Review foundational knowledge about Online Integration in K-12 Blended Teaching (Volume 1).
6.1 Online Integration and Management in Science Classes
Online integration is at the very heart of blended teaching. It has to do with how you combine your in-person science 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 a science teacher begin to think about what specific online practices can help you address the problems of practice you identified in Chapter 5. The more examples of blended teaching you have personally seen and the more experience you have with blended 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 these ideas and more.
Teachers Talk: What Does Blended Learning Look like in a Science Classroom? (1:29)
Reflection Questions: How does the teacher in this video integrate a combination of in-person activities and online activities into each lesson? What are some techniques that she uses that would work well in your classroom?
Before you start, consider this advice from experienced science blended teachers—start with clear expectations and consider the possibilities blended teaching provides. Making sure you start your planning and teaching by clearly explaining the expectations to your students so that the new online learning techniques and tools are seamlessly integrated into your in-person instruction. Also, while implementing blending learning will take some extra effort at the start, it can lead to greater authentic learning opportunities and is well worth it (see the J-Curve in Section 6.5 of Volume I).
Teachers Talk: Expectations and Opportunities
Focus on making sure the kids know the expectations with the technology . . . . There's some really great stuff out there. It's definitely worth using. It's worth the trouble.
Teachers Talk: Expectations and Opportunities
I have the freedom to answer these random questions and work it back into stuff because I have the freedom of time. All the content they have to learn is already baked into their schedule. So, I have an hour and a half every other day with my students to explore science and to export curiosity.
6.2 Planning for Integration
You can take that first small step to blend your science classroom by doing the following:
- Identify the problem of practice and the learning objective that you are interested in blending.
- Think about activities, both in-person and online, that could support student learning. (A framework for this process is to think about activities that involve students interacting independently with content, activities that involve students interacting primarily with each other, and activities that might involve interaction with an instructor.)
- Consider how the online activities and the in-person activities can connect.
- Choose one of the activities you have considered and create a blended lesson.
See the example below for how your classroom setup might look in your learning management system (LMS). The teacher in this example explores several activities that could be blended in a science classroom.
Teacher Talk: The Procedures of the Blended Science Class (3:55)
Reflection Question: In Mr. Schwalb's class, they use Google Classroom for their LMS. How can you set up your LMS in order to give students some choice in their learning path and pace?
Consider a teacher who has identified her problem of practice: I want my students to be able to analyze experimental data and draw conclusions on their findings. The learning objective states: "Interpret graphs for heating and cooling processes that involve a change of state."
Tables 1, 2, and 3 provide some of the ways she could combine online and in-person activities related to student-content interactions, student-student interactions, and student-instructor interactions respectively.
Planning for Online Integration: Examples of Student-Content Interactions
- Students use an online simulation to experiment with heating and cooling various substances, collecting time and temperature data for each test into a spreadsheet.
- The student will then use digital tools such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to graph their data for each substance.
- Students analyze their data and use the graphs they created to answer questions on a worksheet.
|Connection: The students will use what they found in the online simulation to create their graph and then analyze their data in person.
Planning for Online Integration: Examples of Student-Student Interactions
- Students will be placed into small groups and will share their graphs with other members of the group via Google Slides or an online discussion board.
- Students will comment on each other's graphs virtually to make note of any similarities and differences between their graphs and data gathering processes.
- Students will meet via in-person groups to discuss their findings and create a brief presentation to share their results with the class.
|Connection: The work the students do collaboratively online will allow them to consider how their findings compare to those of the rest of the group before they meet in person. This will allow them to reflect on their own results and streamline their in-person discussions.
Planning for Online Integration: Examples of Student-Instructor Interactions
- The teacher will leave feedback on a discussion board used by students to compare their data, making one comment on each student's graph.
- The teacher will meet briefly with each group when they meet in-person to answer questions about the worksheet and help in planning each group's presentation.
|Connection: The teacher will respond online to the individual graphs to help students think about their results more deeply. This will allow the students to consider these comments before meeting with the teacher as a group in person and ask the teacher more meaningful questions about the results from the simulation.
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.
6.3 Selecting a Blended Teaching Model
Once you have chosen the activity or activities you want 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.)
Teachers Talk: A Flipped Science Classroom (4:19)
Reflection Questions: What is the advantage of posting various types and levels of videos and simulations? When might this technique be useful in your science classroom?
Teachers Talk: Connecting In-Person and Online Spaces
Dr. Darren J. Ritson
For me, personally, I incorporated a lot of hands-on activities kind of things. The students were presented with their learning on their own with me supporting them. But I would also go around and have stations set up around the room, or there would be labs around the room. There was some kind of hands-on activity that was connecting it back to what they were learning online to ensure they were learning.
6.4 Deciding What To Do In-Person in a Science Class
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 science concept, like Punnett Squares, that has proved difficult for students to understand in the past. You want to do this in person because you know they will have many individual questions. Answering those questions at the moment they occur can keep students from getting stalled in the process and keep motivation and engagement high. It also helps assure that students don’t have to back up and redo work.
Similarly, you may want to begin scientific research in person. You want students to get excited about the topic and begin thinking about the possibilities of the project. Once they’ve had this beginning, they may be more ready to participate in online research and organization of their findings virtually.
Perhaps you are good at explaining calculations in Chemistry, and your students enjoy working through these problems as a class. You might want to introduce a new calculation in person, modeling problems and discussing them.
Know yourself, your students, and your subject matter well enough to determine what you want to reserve the in-person space for.
Once you know how you can best use the in-person space, you can begin to explore ways to use the online space to support in-person activities. You might also consider the affordances of the online space, such as providing quick data, and plan your blended activities around those affordances. The key to successful blended teaching is to make meaningful connections between the two modalities. Answers to the following questions may help you decide how to strategically combine the online and in-person modalities.
- Can I put some instruction online so I have more class time to work with students individually or in small groups?
- Can putting an activity online increase student participation?
- Can I use the online space to allow my students to personalize the goals, time, place, pace, and/or path of their learning?
- How can I use the online space to target individual learning needs?
- Can I use the online space to help students increase ownership of their learning?
- Can I use the online space to give my students access to materials they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have?
- Can I use the online space to teach the same concept in different ways, so learners will have more than one option in their learning?
- Can I use the online space to allow for greater learner-learner interaction and collaboration?
- Can I use the online space to adapt or differentiate materials to different students’ needs?
- Are there new ways I can use the in-person space when I put some instruction and activities online?
6.5 Evaluating Blended Activities
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.
The PIC-RAT and 4E frameworks provide 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 the way using technology relates to traditional practices.
For a more thorough explanation of the PIC-RAT framework, see sections 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. For a description of the 4E framework, refer to Chapter 3 of this book.
6.6 Planning Blended Routines and Behaviors
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.
In general, it can help to complete the following as you start to blend:
- Decide specifically the kinds of behavior and routines you want to put in place.
- Spend the first two or three weeks drilling and practicing those routines.
- Set clear expectations.
- Decide what you will do to help students who have a difficult time meeting the expectations. How will you respond to them?
- Evaluate your plan and make adjustments as needed.
Teachers talk: Set up a Blended Science Class (2:59)
Reflection Question: What are some blended techniques that Dr. Ritson used that allowed for personalization of his lessons? Think about how students may have been able to have some flexibility in their place, pace, and path of the learning activities.
Teachers Talk: Routines for Blended Learning
I have a little video that they watched explaining how the class is going to work and everything is online, so I don't lecture at all. Basically, they come in, they sit down. I usually have the agenda on the board, so they can see what they're going to do. And then they get work at their own pace, and I just walk in circles around the room, helping the kids that need it.
Table 4 presents some tips for creating blended learning routines.
Blended Learning Routines
|Blended Learning Routines—Teacher Tips
- Plan how students will move around your classroom (such as in a station or lab rotation).
- Will students be moving all at the same time?
- At different times?
- Plan an efficient way to facilitate those movements. (This is very important when science experiments and materials are involved.)
- Be very clear. Make a few rules but enforce them well.
- Don’t waste time plugging in computers between periods if they will be used in back-to-back periods. Make sure they’re plugged in at the end of the day and during any breaks you have for lunch or planning.
- Establish a routine for making sure computers are charged in the right charging station. This applies to any laboratory equipment that may need to be charged as well.
- Create checklists to ensure that you have charged all devices at the end of the day or when devices will not be used. Students should follow these checklists before they leave your class.
- Make assignments for students to help with these procedures:
- Making sure computers are plugged in and charging.
- Sanitizing computers.
- Keeping a log of damages or problems.
- Assign specific computers to specific desks or specific students; this increases accountability.
- Keep electronic laboratory devices in a specific location in the lab to avoid breakage or students accidentally walking off with them.
- Teach students how to hold and carry devices and equipment. Practice these procedures.
- Be sure that all students know how to turn on the computer, log in, and access the internet.
- Practice using your LMS, opening it, finding assignments, checking grades, submitting assignments, etc. Include a screencast of you walking students through the course structure and any special features they should know about.
- If you have specific formats you want students to use when submitting assignments, teach them what they are.
- Create checklists to guide the use of software, as well as for troubleshooting common problems.
- Teach how to download, upload, and organize files.
- Practice everything you teach them, including daily routines such as:
- Opening their grading portal and checking their grades.
- Opening their email.
- Opening the class website to see if there are any new posts.
- Teach them where to find answers before they ask you. Include clear instructions for asking questions in your LMS with videos, when possible.
- Provide specific ways for students to contact you outside of class and how to address you and classmates politely.
- Teach them how to use email and other methods of communication, such as discussion boards.
- Utilize an online discussion board so students can ask and answer questions all in one place.
- Create instructional videos, reviews, or guides that students can access when they have common questions.
- Decide what kinds of activities you do in your classroom. Are there classroom configurations that will support those activities? For example:
- Create a comfortable reading or work space for students to work individually on their coursework.
- Create a space for collaboration, where students can talk and work together.
- Create a quiet space for writing, analyzing data, or other thoughtful activities.
- If you do not have a separate lab room, create a space that is just for science experiments or specific materials.
- If you have fewer than 1-to-1 devices, create a space for working on computers. Be clear in determining what else is allowed in that space and whether the computers can leave that space.
- Proactively work to prevent off-task behavior by creating an organized and engaging blended classroom. Students who understand how to use the LMS, their assignments, and essential procedures are less likely to get off task.
- Allow students choice in what they are doing and vary the type of activities to keep them interested.
- Use software that allows you to monitor what is on the screen of each student.
- Teach students to monitor themselves using guided reflection sheets or data trackers that track their activity data (behavior and learning habits).
- Try to always walk around the classroom, both to be available for help and to give quiet reminders to stay on task. Even good students can get off task.
- Utilize your LMS or other software to keep track of online behavior.
- Create a plan for monitoring problematic students. For example, some teachers have a table by their desks. If there is a student who is really having a difficult time staying on task, they place him or her at that table away from other students and monitor that student more closely.
- Help students develop time management skills so that they use their time as efficiently as possible.
- Teach students how to work well individually and in groups. Scaffold new types of activities to give them a lot of support the first time you do it and then remove those supports as they learn to work on their own.
Science teachers say they typically spend four to six weeks at the beginning of the year establishing routines and expectations and teaching students how to successfully and appropriately use technology and equipment. 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.
As you begin to blend your science classes, it is important that you make sure to do so with specific goals in mind and that you provide supporting scaffolds for everyone involved in the process. This includes yourself, your students, and any other stakeholders who may be affected by your transition to and implementation of blended learning.
What does your ideal blended classroom look like and what routines do you need to put in place to create such an environment?