Can You Blend?

I was recently asked to write a guest blog for TASA’s (Texas Association of School AdministratorsVision in Practice blog. I really enjoyed this activity as it helped me further organize my thoughts in a more specific manner factoring in my growth as an educator and experiences learned.

Here are my thoughts: 

Blended learning is most definitely a moving target. It is an intangible that can look very different as it is molded to fit specific educational programs. This also makes it very hard for parents, students and even educators to understand. The basic definition of blended learning is instruction that is part face to face and part online; leveraging technology for the benefit of the learner.

Blending can be overwhelming for even the veteran blended educator. For most, the visual of students being left in a room with a computer and without a teacher comes to mind and it’s often said by the student that that the teacher “doesn’t teach me.” This happens to be one of the best qualities of blended learning.  The fact that the educator moves into a facilitator role as the students drive their own learning is a hard change for all stakeholders; but one that needs to take place to transform education. Reasons for blended?

Why?

  1. Learning becomes personalized, differentiated for each student.
  2. Preparation of students to be successful in our ever-changing world.
  3. Students becoming the owner of their education.
  4. It is best for learners.

Blended learning allows students to take ownership of their education while personalizing through differentiation for each individual student. This personalization and ownership is gained by facilitating opportunity for students to have voice and choice in their own learning; which in turn empowers each individual allowing students to not only to gain understanding of content, but to develop the soft skills of time-management, balance of coursework and the ability to make choices. Educators have always had a tremendous job. Imagine, however, today’s learner. Information is at their fingertips and our world is changing due to developments in technology. Educators today must prepare students for careers that do not currently exist. Talk about a moving target!

Where?

  1. Within the classroom
  2. In the hallways
  3. Learning labs (additional room designated with personnel for working online)
  4. Home, think snow days

Many times educators feel the pressure to have a specific space like a learning lab with personnel for student management to be able to blend their learning. That is a best-case scenario; but rarely available due to budget costs and space. Blended learning can truly take place anywhere. Blended educators typically call this organized chaos. It can seem overwhelming to think of each student working at their own pace and choosing different paths to get to the same goal. It can look like stations in a way, collaborative groups, it can be all students plugged in and working individually or a little of every type of instruction. To add to the room space leverage the hallways surrounding your classroom where you can allow students to spread out; while maintaining student observation. Another major plus to blending is the fact that your use of technology (see how below) allows students to access their learning anywhere; when sick, when missing school due to UIL activities, snow/ice days, etc.

How?

  1. With BYOD (bring your own device), cart checkouts, computer lab checkouts and 1:1 devices
  2. Learning management systems (Schoology, Edmodo, Blackboard, Canvas, etc.)
  3. iTunes U, Google Classroom
  4. A multitude of Apps and web-based tools

Once again like the space, some educators think you can’t blend learning unless you are a 1:1 classroom, school, etc. This is not the case. Blending can take place with BYOD to cart/lab check outs to 1:1 devices. If all you can do is use student’s devices in BYOD, use it! They can do a lot on their phone or other devices. Think group work, jigsawing activities, stations, etc. With cart checkouts and computer lab checkouts, educators can plan for one to two to three days a week, depending on availability, for students to work independently and their own pace. While students are working independently, the educator is free to facilitate learning and activities giving more time one-to-one interaction; which brings us the the differentiation blending allows. With the leveraging of technology resources to allow students to work individually or in small groups, educators can incorporate workshops, small group support and individual support. Whether you are using another space, the hallway or every nook in your classroom, designing your blended instruction allows the educator to differentiate for learners in need of more support or more challenge. While students are working independently, students can be called into a small group session with the teacher. Data from formative assessments can be used to group learners according to need for further reteaching or deeper challenging. In addition, workshops can be designed to allow for learner choice in attending according to their need.

When?

  1. The time for innovation in education is now

We as educators and stakeholders are at a crossroads in education. Now is the time to innovate and transform education for today’s students. We are no longer in need of traditional education at its whole. We are in need of a redesign in which we do not discard all practices, but are creative with the time and resources we have. Do students need a fifty minute lecture? No. Might they need a ten minute direct teach? Yes. For example in a fifty minute classroom:

Traditional Instruction:

  1. Warm-up on overhead to get students focused 5-7 minutes
  2. Teacher lectures and works math problems on the overhead/board 30 minutes
  3. Students practice what they have observed 10-15 minutes
  4. Close class/assign problems as homework

Blended Instruction:

  1. Warm-up/Formative Assessment for focus 5-7 minutes, could be overhead, Google form, Socrative, Gizmos, challenge problem, etc.
  2. Teacher give direct instruction 10 minutes
  3. Students work individually in the learning lab or collaboratively work on problems, differentiated small groups are created with data from the formative assessment 20-30 minutes
  4. Teacher possibly gives a workshop open to any student who needs/wants further examples modeled 5-10 mixed within the full classroom time
  5. Close class/assign a few practice problems or 3-5 minute video of further instruction

Blended learning is the combination of best educational practices while leveraging technology to empower students to guide their own learning and strengthen their personal skills. Transforming our instruction will prepare students for a future of their own in a world that will require connecting to and collaborating with a  global community; while maintaining a competitive edge.

 

What experiences have you had with blended? I’d love to hear from you!

The Innovator’s Mindset – Must Read

Do you want to create something new and better? Is your campus wanting to change and innovate? Well, The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, is hands down the book you need! I was inspired as I read George Couros’s words. It is a practical guide to changing the mindset of your campus to that of innovation. I am already incorporating some ideas with my team and have plans in the works to go bigger! All educational stakeholders should read the Innovator’s Mindset.

Do you have any good reads to suggest? Leave them in the comments. I would love to add them to my to read pile.

Making Connections as Lifelong Learners

While attending ASCD’s Ignite Conference in Irving, TX today and listening to Eric Sheninger speak on Creating Schools That Work for Kids  and catching the second half of Digital Leadership and the Educational Landscape, my mind jumped to a quote from a book I’m reading. Mr. Sheninger was talking on changes we need in our schools and challenged educators with this question, “Would you want to be in your colleagues’ classroom?” He later talked about Free Range Learning and Twitter as a PLN.

The book I am reading is Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. The quote that stood out to me while reading prompting me to mark it and that came to mind during this presentation is, “Resist any movement that attempts to clone teachers and lessons and instead rejoice in the fact that it is your individuality and uniqueness that will always lead  you to become the most effective teacher you can be.” If your soul did not just leap for joy, reread that quote! Being the rebel or shall I say pirate that I have always been, I get really excited about that statement. Mr. Burgess put into words how I’ve always felt and what has been my natural path. I have never played Candy Crush. Why? Everyone else was dong it!

The theme of the presentation by Mr. Sheninger was moving away from control and compliance toward authentic learning or Free Range Learning. In speaking of Twitter PLN, I’ve previously blogged on how important it is. I would also goes as far as say that I would want to be in my #tlap Tweeps’ classrooms any day; which I cannot say for all of my coworkers over the years!

So, educators I challenge you to be your authentic self, share your passion and blaze your own trail. Because there are no roads were you are going!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/course/biology/id690050073

My iTunes U Course is Complete!

I am sitting here tired, but excited. I have finally finished my iTunes U Course, Biology. This has been a process that began the summer before this school year and is now complete. This was a new challenge for me. It really forced me to evaluate my learning activities coupled with the 1:1 iPad integration at my school. I have always evaluated my learning design, always challenging myself to analyze the required objectives and the quality and connection of my lessons. With this course design, I was able to challenge myself as to the best use technology making it a seamless tool that would bring depth of knowledge to my classroom while breaking down the walls of my classroom. I designed each unit in the 5E Lesson design, thinking with the end in mind and working backwards. In reality, I know that my course is not finalized as no learning design should ever be finalized and used over and over, year after year. This course will be molded and redefined as each school year comes and goes. Please check out my course at the link above! I would love some feedback!

Possibilities with Technology i.e. Notability

    

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            Today in class I noticed a student had the pictures from the case study in class, Man’s Best Friend from Buffalo Case Studies, on his iPad. I had hard copies on lab tables for their use. I asked if he took pictures of the pictures because that was really unnecessary, but he said no. He had downloaded the case study to his iPad and then opened it in the App, Notability. Notability is a note-taking app that will annotate documents, record lectures, sketch illustrations, etc. We use it in class daily for note-taking and digital note-booking in my science class. The student had then used the pictures to complete the comparative analysis of wild and domestic canine skulls in class. He measured and took data within the iPad. “Cool!”, I told him. He was excited of the feet that he accomplished I could tell. I then passed by again and he was trying to “cut” the molar out of the skull via the tool in Notability, but could not as you cannot cut from imported pictures. He wanted to move the molar to the ruler for easier measuring. I suggested for him to trace the molar and then cut his trace out and move it to the ruler. That is the screen shot above! I had him send the picture to me to use as an example.

I am amazed daily at my students! I love that they are not scared to take risks. I had not thought of this way to complete this activity! Whoa! Don’t think I won’t do it like this next time! 🙂

I hope to model taking risks in learning daily for my students and will definitely share what this student showed me!

Encourage, Encourage, Encourage!