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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Have you been to a play only to find the actors holding the script in their hands and reading from it during the performance? Absurd you would say. Have you been to a talk at a conference or at work only to find the speaker reading from his notes totally ignoring you? In my experience, quite often.

Top 11 things to consider when choosing a higher education software

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1. Will it be hosted on cloud ?

So there no extra cost for expensive hardware and IT hiring to manage it locally. No fear about data backup and security.

2. Does it have mobile apps?

Downloadable iPhone and Android apps for students, professors and admin. View data and reports on the go. Use the mobile to track location map direction and collect data (ex. attendance)

3. Can it be customised for your needs?

Taking the plunge with social media in the classroom

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I created my first Twitter account in 2007 - back when the social media giant was just beginning to take off. Over the next seven years, I’ll be honest with you - I’ve fallen in and out of love with both twitter and Facebook, and there have been long periods where my digital footprint has grown dusty from disuse. 

NaNoWriMo: An #EduAwesome Project for Your #BestYearEver

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Schools That Work | Practice

Blended Learning: Making it Work in Your Classroom

Blended Learning: Making it Work in Your Classroom
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Credits
  • Producer: Kristin Atkins
  • Field Director: Sarita Khurana
  • Editor: Julie Konop
  • Production Coordinator: Julia Lee
  • Camera: Drew Perlmutter
  • Sound: Juan Ordonez
  • Graphics: Cait Camarata, Jenny Kolcun, Scott Hartwig
  • Production Assistant: Ricardo Rivera
Overview: 

A School-Wide Approach

Blended learning is a core part of P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School. Since 2010, the school has taken a schoolwide approach to integrating digital content as part of their instructional framework. Driven by changes already happening at the higher education levels and the need to prepare students for the 21st century workplace, blended learning provides the school with a variety of ways to address student needs, differentiate instruction, and provide teachers with data for instructional decision-making.

P. K. Yonge views blended learning as the combination of digital content and activity with face-to-face content and activity. It looks very different in each class at the school. When a teacher has an activity that works well face-toface, there isn't any reason to look for a digital replacement. If they can find something digital that is more effective or efficient, then that is implemented. 

PK Yonge administrators knew it would be a challenge for their teachers, many of whom were adverse to learning new technologies, or didn’t have the time to think about how to implement it in their classroom. Blended learning requires both the time and a willingness to learn new things. But the benefits of doing the work seem to far outweigh the challenges. Four years later, P. K. Yonge has almost 20 classes that have transitioned into a blended learning model.

Getting started on using the technology or transitioning curriculum can be intimidating for some teachers. Many teachers at PK Yonge recommended finding another teacher to buddy up with through the process, and to help support one another.

How it's done: 

Planning a Blended Curriculum

In partnership with the University of Florida, P.K. Yonge designed a summer institute that would give teachers the time and resources to think about blended learning. At the institute, teachers had an opportunity to dig into what blended learning was and how to rebuild their course. They also had the support of graduate students from the University of Florida, who helped them to find and build content. In time, teachers learned the tools and technologies on their own. While most schools won't be able to host a summer program to plan and train teachers, the same planning principles can be used in any school.      

The institute itself was designed in a blended learning format. Teachers did different kinds of activities, sometimes meeting face to face and sometimes online. This provided the chance to experience blended learning in similar ways as their students.

Target One Grade Level at a Time

P. K. Yonge decided it would make sense to start by systematically targeting one entire grade level, rather than a smattering of teachers and students across the many different grades. They chose the ninth grade as a place to start because it is the start of high school, and they could roll up or down into the other grade levels from there.   

Set Goals for Each Class

Interested teachers were asked to fill out a proposal with the ideas they had for transitioning their curriculum. Teachers were asked to think specifically about why they wanted a blended learning environment and what gaps it could address in the classroom.

Some of the needs teachers had were to provide students with differentiated instruction, to find quick and easy ways to do formative assessment, and to give students access to content 24/7.

Teachers were then asked how those gaps could be filled, what units in their curriculum they could possibly see as blended learning units, and to propose a timeline for the project. Finally, teachers were asked to define specific deliverables for their course. All of this helped build the ownership that was necessary for teachers to really want to do this work. 

Keep it Face-to-Face or Make it Digital?

One of the key components of blended learning is to identify what is already working well in your classroom, and what might be better suited as digital content. Teachers need to know that by adding digital content, it doesn’t mean throwing out all the direct instruction in the classroom. Keep what is working well in a face-to-face mode, and add what could be more effective in a digital format. 

Deliverables differed from teacher to teacher depending on the content area. Some teachers overhauled an entire unit of their course, others focused on creating assessments for learning and putting those in place, while others took a more general approach and decided to transition all their handouts into a digital format so they were more accessible. 

It is important to start with some deliverables that are manageable, and then keep adding new components over the year, or even next few years.

Plan for Resources and Access

Two crucial things to think about before you start are what kinds of resources your school already has, and what kind of access students will have to the technology necessary for a blended learning course. P. K. Yonge has been committed to providing computers for its students, and has about 800 available on campus. However, while some teachers have 25 computers in their classroom, others only have a few Ipads. The school also extended its library hours, so that students could access it every day before school and until 5:30 pm afterschool.      

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edustation's picture
edustation
I build edustation flight simulators and curriculum

Learning by doing is a powerful tool to help students understand rather than memorize content.

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Classroom Management in the Tech-Equipped Classroom

Successful technology integration includes always having a non-tech Plan B, staying with what works instead of trend-hopping, and minimizing the elements beyond your control.

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Amy Peach's picture

You know, I've always believed in having a Plan B when it comes to technology use, but a book I assigned for my educational technology course has shifted my view somewhat. In Doug Johnson's "The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide", he argues rather convincingly that the days of asking teachers to have a back up plan every time they intend to use technology have passed. He believes it is inefficient for them to do so and quite reasonable to expect our classroom technology to work in almost all cases. It definitely is inefficient to create two separate lesson plans and in working as a liason to vendors, I've found that access issues usually light a fire under these guys to turn out a better product. As long as I tell them our teachers always have a back up plan, they have less pressure to do stellar work. That said, not being able to think on your feet when the technology fails will only hurt you and your students in the long run.

Jarrett Volzer's picture
Jarrett Volzer
Founder of TabPilot Learning Systems, developers of TabPilot Tablet Manager

Andrew, a couple of years ago I was consulting for a school using tablets and the idea you describe as "Distraction and Control" came up as we explored mobile management solutions. Unhappy with the crop of MDM systems that were entirely technician-oriented rather than teacher-oriented, and that really did little to actually remove distractions I started developing a product that would let the teacher control what's on student screens by replacing the interface with one that only showed the apps/web links the teacher wanted students to use and keep them on-task. The key issue was removing distractions. The product became TabPilot Tablet Manager and we've been offering it for a little over a year now for Android. We'll soon be looking for schools to partner with us through our "early experience" program to pilot an iOS version of the system as well. While we do cover the IT side of securing the devices and distributing apps and such, the key focus is the teacher side, letting them use the cloud-based manager to control the devices in their classroom. I invite you and your readers to contact me or check out our solution (http://www.tabplot.com). As the founder and head of the company, I love getting feedback that helps make this really work well in classrooms.

sci-tech team's picture

We use used Edmodo a little bit last year and then spent a significant amount of time researching possible LMSs over the summer (Google classroom was not available yet). We decided to try Schoology. Ideally, teachers would have the opportunity to talk to other colleagues and see if someone currently uses or has used an LMS/program they like. It is helpful to identify what it is you want to do with the LMS in advance as well. We did not find anyone with these prior experiences so we just needed to jump in and try it. We found it helpful to be part of a team that is willing to implement the program together. We get together frequently to share our ideas and help solve problems. What we did not expect was the initial overwhelming time commitment. We spend all day teaching and then spend several hours after our other commitments each day troubleshooting issues with students. We received about 60-100 emails/messages per day (group of 300 students) during the first week of the Schoology implementation process. We are hoping that the first year will be the most difficult and things will smooth out in the years to come. Needless to say we will not be looking to switch to another LMS without a huge motivational factor driving that decision. We are trying out a few other new tech things this year, but agree that less is best.

(1)
Ms. Caillier's picture

Last March, my school went 1:1 with iPads in the 6th grade. We will be rolling out the iPads for this year in the next couple of weeks. For the most part, I am very excited because of all the advantages we (teachers) have when each student has their own device. However, I am also a little nervous because I learned last year that my classroom management needs adjustment when each student has his or her own iPad. (It sort of felt like a kindergarten classroom on show and tell day!) It took me about a week to really grasp two things: a) there are in fact distractions everywhere (and they aren't always iPads) and I manage them, so I can manage this, and b) each of my lessons has an objective that my students and I need to focus on-bottom line. Sometimes iPad will be our learning tools; sometimes color pencils will be our learning tools. Either way, we have to meet that objective. Your post was a great reminder to keep my focus on those two ideas. Thank you!

Amy Peach's picture

I really appreciate you posting this, Ms. Chillier. I really need to stress class management with my ore-service teachers more when we learn technology. I also love your attitude. You're right. If you can manage other distractions, you can manage this. Good luck!

Sticia Shubin's picture

I do not agree with Mr. Johnson about not having a plan B. Perhaps it is inefficient to have every technology lesson have a back-up plan but perhaps having a few up your sleeve just in case. The digital media teacher next door to me has been having a horrible time with logins and networking issues. The county and district know and they tell him they are working on it, so where does that leave him. Some days things work some days they don't. I think that if you have a strong network and technology support the idea of having a back up plan is unnecessary, for many of us though that is not the case.

Amy Peach's picture

I definitely agree with you, Sticia. I don't think the author was advocating the total abandonment of a back up plan. What I understood from his argument is that teachers are told they must always have a back up. While that was good advice when we only used technology-enhanced lessons once a week, things have changed and for those of us who use it daily, that's a lot of extra work. And you've completely hit the nail on the head with your last argument. When we have great IT teams, it's less necessary. Hopefully the districts that struggle with this are forging technology committees with faculty and parents. Getting a diverse group of users in the same room can quite often head off disaster.

Amy Peach's picture

I wish I could put that time commitment comment of yours in bold all over this web page :) Using a LMS is a fantastic time saver in the long run, but getting it up and running can be excruciating especially if there are no built-in support mechanisms for users. It might be beneficial for anyone reading to be sure the folks on your pilot committee have some experience as online students themselves. It gives them a first-hand glimpse of what to expect.

Handouts's picture
Handouts
Simple classroom workflow app!

Hi Mrs. Caillier!

I would like you to try www.handouts.in for free (for you and your whole school). Handouts is a simple classroom workflow app for tablet-centered learning environments. It addresses the creation, distribution, collection, grading, organization and sharing of worksheets, printables, homework, quizzes and assignments... with just one tap! You can download it from any iPad or Android tablet. Good luck in this new paperless school year!

sci-tech team's picture

We use used Edmodo a little bit last year and then spent a significant amount of time researching possible LMSs over the summer (Google classroom was not available yet). We decided to try Schoology. Ideally, teachers would have the opportunity to talk to other colleagues and see if someone currently uses or has used an LMS/program they like. It is helpful to identify what it is you want to do with the LMS in advance as well. We did not find anyone with these prior experiences so we just needed to jump in and try it. We found it helpful to be part of a team that is willing to implement the program together. We get together frequently to share our ideas and help solve problems. What we did not expect was the initial overwhelming time commitment. We spend all day teaching and then spend several hours after our other commitments each day troubleshooting issues with students. We received about 60-100 emails/messages per day (group of 300 students) during the first week of the Schoology implementation process. We are hoping that the first year will be the most difficult and things will smooth out in the years to come. Needless to say we will not be looking to switch to another LMS without a huge motivational factor driving that decision. We are trying out a few other new tech things this year, but agree that less is best.

(1)

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The Apple Watch - Cupertino's Non-Starter in Education

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On Tuesday Apple finally debuted the long-rumored Apple Watch to a crowd of enthusiastic journalists who gave it a standing ovation and in turn got a free performance from U2. 

The live demo of the Apple Watch was impressive, showing a very well thought out interface that’s generations ahead of the current line of smart watches developed by companies who tried to jump the gun (starting years ago) when the first rumors of Apple’s entry into the market began. 

Wonders and Challenges of a High-tech Learning Environment

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Because of the great generosity of the non-profit NapaLearns.org, and the Napa Valley Vintners who sponsor them, I have a lot of technology in my French classroom, and in particular, a class set of netbook computers, tables and chairs with wheels, and a large interactive whiteboard. Learning a language is a very different affair with the support of technology! I have been taking stock lately of the wonders and the challenges of teaching in this blended environment. Here are some of my observations.

Let’s start with some of the wonders...

Increase Student Engagement & Extend Beyond the Classroom using The Blended Learning Model

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AP Chemistry is a demanding and time-consuming subject, equivalent to an introductory college-level chemistry course. My two biggest challenges as a teacher for over 16 years have been time and keeping the students engaged. For most part of my teaching career, I have used the direct instruction method with less than desired outcomes. Hence, I decided to change the direct method of instruction to the blended model for past three years.

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One thing is certain in almost every education jurisdiction in North America: macro decisions are made by adults that have been elected. They have the final say in the decisions that will impact thousands of students. These are not menial decisions we’re talking about either—allocating funds through billion-dollar budgets, long-term strategic plans, approving of curriculum design all fall under the portfolio of responsibilities. Having leaders disconnected from the needs at the classroom level intuitively begins to frame the problem with the education system.