Teacher: My students are doing a research paper and need to know everything about finding reliable, accurate, high-quality web resources and books.
Librarian: Great! Would you like me to come in and work with them during their project?
Teacher: Yes, how about 15 minutes next Tuesday.
There’s a theory called the Pareto Principle that gives us the “80/20” rule. Most teachers may have heard it in the context of 80% of the problems are caused by 20% of the students or 80% of the decisions are based on 20% of the opinions. It is the idea that 20% of any set of things are the most valuable and 80% are less important or trivial.
In an online interview, Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-hour Work Week, suggests that to master time management, find a way that 20% of your actions will produce 80% of what you want. As a school librarian, I like to build my lessons and trainings using this “20/80” rule. What is 20% of a skill, concept, or idea that will get you to 80% of the understanding? Or what can I give you in 20% of the time that will help you with 80% of the project.
As we build and curate content for online courses, it is important to keep the 20/80 rule in mind.
The beauty and the curse of blended learning is that we cannot do the things we’ve always done in the way we’ve always done it. We can no longer spend 45 minutes lecturing upon a topic with the hopes to drop 100% of a concept into the ears and minds of our attentive and rapt students. Truly, we may never have been able to do that, but it didn’t stop some from trying. A blended learning environment requires that we boil a concept or topic down to the meaty center, the 20%, that will capture the interest, spark the fire, and lead the way for our learners to apply, discover, and explore.
Try this: find a 8-10 minute YouTube video on a concept you currently teach. As you watch it, look for the 1-2 minute segment that is the main nugget of information that your students would need to know to grasp the big idea. Now think about it, if all you had them watch was 2 minutes and then give them an activity or assignment apply that big idea in a creative or constructive way, would they build the other 80 of their understanding? Can you take apart the topic like lego blocks and find the 20% that contains the big take-away skill your students need to carry with them? That’s the money-maker - the rest may just be a brain-fader.
In the example where the teacher wants her students “to know everything about finding reliable, accurate, high-quality web resources and books” in 15 minutes, here’s the 20% I can deliver in that time - the location of the databases and how to develop a list of key search terms. 80% of high quality research can be boiled down to starting in a place of quality and having enough search terms to find a variety of items. If that’s all they take away from their time in my library, I’m 100% thrilled.
Today's post comes to us from Ms. Lena Darnay. Lena is a High School IB Librarian, Career Academy Coordinator at Pike High School. She is an EdTech Connoisseur, CanvasLMS Learner, IB Mom, and Darn Good Reader. Follow her on Twitter @DarnGoodReads