Three years ago, I embarked on a challenge to integrate FNMI knowledge and blended learning with all of the Grade 3 students in my school. I teach AQ and college courses with D2L, so how hard could it be? It was quite challenging to say the least. So challenging, I decided to put the blended learning model on hold for the past 2 years. The fact is that I spent a lot of time adding learning goals, content, and links to the Ontario Education Resource Board (OERB), yet in the end, all we really ended up being able to do was access the front ‘News’ page, and click on the links to access the wonderful online activities from the OERB. It took 15-20 minutes just to get all of the 8 year olds logged in with the laptops most days. It also was not used consistently enough to make a true impact.
However, after the recent changes that D2L has undergone to benefit students in Ontario, my recent learning from teaching higher ed, workshops and techhubs at my board, and the recent OTRK12 conference, I will definitely be embarking on this challenge again!
Right now, I have a shell set up for my part-time role as a Teacher-Librarian and I am impressed with all of the changes that have taken place with D2L this past school year. First of all, it is more user friendly for primary students, second of all, there are more pre-made course shells for primary students that did not exist before, and finally, I now have more knowledge about how I need to change my pedagogy for it to be successful.
With this all in mind, I have created a list of tips that I believe we need to keep in mind when setting up a blended learning environment with our learners.
Tips for running a successful blended learning environment:
- Ensure there are enough devices for all students
- Have an explicit BYOD policy for your classroom
- Give students ‘jobs’ to do – for instance, a ‘Tech-lead’ who will for example ‘unlock and re-lock’ the cupboard to keep personal devices safe, and take them out as needed.
- Write contracts with students and co-create success criteria.
- Model learning skills first!
- Set the stage. Begin strongly with learning skills: responsibility, organization, Independent work, collaboration, initiatives, self-regulation: set success criteria, checklists, what it looks like, sounds like…
- Focus on Assessment For/As Learning: learning goals, success criteria, descriptive feedback: students understand learning goals and success criteria of every lesson.
- Choose the Tools you will start with. (One at a time with primary students!): ie., email, locker, blog, content, discussions, dropbox, ePortfolio – choose the ones you want to use with your students.
- Become co-learners with your students. Let students be experts along with you. Let students learn the tools and run with it.
- Run your classroom like a workshop. Eventually, not all students should be doing the same thing at the same time.
- Be ready to work hard to expand your students thinking, and deepen their understanding and thought processes
- Teach students how to disagree nicely with each other.
- Try Flipping your classroom! If you believe in giving your primary students homework, try sending home instructional videos instead – with students ready to come to class and work through the content and processes of learning with the teacher!
- Definitely have an open house to let your parents know all about your blended learning program!
- Engage in your own PD through twitter, and other PLN’s, webinars etc. to get ideas of how you will implement
- Do your best, let go of some of the control, and be ready to learn alongside your students!
- Think about how you will integrate FNMI knowledge and culture in a blended learning model.
It is also important to remember, that implementing a blended learning environment will only be successful if we are able to adopt 21st century pedagogies that support these new types of blended learning environments.
I am still considering how I will use this to reflect student voice, and how to effectively integrate FNMI knowledge and cultures into these blended models.
What tips and strategies have you found to be successful?
© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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