Category Archives: blendedlearning

Volleyball or Ping Pong?

Anyone? Anyone?  Pause………….anyone?

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We have all been there – sitting in silence waiting for that one brave soul to put up their hand and contribute anything, absolutely anything to the conversation. After these classes I am always left feeling deflated and wondering what I could have done differently, and it usually comes around to a few things. A few things that I am going to list below and I would love to have others add to this list in the comments below, because as we all know having a full tool bag doesn’t always mean you have the right tools, so let’s fill up each other’s tool bags. I just pictured Hermione’s bottomless bag in the Deathly Hallows. She was able to pull everything they all needed out of that bag. Sometimes in my classroom I feel like I have/or need one of those bags.

  1. Set students up for success – let them talk with a buddy about a topic before having to talk in front of everyone. This allows them to talk it out and get ideas flowing, or even test out a thought with their friend before having to say it to everyone.
  2. Provide opportunities for students to make connections. I love to start lessons with a story about myself when I was their age. They can often relate and build a connection – I can usually get almost everyone’s hand up this way in order to get the ball going.
  3. Assign a video or a reading to do before the class – at least this way students have some background knowledge to draw upon.

I found an article on commonlit.org that talks about ways to get students talking and I really like the ideas presented – you can find the article here.  One thing that really stuck out to me are several studies that show when students speak and work with each other they learn the most (Lotan, 2012; Holthuis, 2012; Michaels, 2008; Bianchini, 1997; Cohen, 1997; Leechor, 1989; Vygotsky, 1978). Yet, in many of the classrooms that I have observed (including my own) the teacher does most of the talking. One of the strategies outlined in the article that I liked the most was the volleyball versus ping pong method of discussion. In ping pong the conversation always goes back to the teacher just like a ping pong game. In volleyball however, the conversation may start with the teacher but it is then passed around from student to student and the teacher is there to observe. My goal is to facilitate more volleyball style conversations. So how can I do that?

The unit that I am working on is Biographies for a grade 5/6 ELA class. For this class students will be reading a biography of their choice, however I would like for them to learn from one another on the different people they are studying. I feel as though the people that have been chosen are from such a diverse range that there is so much that we can learn from one another.

For this course I will be using Google Classroom as my LMS. Within the stream, students will have the opportunity to chat with each other, ask questions, post videos, or websites. The goal is to assist each other in finding information that is useful for their presentation at the end of the unit. Before allowing students to post in the stream we will have to have a conversation within the classroom about rules and regulations for posting in the stream. The worst, and most annoying thing I see students doing at this age group is filling the stream with absurdity. One of the most prevalent posts are: HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii – but much much longer. It is also a good time to talk about our digital footprint, and how it is easier to say something online rather than in person. I would like to give this group of students the opportunity to come up with their own set of governing rules for the classroom stream, and I believe that many in the class will watch it and make sure everyone is using it appropriately.

By allowing students to help each other and make their own posts, I feel as though their participation in this course will be impacted in a very positive way. Check out this list of 44 Benefits of Collaborative Learning.

In “Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation” the following benefits are shared, and I believe they are important to note.

At the end of the unit I would like students to fill out a self assessment using Google Forms much like we will use in this class. I will have students rate their participation, how much they contributed to the class community, as well as list up to three students who helped them out the most in the class. This will be kept confidential, and I will also be monitoring the chat on a weekly basis. To be completely honest, I have done this in the past, and often I am on there everyday!

Secondly, students will be making contributions to their blog that we have set up through Google Sites. I will expect students to make several blog posts summarizing the chapters that they have read, and giving their own thoughts /opinions on selected chapters. In addition students will have the opportunity to comment on each other’s blogs. On Google sites it isn’t as easy as commenting on word press however I was able to figure it out by watching the following video:

The result isn’t pretty, but it works. I was actually able to figure out how to hide the date and time stamp in Google Sheets which makes the comment much easier to read.

I believe the benefits of commenting on blog posts are very similar to discussion board comments. Students have the opportunity to read others work, and to contribute their own knowledge on a subject to the post. In the blog post: “How to be a good commenter” there are many great suggestions that I will use to teach students how to comment on one another’s blog posts – without actually using the post itself as the language used in the post may not be the greatest in introducing the ideas to 11 and 12 year old’s.

To keep comments meaningful, relevant, and supportive I will have to monitor these interactions, but I will also have to leave some of it up to the students to monitor their own posts and comments. In the end the comment section on the blog posts will also be a part of the students’ self reflection. If anyone has other ideas to monitor blog post comments I would love to hear them. I want to give students the opportunity to make the right choices without them thinking that I am constantly looking over their shoulders. The one thing I really struggle with in this class is that they are so dependent on their teacher – constantly checking in to see if they are doing the right thing. I want to foster a little independence and I think these activities will help in this area. I would really like to hear your thoughts on this – do you struggle with the same thing?

How do you foster independence in your classroom?

My Course Profile

Introduction:

I am really excited about this project because I have never had students create websites before, and I cannot wait to see how they turn out. I have already started some of the pre-teaching. As a class we have learned about digital citizenship and our digital footprint. I feel as though students understand their role and responsibility to our online community of learners and they are excited about creating their own website. I have also started teaching students how to create their website using Google Sites and we have worked over the course of three classes so far in setting it up and adding our own personal touch. Students have created an “About Me” page, they have listed their interests and strengths, as well as set personal learning goals.

Course Overview: ELA Biographies

Who Was Is Series 140 Book Set Includes Who/What/Where/Is/Was/Were - BRAND NEW | eBay

Target Audience:

The target audience for this course are grade 5 and 6 students in a split grade classroom. They range in age from 10-12 years old. This is a French Immersion classroom and I am their English Language Arts teacher. I see them for 2.5 hours a week. All students in the course do have access to WIFI in their homes, however some do not always have access to a computer. For time periods when work will be expected to be completed at home or when synchronous at home meeting times are required students will have the opportunity to sign out a school Chromebook to use in their homes. The office does have a form in which parents will fill out and sign if there is a need to borrow a Chromebook. In this particular classroom there are no EAL learners and attendance is not an issue.

This class is full of enthusiastic learners that like to engage in their learning and ask lots of questions. This is my second year with this group, therefore a great working relationship has already been established. 

Course Timeline:

This course is designed to run over a six week period, however may be adjusted depending on how well students engage with the topic. 

Course Delivery:

This course is going to have a blended learning structure. All lessons will take place face to face however they will be recorded and uploaded to our LMS – either google classroom or google sites (depending on what is easier for students). At this point in time many students are away due to factors that are uncontrollable, therefore attaching the lessons so students can view asynchronously at home will be beneficial to them. Students can also access these videos at school when they need reminders or need a refresher on the information. All lessons will be recorded through Zoom as the share screen option will be very useful in showing students what they need to do. 

Zoom Logo, history, meaning, symbol, PNGGoogle Sites | The Innovative Instructor

Most of this project is done through self guided inquiry therefore students will have the option to complete tasks at home and at school. As I stated earlier I only see these students face-to-face for 2.5 hours a week, so in class time will be devoted to lessons and answering any questions that come up during the week. 

Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes:

This course focuses on Biographies of people from all over the world. This unit will be around reading and writing outcomes from the grade 5 and 6 English Language Arts Saskatchewan Curriculum. Although there are many outcomes that this project covers, the focus will be on the following:

CR5.1

Analyze and respond to a variety of grade-level texts (including contemporary and traditional visual, oral, written, and multimedia texts) that address: identity (e.g., Exploring Heritage), community (e.g., Teamwork), social responsibility (e.g. What is Fair?)

CR5.4

Read and demonstrate comprehension of a range of contemporary and classical grade-appropriate fiction, script, poetry, and non-fiction (including magazines, reports, instructions, and procedures) from various cultures including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit and countries (including Canada).

CC5.1

Compose and create a range of visual, multimedia, oral, and written texts that explore: identity (e.g., What Should I Do), community (e.g., This is Our Planet), social responsibility (e.g. Teamwork) and express personal thoughts shaped through inquiry.

CR6.1

View, listen to, read, comprehend, and respond to a variety of texts that address identity (e.g., Growing Up), social responsibility (e.g., Going the Distance), and efficacy (e.g., Making Our Community More Peaceful).

CR6.7

Read independently and demonstrate comprehension of a variety of information texts with some specialized language including grade level instructional materials, non-fiction books, reports and articles from magazines and journals, reference materials, and written instructions.

CC6.1

Create various visual, multimedia, oral, and written texts that explore identity (e.g., Your Choices), social responsibility (e.g., Looking for Answers), and efficacy (e.g., Systems for Living).

CC6.4

Create and present a variety of representations that communicate ideas and information to inform or persuade and to entertain an audience, including illustrations, diagrams, posters, displays, and cartoons

Guiding Questions:

  1. What is the difference between a biography and an autobiography?
  2. How can I create a professional Google Site?
  3. How to write a blog?
  4. Who is/was the person I have selected to read about?
    1. Read about their life – growing up
    2. What they did for the world – what is their legacy
    3. What makes them special
  5. What can I do to make a difference in this world? What qualities do I have that are similar or different from the person in my book?
  6. What is my own social responsibility on this planet, and what can I do to make my home a better place (home, school, neighbourhood, province, country, world)?

Phrase identity who i am on jigsaw puzzles with hand hold one piece.

Students will examine their thinking by summarizing every two chapters in a blog post, reflecting on the information that they have learned, and looking inward at themselves by comparing and contrasting themselves with the person in their biography. At the end of the unit they will deliver a presentation (that they can record and present – or deliver in person) outlining who this person is (from their biography) and their thoughts and feelings about what they did for the world. Just like in EC&I834 students will be asked to comment on each other’s blog posts. I feel as though this is a genuine way to get to know each other and to broaden our audience to include more than just the teacher and our parents. There are many advantages to having students blog which can be found in the following article:

https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3721

Course Materials:

This course heavily relies on access to a computer and the internet since all of the work will be done online. Students will have access to computers at the school, and if they don’t have a device at home, options will be available for them to borrow a device from the school. WIFI connectivity is not an issue for the students in this class so it is not a consideration in the design of this course. If it does become an issue in the future options will be available to the student to complete all work at school. 

Who Was/Is biography book – our school library does not have enough books to provide each students with a copy – or that would provide enough choice to students. More have been ordered, but we have also put in a request to other schools to borrow their copies. The most difficult process with this activity was finding appropriate books for the grade 5 and 6 reading level, however after a lot of searching and with the help of our amazing teacher librarian, we were able to find a good assortment of books at each reading level. 

An accommodation will be provided to students who have to self isolate at home, or who are not able to be at school for whatever reason they may have. As stated earlier all lessons will be recorded on Zoom and added to our preferred platform. Blog posts can be written either at home or at school, and any Google Site help will be provided in person. Students may wish to re-watch lessons in order to clarify any misunderstandings, or to solidify their understanding. 

Special Announcements:

There are students in the class who get really nervous in-front of groups when presenting. Therefore students will have the opportunity to present their final presentation in one of two ways: recording their presentation, or doing it live in-front of the class. This final presentation will not be placed on the internet and will only be seen by students and the teacher in the classroom. 

Edsby will be used for any communication that needs to be done outside of the classroom as it is the preferred method of communication with Regina Public Schools.

Assessment:

Students will be assessed based on the quality of their blog posts, how well they contribute to their classmates’ blog posts, as well as on their final presentation.

For the final presentation students will have the opportunity to choose an online presentation medium such as Google Slides, Haiku Deck, Prezi, Kahoot, iMovie, Keynote, etc. 

Blog Posts:

Students will be expected to make one significant blog post per week or for every two chapters of the biography they are reading. Each blog post will be assessed on the quality of writing, voice, the use of images and or tags/links within the blog post, and thoughtfulness of comments made on others blog posts. 

Rationale for Design:

This course is designed to meet ELA learning outcomes for both grade 5 and grade 6. By using different learning modules, allowing for work to be done at different times and locations, and by providing a lot of choice in both the book of choice, and the ways in which the final presentation can be done, I am hoping to meet the needs of many different learning types. My hope is that students will find the work they are doing to be both fun and relevant to their learning and the way learning will take place in their futures. It is also my hope to help foster digitally literate and responsible students who know how to interact and present themselves both online and off. 

online curation media concept. electronic newspaper. young woman holding laptop PC and various news images. abstract mixed media.

 

A little bit of this a little bit of that – Blend it all up, smooth right?

What are your experiences and perceptions related to your own use of blended learning and/or technology integration in your professional context? What challenges and opportunities have you experienced?

I really struggled with where to start with this question because I have used technology in my practice right from Day 1 when I introduced Ancient Egyptian civilization to my grade 6/7 class during my internship. I put together a PowerPoint presentation full of pictures and videos and music to “hook” my students into wanting to know more. I used story telling to awaken their curiosities and get them interested in this amazing civilization and period in history. Fast forward 16 years and the capabilities of technology sure has changed.

Ancient Egyptian painting on papyrus

Kendra’s post really resonated with me because I too love to try new things out. “Hey Chris – we have a Smartboard available do you want to try it out in your room?” or “Hey Chris – how about this document camera?” or “Hey Chris – our district has an amazing UDL team want to join?” Ohh boy did I ever say yes to everything.

Jimmy Fallon Yes GIF by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

youtube.com/fallontonight

Thinking about all of the technology that I have used over the years is enough to give me a headache – sometimes I used it because it was trendy – like the Smartboard, or apps on an iPad, but others have survived the true test of time and have aged well like a really great bottle of wine.

Let’s start with the Smartboard – this one is an absolute no for me – as I said for me! In my classroom it may as well have been a piece of abstract art entitled: “Wall Clutter” because that is what it was in my classroom. Did it make learning fun? Maybe for a minute or two but that minute of fun took me 2 hours to create. No thank-you! I ended up using it as a glorified projector screen, a complete waste of money in my classroom. I have asked myself several times (in my head) if a Smartboard is a useful piece of technology? My answer always comes back to time. My time (and your time good reader) is valuable, and I am sure that we all have much better things to do than sit in front of a computer for HOURS to come up with an activity that will take a few minutes to complete.  When I am using technology in my classroom I often think of the SAMR model and question how I am using this piece of technology.  In my opinion the Smartboard slightly Augments what I could do in the classroom without it – so there is some enhancement but the way I used it there was no transformational change. Could there have been? Sure – but the downside to this piece of tech is time – and the time I was willing to sacrifice was not enough to see any transformational change.

One technology tool that did transform my teaching was the use of student blogs. Back in the day we used Wikispaces – which is no longer around. I was able to use this space to post question forums, and students had the ability to log in and answer the questions and to respond to their classmates responses. I really liked the format of the wiki because everything was categorized by topic and all discussions remained within that topic. Students loved the ability to go online and either debate or agree with each other on the topics. I had several students come up to me after we had posted a few questions and comment that they feel more connected to the class because they feel comfortable and safe participating in this manner. Back then I had no idea that this was a form of blended learning, however it became a very important part of my practice for many years following.

Next Stop Kidblog (now Fanschool)

I really liked Wikispaces, but I wanted to give students an opportunity to blog on their own. Using Kidblog expanded my students audience by including their families, friends and other teachers who were interested in what we were doing. We used the blog in several ways to expand upon what we were learning in the classroom. One of the favourites was doing a read-a-loud of a novel in the classroom and then posting a critical thinking question for students to reflect on in their blog post. Students would always do this work at home and more often than not we would have a great discussion the next day in the classroom. We also used the blog to share YouTube videos about what we were learning, or great websites that helped us understand a topic better. I loved the feedback that students received from their peers and their family members.

https://www.tonybates.ca/2016/12/12/are-we-ready-for-blended-learning/

 

I also loved the fact that we were able to learn about things in the comfort of our own home and then come to school the next day and have a really good discussion about the topics that I posted on my blog. In just a few short years I was able to go from using technology as a classroom aid to a flipped classroom blended approach to teaching. I definitely saw the benefits of using a blended approach to teaching and learning simply in the way students were interacting with me and each other. They often came to school excited to learn and to discuss what they learned the night before.  The final thing I did with my blog was keeping parents in the loop – I often wrote a quick summary of the day but I didn’t give away to much information.  Instead I gave parents questions they could ask their child rather than just “How was your day?” Parents loved it because they were able to have a better conversation with their daughter/son, rather than just get a “fine” or “good”.

Google Classroom

I threw Google classroom into the mix approximately 8 years ago. I have mostly used it as a place to store assignments, communicate with students, and help parents stay on top of assignments. I feel as though I have used it pretty efficiently – it isn’t full of bells and whistles – however it does a great job of keeping online content organized and is very good at allowing the teacher and students to communicate with each other.  There are some sites such as Newsela that allows you to pick out articles and assign them to your Google Classrooms. This came in very handy during the online learning that has taken place over the last couple of years.

Google Classroom Logo, history, meaning, symbol, PNG

One of my favourite assignments during the March – June 2020 pandemic online learning time period was a collaborative assignment that I game students to work on in Science. They had to chose a topic – one from a list that I created and with a partner create a presentation that they had to share with the class. I loved this assignment because it had both synchronous and asynchronous components. During class zoom times they were able to go into breakout rooms and discuss their plans with their partner, and then work on their part asynchronously at home when they had access to a computer. The students help themselves and their partner accountable  and the majority of students were ready to present when their time came.

For the last two years I have started a new journey as a Vice Principal. Although my role has changed my curiosity and willingness to try out new things has not changed. With the help of some amazing staff, and an amazing principal we have been able to conduct assemblies virtually, read for students in multiple classrooms, and my favourite – conduct a Willow Award Masked reader book battle. I read one of the Willow nominees and students had to guess who was behind the mask. We gave them clues, however to make it even more difficult I used a voice changer. Students really had to put the clues together to try and figure out who I was. Enjoy the video below where I give a second round of clues to students.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzRHrCTGlpw

Most recently I have started to play around with Google sites, and I am working with a grade 5/6 classroom on getting a site up and running for each student. The plan (at this moment) is to use it as a blog site, and as an online portfolio. This is an evolving process and I hope to use this idea as my main learning project for this EC&I 834. If you would like to see what I have done so far with my personal Google site you can check it out here.

If you would like to read more about the benefits of blended learning check out: 7 Advantages of Blended Learning Programs by Alex Weitzel

On the flipside there are also disadvantages that we as educators should know about. Please check out: 6 Disadvantages of Blended Learning Educators and Students should Know by Scott Winstead

If you have any great ideas for Google Sites and/or have used it and had success with it, I would love to know your ideas or plans.

What other online tools have you had success with?

What online tools should I completely avoid altogether?