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Posted by on in Blended Learning


What is a ghost's favorite pair of pants? 

This is the riddle I asked my 6th grade math class on a recent 3-part, Google Classroom assignment about dividing mixed numbers. The first part of this assignment was to model dividing fractions using Google Drawings. After that, they began attempting to solve the riddle. However the only way they could figure out the answer to the riddle was to successfully complete a quiz with Google Forms. With every answer, right or wrong, students were given a message. The message was either, "Try again," or a letter of the alphabet. The students were directed to record the letters of the alphabet they got after submitting their answers to each question, and they were directed to show their work and thinking on the problems they solved. Once students successfully answered all eight questions, they then had to open a Google Doc, unscramble the letters they received from the Google Form quiz to answer the riddle, and insert an image of their work and thinking on the problems they solved. 

Last year, my first year running a blended learning classroom, it felt very robotic, not to mention very frustrating, nerve-racking, and leaving me filled with doubt. And I am a pretty tech-savy teacher, and I still had difficulties last year trying something new like blended learning. However, I knew I wanted to try something different; something that would make a difference for my students. Unfortunately, I was never close to creating an assignment like the one mentioned above, and I am okay with that, because I am here now. Last year, I used the station-rotation model in conjunction with more canned, online programs. Whereas this year running a blended learning classroom, it feels much more fluid and natural. I am using a teacher-designed blend with teacher-created assignments that I am trying to make as relevant and meaningful as possible. While this requires more thinking and a lot more creativity on my part, it has been worth it; not only for my students, but for me as well. I see my students using the 4C's in their learning daily. And that is where I begin to think about designing each lesson and assignment. I start with the 4C's in mind, and work backwards through my lessons and assignments. It has made all the difference in my blended learning approach. 

All educators set out to make a difference in the lives of our students, but do we really know where to begin (believe it or not, student-teaching doesn't give us that answer, nor does exactly following the lessons plans a textbook company tells us to). Is it just natural that we know how to make a difference? Is it easy to do? For some, the answer is probably yes, but for others, the answer is probably no. So, how do we make the difference? Where do we begin? I suggest we start by taking risks, getting out of our comfort zone, finding ways to bring our passion into the classroom, accepting and learning from our failures (and there will be a lot of them; quite possibly 180), and building relationships with those we teach and those in our PLN.  

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

"Do you make lesson recap videos? You should."

Those words, spoken years ago by Chris Aviles at EdCamp New Jersey, punctured my belief I was rocking technology integration in my classroom. As Chris correctly argued, lesson recap videos would give students what all humans need: multiple opportunities to learn. I had the technology but I was not delivering for my students. It was time to get to work.

A Brief Argument for Becoming a YouTube "Star" Instead of Using Google Drive

I suggest putting your lesson videos on YouTube. There, the whole world can benefit from your work. If a video is meant to give instructions to a specific class, there is no need to post to YouTube. However, if anyone beyond your classroom walls can benefit from your teaching, let them! Besides, YouTube lets you choose and upload your own custom thumbnails. Google Drive does not. For example:

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

toddler tantrum

Last year was a humbling year for me. After teaching 13 very successful years (at least successful as determined by standardized testing), I decided to I needed to try a new approach to my teaching. I could not and still cannot shake the idea that the way most of our students are learning today are the same ways in which students were taught 20, 30, 40 years ago. I felt like my students deserved more from me. I felt like my teaching needed to be more student-centered and more about their future, rather than mine. I felt like they deserved more of a purpose in their education. So, I attempted to run a blended learning classroom in my 6th grade math and science classrooms.

I spent last year blogging about my experiences and the ups and downs I had with a blended learning classroom. With all of the ups and downs, it did felt like being a first year teacher again. I took a risk, a big, year-long risk. It made me feel uncomfortable and unsure of myself. It took me out of my comfort zone. And if you are one who puts a lot of stock in standardized test scores and curious how they turned out as a result of running a blended learning classroom, the scores indicated that it was not nearly as successful as my previous years. 

So, after all that, where am I now? Did I give up on blended learning? Did I lose the support of my administration? Do I still have a teaching job? I am finding my way in year two of a blended learning classroom with the support of my administration, and I am having a much better understanding of the purpose of blended learning. While test scores might indicate that last year was a failure, I do not view it as such. It would be a failure if I did not learn from my mistakes. It would be a failure if I just gave up and said, "Blended learning does not work. The students can't do it. I can't do it." Truth is, I learned more about teaching last year, than in any other year I taught. Blogging was a big part of my learning as I reflected on my struggles and successes. My blogging and reflecting turned into a very unexpected yet very powerful personalized learning experience for me. 

This year with my 6th grade math, science, and social studies classes, I am focusing my blended learning classrooms building an online learning community where the students and myself can learn from each other using Google Classroom as the platform. I am avoiding using canned programs. I am creating my own content, that directly relates to the standards, and I am focusing on the 4C's in making the content relevant and meaningful to my students. I am slowly building a solid foundation of online learning with my students in the early months, instead of rushing into things. I am not close to running a station-rotation model, which is what I ran last year. Instead I am using the teacher design blend, as discussed in Catlin R. Tucker's book, Blended Learning in Grades 4-12. I do intend to use the station-rotation model and other ideas from last year this year, but in more efficient ways.  

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

Hiya friends!

I switched to coffee shop style flexible seating in my chemistry classroom, which means that:

  1. Students face each other and not necessarily me or the front of the classroom.
  2. I have to be intentional about building collaboration into my lessons and teaching students to collaborate..
  3. I have to change the way I deliver much of the instruction and look for ways to change my teaching to fit the environment my students and I suddenly found ourselves in.

Today, I decided to let my students "Google It." They already learn this way outside of school, so why not let them inside? I too learn a lot of things by Googling or YouTubing them. If learning this way is something students already do, they can benefit from it, and I can curate it, why not do it?

The new concept to learn was "Isotopes." We did a bell ringer activity to review from the day before and got right into it. Here are the directions I gave:

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Posted by on in Blended Learning


As the 2016-2017 school year quickly approaches like the annual tidal wave it is, I think about how last year I started running my first blended learning classroom, with what felt like, without a surfboard. For the longest time I felt like I was getting tossed around in the waves, not knowing which way was up. I made mistakes last year in my 6th grade math and science blended learning classes, but this year will be different because I have a whole year of mistakes to reflect back on. So here are my mistakes, and how I intend to correct them for this year, in no particular order.

Mistake #1: Putting the cart before the horse

When I found out I got the go-ahead to run a blended learning classroom, the first in my district, I was thrilled. However, I immediately started putting the cart before the horse. I started envisioning this perfect blended learning classroom running smoothly with three stations: independent, collaborative, and direct instruction. I thought of having engaged students falling in love with this new way of learning, and I thought, while I would still face some bumps along the way, overall it would be easy. Yes, I had the station-rotation model all planned out, my room setup for the stations, and I did prepare my students for about two weeks prior to going all in with the blended learning classroom. Yet, I still didn't plan enough.

Correction #1: Plan, plan, and plan...and then plan some more

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