It’s that time of the year again to begin evaluating what you want to change, implement, and integrate into your classroom this year. Blended learning is exploding as an educational method with great results and here are some tips to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.
Check with other schools to see what they are using. Some schools near you may have opted to use blended learning last year and may have great feedback for you. They may even let you try their lessons. And some might have even created full courses.
Check what your school district is doing. The area of LMS (Learning Management Systems) is becoming more and more prevalent. Some are adding components of software to what they already use, such as Blackboard. Others are choosing free options such as OpenEd.io or the free portion of Blackboard. There are many you can discover on your own.
Check with your Twitter PLN. I can not stress how valuable this is. Your PLN has probably built it, tried it or invented it. They can save you hours of time and help direct you to the gurus.
Pick one or two tools. There is not necessarily a right or wrong way to do blended learning. It can become too overwhelming to you and your students to introduce too many new programs. Tools are starting to integrate with each other in order to make them easier to use. For example, in investigating additional ways to use Edmodo, I found videos on how to integrate Google Drive and Kidblog assignments.
What do you want to accomplish? While the LMS tools are similar, they offer different features. Some have predone lessons you can tweak. Some have the ability to only use parts of YouTube videos and then use your voice over the video piece, such as Edpuzzle. Many have assessment features such as Opened.io. Some have professional development such as Sophia.org.
Caution: Blended learning will change your way of teaching forever.
Find your focus. It is not reasonable to change everything at once. I tried one lesson last year. Then I tried another and naturally found more and more ways to use blended learning. In fact, there were times we used technology less, in favor of posters and making books to show what they knew.
Consider your classroom setup. Collaborative learning is so important in this process that the classroom setup can not be understated. Even if you have individual desks, can you set them together in rings or pods. I am going to three smaller desk tables this year and an open area on the floor, in order to respond to student feedback from our experiences last year.
Consider your technology. You don’t need to be 1:1 to implement blended learning. There are lots of articles and tips how to create learning centers, integrating the white board,using students as teachers, using podcasts, Skype, and even other classrooms to create blended learning environments.
Try to find a partner. Try to find someone else that can help you when get stuck, evaluate your lessons and provide moral support. If there is no one at your school, this is another awesome use of your Twitter PLN.
Include your students. It is amazing how much they have to offer. After I created my first learning target board, students asked to take it over and were extremely creative. We created managers for everything from supplies to checking students were on track to free me up to tweak lessons for individual needs. At the end of the year, we had a meeting to talk about the successes and failures and what we should do differently with the next class and this was very enlightening.
Last of all, integrate blended learning so you are comfortable. If you can not make a video, try a podcast, ask a student to create one, or try a pre-made lesson. There is no downside to blended learning. Students will be incredibly engaged and adding to your ideas.
Caution: It will change your way of teaching forever.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, GabrielaP93.