Exciting Times in EdTech: Blended Learning

Once an Early Adopter, Always an Early Adopter…

I am what you call an “early adopter.” I love trying new technologies in my classroom. I am very happy when I get new tech. No, that is an understatement. The day they hung my interactive whiteboard I cried…real tears. When the technology support person surprised me with a Chromebook cart the day we returned from Spring Break, two years ago, I greeted him with a screeched out, “ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!” The moment is now a blur, but I may have hugged him.

I see the value in giving my students opportunities that technology can provide. Anyone who reads this blog also knows that I LOVE anything that helps me to do my job with efficiency. Make it easier and I am on board! Now that I have made the jump from elementary to secondary education, it is even more evident that technology can help us to engage our learners in exciting ways.

Why Blended Learning? Because Time…

As a middle school language arts teacher, I have a wide range of students with varying levels of ability and drive. I serve a large number of students who receive ELL services, students who receive special education services, students who receive varying levels of reading intervention and students who receive no interventions or services beyond my care. Those are very diverse needs. So how does one even begin to meet the needs of such a range of learners? At first glance (as well as glances 2-22) this seems a very daunting task. The key for me has been to work smarter not harder by implementing technology to the greatest advantage.

I heavily rely on the use of blended learning strategies. According to Catlin Tucker, co-author of Blended Learning in Action: A Practical Guide Toward Sustainable Change, blended learning is any combination of face-to-face and online learning. Keeping that in mind, in my classroom, I use technology as a second (and sometimes third and fourth) teacher in and outside of the classroom.

This year, I used rotation models often. Many of my students do not have access to consistent internet access at home. My classroom has 1:1 use of Chrome Books, so I try to use technology often. My class periods are a little less than 50 minutes long. In that time, I can deliver a whole group lesson and two 20 minute rotations or three 15 minute rotations. I can then pull students back together for the last three to five minutes of class. In stations, activities vary greatly. Students may work on follow-up activities related to my whole group lesson or on work that is individualized for their specific needs, be those needs for remedial skills or enrichment skills. Stations may be completely computer-based, jointly taught using teacher and computer, or small groups with a teacher.  They may also receive lessons that pre-teach or front load skills I expect them to learn on their own that I will follow up with later. During rotations, I can also pull students one on one for conferencing or specific individual needs.

Students are able to get some of their instruction directly from me and some from online resources. Using this strategy, I am able to differentiate for all of my learners by providing the opportunity for personalized instruction based on their particular needs, reteach/enrich as needed, teach new content, etc. by incorporating technology as part of my instruction. Blended learning allows me the opportunity to get more bang for my buck by having students complete multiple tasks in a given block. They are always working. They are consistently learning. Blended learning affords me the ability to utilize my limited time with them effectively.

Tools for Delivering Blended Instruction

The best part about using a blended model is the ability to incorporate many tools to engage and inspire learners. The variety of ways students learn and express their understanding in my class helps facilitate engagement. Below I list SOME of the tools that I use in my class. While some are used more often than others, they are all in use regularly in my classroom. (Note: All students regularly use their Google Drive to organize their files and turn in work.)

Hubs/Learning Platforms

  • Google Classroom-learning platform where you can distribute materials digitally and accept completed assignments, have online discussion streams, grade, and give feedback.
  • Blendspace-create lessons/units where all of the resources are grouped for easy access.

Video/Interactive Lesson Delivery

  • Playposit-embed questions into videos to make them less passive, and allow for accountability for the information within the video.
  • Peardeck-online presentation creator that allows you to make interactive presentations with embedded questions, links, and video.

Online Resources

  • MobyMax-online curriculum for grades K-8. Self leveling , tracks data,delivers both instruction and assessment.
  • Canva-graphic creator (make infographics, diagrams, posters, etc.)
  • Screencasts (I used Screencastify)-create video recordings with voice overs
  • Youtube-free video sharing website
  • Vocabulary.com-create a word list, enter text from a book, or use the self leveling activities to practice and expand vocabulary
  • Powtoon– online animated video creator
  • Tagul-word cloud creator

Formative Assessment

  • Nearly all of the above PLUS…
    • Plickers-student response system (ie. clickers)that does not require student devices
    • Kahoot-game show-like assessment tool where creators create the questions and users play the game.
    • Quizziz–game show-like assessment tool where creators create the questions and users play the game.
    • Quizlet-create flashcards and online game based on content

Flubaroo: A Method to Use Google Forms for Assessment

Over the last few years, I have seen a more widespread use of Google Forms occur. It seems to be the go to method for professional development evaluations. I have also incorporated its use in my classroom for exit tickets on occasion. I have just under 60 students and have found the task of individually scoring students using Google Forms to be a daunting one when percentage scores are needed. In the past, I manually tallied student responses or used the summary of responses feature to get an overall picture of classroom understanding. To individually score 50+ assessments was time-consuming, especially if more than five assessment questions were used.

The grid below shows typical data for a four question assessment taken by 10 students.

spreadsheet of 10 student responses generated by Google Forms
Spreadsheet of ten student responses generated by Google Forms
If I were to use Google Forms to assess more students, with more questions, the task of analyzing the data could become much more tedious and overwhelming. Due to that limitation, I did not use Google Forms for assessment very often this year.

Tonight in class, I learned of a much easier method of gathering data using Google Forms and the prospect of implementing it is promising.  I was so impressed by the Google add-on, Flubaroo, that I feel it warrants sharing with all of you. Flubaroo allows you to score assessments and mine data from the responses with ease.  It allows the program to “grade” for you! Please watch the short video below (created by Lisa Stamper) for a tutorial on how you can use Flubaroo for your own data needs.

When I applied the Flubaroo add-on to the data from the spreadsheet above I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of use.

After downloading the add-on as illustrated in the video, I clicked on “Flubaroo” in the pull down menu and chose my grading options.

Selecting the point values in the Flubaroo window
Selecting my grading option
Then, I chose the answer key I created by completing the Google Form myself and putting in all the correct answers (I called it “Teacher Answer Key.”

Choosing my answer key from the menu of responses
Choosing my answer key
Finally, I clicked on the “grades” tab at the bottom of the sheet and received my students’ scores!

Spreadsheet with percentile scores generated using the Flubaroo add-on for Google Forms
Scores generated by the Flubaroo add-on for Google Forms
Goodbye tedious individual grading, hello efficiency! Within 5 minutes of finishing the assessment, I can have student scores at my fingertips. Anything that makes our jobs easier is worth taking a look at. While this method will not work for student essay responses, there is an option not to score those portions of assessments using Flubaroo (so that they can be individually evaluated). Still, the benefits of using Flubaroo, in my opinion, outweigh the drawbacks. Try it for yourself, and share your opinions. If you come up with an innovative way to use Flubaroo, be sure to share that too!

Screencasts-A Doorway to Possibilities

When it comes to using technology to figure out how to do something I do not know how to do, I am the queen of the web search. I will use my computer or my smartphone to look up a tutorial (usually video) to walk me through the step-by-steps of how to complete whatever the given task may be. For example, when I wanted a refresher on crochet stitches after not using the skill for years, I was off to YouTube for a quick search…30 minutes later, I’d partially finished my first cute mouse baby bootie for a friend’s soon-to-be little boy.  The internet is a resource we often go to, without hesitation in our daily lives.

When my quandaries are more of a computer-based or technical nature, I go to the web once again…to hunt for screencasts.  Screencasts allow us to get first person tutorials as if we were sitting at the computer with the person teaching it. They offer video of the screen of the instructor as they go through the steps of a given task in real time, often with recorded audio for oral instructions throughout the process.

Not only do I use screencasts to learn things myself, but I also use them to teach my students. When I am out and have a substitute, I have uploaded screencasts of the whole group portions of my lessons to my class portal. This allows for the continuity of teaching style and vocabulary my students are used to. It also allows for substitutes, who may not be as tech savvy or do not know the specific methods and strategies students are learning, to teach the computer-based lessons I need completed in my absence. I have taught my students where those lessons will be and how to access them in my absence, it’s win-win!

I also use screencasts when I am in the classroom with students. When I foresee that a few students may have trouble with setting up a document or completing a computer-based task, I create a quick 30 second to 2 minute long screencast so they can refer to it if needed. The best part about it is that students who don’t need it get started right away, those that do need help watch the screencast without my intervention and get started as well. In the meantime, I am able to provide small group scaffolding to students who need it. I have even used screencasts to record quick tutorials for staff at my school, like how to set up your laptop to print to a satellite printer and hold the document until you get there to print it out.

So how do you get started? First, you will need to have access to a computer, preferably one with a microphone. Then…well the easiest way to teach you how to screencast is by posting a screencast! I am not one to reinvent the wheel, so here are two different screencasts that explain two common screencast creators readily available.

Using Screencast-o-matic:
Using, Chrome-based, Screencastify:

Falling in Love with ADDIE

I am in love with ADDIE. Okay, maybe not love, but seriously deep like! ADDIE is acronym for an instructional design model that is helping me to pull together the pieces of my current project. I am working on a lesson for adult learners. I am amazed by how tough it can be to schedule consistent team planning. It can be especially tough when students receive special education services, ELL services, reading interventions, math interventions etc. and you are responsible for knowing where your students are academically and meeting those academic needs. Thus, my bright idea for a forum. I know that eplanbooks exist, but I wanted to try a different route. So thus my idea for a Google Classroom for my team was born. In it, we could share ideas and materials asynchronously or synchronously when possible.

Then I met ADDIE.

The-ADDIE-Instructional-Design-Model-Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Last week, I had to analyze my audience. This week I design the lesson.

The problem I foresee is how SLOW the process is for me.  I am running out of daylight.  Okay, maybe not daylight, but I am running out of school days. I don’t know how interested my audience will be in doing my lesson and giving me feedback if they are no longer the captive audience. Once the school year ends, it takes a while for teachers to want to think like teachers…

In these final days of the school year, I have analyzed my participants. They are all educators. They have varying degrees of technology savvy. None are opposed to the use of technology in instruction and all agree that planning together can be VERY challenging when the schedules just don’t line up. We share a common goal: collaboration. So with that analysis, I move on the task of designing my training. I am excited about this endeavor, and a little nervous. What if after all of my hard work, the training bombs or the participants are bored to death! Ah, the musings and insecurities of a trainer in training!

If all else fails, I do have a back up plan…

(Clip (film): Robin Hood: Men in Tights)

Not Reinventing the Wheel

As I continue in the instructional design course I am taking, I continue to read through the text and chip away at the projects that are due.  This week we began delving into the first steps of the ADDIE model of instructional design.  As I design a lesson to teach to adult learners. something my instructor said stuck out in my mind, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

Picture of bicycle with triangular wheels
Picture from: http://www.jokeroo.com/pictures/car/853736.html

How many times have I reinvented the wheel in my teaching career. As a first year teacher, I remember spending hours and hours planning lessons only to discover nearly identical materials online. As my years as a teacher have continued, I have learned to use the resources available to me, whether they are internet based, found in teaching resources, or shared ideas and items from fellow teachers and modify them to fit my needs. I have learned that there is no shame in working smarter (not harder). In my life of balancing my own education, schooling, and family it has been a hard earned lesson. as many life lessons seem to be.

Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it. The College Blue Book~Anthony J. d’Angelo

So what does all this have to do with instructional design. As I read the text this week and listened to the classroom lectures, I was struck by how many of the design models build off of each other or share principles.

Instructional Design: Episode 3- The Models by Epogogy Inc.

So many are variations. Somewhere along the lines, their creators were inspired by other models. They attempted to modify a previous model to meet their needs. As I embark on constructing my lesson, I  do the same. I am working on a Google Classroom project that would facilitate collaboration during teacher team planning. In a school that uses intervention as a means of providing supplemental services to meet student academic needs, it is difficult to plan together with all team members working to impact student learning. As I design the lesson, I think of technology materials I could use to help teachers understand the ideas and process. The difference is where in the past I would have made all of the materials and resources myself, I have recognized the value in a quick google search of key words and browsing session in Youtube to see if someone else has already created the materials needed to support my lesson.

Using those materials is smart and efficient planning. Every teacher knows a teacher who is an inefficient planner, one who spends their time making EVERYTHING from scratch. I used to be that teacher….reinventing the wheel. Why? There are so many ways to find foundations to build on…

Teachers pay teachers logo
Teachers Pay Teachers is a site where one can find lessons for free or a small fee to use as a foundation.

Now that I have learned to use the resources at my disposal, I am a happier teacher with more time for classes, family, and life!