Tech Tips for Authentic Learning with Natalee Hawks

I’m so excited because our featured guest is not only someone I worked with but she wrote an article Tech Supports for Authentic Language Development and I asked her to be on to share with us today!

Natalee Hawks From Better Lesson

Well the whole idea about the Authentic Teacher is to help teachers and parents but ultimately its to help students learn and enjoy school.

Im a k-3 teacher by trade, I’ve taught everywhere from Chicago to Denver to most recently Browning Montana, and I was also the Title Director for the State of Montana meaning I managed all the federal dollars that supported students to learn English. We also supported students learning their native language on or near reservations.

Instructional Coach

Now I am actually an instructional coach for Better Lesson out of Boston where we work soley with teachers and help them improve their instruction. We meet during Zoom meetings now I work with K-12 teachers, so I have to think about what are strategies and instructional practices that can go from any classroom, it doesn’t matter what the content. 

That’s how I wrote that blog post about how do we support students in K-12 settings.

Well let’s get right to the tips and tricks!


my philosophy about authentic learning is about giving students choice and a voice

I think learning needs to be student centered where they feel they have a choice and it isn’t demanded or given to them.

One of my favorite tools is differentiating by product or process.

Kids learn differently we know that. So you think how do I make this authentic for students by differentiating the process? Not all students learn best by reading a text books or answering questions.

What are other ways they can learn the same content?

  • do it through a discussion
  • watching a video
  • drawing a picture

how can we make that learning authentic through the process of learning or by the product.

If you want students to demonstrate their understanding of the water process for example. 

Could they have choice in how they demonstrate their learning.

  • write a blog
  • weather report
  • write a song
  • standard report
  • have a debate

Can they show their understanding in different ways?

I think it’s important for teacher to step outside the teaching box and think what do my kids need?

I love this. The Tag line for The Authentic Teacher is Education for the 21st Century Learner because I feel there are so many ways to teach students and meet their needs. Through blogs, podcasts, youtube sites. There’s so much great education content on YouTube sites and I think we have to expose them to a variety of content. But I’m sure there are teachers thinking how do I implement this, we have curriculum to teach when do you teach how to do the report or blog, or teaching the video?

I think you make a really valid point, teachers feel so much pressure these days to get through curriculum to have pacing guides, boom, boom boom, to teach those things.

principals might not agree but I ask teachers to own what your teaching

15 minute mini lesson



15 minutes every Friday

new tech tool

to get things out to students so you are not derailing your whole lesson or unit but your just finding those little times to build in ways to access tech that are meaningful and authentic. I think the beauty today is I know lots of students, they pic up on this tech faster then I do.

You show them once or twice, maybe you even as a teacher make a how too tutorial

they have access through google docs some system they use. 

You don’t have to huge thing but just give them the choice for them to try t out. I understand teachers feel pressure.

I like the way you break it down to just a few minutes a week or even a month. 

Screencastify and it’s a free google add on

If I have a power point and It will record my voice and saves the link to my drive.


kids can record their own videos and respond to each other

You could make a little tutorial using Screencastify saying this is how we do it and they can watch that when they want to try out flip grid

tools to get kids

do your 15 minute mini-lesson to expose them how to use the tech and then later that week or whenever you can fit it give them time to practice it. Say everyone is going to make a Screencastify maybe telling about their favorite animal …

I think that is a crucial part, giving time to practice. I just have a quick question what the heck is a google adon?

When you type into google, Screencastify and it’s just a little ad on on the right hand side on your browser. They are just types of things that are easy to click

Screencastify just  looks like a little arrow

add right onto your browser

Kids will “I see the arrow I know that’s what I have to use.

utilize the screen, or it will even take a video of their face if they have a camera.

So this is something they can use on Chromebooks, I know on my macbook I use Quicktime but I haven’t figured out how to record the audio at the same time so this might work for me there.

Student goal setting

Anything else you want to make sure teachers take away today?

I also think something that is important is student goal setting

  • giving them choice
  • where they are at
  • where they need to grow

even the little guys can own their strengths and next steps

as I am going into this water cycle presentation I know I need to work on using this vocabulary in my presentation and having them build and understand what those next steps  are is powerful for authentic learning. 

So they feel like we’re not doing this to them, but they are getting better at 

  • writers
  • readers
  • mathematicians

Ok, so I know I’ve been teaching for a long time, and I just feel like I was starting to get the hang of this last year, is I’m great at collecting the data but I wasn’t so great at getting the info back to my students. Do you have any tips for keeping grading current?

that’s valid concern whether you have those on demand assessment or progress monitoring. 

I know it takes a while to get the district assessment back so maybe stick to more progress monitoring and those smaller chunks of data

Build data notebooks

the students

as soon as you get back some info

letter sound

working on these 5 letters  and right then and there as you are assessing them, pull out your data sheet and say these are the letters you are going to work on. 

higher elementary

working on fractions

handed back your quiz or test

feedback via google classroom.

pull out that goal data notebook. For those older kids have them write down, have them do an action step for how they can improve on that skill.

Data notebook or growth notebook

  • data sounds a little clinical so a growth notebook
  • teachers that they coached, how about a personal goal
  • how are you gonna get better at soccer?
  • not just data point about academics
  • something for the little guys I wanna work on tying my shoes
  • whatever it might be that they get the idea it takes time.

Include an academic and a personal goal

I always feel like one of the biggest impacts that will make a difference in a student’s life is the number of successes they have under their belts. Here’s a way that they can see concrete successes and you can kind of guide it to make sure they are going to have positive data to fill in.

What a great way to start  by the beginning of the year to show the data these are the goals I worked on and this is what I did to get there and this is how I achieved my goals and it has such a  positive impact on kids!

I like this because I heard a lot of parents this summer talking about how much they enjoyed student led parent teacher conferences! Thanks so much for joining us and sharing your expertise and your passion just shines through!

Thanks I can’t wait to here it and I love seeing what’s new on your website.

Well, it’s definitely a work and progress. Sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place but then I’m like no, I can see the end. I’m on task. 

If you would like to sign up for our confidence building webinar, or learn about text fluency or number sense please join us here.

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