Blended Learning · Coaching · Reflection

Tools in my Toolbelt

As part of diving into how technology can be used in education, we were asked the question “How has technology impacted your life?”  As part of the Millenial generation, technology is an integral part of my life both personally and professionally. I have had a cell phone since I could drive. I now have the ability to access essentially anything I could need via cell phone–taxi, groceries, bills, cameras, even grading papers. Personally, I am attached to my smartphone and use educational apps to help provide personalized cell-phone-1163722_1280learning opportunities for my two sons, age 3 and 5. I workout using YouTube videos and am part of an exercise support group online.

 

Professionally, my world revolves around technology. As the Digital Learning Coach it is my job to help teachers implement and integrate technology purposefully in their classrooms. Since this is my role in the school, it is important that I stay on top of current technology trends and evaluate their usefulness before introducing them to my teachers. All technology use should be founded in good pedagogy. I don’t want to introduce my teachers to an APP just because it’s cool. I want to make sure that it can be used to support best practices in the classroom.

For the past 18 months, my school has been a part of a blended learning initiative for Math and ELA. This meant that we were provided with two digital content programs in order to help differentiate instruction. We used ALEKS for our Math classes and Achieve3000 for our ELA classes. Both of these programs are adaptive and need little-to-no teacher input. This allowed our teachers to focus more on small group instruction and less on the technology tools needed to create the blended environment.

This year my principal set a goal to move towards a blended classroom across all subjects, both core and exploratory. So, we have now started to add more tools to our technology tool belt to help facilitate this transition. Playposit, Brainpop, and Discovery Education are being used to help supplement content in our classrooms. Since we are not using a consulting firm with this particular roll out, we are less rigid in our blended designs. Science, Social Studies, World Language and Exploratories are expected to start to move towards a classroom that offers some form of digital content, small group instruction that is differentiated, and peer-to-peer/collaborative groups. The biggest goal is to make sure that we are truly blending and not just using good technology integration. I use this video in Professional Development to help my teachers understand the difference.

I love that we are focusing on blended learning as this not only helps to personalize learning for our students but helps to increase collaborative opportunities in the classroom. I feel like my district is following the Horizon Reports trends with the implementation of blended learning and collaborative groups (New Media Consortium, pp. 1-2). However, as mentioned above, I believe this still needs to be based on good pedagogy. Formative assessment should be used to group students and collaboration needs to foster critical thinking and be less “elbow partner” work. We are encouraging our students to use Google Apps for Education more and more as this helps foster a collaborative environment both between students and between the student and the teacher. Last year, I worked with two math teachers to help increase collaboration within the peer-to-peer group through scaffolding. 

This station idea is a big shift for my teachers who are used to being in a teacher-centered classroom.  It is my goal to help shift all of my teachers towards a more student-centered classroom by the end of the 2016-17 school year. This may be something as small as having two groups going on at once or as large as having a Project-Based Learning unit. As long as the focus is on what the students are learning, I think we’ll do just fine moving forward.  

Because there are so many new technologies coming out, I rely on my Professional Learning Network to help me figure out what would be best in my environment. I am an avid consumer of information via Schoology forums, blended learning blogs, and Twitter. I try to contribute when I can but have found that since I have moved towards more of an instructional coach role and less of a “sit-and-get” Professional Development deliverer, I have less time to contribute to my PLN. I am most active on Schoology in terms of providing information but I do a lot of re-tweeting on Twitter to share with my colleagues. My goal for my PLN this year is to focus on presentation at more conferences. So far I have been privileged to present at the Midlands Summit and the Upstate Technology conference. I will be presenting at the TransformSC blended learning workshop in September and am very excited about the opportunity to share what we’ve learned from our work with blended learning.

         Some of my participation on my Professional Learning Networks.

Resources:

Achieve3000a. (2015, January 26). Achieve3000 School of the Future…Today. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NQ3Kf2q9uA

ALEKSCorporation. (2013, January 4). How ALEKS Works. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1Q4jRbpODQ

Cell Phone. (n.d.). In Pixabay. Retrieved August 28, 2016, from https://pixabay.com/p-1163722/?no_redirect

Jen Johnson. (2014, January 20). Blended Learning and Technology Integration. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD8AUfGsCKg&list=PLvzOwE5lWqhTv1uCzuAZZZbBJseZP_HwY&index=6

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