Flip a Coin!


Which should we do?

How do we plan?

What’s for dinner?

When are we going to the store?

What is essential?

Our answers are NOT the same as they were March 1st. It’s amazing that a month has made such a difference in our daily lives. So many new views. So many new plans. So many books to read and stories to write. Choices used to feel more black and white with opposites as choices. Lately choices seem to vary more.

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How many choices?  It may depend on the question.  Perhaps we even have to back up before we can go forward.

How do we make decisions?

Some folks use decision trees to lay out their options for high stakes decisions. If the question is Which do you want with dinner:  tap water, water with ice, bottled water, or water with lemon? you may not need a decision tree. It’s a fairly easy decision. You might flip a coin if you are feeling adventurous or just can’t seem to make a decision. But if you are making a decision about enrolling in a class, you may lay out your options in a decision tree. (Link)

The chart below came from twitter and Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke’s  work in their new book, Read the World. From this chart, many believe that their are two choices for schools and teachers as they plan for technology-delivered instructional sessions:  synchronous and asynchronous.  Check out thes echaracteristics as you think about what a THIRD or FOURTH category might be.


I’ve been teaching online grad classes for over a decade now and we are NOT allowed to have synchronous sessions.  The goal is to be flexible when meeting the needs of students.  Prior to this, I also taught blended courses that I really liked because we built community, trust, and shared expectations with synchronous sessions as beginning and ending bookends and then filled in the learning time with asynchronous sessions.  This flexibility was appreciated by students who were teachers, coaches, administrators with multiple demands on their time from work, school, families and other commitments.

How would you determine whether synchronous or asynchronous would be best for your students? 

What would be your key criteria? 

What role would equity play in your decision?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum in March. Check out the writers and readers here.

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19 responses

  1. We are doing a bit of both. It’s been hard, but I do feel like we are learning so much!

    1. Finding the path to navigate that matches your students, school and community is tricky for so many reasons. Access is a beginning point and then we must make thoughtful decisions about what we really value for meaningful student choices!

    2. The advantage of working with older students is having them be a part of the problem solving and solution seeking. They may find additional choices.

  2. Hi, Fran. This post is giving me some anxiety over my grad class – a face-to-face class until March 12th when I had to go to online classes. I am using Zoom and have had two guest speakers – that has helped. But now author studies and issue presentations and professional book talks from now to the end of April. No pizza and salad dinner on the last night as we share our professional books, no goodbye hugs. My class is 2 hours and 45 minutes. If we are online in fall, I am going to rethink assignments and class meetings, perhaps following your example of a blended course. Be well, dear friend!

  3. I taught high school English. I would say that most of my literature lessons were asynchronous, and most of my writing lessons were synchronous, but that’s a generality. I suppose that I decided in the moment how I would proceed. We do what we do based on student response and needs, don’t we?

    1. Diane,
      Interesting break in your classes. I think we can seek out more opportunities but that does take time and a focus on student responses and needs! ❤

  4. I really liked the image of flipping a coin when the choice is black and white. Yet, in today’s classroom choice is valued and usually the kids think up even more ideas after seeing my 3 choices + “your choice” board. Thanks for reminding me of this. Thanks also for reminding me of the book, Read the World. Seeing their NCTE presentation, I got their book but need to sit and read it!! Stay well, my friends! Thanks for helping me plan my next personal PD and for the food for thought as I begin my next chapter of teaching online for the next 10 weeks.

    1. The coin toss is a symbol for sports events and many decisions. You will love Read the World! Enjoy your next 10 weeks – blaze new trails! ❤

  5. I think making them work together is what is most important. If they are disjointed I think it will be confusing for kids. However … any opportunity for kids to connect with their teacher and peers is a win in my book! Be well my friend!

    1. Clare,
      Cohesion / alignment is critical. I think many combinations are available that can help students and teachers connect! ❤

  6. This is hard, Fran. I think the age of the student has a lot to do with the type of instruction. Younger students, let’s face it, all students, form a bond with their teacher and see the teacher as someone who cares about them as a person. Because of this I think :How are you?” How”s it going?” questions are important session setters before the instruction begins. My choice would be a blend of both of these formats.

    1. I am positive that there is no ONE answer that fits ALL kids and all grades. Needs must be matched. Relationships must be nurtured!

  7. I’ve taught grad school on-ground and online in an asynchronous way. There is some equity around asynchronous, especially when different time zones are involved. That said, I always felt like the folks who came into a Voicethread class discussion weren’t having their voices heard as much since the students who went in early rarely circled back. Everyone’s voice would’ve been heard if we were synched up.
    I could go on…

    1. The flexibility for the morning person to have their coursework done before work work is helpful. I watch the data and point out the brilliance of responses that they have missed. So many paths to learning.

      And you know me . . .
      Front row face to face!

      1. I always know where I can find you at a conference, Fran. It is one of the many things I adore about you!

  8. I am missing contact with my students so much. Asynchronous is so remote and doesn’t feel personal. My district is not allowing anything else. What a shame, to build a relationship only to have it taken from you as if it was never the most important thing.

    1. Totally the opposite so it feels so wrong. Think about a shared writing to tap into community. Different stanzas of a poem . . . Or Verses of a song! ❤

  9. I love how you defined these choices. What I like as a learner depends on the content and the relationship I have with the teacher and material. Thinking about that gives me an interesting take. When I have a more personal connection I want synchronous. It feels more immediate and personal. But if I just want the information, I choose asynchronous instruction. Hmm, I do a mix with my kiddos. Things that might require a relisten I usually choose asynchronous delivery. The synchronous lessons are usually smaller and for times when a conversation or coaching is essential. I’m also looking at the troubles and pitfalls of each. The trouble with asynchronous is an assumption you taught something. The trouble with synchronous is learning how to listen to students. This is an evolving process for sure!

    1. Complex.
      Multiple answers.
      No one RIGHT answer.
      This is why we need our best THINKING teachers! ❤

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