School is an adventure. We never know what we may encounter on any given day. Our adventure is filled with twists and turns, open roads and newly created paths. With any journey, we must plan what we want to see, always knowing that we may need to venture down a new path.
At the beginning of this school year, I told my staff that we were on an adventure. Our adventure would have a plan, a destination of learning, but how we got there would depend on the many twists and turns we came across. We might need to forge a new road, or continue down one we have been before. At our district professional development day, a new path was built by all.
The plan of learning is always to grow, create, and inquire. On this day, our path would be digital, where creation and growth were the main focus. Our district was on a blended learning journey, taking our teachers and news to new heights, propelling us forward in order to learn more about blended learning, the power it can hold within our classrooms, and how we get there together.
Our adventure started together as a district, learning from keynote speaker, Matt Miller, author of Ditch That Textbook, the importance of digital and blended learning environments, as this was the world our children live in, and we must bring that world into our schools. From there, our district technology director, Kelly Clifford, and technology integration coordinator, Lance Yoder, gave concrete examples of this mindset, and we learned how video can help transform our learning spaces, beginning our blended learning journey. These presentations solidified the opportunities that not only await educators as they forge their own blended learning environments, but also how these learning experiences are transformative for our students, as they learn at their own pace, personalizing learning for each child.
At this point in the morning, with our heads filled with a blended mindset, our adventure was not just led by a few people, but by all. Groups split according to grade levels, and everyone was taught how to screencast. Those who had experience with screencasting were pushed even farther with a personalized learning experience by Matt Miller. I had the fortune of working with the 3rd through 5th grade teachers on how to screencast using Screencastify. After a short tutorial, teachers were then given the opportunity to collaborate with their grade level and department. The afternoon was spent creating and sharing, a powerful few hours. A few administrators delivered goodies to provide some needed “brain food”, while others roamed among groups, helping and answering questions. The afternoon was fun and collaborative, and by the end of the day, many teachers had created their first content.
From this day, I learned so much about our journey, and the path it needs to take.
First, a clear plan must be developed. Our journey can pave new roads, but we need to have an idea of that final destination.
Second, our journey cannot take on every challenge at once. This day was successful because the skills we were learning and the tools we were using were “simple”. The more tools we throw at educators, the more techniques we attempt to share, the less likely they are to try them. We focused our journey on blended learning and using video as a means for creating content so that students could personalize their learning. This mindset was carried out all day, focused on one screencasting tool, Screencastify. Since we are a Google Apps for Education school district, we shared how seamless this integration can be for us and our students.
Lastly, the adventure could not happen without effective use of time, building time for collaboration and sharing, teachers learning from teachers. Each group traveled the path that meant the most to them. Not only was the time effective for each group, but through this format, we were modeling what we wanted our teachers to do in their classroom through blended learning – each student venturing on their own through content and skills, getting the guidance they need throughout the day. There was an end product in mind, and each group traveled their own path to get there.
In the end, our blended journey was transformative. I have since watched teachers helping others in their own blended journey, using what they learned to transform learning experiences for their students. Even more than that, teachers are now using this concept of creating content with their students, with students leading and screencasting their own content for the creation of their blended learning environment.
This was not just about a blended learning approach. It was about a professional learning adventure, building new paths of learning to personalize our own learning so we can personalize the learning experiences for our students.