My project with this class has come to an end, which is bittersweet. My two weeks with the class was rewarding and challenging. While I would love to continue to teach this class, part of my role as an instructional technology coach is to understand, create, and develop ways to effectively integrate technology, content, and pedagogy. The big question is, what did I learn? How am I going to communicate and help other teachers develop a blended learning environment?
1. Routines are a must. Students thrive on knowing what is coming next. When students understand the routines of the classroom, they focus their energies on learning. There is also no question on the expectations within the classroom.
2. Planning, planning, and planning. The entire unit was planned prior to starting. I had a target or objective (3.NF.1 & 2) that drove the planning. All materials (including flipcharts, video lessons, Edmodo quizzes, Edmodo logins, Educreation logins, performance assessments, worksheets) were completely developed and organized in folders in my Dropbox by lesson. Instead of focusing on my energies during the unit on what I would teach next, I was able to focus on student progress. I could make adjustments for the entire group or individual students based on their performance.
3. It not just about the technology. While I love technology and so do students, the focus of any unit or lesson is not technology. The technology did not drive the unit rather the target or objective drove the technology. Meaning the technology had to fit the content and teaching strategies. For example, during the gaming activities at the Promethean board, students did not use the responders. While the responders are motivating for the students and provide instant feedback, it did not fit the purpose of that center. The purpose of this center was to allow students to explore and collaborate with peers about the content. Using responders would have given the center more of an assessment focus.
4. Problem-solve and be flexible. While I planned this unit completely (so I thought), I did run into issues that I did not anticipate. Starting this unit, I thought the students would be able to be completely independent on the iPads and the Promethean board after one session of practicing the stations. That did not work. Students were having trouble remembering how to log-in and navigate Edmodo. My solution was to create a one page document with step-by-step directions and snapshots on how to access the materials. Each student had this document taped in a page projector next to the iPad. By the end of the two weeks, students did need to use it anymore. Another issue that arose was at the Promethean center. Players were standing in front of the board and the spectator could not see. I used masking tape and placed three X’s at the back of the carpet for the spectators and three X’s on the side of the board for the players. We discussed the reason for the tape and why it was important. It really helped that center.
I had to truly think differently from how I have been taught as a student and how I had previously taught. Was it difficult at times? Yes, but change is difficult and that is okay. My advice to teachers wanting to try a similar project is to start small like I did. Choose a week or two-week unit. Develop the plan and implement. Don’t give up when something goes wrong. Take a step back, really look at the problem, and develop a solution. If you are having trouble on a solution, ask a colleague for help.
I would love to hear about other blended learning experiences. Please feel free to share with me.