Thursday, October 20, 2016

#BLinAction Means Balance


In a face-to-face environment, Blended Learning in Action doesn’t mean students are on devices in every classroom throughout the day. In fact, effective #BLinAction takes into consideration a number of factors to establish the right balance of offline and online learning. These include student age, student readiness, the level of access to technology outside school, and of course, the learning objective. Students benefit from teachers modeling the right balance of technology usage and the opportunity to practice that balance while in school.
Here is a snapshot how this looked as I walked around our school the other day for a period of 30 minutes:
In English, Fifth Grade students were focused and quiet in a Station Rotation lesson. At one station, a small group worked on vocabulary and grammar via their digital curriculum resource: Word Voyage; at a nearby station, a student worked on a Google presentation on a history topic of their choice; at the third station, students worked on essays in their composition notebooks; at the teacher station, students workshopped their essays in G-Suite with their teacher.


7th Grade History
In History, Seventh Grade students were working in Whole-Group Rotation (see our chapter on this modern spin on “Lab Rotation”). used offline and online resources to work on a study guide for their upcoming quiz on the development of feudalism in Western Europe. They worked independently on this before departing for their field trip to the Museum of Finance. The mood was focused, engaged, and anticipatory.


In Fifth Grade science, the room was abuzz with creativity and student choice. Students were selecting from a range of materials to create their parachute designs. Some were building from cups and pipe-cleaners while others were cutting big sheets of plastic. The Smartboard was lit up with information on the task and inspiration for designs. Students were using their Chromebooks to access resources to help them in their design project. Students had control over the time they used to watch videos and read for learning and what resources they selected. Their teacher was circulating the room checking in with smiles and encouraging comments, directing them to resources as needed.


In Fourth Grade, students were transitioning from a Whole-Group Rotation in which they worked on grammar and vocabulary development. When I entered, they were finishing a period of whole group digital learning via digital curriculum. They then were instructed to return their devices to their charging carts and began a hands-on data collection and estimation math lesson. As students entered their estimations, the teacher used a tool for data aggregation to bring the data narrative into focus for class interpretation.


I popped into other classes during this observation window. In some, there were students on their devices, whether iPads in the younger grades or Chromebooks in the older grades. But in many other classrooms, what I saw was students reading with each other on the rug, building with their hands, sketching with their pencils, discussing topics with their peers, practicing their cursive writing on whiteboards. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all model, there is no one-size-fits-all balance. However, in our school, this is exactly what we want to see: a balance of genuinely connected face-to-face interactions blended with personalized and choice-based digital learning. How does balance look in your school? Share your ideas using #BLinAction and join the Blended Learning in Action book chat!

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