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William Madden | @WPMadden

William Madden | @WPMadden

William Madden holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and a Master's in Educational Leadership. His professional backgrounds includes over 14 years in education as an intermediate school teacher. In addition, his experience includes online course design, technology integration, ELA and mathematics curriculum mapping, being on his school's technology and building improvment committees, and conducting professional development. He blogs to reflect on his practice, share with others, and to continue to grow and learn as an educator to meet the needs of today's students. 

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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Posted by on in Student Engagement

elf on the shelf

There I was at 7:00 AM, bleeding, blood all over my hands, kneeling over our family's beloved Elf on the Shelf, Oliver, in the dining room, and my six-year-old daughter waking up and coming down the steps. It was my worst case scenario. My little girl was going to come downstairs and see me covered in blood with our Elf on the Shelf laying on the floor and think that I did something terrible to Oliver. 

Why was I covered in blood and bleeding at 7:00 AM in the dining room with Oliver laying on the floor next me? Because I was trying to make the Elf on the Shelf experience better for my daughters. The night before, I moved Oliver to a spot in our house that was just okay. I knew it was just okay at the time, but I thought it would do. The next morning I woke up, and decided I could do a better job with my placement of our elf. As I was moving him around in the dining room, so he would be hanging upside down like Batman, (much cooler than my first placement), I bumped a glass that fell to floor. I knelt down trying to catch the glass, but since I am well out of my 20's, my quickness just wasn't there, and I ended up kneeling onto a shard of glass and getting a 3 cm gash right by my knee. Four stitches later, and a bunch of Elf on the Shelf pictures put up all around my classroom by my colleagues, I was as good as new. 

As word at school spread about my near holiday massacre, a few people asked me why did I move the elf a second time. Good question, but if you have young children, you know why. Every morning, since the arrival of our elf, that is the first thing my six-year-old and three-year-old look for. Then when they find him, they have to show everyone in the house. They talk about Oliver all day, and I find them quietly talking to Oliver when they think no one is watching. They draw him pictures, and write him little notes. To see that every day from my daughters is worth more effort from me in my placement of him. And as I thought about the answer to the question, "Why did I move the elf a second time?" I couldn't help but relate that to my classroom. 

So here are my Elf on the Shelf Lessons:

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

road signs

Remember when you were pestering your parents to teach or rather let you drive? You were sure you knew how to drive, as you had had extensive training starting from a very early age. Part of that training included sitting on your parent's lap while they were in the driver's seat and they "let you" drive the car into the garage, sitting on your parent's lap again as they again, "let you" drive the lawn tractor around the yard, then gradually building up to driving the lawn tractor around the yard by yourself, and of course driving the go-karts at the local go-kart track during the summer. With all that training, you were certain you could drive and drive fast. Then when your parents finally gave you the car, you realized the power and potential speed of that car, and that you really didn't know how to drive well, let alone safely. 

Learning to drive takes time, and as much as we want to get in that car and go fast, we soon realize we need to hit the brakes and slow down. Take things little by little, as we build up our driving knowledge and experience. We need to learn how to drive safely in all sorts of weather, on all sorts of roads, with all sorts of passengers, and during different times of day and night. And by the time we have all of that experience and knowledge, we realize driving isn't about going fast at all. It is simply about getting us from one place to another. How we get there, that is up to us. 

Last year, was my first year in blended learning, and it was a lot like being a new driver. I had extensive training, as I read books, did research on my own, and was active on Twitter learning as much as I could about it. And I wanted to go fast, or at least I thought I had to. This year has been a lot like being an experienced driver understanding the purpose of driving. I feel like I am kind of at that all important driving age of 25 when insurance rates go drastically down. My understanding of blended learning has grown so much as I continue to learn and grow from my experiences.

So after reflecting here are my road rules for new and experienced drivers on the blended learning highway.

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