A very thought-provoking and insightful blog posting. One of my goals for next year is to do a better job of building students love of reading. This blog posting provides some great tips and will go a long way toward helping me to achieve my goal.
A truly great read and food for thought for those diving into the world of Blended Learning.
Students were given their choice menu and asked to make their selections. We chose to do it “cold” as we did not want students to get the most of the learning experience. We then did a quick introduction to what culture is, watching a video and doing some brainstorming.
At this time, we introduced the focus of our unit; why is culture important to our society? We want students to focus on the cultural aspect in each of their research topics. I feel as though sometimes when we have these deeply involved units, we tend to lose focus. Therefore, at the end of each day, students will be asked to reflect on the essential question. To accomplish this, students will use different media, such as Flipgrid, Google Forms, and Padlet to reflect. Hopefully, this will keep the focus on the essential question, rather than just the subject of their research.
The time-consuming part was assigning each selected task via Google Classroom. I created an assignment for each student, attaching all the materials they would need to complete each project. With a goal of remaining paperless, I wanted to ensure all materials were provided electronically. This allows students to stay organized, and also saves on my highly valued printer clicks. While it was time-consuming, ultimately I think it will be a time saver.
Well, we have prepared for this, now it is time to execute! Stay tuned to find out more about our progress!
The success or failure of this unit will undoubtedly hinge on the materials. Let’s face it, culture is not the most engaging topic in our Social Studies Standards. We wanted to ensure or materials were diverse yet engaging.
Thankfully our culture unit is very versatile and it is almost more difficult to eliminate materials than find them. We decided to break the unit into three parts. Part 1 is reading a realistic fiction book that involves cultures of many varieties. Part 2 is a historical figure form diversified backgrounds and the third part is exploring a cultural event.
Cultural stories are numerous. We wanted to get some that were paper based and some that were read-a-louds. A simple google search provided a plethora of diversified titles and honestly it took more work eliminating titles than finding them.
The historical figures were a bit more difficult, but we were able to use our Weekly Readers as a guide. The Weekly Readers are divided into different cultures, so we went through them and selected some of the people mentioned within them. Being a School of the Arts, we also wanted to focus somewhat on the arts, so we also selected a few figures with artistic backgrounds.
Honestly, the events were the most difficult to select. We did not want to get into events that held deep religious meaning or had any type of controversial topics. We did some research and we were able to come up with eight cultural activities. We really wanted to select an event that was highly representative of the American Culture, but also highlighted the influence other cultures had on the American culture. So we selected the building of the Statue of Liberty. This is a deviation from the other events, as the others represent holidays or celebrations. I look forward to seeing how the students handle this unique alternative.
Overall, we wanted to make sure our selections were diversified, not only by culture, but also by interest level. Ultimately it is our goal to have each topic selected an equal amount of times. To do this, we wanted to ensure students were not selecting topics based off their friend’s interest. To avoid this, students will preselect their topics and type of presentation using a Google Form. Hopefully this will eliminate the “buddy” selections.
The ultimate goal of Blended Learning and any other educational delivery system is to teach to the full intent of the standards. Whether your intent is to teach one standard at a time or multiple standards, the goal is to teach to the depth of knowledge assigned by each standard. Reading and assessing, by any stretch of the imagination, barely meets the DOK 1 requirements, but I digress. The beauty of the Blended Learning Model is the flexibility when it comes to teaching the standards.
The next step in our journey was to select the standards we wanted to address. Since our unit takes place at the end of the year, and we had already addressed our Language Arts Standards, we decided to focus on the continent standards. In science, we choose to focus on our physical science standards, and in Social Studies we focused on our culture standards.
The science unit was rather easy to organize because we already had a CIS (Comprehension Instructional Sequence) Unit and we just had to tailor it to the Blended Learning format. But the Social Studies Unit took a little “coordination”. Our district curriculum, Studies Weekly, is a good delivery system that the kids really love, so we decided to include it in with our reference material. We also wanted to include some literature standards, so we searched for some short stories that focused on culture.
The issue we had with books, was how to get enough copies for 72 students to share. We came up with the idea of including audio books and YouTube read aloud videos, wha-la, problem solved. Not only was our problem solved, we boosted our credibility with the blended learning folks, now we had multiple forms of media!
Of course, we also included Informational Text in various forms. Students can choose from different influential figures from different countries. We selected individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds such as Chris Hadfield, Frida Kahlo, Sonia Sotomayor, and Lue Gim Gong. We wanted to ensure students get exposed to the importance of culture in the lives of famous people. Students are presented with materials in varied forms of media for each individual. Additionally, students are required to conduct some background research for the individual they select.
To further enhance the emphasis on culture, we included activities that include the research of cultural events. Students are asked to compare and contrast similar events such as Canada Day versus the Fourth of July. This allows us to get students to compare two resources on similar topics.
We felt as though we had a great blend of content, literature, and informational standards. Now e need to build the choice menu.
Of course, as with any new program, we must build our awareness of the process. Just what is Blended Learning? What is different? What is the same? How do we assess? All questions that need to be addressed.
So what is Blended Learning? Well, the answer depends on who you ask. According to www.blendedlearing.org, Blended Learning is any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. According to www.edglossary.org Blended Learning is a term generally applied to the practice of using both online and in-person learning experiences when teaching students. Whichever definition you ascribe to, the goal is the same: use the best parts of direct and online instruction to meet the needs of every child.
Of course, the goal of any education program is the same, it is the methodology that varies. Both direct instruction and student-guided instruction are used in Blended Learning, and that may be a challenge for some students. I am a third-grade teacher and simply stated, some of my students just do not grasp how to guide themselves towards a specific goal. It is a skill that must be taught very early, so unless your entire building ascribes to this process, success may be out of your hands. That being said, the Blended Learning process can still be used. Students can be guided through the process (good god I dislike that word) of selecting their path with the end goal in mind. It’s just that Some may need a little more guidance than others.
So then, how do we assess the learning? Well, the goal of any assessment is to validate learning has occurred. Sometimes learning is assessed by selecting A, B, C, or D. In my opinion, this learning outcome is short-term where students read, memorize, test, and move the information through the limbic system like a train through a tunnel. Sometimes learning is assessed by answering a prompt, a single prompt usually aimed at the main idea of a text or series of text. This form of assessment measures a student’s ability to, well…um, read and comprehend? I’m not really sure.
In his article, Inside the Learning Brain, Nick Dam tells us “Changes in neural connections, which are fundamental for learning to take place in the brain, do not seem to occur when learning experiences are not active. Many research studies suggest that active engagement is a prerequisite for changes in the brain.” I can assure you active learning experiences do not include regurgitating information from a textbook. To truly affect change, we must make our learning activities engaging with multiple forms of media and assess that learning with varied forms of assessments. We need Blended Learning!