Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Month: August 2015

Blended Learning–The Future of Education

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I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book Blended earlier this summer, and as I read it, it only reaffirmed my belief that blended learning has enormous potential in the classroom.

As our society changes from the era of the industrial revolution to the era of the technological revolution, our education system needs to transform as well. With technology, we have the power and capability to personalize student learning–an exciting but also daunting task.

Why daunting? Because we as teachers are forced to shift our paradigms and beliefs about teaching.  Most of our experience with learning has been a traditional teacher-centered classroom.  That’s how I learned K-12 (and in my college education, for the most part). That’s also how I’ve taught most of my education career. (Admittedly, there are certainly times where direct instruction is important and very effective) So it’s frightening to shift out of our comfort zone of where we’ve learned and taught for so many years.

But the potential that lies in blended learning is too great for me to stay where I am

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Blended learning also overwhelms me for the planning and work entailed ahead of time. I’m a huge supporter of student choice and agency, that students shouldn’t have to follow the same path. Yes, they should meet the same standards and objectives, but we can provide for them different paths to do this. However, this also requires planning, organization–and in many ways, this is even more difficult and overwhelming than traditional teaching.

Another issue we may confront is student motivation. Although giving students choice and agency SHOULD be motivating, it’s often not. Students are accustomed to being passive about learning, and it will take time and perseverance to change this. Teachers will still be vital in the classroom, and it will be working with students one-on-one rather than leading entire classes through a lesson; it will also be encouraging students one-on-one to make decisions about learning for themselves rather than telling them exactly what they’ll do.

The more I learn about blended learning, the more inspired, the more motivated, and the more overwhelmed I am. It’s an exciting time to be in education, to be in the classroom.  I couldn’t be more energized and exhausted simultaneously than I have been the past year when I’ve started looking into blended learning, gamification, game-based learning, and the Understanding by Design theories.

 Christensen Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2015, from http://www.christenseninstitute.org/education/
 Horn, M., & Staker, H. (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

Creating a Class Code of Ethics

In our classroom, we use the Internet daily, and much of that is spent communicating:  Posting on discussion boards, leaving criticism on drafts, commenting on displayed work. To build the right classroom culture from the beginning–and to avoid uncomfortable confrontations later–I spent my class periods today addressing positive Internet communication.

Even if it’s addressed in other classes or in assemblies, I think all teachers should address proper internet behavior in his or her own classroom. Not only does it reinforce using courtesy among students–an important lesson overall–but it also sets the tone for your particular classroom. Students can never say “I didn’t know” if you address it and spend time on it early in the year.

Here’s how we did it:

1) In groups, students wrote statements they would like to see on a code of conduct on a large easel paper (I get the Post-It version)

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2) Students hung their lists side by side, and I read them aloud, asking for more explanation and specificity when needed.

3) Students then voted for their three top favorite statements by putting a sticker by them.

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Later, I took their lists and wrote their top 4-6 statements, combining statements and adding more specific language where necessary.

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Tomorrow, each student will sign their name to the code of conduct. I’ll also take a photo of each one that I can post at the top of discussion boards or online assignments.

How did it go?  Overall, very well.  I only had one class that didn’t take it as seriously as I liked, so that’s a culture issue we’ll keep working on.

Does this mean all my students will be perfect angels over the year? Of course not. But when they make a mistake, I have the code of conduct and their signatures to fall back on. Plus, they’ve had a hand in making the Code of Conduct that is specific for their class period, so they’re more likely to take ownership than a code of conduct I wrote myself and handed out to them.

Using Padlet for Announcements

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Our school is investing in Schoology this year, so I’m trying to use the LMS as a launchpad for my blended classroom this year. However, I’ve been considering how to post my daily agendas.  I like to have them projected on our screen when my students come to class each day. I played with the calendar in Schoology, but it’s not as convenient as I’d like. You have to click on each day to see the agendas rather than being able to scroll through them–a benefit for students who have been gone more than one day.

That’s when I discovered I could embed a Padlet into Schoology. By pasting the embed code into the link option, the Padlet embeds right on the page. It’s the first thing students see when they open the course page.

As a bonus, you can also use this as a class bulletin board, where students also post messages. If you don’t like this option, you can go to Padlet and make it “view only.”

I also like that I can update the Padlet right in Schoology without leaving the site.

My first day back with students is Monday–here’s hoping it works fabulously for us!

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