As Abraham Maslow (The Psychology of Science, 1966) stated: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
When our children come to us for learning, rather than hammer them all, we’ve got to find the appropriate tools for each individual, thus offering a variety of learning experiences to achieve the ultimate goal: Positive learning outcomes!
As it stands, it’s the spring semester, the first semester test scores have come in, your principal has redefined the school focus and your district has revved up the professional development all at once! In our district, we’re adopting the blended learning model. A few schools are making a transition from traditional delivery to project based learning. Instructional Tech Facilitators deliver Wired Wednesdays, Tech Tuesdays, and whatever else we can squeeze into their hectic schedules. Plus, teachers meet at least four times per month in PLCs, staff meetings and school improvement team meetings. Overwhelmed yet?
After listening to Dr. Alex Kaulfuss explain blended learning to our teachers, the clutter is totally cleared from my mind, when it comes to bringing it all together. In the following concept descriptions, I’ll break down how to transition from point A to Z seamlessly.
Any lesson you deliver must begin with a plan. TPACK is a model that explains what the teacher must know when preparing for students. The standards tell us what content to teach (CK). The pedagogy is the collection of tools and processes with which you will engage your students to facilitate the learning process (P). Whether it’s a gallery walk, jigsawing, or writing to learn, your lessons should go well beyond lecture/note taking and worksheets. The technology (T) you integrate should be about a means to learn, create and discover – not about the device. The key is to make sure you have a blend of the three components of TPACK in your lessons. It is also important to understand that not every lesson will be an even mixture. Rather, some lessons may be PCK or PT, and some may be TP or TCK. As long as over the course of a unit, children have been exposed to all three in even amounts, you’re on your way!
The SAMR model is all about the levels of student engagement while implementing technology. As with TPACK, no classroom should operate in the Redefinition area of the model all of the time. You’ll be burned out in no time, and so will your students. There are times when Substitution level assignments (typing a paragraph in Google Docs) are appropriate. Some lessons will require no technology at all. It’s about knowing when to infuse technology, and to what degree. Again, having a good balance is essential. Click here for more on TPACK and SAMR.
2. Blended Learning
Now that you have a plan in place, let’s think about the ways we will provide students an avenue to learn. Blended learning gives students opportunities to learn both face to face, and online. A learning management system (LMS) such as Schoology or Edmodo is a great platform for online learning. I say emphatically however, that an LMS should not take the place of valuable face-to-face interactions between the teacher and students. It is good to expose students to content in advance which will free up class time for hands-on activities, and high levels of student engagement.
3. Project Based Learning (PBL)
Referring to the TPACK model as I explain this, PBL is a type of pedagogy. It requires students to learn by problem-solving and discovery (PCK), while preparing them to show evidence of mastery by producing a final product, by (in most cases) using technology to research, communicate or create. Students are assigned roles and carry out the learning process as a team. It takes planning in advance, and a blended learning environment to make PBL most successful. It fosters student-choice, independence, presentation and public speaking skills, and self-confidence.
Still unclear? I’m a huge fan of Edutopia and you should be too! Check out the following links to help you better understand:
Edutopia: How to Integrate Tech When it Keeps Changing http://goo.gl/FY1QHg
Edutopia: Blended Learning http://www.edutopia.org/blended-learning-
Edutopia: Resources for Getting Started with Project-Based Learning http://goo.gl/GmwPF8
Until next time, happy learning!