We are proud to introduce our tenth Sunday Spotlight, featuring Lance Key who teaches in Putnam, TN. Lance is an upbeat, forward thinking technology enthusiast who believes in empowering students to take control of their learning. We loved hearing about his toe touch competition, singing strategy to catch the class’s attention, blended flip teaching format, and overall teaching philosophies! Enjoy the interview!
Instructional Technology Specialist
VITAL (Virtual Instruction to Accentuate Learning)
Putnam County, TN
12 years teaching
“Information is now everywhere. Kids can learn whatever they want to learn. It’s our job now to engage those students and to make life-long leaners for those students so they can have a better future.”
Get to know Lance Key
What do you love about teaching?
I love making a difference in childrens’ lives every day and teaching them things, and it being able to carry them somewhere. So really connecting with students, and teaching them and showing them the “why”.
And you know one of the main things I’ve learned from teaching is that the main things that kids want is for you to spend time with them and for them to feel like you care about them and after you get past that you can get them to do anything.
Why did you start teaching?
My grandmother and my mom ran a daycare center my whole life. My mom still runs a daycare center so all that I ever knew was kids and working with kids.
And you know I actually went into mechanical engineering and decided I didn’t like that. My high school math teacher told me that I wouldn’t never make enough money as a teacher so I shouldn’t be a teacher, but I fell back on it and I’m glad that I did.
What is your “Edulastic story”?
You know I’m the instructional technology specialist right now at Putnam county. At the time I was just looking for a way to better prepare my students for the PARCC assessment with Technology Enhanced Questions and no one had them! So I searched, and I searched, and finally I came across Edulastic.
I found Aditya, your co-founder on Twitter because I couldn’t find out anything about the company and I wanted it to sync with Canvas because we use Canvas as our LMS. At the time I don’t think y’all really had anything for that, but he made it work just for me- and I really appreciated him hooking me up with that. For someone of that stature to correspond with a teacher to get that exactly right, I mean what else can you say?
Describe your Edulastic “aha” moment.
I don’t know how to frame this exactly, but there was a lot of fear in TN when we moved to the PARCC assessment which is now called the TN Ready test. We’ve now gone away from the PARCC assessment and made it our own, but it’s really the same thing. There was a lot of fear going into the Technology Enhanced Questions, the more rigorous questions because we weren’t sure what would happen. We had always taught to knowledge level- to where the students on the MC test they would always perform well.
I had always been a level 5 teacher and level 5 is the highest level of teacher in TN. So there was a lot of fear going into this test that that might change. Lucky enough I have been a level 5 teacher for the last 6 years and even with the online standardized tests.
What are your teaching/learning goals this school year?
So this year my role has transitioned a bit. I am now the instructional technology specialist.
I am teaching 25 students online still using Edulastic. I am not live with these kids day to day. I more in a support role for teachers. I’m now going out and helping teachers integrate tech tools with in their classroom so I want to see them grow.
The one tricky thing with Edulastic is that to make quality content it takes time. You have to get in there and really build those questions. So what I’m working on is to have each teacher build a unit or two and then share it across the district, because you guys have those great sharing features, and by doing that it’s less work on everybody. And eventually hopefully we will get to those common assessments because it’s all about the kids and their learning and with the TEI there’s a deeper learning that happens.
I teach 6th 7th and 8th grade students integrated math 1, 2, and 3. In some schools in Tennessee we split it up where the geometry is taught with the algebra so you can teach it as you go. I’ve built the all the TEI questions a few years ago and I’m still using them! It makes it easy.
Tips for new Edulastic users:
I suggest to watch the instructional videos because they will walk you through step by step how to do them and I’m a man and I don’t like instructions but I did fall back on those videos because they were helpful. And also get with somebody who maybe has used it before or someone you can work with so you can work together and that will make it easier to use.
Favorite Edulastic question type?
It’s got to be the graphing. You can’t graph anywhere else like you can in Edulastic so I’m going with that!
Favorite snack while using Edulastic
Butterfinger. And I always get it all over myself because it falls into millions of pieces.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee- all the way. I actually prefer Peets Coffee which I order in from California.
Best tactic to get the class quiet?
Usually I start singing and then everyone is quiet because it’s bad and they want me to be quiet. Yea I sing everything. I can’t sing at all but I try!
I’m in Tennessee so usually I sing old country. So sixties and seventies country- Conway Twitty or Jim Croce or something like that.
Must-have classroom decor:
You know I’m a man so I usually don’t decorate too much. Well, one of my students drew this picture of me with a coffee cup. It says on the coffee cup that I’m not a teacher, I’m a facilitator of learning. That’s one of my mottos.
Favorite time of the school year?
For me, the start. I am in charge of running our summer schools so during those times I transition into an administrative role. Once I get everything up and running I’m good to know.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I’m a semi-professional bowler. I met my wife through bowling. I do that and I work in a jail ministry with my church. That’s pretty much my life.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Finding an awesome spouse. She’s an educator also.
Dream vacation spot?
Well my wife is allergic to the sun so that makes it hard. Probably Alaska- one of the five states I haven’t been to yet. It wasn’t a goal of mine but I’m so close, it might as well be. I’m going to California in May and that will be new.
Funniest student moment?
Hmm well one I can’t tell you, it would be a little gross.
I guess the funniest would be when me and one of the cheerleaders had a toe touch competition. You know when a cheerleader jumps in the air and puts her hands out and the feet go up to touch the hands? That’s a toe touch.
And I won by the way. Yep.
There is YouTube footage but it’s blurry so you wouldn’t want to include it.
Kindest compliment you have received from a student?
Oh gosh. You know I actually took in one of my students for a little while. He called me “Dad” for a little while while we were taking care of him. It’s a long story.
And then I used to run our credit recovery programs. Some of the students said they wouldn’t have graduated without my help.
To me, actually making a difference in their lives so they don’t continue that cycle of poverty, and now they got a high school diploma and can get a job making decent money. They wouldn’t have graduated without my help.
Tell us more about your teaching style and philosophies!
My class is taught in a blended flip format. I’ve been flipping my classroom for eight years now. I feel like that has been one of my strengths. I didn’t even know what I was doing at first just to be honest with you. I kinda fell into it and it worked because my kids thought it was cool and and they were learning so we went with it. I attest a lot of my growth and a lot of my success to that because it’s different- a lot of kids grow that way and I get to work with my kids hands-on. And it’s self paced so they work until they get to a test or Edulastic assignment. I check their notes before they move forward to make sure they are ready for that. I have some students who are six chapters ahead of another student before the year is over. It’s also limitless. They can work as far as they want to. I have content built for pre-algebra all the way to AP calculus, so you know. I don’t believe in holding kids back. I believe in letting them go.
At one point I talked to a little girl. I said “Honey, you’re six chapters ahead of everybody else, what’s going on?” She said ” I don’t play a sport, I don’t play in the band, I like to do math, I go home and do math every night.” I said okay! And so I got to thinking about it and if it was an athlete or a musician, we wouldn’t hold that athlete or musician back. We would let them work as much as they wanted to and be as good as they could be, so from that point forward I told that little girl, I said, “You work, you do as much as you want to do.” That’s the standpoint I have now.
Thoughts on learning and access to information?
You know with YouTube and Google, knowledge is now everywhere. I am no longer the source of the information. In the former days when we had the sage on the stage, that was standing up and lecturing all day, that teacher had all of the information. The textbook had all of the information. The teacher regurgitated all the information, and then the students regurgitated all of that information back to them on a test. Well it’s no longer that way. Information is now everywhere. Kids can learn whatever they want to learn. It’s our job now to engage those students and to make life-long leaners for those students so they can have a better future.
I’m not one of those biddy teachers. We have fun and we learn.
I feel that it’s important that students have voice and choice in the classroom. The opportunity to learn the way that they learn. I use CK12 now more than I use to. They are a free OER resource. What I like about their stuff is that it’s free and if a student learns by reading, they have information they can read through. If a student learns by videos, they can learn that way. If they learn by kinesthetics, there are parts where they can take things and move them around. I believe we are beyond the days of a teacher standing up in front of the classroom lecturing and student regurgitating that information back.