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Posted by on in Blended Learning

pirate

I had been sailing on a clear course for about 13 years before I decided to drastically change course for blended learning. I've been on this blended learning course for about two and a half years now. I thought I had prepared well for my change in course, but there were many times early on in my change of course, I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I hit some pretty rough water and I had some real heart-to-heart conversations with myself. But the more I kept sailing, the more treasures I kept finding. This year's travel was full of so many treasures like Breakout EDU's, Mystery Skypes, 3D printing, G Suite tools for students and teachers, and engaged learners like never before. I realized that with all of these treasures I have collected, I have become a PIRATE. 

Blend like a PIRATE:

Purpose 

  • My first year of running a blended learning classroom was frustrating to say the least. Just when I was thinking I was making progress, something always seemed to come up to derail the progress I thought I had made. And while that year was full of frustration and uncertainty, it was also full of learning and adventure. (Read about my mistakes and my corrections from an early post Surf's Up: First Year Blended Learning Mistakes and Ways to Correct Them) Through all of the learning and adventures, the biggest thing I learned was understanding my purpose of running a blended learning classroom. I knew prior to starting a blended learning classroom, I needed to try something new and different for my students, but I was unclear of the purpose. My purpose for blended learning, which I discovered as a result of all the frustrations and hardships, is that blended learning is a way for students to find meaning, relevance, and themselves in their education during their time in education. So as I went through my second year of a blended learning classroom, I kept that purpose in mind all year long. By having understanding that purpose this year, I was able to focus more and piece together the puzzle pieces to create an effective and engaging blended learning environment for my students.

Imagination

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

Screen-Shot-2017-02-08-at-9.00.55-AM.png

2-4 kids and a Smartphone... Nice and easy but powerful. The ticket to awesome.

Check it out.

As teachers, we often do too much and the kids too little. We give a lot of information, but little processing time in class. Luckily, there are easy ways to change that. Check out my other posts on using tech to make instruction more student centered: School Isn't The Movies: Unlecture Video Instruction and I Stopped Lecturing, Because I Want My Students To Learn.

Today, we talk 30 second videos. The idea is to record a 30 second or shorter video explaining, or comparing, or contrasting, or giving examples of whatever it is you’re learning.

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

Twilight Zone 2002 logo

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone. 

 

I feel that opening part of the show The Twilight Zone directly relates to my school year this year. This is my second full year of running a blended learning classroom, and I feel as if in some way my sixth-grade students and I have crossed over into the Twilight Zone. Strange but wonderful things are happening in and out of my classroom, that I have not, unfortunately, witnessed before in my 15 years of teaching. Students are embracing the idea that learning can take place anywhere, anytime and that their voice matters to others, as they enter a whole other dimension in Google Classroom. They are seeing learning opportunities on their own outside of the school day and wanting to share their experiences with their classmates, because they know that not only am I listening but more importantly, so are their classmates.  

Enter The Twilight Zone

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

b2ap3_thumbnail_Snow-Day-Information.jpg

It is 5:30 AM on a weekday during the winter and the phone rings. That can only mean one thing, SNOW DAY! I have to admit, at that moment, I do not feel like the 15 year veteran, sixth grade teacher I am, but rather, I feel like one of my sixth grade students. I roll back over in bed and fall back asleep, only to get woken up by my wife as she gets up to get ready for work (seems like she is extra loud getting ready on snow days...nah, she wouldn't do that, would she?). I tell her to, "Keep it down. I'm trying to sleep. I've got a snow day." That goes over about as well as getting a snowball in the face.

Living in Pennsylvania, snow days are part of the school year and one of the great perks about being a teacher, unless you end up having too many of them. Then you have to make them up in the summer. Then they quickly become an inconvenience. They can also become an inconvenience with what you had planned for class those days. Inspired by Matt Miller's Ditch Summit session with Alice Keeler, I thought about what they shared and how I could use that to connect with my sixth grade students on snow days.

Now one thing I wanted to ensure, was that a snow day was still something to look forward to for my students. I knew whatever I created for them on a snow day, needed to be creative, collaborative, and fun. I wanted my students to be comfortable. I wanted them to be able to stay in their PJ's, drinking hot chocolate, sitting in their favorite chair, listening to their favorite music, all while in the comforts of their own home doing some math and finding relevance in it.

So I decided to use the power of Google Docs and create a Google Slides for a snow day. Below is simple breakdown of it, followed by a link to my Snow Day Class document. 

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

mouse

What would you do if you found six mice in your home? How would you react? How many do you think would be in your home if you found six? Just six? More than six? How about 72. That's right, 72.

The other week I was at Home Depot waiting in the holiday lines to check out, when I overheard (okay, I was eavesdropping) an interesting but disturbing, yet mathematical conversation. It just so happened that the clerk behind the counter had a pest problem, and the man who was in front of me checking out was the owner of a local pest removal company (I knew this from his sweatshirt and hat that advertised his business). The clerk said he found six mice in his home. Unfortunately, the clerk was in for some additional bad news, besides the six mice he recently found at his home, as the local pest removal owner told him that for every one mouse you see there are 12, and for every rat you see there are nine. 

As soon as I heard this, I couldn't wait to get back to school the next day and tell my 6th grade math class the great news. Yes, this was great news, because we were just talking about rates and unit rates in math class, so it fit perfectly. Then I realized, that instead of waiting until the next day, I could bring this lesson to life that night. I quickly got out my smartphone and posted the discussion I overheard and the following question into Google Classroom using the Google Classroom app. "How many mice did the clerk have at his house? Tell me your thinking, along with your answer."

Some students actually answered a non-homework, non-assigned question that night on their own without any prompting by me or their parents. Some students actually answered a non-homework, non-assigned question that night on their own without any prompting by me or their parents (thought I needed to add that sentence twice in case you thought there was a typo). The students were simply online somewhere and checked out our Google Classroom on their own and chose to respond. Think those or any other students would do the same for a worksheet question? Highly doubtful. For the rest of the class, I told them my story the next day in school, and then posed the mice question to them. They couldn't wait to get on Google Classroom and post their answer. The responses I that I got after school that day were so enjoyable to read. Many of my students' responses started or ended with, "Eww," or "Ewwwww," or "Oh my gosh. That guy has a whole colony in his house." But they all found the relevance in their learning and it meant enough to them to find the answer out to the scenario without me telling them to do so. 

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