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.
Road Rule 1: Slow Down
Technology changes faster than teenagers want to drive, so it's too hard to keep up with everything. Don't feel that you have to learn everything at once. There are so many tools out there to bring into your classroom, that you can't possibly learn them all, but you do have eventually drive out of the parking lot and onto the road. It's the only way you will learn.
Road Rule 2: Learn the Basic Colors
Red, yellow, green, and blue. Blue? No, not traffic lights, but G Suite for Education. Take time to explore Google Drive and build from there. Work towards understanding how powerful and relevant G Suite for Education can make your blended learning class. You and your students will thank you for it.
Road Rule 3: Read the Manual
Many of us, me included, tried taking the written part of our driver's test without really reading the driver's manual. Some got lucky and passed, others, like me, weren't so lucky and failed. I know I went back and read the manual cover to cover three times before taking the written test again. Second time I passed. For blended learning, find a good book to use as your manual. For me, it was Catlin R. Tucker's book, Blended Learning in Grades 4 - 12. This has been an invaluable resource for me, and after last year, I read it a couple times over.
Road Rule 4: Learn How to Parallel Park
The dreaded parallel park has gotten so much easier now in cars with back-up cameras and self parking cars, but it is still something that needs to be learned. When running a blended learning classroom, whether it is your first year or fifth year, take time to learn how to park your mind. There will be so many things and ideas constantly streaming past you, that you need to take pause and reflect. Think about where you were and where you are going next.
Road Rule 5: Share the Road
Share your experiences with others, whether they are your colleagues at your school or your colleagues in your PLN. Sharing your experiences will help you more than it will help them. It gets your thoughts about your practice out of your head and results in more clarity and a deeper understanding about the importance and purpose of blended learning.
Getting my driver's license was one of the most exciting times in my life. It was something that I wanted since I sat on my dad's lap in his car as he "let me" drive into the garage. Now after 15 years of teaching, driving down the blended learning highway is just as exciting to me as getting my driver's license, and just like a vehicle, blended learning can take you to some really great places but you just have to know some road rules.