It has been a long time since I have had to take a day off for illness. In fact, I think the last time I was out sick was in 2011. I eat right, exercise, and take care of myself. My job comes with some stress, but usually not enough to wear me down.
Like most teachers, if I have a cold, I go to school. It is way easier to sniffle through a week than to write out detailed sub plans for each individual course for 5 days. So, imagine my horror at being told to stay home for 2 weeks.
What is a teacher to do? Luckily, I had some strong antibiotics and a strong online toolkit that helped me get through the hardship of being away from the classroom. PowerSchool Learning, Loom, FlipGrid, Kahoot, and EdPuzzle allowed me and my students to interact and learn together, even though I wasn’t on campus.
Have a good foundation. I would be lost without the use of a learning management system (LMS). I have used many in my time, but it wasn’t until I started teaching online with Global Online Academy that I really got a grasp of how to make an LMS a dynamic space for my students to interact with course content and each other.
As some of you have read in my blog a few years ago, I make the most of my PowerSchool Learning pages (aka Haiku Learning). I put all of my units, lesson by lesson, on my pages within the LMS. Students can see a calendar of lessons, they can see the individual lessons, and they can access all lessons resources: video tutorials, documentaries, links to other online activities, text, worksheets, or whatever was handed out in class....
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:
- 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.
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
In 2009, I attended the wedding of a good friend who wanted to wear a bow tie to the ceremony. He was opposed to wearing a clip-on but could not tie a bow tie. He told me he learned to tie it by watching YouTube. That resourceful friend is the first example in my memory of someone using YouTube to learn something new.
Today, it is well understood that YouTube is a great platform for learning. The iconic Crash Course channel has more than five million subscribers and teaches multiple subjects. TED-Ed makes high-quality short animated videos about many topics. The Great War posts weekly videos about what happened in World War I exactly a hundred years ago in addition to many single-subject special episodes. By the time the channel is complete, it will be a massive open online course (MOOC) that gives learners an exhaustively deep understanding of World War I. Much like my friend learned how to tie a bow tie on YouTube, my wife and I learn how to make delicious meals from the Edgy Veg. One last example to drive this home - a family taught themselves how to build their own home by watching YouTube!
So Who Goes To This Website That Teaches People So Much?
The middle school, high school, and college students we teach don't just like YouTube - they are addicted to it. One study found 85% of Americans aged 13 to 24 regularly watch it and two-thirds of them say they "can't live without it." You can read the full report which puts average YouTube viewership for 13 to 24 year-olds at 6.2 hours a week, for yourself....