Monday, March 13, 2017

Model Magic for Blended Learning PD Success!


image credit: noun project
In Blended Learning in Action chapter 3, we discuss the keys to PD success, including ways in which leaders can best support teachers through blended learning implementations. One component of PD support is modeling the standards of blended learning for teachers. As school leaders think about building positive culture for blended learning, it is essential to conjure this model magic in the following areas:


Agency
If teachers are to help students gain more agency, they must get comfortable releasing control over some of the learning experiences, pace, and outcomes. School leaders should model this release of control by engaging teachers as co-creators of PD experiences. Using forms to solicit input for PD content and type of experience, creating individual pathways for teachers via a choice menu or playlist, and giving teachers control over how they participate in and demonstrate learning are all ways in which agency can be modeled.


Collaboration
Online collaboration is a large component of blended learning. Students share documents and project platforms and engage in an ongoing feedback loop. Leaders can model this type of collaboration by replacing standard evaluation documents with shared PD plans and observation tools in an environment like GSuite. Teams can replace dusty binders with live curriculum folders within the shared space.


Digital Learning
For teachers to understand how students can learn from digital tools, they too must engage as learners within a digital space. Designing flipped PD or rotation stations with digital content can provide experiential learning for teachers and set leaders up as lead learners who practice what they preach. Similarly discussion groups for online faculty lounges within the existing LMS can help teachers experience the online space from a learner point of view. With GSuite integration of Google Keep and add-ons such as Kaizena voice comments, school leaders can also model the integration of robust toolkits.


Authenticity
Authenticity is a hallmark of effective blended learning. Without it, we remain in the realm of doing the same things with new tools. We have the opportunity to hit authenticity in both the personalization and relevance of PD when we take the time to understand where teachers are in the the roadmap and the next iterative step within the zone of proximal development. We also have the chance to model authentic audience by sharing practices outside our schools via a PLN or inter-school network between schools within a district. A school-specific hashtag is a great way to share and promote innovation within schools while modeling the hallmark of authentic audience.   

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Playlist Model - Opportunities & Challenges Workshop Reflections

At the recent McGraw Hill Education Stanford Personalized Learning Forum, Jason Green and I had the opportunity to lead a workshop on personalizing learning through the Playlist model of Blended Learning. Since we wholeheartedly believe that the mindset shift to a blended learning culture requires experiential understanding of the models, we put participants into a Playlist model simulation. Here’s how we did it and the takeaways from participants.

We opened with a discussion of the Blended Learning Hallmarks: Personalized, Agency, Authentic Audience, Creativity, and Connectivity. We then discussed the importance of balance in a blended learning model, especially one that has a fair amount of independent, asynchronous learning like the Playlist model does. From there, we put participants into a Playlist rotation via Google Form. The Form simply listed the Playlist activities learners could choose and allowed learners to select them in their preferred order of completion. In a classroom Playlist, we would encourage even more choice and personalization beyond order and pacing. This could include an ongoing personal project or the creation of a few different playlist paths based on small group learning targets. Following the asynchronous Playlist rotation , we moved the group into synchronous group work, discussing benefits and challenges of the Playlist model amongst the members of their group and then sharing these takeaways on Padlet. We closed with a whole-group reflection, examining the interesting data from the Playlist, which showed that learners tackled the tasks in multiple orders.

Participants shared the following benefits of the Playlist model:

  • ·      Personalized for each student’s needs
  • ·      Cultivates student agency through semi-controlled choice
  • ·      Offers a variety of learning modalities
  • ·      Makes flexible learning at your own pace the norm
  • ·      Creates time for teachers to work 1-1 with kids
  • ·      Planning could be done weekly so kids have a go-to playlist during Playlist rotation


While the benefits were easy to identify, so too were some of the challenges of the Playlist model. Here’s what came to light along with some suggested solutions.

Challenge
Solution
Competency alignment & tracking
For skills tracking, the use of adaptive tools can greatly reduce the challenge of creating personalized pathways for students. The most robust tools available right now are in math and language arts. For competency alignment outside of skills, it’s essential to have a clear list of targeted outcomes and to design backwards from there. Teachers should not have to do this heavy lifting on their own. As more open resources become available, schools and districts have the responsibility of allocating resources to curriculum leadership to help curate and align these resources.
Accountability & Assessment
Teachers can hold students accountable for demonstrating the pace and order in which they complete Playlist activities via tools such as Google Forms or learning logs. Catlin Tucker has an outstanding post on how to replace clunky binders with multimedia blogs and critical conversations with students.
Transitions & Organization
In a rotation model, it is essential to set the expectations for movement, device use, noise level, and productivity before putting student into a rotation. Expectations for participation in online discussions and for submitting work also must be set. In Blended Learning in Action, chapter 8 focuses on effective practices for “onboarding” students.
Quality & strategy within choice
While student choice is key to fostering agency, co-creation of the playlist can help ensure that students are making quality selections at their level. By having conversations about learning paths and identifying learning goals, students can be better empowered to make strategic choices when given choice.
Buy-in & Understanding
To gain teacher buy-in in implementing a Playlist model, teachers should understand how the model can help solve a pain point in their instructional process. Coaching should focus on identifying what is most challenging to then find the solution to that challenge through the new model. Further, teachers can feel more confident in implementing a new instructional model if given a specific model of how to do it and experiencing it themselves through personalized PD. Teacher support and professional development is another area that must be supported as districts migrate through transformation.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

BLinAction.com Live!



Over the past few months, my coauthors, Catlin Tucker and Jason Green, and I have worked on a companion site for our book Blended Learning in Action. We have created a space where our readers and anyone hoping to incorporate blended learning strategies into their classes can gain insight, follow our #blinaction book chat, and gain access to curated resources. We plan to add more and more resources to correlate to the book's chapters and to spotlight many voices from teachers and leaders implementing blended learning. Please check out the site blinaction.com and we would love to hear from you via the "Contact Us" page or Twitter @teachontheedge@catlin_tucker @jasontoddgreen!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Blended Learning Transformed Our School" - Via ISTE

I'm often asked whether blended learning works for younger students. The answer is absolutely! We are using it throughout our younger classes. In this ISTE article, there are some excellent #BLinAction details for younger students.


Blended learning transformed our school

Blended learning has affected our school community in many ways over the last three years. It's instilled independence, confidence and a new passion for learning for many of our students. Perhaps the best way to illustrate these improvements is through the success stories of our students.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wired for Blended Learning Success in Science




I recently observed and recorded a whole-group rotation in our Fifth Grade science class, taught by Mike Noll, a teacher trailblazer for hands-on, inquiry based blended learning. Students had already made a circuit offline and were using the simulation software Gizmos to create more complex circuits than they had been able to offline. I wanted to capture and share how blended learning can fit with our inquiry process and the hallmarks of effective teacher practices during this type of lesson. Here’s how the lesson was “wired” for success.


Pre Lesson
Prepping for Personalization: The teacher selected a discovery platform in which students could explore a range of circuit designs, providing a very open-ended creativity path easily aligned with student level of understanding. He also set up the transition materials to give students when they demonstrated the target level of proficiency in the opening task.

Offline Modeling: Prior to the digital learning experience, students had build a single circuit model offline. The teacher was able to point to this model and refer students back to it as needed as they created more complex circuits in the digital space.

Onboarding Effectively: Prior to beginning, the teacher circulated the room to ensure students were on the correct platform, setting expectations for use of the Gizmos platform. He also demonstrated the tools within the Gizmos platform and explained how students were to use them.
During Lesson
Guide on the Side: Through the activity, the teacher circulated the room frequently to provide feedback and prompt further learning based on each student’s progress. This role was mainly to provoke further inquiry and to help students reach a more complex application of their developing understanding.

Formative Assessment & Adjustment: There were many moments for the teacher to receive formative assessment data as he circulated and viewed the student work on the Gizmos platform. He was able to spot where students were excelling to push them to a more rigorous application and where students were struggling to provide more support via the offline models and analogies.

Personalizing Challenge & Pace: Based on the formative data, the teacher provided different paths, encouraging students to be creative and complex in their designs, then transitioning them to the offline written tasks which would require them to demonstrate their understanding in a different manner. Students transitioned to the next level of the assessment tiers at different points throughout the lesson.
Post Lesson
Assessment: In science, students are able to share their understanding beyond individual assessments via Schoology discussions and class presentations, further extending the blended balance and balance between individual exploration and shared experiences.

My Chat with Dr. Will on Blended Learning in Action #BLinAction

I had the great opportunity to kick off the 2017 year with Dr. Will Deyamport. He is a passionate Ed Tech and innovation evangelist and leader. We discussed Blended Learning in Action and how to build culture and support teachers and students through a blended learning implementation. Conversations like these always provide the inspirational fuel for creating positive impact at scale. Thank you Dr. Will!





Sunday, December 4, 2016

#BLinAction Virtual Book Club - Join Us!

After just two months, we have over 2200 readers engaged in Blended Learning in Action! We are excited to announce the start of our #BLinAction book club discussions to help our many readers stay connected and share ideas about each chapter. We’ll take a deep dive into one chapter per week starting this Sunday, December 4th. The book chats will run “slowchat” style with one thought and one question posted per day throughout the week. We hope you’ll join us in these discussions by following #BLinAction and contributing your thoughts. We will be sharing the conversation on our website blinaction.com. Thank you for reading and for contributing to this awesome thought cloud around Blended Learning in Action!