Blended Learning is the integration of digital learning with classroom instruction. I used blended instruction with my 7th grade science students during the 2014-15 school year with great success. My school district does not offer advanced classes for 7th grade science students and while most classrooms focus on teaching to the middle and differentiating for the low, I wanted to also extend learning for my critical thinkers. Blended Learning was a method that helped me achieve my goals. I chose the rotation model for my science classroom.
5 Tips I’ve learned along the way…
1) Have goals in mind that relate to your objectives and be able to explain how this method will help you achieve those goals.
Administrators want to know that your instructional methods will help you meet your curriculum objectives. Discussing the blended learning method with your adminstrators is helpful to work out your goals and potential issues. A great way to get your students on board with this instructional change is to be up front with them. I explained to my students at the beginning of the year that I wanted all of them to succeed and enjoy my class. I made it relevant to every student by identifying their hurdles. This method would help those students that finished before others and were easily bored during class time to move ahead and be engaged. Students that always felt rushed by other students would be able to work at their own pace and not be distracted by students that were finished early. Parents also want to know that you have thought out how your instructional methods will help their child, especially when it is a method they are unfamiliar with.
2) Look at the bigger picture…but start small
You need to be aware of your ultimate goal for your school year but you need to start small when it comes to incorporating a new instructional method into your classroom. Going slow gives you a chance to work out any problems that arise but also your students to adapt to the changes in their learning envirnonment.
3) Don’t be afraid to fail
Not everything you do is going to be perfect. Talk to your students and parents throughout the process. Ask them what is working and what they would like to see done differently. Show students that it is okay to fail…as long as you keep working at the problem. Your classroom should be a safe place to fail, problem solve and seek help from others.
4) Technology needs to have a purpose…not just a fun way to pass the time.
Technology integration can be a delicate balance. You should ask your self if the technology is enhancing the learning of content or just a fun distraction. The use of technology should have a meaningful purpose to enhance the learning environment and should not become a distraction.
5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help…Do your research and create your own PLN
You don’t always need to have all the answers. Create a professional learning network that you can turn to. If you don’t have an abundance of resources in your school or district, look outside. Online courses, webinars and Twitter were valuable resources for me. The strongest teachers are those that keep learning.