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
The key of imagination unlocked the door to the Twilight Zone and to our successful blended learning year. Google Classroom has allowed me to use my imagination, as I started creating relevant, meaningful assessments through Google Classroom and other Google apps. Now, after going through half a year using G Suite for Education tools, students are posting their own learning experiences in Google Classroom, with no prompting from me, to share with their classmates. Students are not only extending their learning on their own by creating their own story lines that relate to the assessments, but they are also seeing and demonstrating learning anytime, anywhere. Now they have their own key of imagination and they are using it.
Dimension of Sound: Communication & Collaboration
As the year has gone on, and my students have been becoming better and better at using G Suite for Education tools, I started encouraging more communication through the comment feature in Google Docs, as well as using Google Slides where all can edit the same document to collaborate and learn from each other. Adding this dimension has given my class the authenticity it has lacked in years past. Now, students are continuously communicating and collaborating with their classmates in ways never possible before.
Dimension of Sight: Creativity
G Suite for Education has allowed me to give learning opportunities, that were once out of reach, to all of my students. Now students are not doing mindless, fill-in-the-blank worksheets, but rather they are creating and thinking how they can demonstrate their learning in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them. They are proud of their work and actively look to share their own, authentic, and creative work with others.
Dimension of Mind: Critical Thinking
Students are thinking critically about the work they are producing. They are thinking how it relates to themselves, their classmates, and others in the community. They are making connections and asking me and their classmates real questions about their learning. Everyone has a voice in Google Classroom, and everyone, even the quiet students in class, are giving high quality feedback. Students are taking the enrichment ideas offered and running with them, and some are coming up with their own enrichment activities.
Land of Shadow & Substance...Things & Ideas: The Future
This year, my blended learning classroom is truly preparing students for their future, not my future. The purpose of blended learning, as I see it, is to help students find relevance and meaning in their learning, during their time in education, not any previous generation's time. My students this year are focusing on the 4C's, and those will never become outdated. Those are skills they are learning now that they will use in the future, and while technology definitely helps foster these ideas, technology is not the driving force behind them. Technology or no technology, the 4C's are skills that will translate into the 21st Century.
Episodes of The Twilight Zone always ended with an unexpected twist, but the only twist here is my students are learning outside of school whether they realize it or not...and that's not a bad twist to have.