Monday, 14 September 2015

Tools to use when getting started with blended learning in your classroom

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Now that technology is being introduced to classrooms world wide in place of the the traditional computer lab model, it is inevitable that blended learning will become, more and more,  a desired way of teaching.  The main reason to embrace this model, apart from the fact that students love digital pproaches and the world is going digital,  is that student engagement and learning increase in untold ways.

This is frightening for many teachers especially those who have been using the same unchanged materials for lessons for years. Blended learning involves a whole new mindset for teachers where they have to relearn classroom practice.

Definition of blended learning
This quote comes from an online video entitled ‘10 Blended Learning Trends’ by Dreambox http://goo.gl/xaBq3a

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Blended learning models to employ in the classroom
When you research online you’ll see a number of models of blended learning such as face to face-to-face driver, rotation, flex, online lab, self-blend, and online driver. See ‘6 Models of Blended Learning’ by Dreambox http://goo.gl/fIEB51 However in the majority of schools Rotation is the most popular method.

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Questions to think about
When you are new to blended learning a number of questions need to be considered:
  • Is the Internet in my classroom strong enough to handle a blended classroom?
  • How will I keep everything together?
  • What devices will my students use?
  • What type of blended learning model will I use in my classroom?
  • Will I create short instructional videos for my class to view?
  • What subjects and topics should I start with?
  • What online applications will I use?
You’ll probably find that you make initial decisions regarding these questions and then and then change your mind as you go along.

How to make a start in your classroom

1. Divide your initial approach into three parts – face-to-face at school, online information and classroom management as a start.  To start off you may wish to have only a small amount of online work while you find your feet as a blended classroom teacher.

2. You’ll need to have some sort of online application that every student can refer to and use on a daily basis, and that is where learning management systems or social learning platforms  such as Edmodo and Google Classroom will play a vital role. You’ll add your class members to the platform and you’ll post all the information you need on it. The students in turn will add their completed tasks to the platform.  The great thing about this is that both you and the students will be able to access the platform from anywhere at any time.  This system will allow to to create groups and group tasks, and will allow conversations and chats and so much more.

3. There are a number of ways that your learners can present their information. Here are just three:
a) It would be a great ideas to get your students using blogs to record their information. There are many free applications to use – Blogger, Edublogs and even Kidblogs. Learners take to blogging like a duck to water. Blogs are not just online journals: They also offer the option to create static pages that can link to content.
b) Google Sites is also a great way for your students to create their own website easily and add their information to it. 
c) In fact Google Apps is an incredible way to use an online suite where your learners can share their various presentations easily with you. Students could write in Google Docs or Google Draw, they could create presentations using Slides, and work in Sheets for more mathematical problems.

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Microsoft also has great online programs that can be used  for online work. You could use the free Microsoft OneDrive and OneNote or Office 365 if you have subscribed to that

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4) Invite experts into your classroom via Skype or Google Hangouts. Your learners can question them and write their answers in their blogs.

5) Apart from that there are web-based applications and apps for nearly every type of task you want to do in the classroom. There is just no shortage!


Assessment
Find online ways to assess your class. You can use Google Forms to collect and analyse student data.  or you can use various other applications such as Kahoot for creating quizzes.

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Set up your classroom management procedures
Classrooms can become messy without the use of well-thought out procedures as part of classroom management. Let the students work with you to create contracts and rules for the classroom. perhaps decide on online reward systems such as Class Badges or Class Dojo.

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Video instruction
Once you know how it is very easy to create short, quick instructions for your students using videos. Screencastomatic is a very popular way of creating a quick video. OfficeMix is a great Microsoft add on to PowerPoint for creating instructional videos. You have several options for storing these videos. You could store these on YouTube on a YouTube channel you have created. Alternatively you could add them to your Learning Management System.

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How will I present my lesson?
Look at this quote from Bill Tolley in his post ‘Creating Successful Blended-Learning Classrooms’. This shows the Rotation model and it could be something to aim for in your classroom!
“Imagine a classroom in which students are broken up into four groups. One group of four to six students is actively working on research/homework, chatting occasionally but largely on task. The second group is peer-editing one another’s essays. The third group is at a whiteboard drawing a graphic depicting the change in technology and strategies between World War I and World War II. The final group is seated around a small table with the teacher, discussing the unit’s essential questions and devising new ones. Welcome to my 100 percent-100 percent classroom.http://goo.gl/Sxeean 

In closing it could be a great idea to start a classroom blog yourself and add photos and videos of lessons and events that are happening in your blended classroom. The parents of your students will love this. Don’t forget to join your class to global classroom projects and even organise some Mystery Skypes where the two classes use questions and maps to guess their partner's location.  This is a great way for your students to collaborate with different cultures and become acquainted with the geography in other parts of the world.  

1 comment:

  1. That's a really good write-up, Fiona, I'm glad you shared your thoughts. I really like your idea about inviting experts to Skype with students - the more different views, the better. I'm curious what's your opinion on arranging a blended classroom with tablets instead of computers - care to share?

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