Musings of a 21st Century Middle School Social Studies Teacher
Hello all! Just finished participating in my first Ed Camp Voice, or Ed Camp in general. What an awesome community of educators from around the country. This was a neat free self-paced teacher collaborative event over the Voxer app. I was able to catch all the material and collaboration I wanted while still doing the daily routine, going for walks, or going in the pool. Highly encourage you to join Ed Camp Voice next year! (Wish it was around more than once per year!) I came upon this event on Twitter and suggested the topic of Blended Learning for one of the groups. Surprisingly enough, I was asked to "moderate" this discussion. I'm so glad I did as I gained a ton of wisdom, knowledge, and resources - probably more than the participants! Very thankful.
I digress... After this EdCampVoice experience, I am excited and ready to "dive into" blended learning after dabbling in it a little this year. (As per the stages of implementation in Blended in Action, I worked through the Pre-Pilot stage with one class at the end of the year.) I have listened to several podcasts, read blogs, am reading Blended in Action, and connected with teachers on Twitter and am convinced that blended learning is the future of education.
For many years, teachers have been hearing the need to always differentiate instruction in the classroom. This has been the "buzzword" since I was in college and likely long before. Some have mastered differentiation before the dawn of digital edtech in the more recent years, while others, like myself, have held more tightly to the traditional direct instruction model in their classrooms while still trekking through the new edtech options available - and not using to their potential. There is the old adage among teachers that "a teacher teaches the way that they were taught..." This is so true! I had some great history teachers (whom I enjoyed!) who lectured with PowerPoints... And you can guess what a lot of my instruction looks like today. We are called to break the mold in this era of exploding digital technology. (All while taking it in stride and using all tools prudently and effectively!)
There is an excellent definition of blended learning from the Christensen Institute: a formal education program in which a student learns:
While this is all academic rhetoric... I am sold on the fact that this truly student-centered learning is best for me and my students! I am most intrigued by the amount of choice which inherently exists in the blended model. In the traditional model of education, the teacher is simply the "spewer of information..." At least in my own education and in my first few years of teaching, a lesson composed of the following:
What is this style of learning missing? Well, learning of course! We all know students struggle to retain much of a standard lecture, even with the most tremendous note-taking scaffolding in place! (See graphic below! Look at the top of the pyramid!) There is an active part of learning and ownership that is missing from the traditional paradigm of classroom teaching - especially from middle to high schools. (One of the participants in EdCampVoice4 reflected that this paradigm will not disappear until colleges shift their focus from as the industry is typically affected from top-down. This is interesting and certainly a cause for reflection - I won't reflect in detail here.)
In my classroom this year, I hope to increase student choice in the following ways:
And... Back to Learning!
Most importantly, I hope that a blended learning model will promote independence and foster an innate curiosity to learn and discover! Students are so accustomed to regurgitating information back at the teacher... Contrary to old practices, this is probably not the best way to learn! I'm hoping for my students to realize their potential to learn given the vast array of technology and apps at their disposal. It is up the teacher to curate these tools then empower the students to discover, learn, then create/solve!