Reflection Questions: How did Mr. Jepperson's role as a teacher change when he began blending his classroom? How do you see your role as a teacher? How could you change your role to benefit your students?
Online integration is at the very heart of blended teaching. It has to do with how you combine your in-person ELA classroom with online activities. (Remember the baker mixing dry and wet ingredients from Chapter 1.) Because the main component of blended learning is integrating online and in-person activities, online integration is a good place to begin thinking about blending your classroom.
This is where you as an ELA teacher can consider what specific online practices can help you address the problems of practice you identified in Chapter 1. The more examples of blended teaching you have personally seen and the more experience you have with online teaching, the easier this process will be for you. But even if you are just starting out, you will probably have a few ideas of your own. This chapter will help you explore more ideas.
Although blended teaching can seem overwhelming, experienced blended teachers say that the best way to go about this process of starting to blend is to think big but start small. Small beginnings allow you to wet your toes in the process, focus on specific pedagogies and activities, see the benefits and drawbacks, and make improvements on a small scale without becoming overwhelmed by the process.
Just try it. Do just a little bit at a time, but do something. If you like it, then you can do more. And you will like it!
You can take that first small step by doing the following:
See the example below in Table 1 for how this process might work. The teacher in this example explores several activities that could be blended. You have a similar chart in your Blended Teaching Notebook.
The teacher has identified her problem of practice: I want my students to be more precise and careful in their analysis of character. The learning objective states: "Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text."
Here are some ways she could combine online and in-person activities.
Planning for Online Integration: Student–Content
|Connection: The students will use what they found in the text to create their Jamboards, which will later be used to make paragraph assignments and to create a collaborative online character sketch.
Blended teaching can also enhance student–content interactions because content can be easily modified. Trent found that even between classes he could change instructions to help his students understand.
Having content online makes it easy to change. If I find the directions aren’t clear or if I haven’t addressed a question that a lot of students have, I can change it, even between classes. I don’t have to redo an assignment; I can change problems or mistakes as soon as I find them (or as soon as a student points them out to me). If I see a common problem crop up in an assignment or writing, I can easily grab content from students’ work (with their permission, of course) and in seconds have it on a slide in front of the class, where we can discuss it together and target the specific problem the students are having.
Planning for Online Integration: Student–Student
|Connection: The work the students do on jamboard and the discussion board will prepare them for a productive in-person group discussion about the character and for being able to plan an outline for their character sketch. Once the character sketch is completed the students will leave feedback online, make improvements to their draft, and meet in person for a final review and revision of their sketch.
Planning for Online Integration: Student–Instructor
|Connection: The teacher will respond online to the Jamboards, asking a question that can cause the student to think more deeply about the character or consider another piece of evidence. She will use what she learned from their Jamboards and discussion board to guide her in-person meeting and to later give online feedback on Google docs.
In your workbook, using one of your problems of practice, fill out the Planning for Online Integration table. If you haven't already opened and saved your workbook, you can access it here.
Once you have chosen an activity or activities to blend, consider which blended teaching model best fits the activity. (For a review of blended teaching models, see Chapter 2: Online Integration in K-12 Blended Teaching: A Guide to Personalized Learning and Online Integration.)
Reflection Questions: What content could you deliver online in your classroom? How can you more effectively use your classroom time when you deliver some content online?
Reflection Question: How can you create a lesson plan that goes horizontal?
Reflection Question: How can you foster peer review using technology?
Reflection Question: Think about your students. What are some targeted lessons that could benefit groups of your students?
Blended learning is the strategic combination of online and in-person modalities. But how do teachers decide which activities to do online and which to do in person?
One way to begin answering the question of what can be done most effectively in person is to look at your strengths as a teacher, the needs of your students, and the types of activities that lend themselves to the best use of the in-person space.
For example, students may be working (collaboratively or alone) on a project or paper. You want to do this in person because you know they will have many specific, unique questions. Answering those questions in the moment that they come up can keep students from getting stalled in the process and keep energy high. It also helps assure that students don’t have to back up and redo work.
Similarly, you may want to begin a discussion in person. You want students to get excited about the topic and begin thinking about the possibilities of the discussion. Once they’ve had this beginning, they may be more ready to participate in an online discussion.
Perhaps you are good at reading aloud, and your students enjoy hearing you read. You might want to introduce a new text in person, reading and discussing it.
Role-playing, whole class simulations, reading circles, discussions of goals and progress may all be activities that work best in the in-person space.
Know yourself, your students, and your subject matter well enough to determine what you want to preserve for the in-person space.
Once you know how you can best use the in-person space, you can begin to explore ways to use the online space to allow the kinds of activities you want in the in-person space, to best use the affordances of the online space, and to make meaningful connections between the two modalities. Answers to the following questions may help you decide.
Answering questions such as these can help you decide which activities to do in person and which ones to do online, as well as how to combine the two so that each enhances the other.
Blended learning is not just about using technology in the classroom. It is about strategically combining technology with in-person activities to improve pedagogy and student outcomes.
Review Chapter 3: Evaluating Blended Teaching for guidance in how to evaluate the blend you have created.
In addition, the PIC-RAT framework provides a means of evaluating your use of technology to see if it is adding value to your classroom. It helps you evaluate students’ relationship to technology as well as its impact on traditional practices.
For a complete explanation of the PIC-RAT framework, See 2.3.1 "The RAT Framework," 2.3.2 "Blended Activities that Engage (The PIC Framework)," and 2.3.3 "An Evaluative Framework for Blended Teaching" in Chapter 2 "Online Integration" of K-12 Blended Teaching: A Guide to Personalized Learning and Online Integration.
My first week I made sure that all the Chromebooks were plugged in, but I didn’t check the power strip. It had been flipped off. Everything was plugged in, but that little light button on the power bar was off. I came the next morning and had this awesome lesson planned, but all the computers were dead.
The simple use of technology in the classroom is something that has to be implemented on day one. If your students haven’t used technology in the classroom before, you’ll have to teach them even simple things like how to turn on the computer and open the internet. The first thing I like to teach my students is how to communicate with me digitally, giving them clear instructions on the best way to contact me. I also like to teach them where to find answers, trying to help them be more self-sufficient. These are things we practice.
With classroom management, I would think through very carefully what you want to have happen with the hardware and movement in the classroom. What will you have students do when they have a computer on their desk and you want to talk? Make your expectations really clear right from the very beginning and practice the procedures. What I’ve noticed is that the teachers are clear, but they don’t follow through.
As Brianne and Trent remind us, establishing routines in a blended classroom is crucial. Helping students understand when and how to move around the classroom, how to access an LMS or other online programs, how to log in and out, where and how to store hardware, how to communicate civilly and respectfully, and how to turn in assignments is essential to creating a usable blend. In addition, making plans for how to manage off task behavior can prepare you for situations that are sure to arise.
Process for Implementing Routines in a Blended Classroom:
In Table 4 below your mentor teachers share tips they have learned and implemented that have helped them establish routines to manage their classrooms. As you read through them, think of your classroom. Are any of these tips appropriate for your setting? What ideas come to mind of ways you can effectively manage your own classroom?
Blended Teaching Routines
Blended Teaching Routines—Teacher Tips
Here Dave Lee explains his "cool-off zone," a place where students can get away from distractions and refocus.
Reflection Questions: How did Mr. Lee help students avoid distractions and regulate their learning? What can you do to help your students make decisions about how they will regulate themselves?
English language arts teachers say they typically spend four to six weeks at the beginning of the year establishing routines and expectations and teaching students how to use the technology. But, they say, it pays off in the long run with a smooth running class and increased opportunities for interaction and personalization—all of which they see as positives in their blended classroom.
This content is provided to you freely by BYU Open Learning Network.
Access it online or download it at https://open.byu.edu/k12blended_ela/ela_olim.