazing library that I now have now, I, it was definitely an organization piece that I have to pull together. But I’m pulling all those pieces together so we continue to grow along this, you know this path. So I’m excited about that. I feel like some, a great shining thing that came out of the pandemic is this library of PD. Do it when you can, one hour. I started big, Maureen, I learned so much. I started big, and started with a five-hour. And so it’s only five hours. But when you, as a teacher, and you think about five hours, that’s a day, you know. And so, you know, and so once I broke it up and you could play a little of this and a little this. I think that’s where PD is going.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  11:45  

Absolutely. And you know, taking it a step further because we have a, our micro-school is tiny and strapped. What we’re, we’ve done and what we’re definitely doing for our August PD, is we have some things that there’s too much to cover. So we’re doing the jigsaw puzzle, it’s like like Michelle Garcia Winter, we work with a fair number of students with Autism, and I want to know more in social communication. She has a list of webinars, and we’re going to have two people pick each of the five, and then they’re going to watch that one hour. And then they’re going to come back and share because we, when we teach, we learn it better. That way, everybody gets the benefit of five webinars, and they’re only watching one and then they can go back and watch others. So I think PD, this whole idea of choice and looking at it differently, instead of everybody sitting and getting the same thing. Hopefully it’s here to stay, because we can’t go back, it was, it was too one-size-fits-all and that’s not what we’re about. 


Meg Ormiston  12:43  

Exactly, Maureen. And, I mean that I hope in my life, I never ever have to go to a cafetorium and speak again. Yeah, so I just, I hope this, this meets people where they are. And the other thing, too, is embrace technology, as I talk about technology, and I even have an app now. So you can do it. Yeah. So my PD, the whole library can be, you know, delivered on your computer. But you have to take someone to baseball, or you have to go somewhere, you can do your PD right there on your phone. So I’m pretty excited about that. That was, that was kind of a learning curve for me. But it’s pretty exciting.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  13:25  

That’s so important. That’s how this whole podcast got started. A youngster, a 20 something in my mastermind, was like, “Oh, Maureen found time. Everybody’s taking walks and doing the dishes and driving and they’re all listening to podcasts, they’re listening and learning. So for you, I know I still take a lot of walks in my neighborhood. And that’s when I listen to podcasts and listen to audiobooks. So for you to have the app and for people to be able to listen on the go or getting some fresh air if we’re back doing things remote, I think that’s brilliant. I can’t wait. Listeners, we will definitely have this access in the show notes so that you can find out more about the PD pro- and the app. Thank you.


Meg Ormiston  14:08  

Yeah. And then, the feedback has been it’s upbeat, it’s it’s fun. It’s light. It’s not. I mean, we all have been on those webinars that, “Wah blah blah blah blah…” we all know. And so, so that that has been my greatest feedback is just it’s light, it’s friendly, and I can walk away with something I can use with my students. And I think that’s what PD should always be, you know, but, but it’s exciting to deliver it in a different way. 


Meg Ormiston  14:42  

And I want to go back, Maureen, you mentioned something earlier, that pre-pandemic, technology, sure it was nice to have. Yeah, maybe I’ll get to it. Maybe I won’t. I’ve been teaching Google Classroom for, I don’t know, 10 years. And there were some people that got in like, “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I love it.” And other people are like, “Yeah, I’ll get to it when I get to it.” Well, they all of a sudden got forced into it, you know. And it’s like, “Sure wish I was listening a few years ago.” So I, I said, you know, at some point, it’s so funny. It’s like, I have been talking about technology education for like 20 years, and you chose not to listen. Yeah, and you focused on different things. And, and then all of a sudden, everything changed. And so, I think that was interesting. A lot of schools that I supported didn’t have devices for everybody, and then that scramble. And then I worked with some schools that couldn’t get devices, they were back-ordered. 


Meg Ormiston  15:47  

And then a different form of professional development: I had a school outside of Chicago, that not one person on that staff had ever used Google, Google Docs, Google Slides. And all of a sudden, life has changed. And so that was, you know, it kind of it exposed kind of where they were with technology. And so, yeah.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  16:12  

Yeah. Well Meg, you know, EdActive, Education Evolution, we’re so about students owning their learning, driving their learning, getting to tap into passion, purpose, internships, you know, really relevant learning and not teacher-directed, not textbook-directed. So as teachers are learning more about technology, whether we’re in-person, remote, hybrid, how can technology help us pivot to putting the learning where it belongs, on the, on the students?


Meg Ormiston  16:46  

I know, and that was where the project, pre-pandemic was so exciting, because those students were owning their learning, they were really, really embracing that learning. And then we got into trying to replicate the school day. Especially at the elementary level replicating the school day with, you know, so many minutes of math and science, it just, it didn’t work in a pandemic model. So I really saw tons of really innovative teachers really rethink and put it back on the students. And that was so exciting. And then I think those are the teachers that are not right now exhausted, because the students were owning the learning and doing the work. It was the teachers that were trying to make make it look like exactly like school, that that wasn’t working. It, does that make sense? 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  17:37  

It totally does. Yeah, they were trying to take the 1800s school model and keep it going during a pandemic, not the model I’m not sure we should have been using for the last 50 plus years, just saying. So yeah, industrial era, assembly line, in a pandemic, is not going to work. And my hope would be that people go, “Yeah, what was I thinking? And how can I make sure we never go back to teacher talking, all kids on the same page learning, memorizing I should say, again?”


Meg Ormiston  18:11  

Maureen, your point about, “Let’s not go back to that normal.” And that’s one thing, everyone, you know, just everywhere: “I just want normal, I just want normal.” No, we don’t. We don’t. We have this, like break in history, that we can do something fresh, new, different. Let the students own their learning. If we put that in their hands, they can do it. If we empower them. One of the, this is a total side note but something that will be quite entertaining, is during the pandemic. I started growing heirloom tomatoes.


Meg Ormiston  18:52  

So amazing. But I have a teacher that is right over the fence for me. And she has the little people, she has a 10 year old, an eight year old, and a three year old. And they are in my garden every single day. They each, this year, they each have their own garden, and so it has their name on it. We are growing and learning together. But I’m taking that same thing from the classroom and empowering them. And all they wanted to do all during the pandemic was have a lemonade stand. Well, that was really doable. What we did instead is we sold tomatoes.


Meg Ormiston  19:33  

Okay. We had Tomato Tuesday, and everyone masked up, and on a little corner of our little yard we put up a little tomato stand on Tuesdays. And then all the money went to charity. And every week they would pick a different charity. And they learned about charity. They learned about bringing money to an organization. And they they would take the money, I think oh after they touched the money and counted it and did all the teachery things that we, you know, we did, then they would take it to the charity. And so they are so empowered. They, they want to raise more money for charities, they’re picking new charities for this year. But the thing is, they own their little plot of land. And they’re doing…that empowerment, that excitement, that “I gotta check the rain gauge, I’ve got to do this.” And if they, the “Why do we have to weed?” and you know, all these other things. And so, that whole idea of empowerment. Sure, maybe the heirloom tomatoes we get to eat them, some of them, but empowering these kids is so so important.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  20:40  

Yes. And that’s the learning that they’ll remember. And then that, who knows if they’ll become social entrepreneurs, or if they’ll just be benevolent, and, you know, volunteer in different organizations. The seeds that you’re planting, no garden pun intended. That’s, that’s the lifelong learning where, when it’s somebody else imposing, none of us like that. And now more than ever, we’re looking at institutions and equity and equity is letting kids drive their learning and us not thinking we know what’s going to excite or motivate such a wide variety of students. So for so many reasons, now is the time for us not to go back to what was.


Meg Ormiston  21:27  

Maureen, that is so key. And you know, I think so much of it is just i think it’s it’s educators, teachers have to stop and say, “What is really important? What is critical, that we make sure that we cover, and how can we do it in a different way?” What I saw during the pandemic, as I saw so much, especially the early months, is paper-trained teachers trying to shift their brains. And they’re so used to paper, paper, paper, project, do this, do this. And if you take the paper out of it, uh-oh, now we really have to think in a different way.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  22:06  

Yes, yes. And hopefully, shift, not just a band-aid, but shift to a new way of doing education.


Meg Ormiston  22:15  

Right. Right, right. And so I think it just was, it was a big major mind shift for so many people, I think it’s going to take us a couple years to really make the shift. But at the center of every decision is who’s doing, who owns the learning right now? Is the teacher working harder than the students? And and I think that’s really key for us to be thinking about. So as I talk about technology, I’m not, I’m not talking about a Cahoot for Cahoot’s sake; I’m talking about really rethinking strategies, and really rethinking how we structure learning for students to own their learning.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  22:55  

Yes, mic drop, uh huh.


Meg Ormiston  23:00  

So I have this arrow. And my arrow is, if you can imagine, I want to move to NOW Classrooms, and the far left is the teacher-driven classroom. But um, I want everybody to start to move over to a NOW Classroom. And we’ll add that in the notes. It’s just a one page visual of teacher-driven, over to NOW Classrooms, where students own their learning. If that’s one thing with this uncertain where we’re going, because we’re just not sure with the Delta variant where we’re going, is if you, in your mind, can shift from, “I have to control every minute of the student day,” over to “the students…” and when I say this, I don’t want all students to be working by themselves all the time. I want them to be working in groups and talking, and learn how to work in groups. And learn when it’s hard and when group members might not hold up their end of whatever. We know that’s a reality when we enter the workplace. And so groups of students are working together to problem solve. And it might not be the exact path that the teacher might have wanted. But is that okay? I think it is.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  24:18  

Love it. Yes. And yes, we definitely need to have that arrow in our show notes. I think visuals help all of us. All right. Yeah, here’s where we’re heading. 


Meg Ormiston  24:28  

Yeah. And I broke it down. And it goes, it’s like how technologies and all different things. But I think that when everybody looks at it, it’s it’s hard. I will tell you for for control-freak teachers. Now I can only say that because I am a teacher. But we have some control-freak teachers, and you’ve gotta give up some control to really get deep learning. And especially with technology, you know, it is so okay, even maybe now more than ever, to say, “I have no idea. Can you learn it and teach me?”


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  25:03  

Yes, yes. And we all learn better when we get to teach it to somebody. So what a win-win.


Meg Ormiston  25:13  

Exactly. And, um, I loved, Maureen, that you shared kind of the jigsaw that you’re going to be doing with your PD this year. And I agree, when we have to present it to someone else, it’s a deeper learning for us. And so, let’s use that model. We know it works.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  25:30  

Yeah. And what if we have to teach to a textbook? What if different kids took different parts of it, and we didn’t make every kid do every, you know, and come back and teach it? So we can get through traditional content in a much different way if we look at…you know, these tools aren’t just for PD, they can definitely apply to our classrooms.


Meg Ormiston  25:51  

Maureen, I so agree. And I think we could actually accelerate a lot if we weren’t trying to keep everybody lockstep and moving at one point. So what if one group’s over here and one group’s here, ones group’s here; it’s a little more to manage? But in, in the big picture, it’s better for the learners. And how exciting for them that they get to accelerate? 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  26:16  

Absolutely, I’m just listening to an audio book called “The End of Average” by Todd Rose. And it’s like, why do we have things the way we have them? And it talks about the school system because he’s at the Harvard graduate of education program. And it’s insane. So much of what we have, that the whole idea of average doesn’t exist, but it’s driven our culture for hundreds of years. So I’m fascinated to realize how misguided we are when we look at average and making it normal for everyone and trying to do that. It’s like, the average doesn’t even exist. And we’re building schools and learning off of it. 


Meg Ormiston  26:59  

Exactly. Now, I’m reading “Essentialism” (I can’t even say it) by Greg McKeown, “and the Discipline Pursuit of Less.” Essentialism. And it, as I look at it and I think about it, I think about so many of the teachers I’ve worked with in PD that say, “Well, I don’t know what’s coming up next time. I have a new textbook.” And I’m like, “No, it’s not about the textbook. It’s it’s about the teaching and the learning.” And it’s so critical for us to, I’m gonna hold it up for you, Maureen.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  27:43  

“Discipline Pursuit of Less,” I’m going to put that in the show notes for sure. Thank you.


Meg Ormiston  27:47  

Yeah. Mm hmm. And really focus on what’s important. It’s not about the materials that you were given, that you have to cover every single thing; that was not the design. It’s what is essential at this grade level, what should we be covering? And I think as, as we think about this school year, is that we it’s going to be uncertain, I think, and even if, yay, we open and you in Seattle wear masks, and in Chicago we wear masks in one community and not the other. We don’t know. But I do think we know that things are not going to be what they used to be. And so let’s all put our feet up and relax, to think about a new future. And it’s so exciting.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  28:32  

Absolutely. Oh, that’s such a happy note for me to shift on and, and just get to know you a bit more. Back when I interviewed you before. I didn’t have turbo time. But now I do. And I love having listeners, just get to know a little bit about you. So I have some rapid-fire questions for you. 


Meg Ormiston  28:50  

Okay, I’m ready. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  28:52  

You just shared the book. So the next one is: two inspirational folks you’d love to meet?


Meg Ormiston  28:58  

Oh, well, I’ve met you in you’re, you’re. You have been very inspirational for me. And we went on a really fun journey that I continue. So you would definitely be one of them. Oh, all right. Give me another one, and then we’ll come back. 


Meg Ormiston  29:18  

A favorite place to travel? Either you want to or you love going there.


Meg Ormiston  29:21  

So you know, I’m reading book right now that is set in Cape Cod. And I grew up not very far from there and that was our summer family place. And I just, I’ve been like “oh” and spending a couple of days thinking, “I really need to get there.”


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  29:37  

Nice. Yes. It’s calling to you. How about a TED talk that inspires you? 


Meg Ormiston  29:44  

Oh, Carol Dweck, about growth mindset. And it really…and that’s something that we all may be focusing on right now is growth mindset. Really thinking outside of the box, that we can all shift our mindset.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:02  

Love it. And speaking TED talk and growth mindset, I just recorded my TED Talk. And it was a growth mindset, because I’m like, I can’t memorize. I can’t memorize. And it’s like, anybody, if you do it enough times, but boy did I have to stretch. Because I quit piano lessons because I can’t memorize, you know, and recitals, you have to memorize. So growth mindset, I think it’s definitely something we all need to keep coming back to. 


Meg Ormiston  30:29  

And I was thinking so much of your TED Talk. And I love that you, I would have loved to see you in front of an audience, but you did do it virtually. And I think that, yeah, that added to that. But I was thinking about the memorization and I, I keynote, I travel internationally. I speak all the time, but I’m like, I don’t think I could memorize that. I’ve been thinking about that. That’s a challenge.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:53  

It, yeah, but growth mindset, baby. Absolutely. What’s the biggest thing you wish folks knew about ed tech? 


Meg Ormiston  31:02  

That, well, right now, it’s so much more than Zoom. That it empowers students to go and explore different things, if we let them. Where people get so stuck in ed tech is they get stuck in an app, one app or one thing. And that that’s it. And like, for example, pre-pandemic, some people were using Google Classroom, and that was the only reason to pick up devices. If we give students a chance to explore and investigate, they’re going to teach us so much. It’s, it’s that letting go of that control, to empower students. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  31:48  

Yes. How about a pet peeve of yours? Does anything in the world ever annoy you? 


Meg Ormiston  31:55  

Oh, I, it’s hard to, it’s kind of hard to annoy me. But it’s kind of hard. I don’t get annoyed very easily. But actually, lately, I have been very annoyed with people’s nostalgia about school, and how they want to just get back to normal. And how I love the pep assemblies. And I loved this and I loved this. Like but how, okay, yay maybe, this much of it. But how much of everything else wasn’t working? And, and, so I guess my most recent pet peeve is just “I want to back to normal. I want those kids back in school and I want it back to normal.” And like, maybe we have a new normal. And this is exciting.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:39  

Yeah, definitely. And pep assemblies could be cool and they could be a part of the new normal. But there are some kids that get drug to those or we have to chase them down because they were leaving campus. What if they could go and do something totally different that is their definition of school spirit or contributing if they don’t want loud, and if they’re not into the sports teams or the class competitions? So to challenge: is this equitable, and is this something that every kid is benefiting from, to look at things through everybody’s lens, and not just golly, this was fun for me.


Meg Ormiston  33:17  

Exactly. How about, why not, here’s a choice: there’s a pep assembly, and me, high school Meg, I’d be right there and that would be my thing. And, but I would have friends that would have chosen to go read a book in the library. Is that, is that okay? Yes, that’s okay. Is, is, when we think about an inclusive school, and we think about really meeting everybody where they are.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  33:43  

Absolutely. And last question, something positive that has come out of this COVID time?


Meg Ormiston  33:50  

Well, you should have had the heirloom toma-, the heirloom tomatoes last night. Wow. That was, that was very positive. Actually positive conversations I think is really the most exciting things that have come out of here. That people, all of a sudden, are talking about new ways, new possibilities, exploring different things. For example, one of my schools that I’m working with, they lost 30% of their students. They were a very, whew, a very rural area. And they couldn’t get internet to many of the homes. And many of the families just pulled out and said, “We’re going to take it for the year.” You know, just…And now, welcoming them back. Welcome these families back. I’ve really been able to help them stretch their thinking about, you know if you think they’re going to sit still next to this person in a very traditional, it’s not going to work. And they’ve really. really spent the summer stretching and thinking about kind of meeting everybody where they are. And I think, regardless if it’s that population or everyone, I really think they’ve rethought some strategies. So I’m excited about that. Then I think there’s some super positives that are gonna come out of this. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  35:13  

Absolutely. And on that up note, if you had a magic wand, and could make something happen in the world of Ed Tech and progressive learning, what would you wish for? Regardless, I mean, we all wish for the pandemic and, and to be gone. But what would you wish for in our classrooms with our learners?


Meg Ormiston  35:42  

I would wish that we’d let students work in groups, be empowered, have freedom to explore, make mistakes, struggle, and producing and make and create things within our classrooms. They’re creating, they’re on Tik Tok, they’re doing all these things outside of school; why can’t we bring that passion into school? So instead of us directing everything with worksheet, you know, Section A, Section B, what if we say, “This is the goal of what we’re going to learn. And we can all do it in a different way.” But we’ve empowered those groups to work together. That’s what I would love to see. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  36:25  

Ah, yes, Meg, that it makes sense. It’s doable. You have lots of tools to help people and you’re available as a consultant to districts and schools. So there’s no reason this can’t be, that this magic wand wish can’t come true. So thank you for your inspiration and for so much hard work. And for being my EdActive partner in crime. I just so enjoy you and appreciate you, Meg.


Meg Ormiston  36:52  

Thank you, Maureen. And thank you so much for having me today. I, it’s, I just see such positive things for the future. I’m excited.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  36:59  

Yes, thank you.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  37:11  

Meg is such a gem. And wise; gets classrooms, gets teachers, and really is an ed tech. expert. I like her question about “Who owns the learning?” And the sequel: “Is the teacher working harder than the students?” And if we can shift that to the students own the learning, they’re working harder. And if we can do the magic wand that she suggests: let them work in groups, let them create, mess up, struggle, have success, produce. That is student-driven, that aligns with passions and purpose. That’s the direction EdActive wants to go. That’s what I’m hoping for qnd speaking about in my TED Talk. It really would create the equity and the relevant learning that we’re all wishing for our learners. So check out the show notes and see if you might want to take one of the PD sessions or more. This asynchronous ability to listen in while you’re walking or to learn real time is powerful. And share this with your friends. There’s no reason we don’t have the tech tools in place to support studen-driven learning. Thank you, listeners.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  38:43  

If you’re finding yourself thinking, “I need to do this in my school,” let’s talk about it. I consult with schools to help them find new, innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s put together an action plan. Visit educationevolution.org/consult to book a call and let’s get started.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  39:15  

Education Evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued, and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now before you forget. I really appreciate it. Thank you for listening. Signing off, I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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