Innovative Educators Leading in the Arena of Blended Learning

Innovative Educators Leading in the Arena of Blended Learning

Innovative_Computers-in-the-Classroom Blended Learning Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comIn an effort to blend up-to-date technology with excellent teaching practices, we have created a dynamic learning environment for both our students and our teaching staff. We have implemented opportunities for members of our teaching staff to attend outstanding professional staff development trains to embrace the concept of blended learning. Blended learning provides both teachers and students the ability to engage in new areas of instruction that did not exist prior to the significant incorporation of technology devices.

In less than one years’ time we are at a ratio of 2:1 in the area of computers for our students’ in grades 6-8th at New Brighton Middle School. We are extremely pleased with the excitement and dedication of our teaching staff in incorporating technology as a powerful teaching tool. Our children are growing up in a technological environment that affords them the ability to expand upon their learning experiences far beyond the traditional curriculum that we experienced as students. Blended learning is exciting and the level of engagement that is occurring between teachers and students is outstanding to observe. We as educators are learning collectively the power that technology can provide to improve our instructional programs.

This year we designated two special teaching assignments that have allowed two highly skilled teachers in the area of instructional technology to serve as Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA’s). Amy Lukic and Christina Canavan are pioneers in our district who are providing numerous training sessions to enhance the concept of blended learning.

Together these two high-powered educators are bringing new forms of instruction to our district. Their efforts have generated a positive synergy for our teachers in the area of instructional technology. Both Amy and Christina are working closely with members of the teaching staff at New Brighton Middle School. Their efforts in working with Mr. Evan Dickson, New Brighton Middle School teacher, produces exciting engagement through the use of the software known as Google Docs. These three educators have described for us the excitement that is occurring in their classroom and the power of blended learning.

Amy Lukic
Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA)

GAFE (Google Apps For Education) is an open-source (free) cloud-based platform by which teachers and students can collaborate, communicate, produce, and publish. Google Classroom is a new (launched in fall of 2014) learning management system within our protected SUESD GAFE platform. Teachers can create assignments with attached documents, links, and videos to supplement student learning and differentiate instruction. Students can access and turn in assignments linked to their files in Google Docs 24 hours a day, on any computer with internet access.

With the implementation of the new Common Core Standards, there is a general shift from breadth to depth across content areas. The integration of Google Apps for Education allows for a more focused approach with Project Based Learning and inherently embeds multiple standards. One research project facilitated within the blended classroom can simultaneously address a multitude of reading, writing, listening, and speaking Common Core standards. It is important to note that by integrating technology into my curriculum, specifically Google Classroom, my workflow as a professional has become more efficient and less cumbersome.

My goal as an educator is to assist my students to become independent, critical thinkers/problem solvers in an academic setting. Google Apps for Education not only helps them think on their own to problem solve, but it gives them a creative platform to collaborate, produce and publish their work. The students become producers of work, instead of consumers of information. Gone are the days of passivity, sitting in a desk and listening to a long, drawn-out lecture of seemingly irrelevant information. A new era of amplified curiosity and inspired creativity leads my students to higher level thinking and a deeper understanding of our global society.

Christina Canavan
Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA)

Common Core State Standards include rigorous academic expectations and incorporate digital skills students must learn in order to be successful in the 21st century workforce, nationally and globally. The Soquel Union Elementary School District is committed to providing the professional development needed to prepare teachers to successfully teach these digital skills.

As one of the technology TOSA’s hired this year, it has been exciting to witness the passion and commitment many teachers have in creating technology driven lesson plans that enhance learning. Google Classroom was adopted by the district this year, and it has created a digital platform for learning that makes teaching and learning more efficient in the one to one classroom. We provide monthly trainings for teachers of all tech levels, where we teach technology integration yet also give the opportunity to collaborate and share tech ideas. There’s so much to learn with technology and I am excited to be a part of it!

Evan Dickson
New Brighton Middle School Teacher

Student engagement is one of the most important elements of success in my classroom. With the introduction of Google Drive and Classroom my students have been able to create authentic products and conversations that reflect a growing application of higher level thinking.

One of the interactive resources that Google Drive provides for my students is the ability to edit, view, and leave comments on live writing documents in Google Drive.

Quick and effective evaluative feedback strategies can be taught so students become the peer revisers and editors. This role transformation allows them to view other examples of writing taking place to glean new ideas for their own writing and to provide valuable feedback to other students. In addition, this has allowed me to focus my attention on the specific writing needs of individuals in my classroom and give preventative feedback while students are building their ideas into a clear and coherent format. One idea that keeps coming to mind is “authenticity”.

Students know that the work they produce will be shared with appropriate audiences and therefore will buy-in to the purpose of the assignment.

I have been lucky enough to practice my introduction of student-collaboration on writing during the Google Workshops hosted by Amy Lukic and Christina Canavan. Both instructors have modeled these professional developments around the conceptual approach to the kind of collaboration we should encourage amongst our students.

I’ve had the opportunity to share my outtake on the collaborative writing process using Google Docs, all while fielding new questions from colleagues I would have not thought to address if I had been working alone, or had unfortunately encountered during the role-out of my lessons. My time working with other teachers reinforces my foundational belief that it is our peers who are the most profound movers of ideas.

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As Superintendent, I am extremely proud to witness the well–attended exceptional training sessions and to observe the new skillsets that are being infused in classes throughout our district. Technology will continue to play a major role in the restructuring of public education and we are very fortunate to have outstanding educators at each of our sites who are constant learners.

 

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