14 February 2014

Initial Thoughts on Blended Learning

     Several things struck me this week as I went through Module 2. First, my thinking and understanding is largely driven by my current situation teaching in a traditional comprehensive high school. We are short on technology tools and short on time. I am testing my new knowledge against my driving question "how will this fit into a traditional public high school?"
     I'm not sure what to make of the idea that blended learning can greatly improve student/teacher interaction and student engagement. The Brem family and the Role of the Teacher videos clearly show how teachers and students engage with each other, and while both videos showcase blended learning, it is true that these programs are mostly online. I wonder how using blended learning in a traditional classroom setting, via flipping for example, authentically enhances student engagement.

     Susan Patrick, in "Why Online Learning is a Smart Solution," stresses that quality professional development is key to creating quality programs. The iNACOL Rethink paper suggests that schools use Professional Learning Communities to support teacher transition to a blended learning model. As with any new strategy, training and practice will be important. My concern though is that teachers who are not already regularly using technology would have a difficult time making a transition to a blended model. I can see many teachers needing a great deal of scaffolding and practice.

     Furthermore, I was really struck by online and blended learning as hallmarks of the changing nature and relationship between the public and public schools. The Brem family points out they are consumers who expect a quality product. They were concerned about the product of their local school so they shopped for better quality. We are no longer living in an environment where the school is the arbiter of knowledge without challenge from the community. Traditional schools are going to have to adapt to meet market needs or go by way of Etherpad or Google Notebook (in other words, disappear).

     Finally, working with GoogleDrawings was a challenge. My Venn Diagram, seen here, took longer than it should have, but the action of creating it, embedding it in the class assignment forum, and saving it as a .jpg for inclusion here was good practice for me. This past week I also recorded my first Jing screencast (can anyone tell me WHY I didn't do this years ago??). It was a quick tutorial on how to use Citation Machine for sources used in a project we were doing in class. It was very easy to do and I was able to record and post the Jing for my students the same day we went over using Citation Machine in class. This is my screencast.

     My biggest challenge is to become more flexible in my thinking about content delivery and student processing. As I do planning, I often think "okay, I need to fit in a lecture here on this day" rather than "I could create a short lecture for my students to watch at home, then we do a short reading on the topic and process it in class." While I am relatively flexible with how students show what they have learning (I have even starting having students propose methods that will work best for them. They usually have pretty good ideas), I still need to work with students on things like online discussions.