Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blended Learning in Action

My students have been using the Chromebooks this week to engage in an on-line learning lessons/activities about Time. At this point during the unit the students are learning about telling time. They have already explored the passage of time and units of time. They have been introduced to analogue and digital clocks and how to identify minutes and hours. This is their first on-line learning activity for the blended learning we are doing in this Measurement unit.

The activity I am showcasing below shows students the corresponding digital time on an analogue clock for time to the hour, half-hour, and quarter-hour. Students had to match the digital times to their corresponding analogue clocks.

This first shot is of the first slide of the learning activity:

Here they are learning about telling time to the half-hour:

Telling time to the quarter-hour:

Here they get the chance to apply their knowledge/understanding and practice matching digital to analog times:

The students are responding well to the blended learning so far. They enjoy working on the Chromebooks and appreciate the opportunity to 1) learn using the online lessons and 2) practice what they are learning using the technology. The students are doing a great job in this blended learning cycle. I'm finding it a challenge to get around the room and talk to all the students while they are engaged in their practice activities. I want to make sure that I know how they are doing so I can speed things up, slow things down, and adjust for their needs. Their excitement and engagement is incredible and they can't seem to get enough of the tech integration and online learning activities. Nevertheless, I still provide them with other opportunities to show their learning such as using paper & pencil to write and draw, the use manipulatives, and by conferencing with me. It is important that I continue to provide them with what they need to be successful but I also believe in producing well-balanced students who can show their learning in a variety of ways if asked to do so. 

It is important that I continue to transform myself and my teaching so that I am reaching every student. The Chromebooks are tools, blended learning is another way to reach students. My experience has shown me that the use of technology is motivating and engaging and that students tend to be more invested in their learning and achieve greater academic success. I recently had a conversation with a close friend and mentor who expressed some concern about the use of technology in my classroom and how it might negatively impact my students next year when they don't have such technology to assist/support their learning. Concerns around writing, for example, were raised. How would students learn to write a friendly letter with a paper and pencil if they are not provided with that opportunity? How will students lean math concepts and solve problems if they are not introduced to manipulatives that can assist them? These are great questions and they are valid. 

My students use paper and pencils each day. They use manipulatives to learn and solve problems too! The technology and all the "goodies" that go with it are also used. I'd like to think that my students have a variety of options to learn, create, collaborate, problem solve, and communicate. Blended learning is happening in my classroom because I am fortunate enough to have the technology and support to offer it up to my students. It is NOT the only way, it is one piece of the teaching/learning puzzle in my classroom.

In language literacy my students are currently engaged in learning how to write friendly letters. I won't get into too much detail around what we are doing because I would like to dedicate a blog post to it later, but I can tell you that we are BLENDING our learning using paper and pencil as well as Google Drive (via the Chromebooks) to write and send friendly letters. The students are learning the basics of this type of writing and are improving their technological literacy at the same time.  

I would love to hear your thoughts about blended learning - please feel free to leave a comment below, reach me by email, twitter and/or connect with me on Google +.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sharing the Learning Summit - TLLP

Wordle created for the site where our project reflections and findings live on the Internet.
I've just returned from the TLLP Sharing the Learning Summit where I got to present the findings our our project and talk to other participants about their projects. I have created a Google Presentation of the project that can be found here if you are interested. The Summit was a bitter-sweet moment for me - the opportunity to meet with other passionate educators was sweet, the official end to our project is bitter. Fortunately, I am in the midst of another project which means that +Ferdinand Krauss and I will get to attend the summit next year to talk about Blended Learning and Teacher PD using Chromebooks.

From beginning to end, the Summit was a huge 'highlight' for me. +Mark Godin was in attendance with me and has been part of our project before it was a project. As the Principal of Our Lady of Fatima it was his vision and support that led to the purchase of the iPads. Then, it was his encouragement and leadership that led to the TLLP application to support teacher learning & leadership and an improvement in academic & social achievement for our students with Autism. I am honoured to have such a role model in our corner and was very pleased to have him at the Summit to wrap up a project that he was such an integral part of.  

Mark Godin taking a break at the Summit.
Other highlights included:
  • Meeting and speaking with Dr. Ann Lieberman who told me "...I've been looking for you!". Dr. Lieberman is doing research about teacher leaders and was given my name. I will be providing her with information about my experience with the TLLP. It tuns out that the email address she had for me was not correct so I am really happy to have connected with her.
  • Being interviewed by TVOnatrio about our project. I got to spend some time talking to TVO about our project and the positive impact it has had on staff and students. The opportunity to share our learning is endless!
  • Connecting with people who I interact with on Twitter is always a treat. I got to spend some time chatting with Kyle Pearce (who also spoke to Summit participants about his past TLLP work) and Peter Skillen & Brenda Sherry (who are both heavily involved in TLLP training that participants experience at the start of their project journey).
  • Last but not least, the opportunity to chat with a variety of people who stopped at our display to learn about our project. I was more than happy to talk about our work and next steps for this project and other work that we are currently pursuing. 
On duty at the Summit.
My only regret is that I didn't say anything on my evaluation form about the networking that spills over into Twitter or Google + from these TLLP events. As an example, I think it would be a great if TLLP participants could have their Twitter or Google + handles listed with their project descriptions. This would be one simple way to help people connect and it would provide encouragement for non users to give social networking services a chance to assist them with their professional learning and sharing. There is nothing better than being part of other peoples professional learning networks and having them join mine. 

Being surrounded by people who are passionate about their work and about sharing their work is such a personal and professional boost. I want to end this post with something Dr. Ann Lieberman said when she spoke to the participants closer to the end of the summit. She hit the nail on the head and I couldn't agree with her more.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Digital Boot Camp: Practice & Support

My students are finally starting to get a handle on the user names and passwords they need to log on to the Chromebook and enter our Learning Management System (LMS).

WCDSB Learning Management System

Today they experienced what I call "Digital Boot Camp". During their time with the device the students had the opportunity to sign on to the Chromebook, go to our LMS site, bookmark it, and then sign off to allow their partner to do the same. When all the students were done bookmarking the LMS on the browser via their account I got them to take turns signing on to the Chromebook, going to the LMS, signing on to the LMS, use one of the learning activities, and then log out of the LMS and sign out of their Chromebook account. 

This "Boot Camp" activity proved to be beneficial for the students. They needed the time and repetition of using their user names and passwords. This activity allowed them to use and reuse their authentication credentials and get to work with some learning activities on the LMS.  

An important lesson for me is that I need to continue to provide my students with instructional strategies that are effective for young students. Sometimes I get carried away and excited about what we are doing and my brain is running a lot faster than everyone else. I need to ensure that I continue to provide them with what they need to be successful - scaffolding and gradual release of responsibility - both are good examples that sometimes get missed with all the excitement. 

Today was a great learning moment for my students and myself. My hope and wish is that I continue to support my students effectively as I learn and lead and with them.