‘Defining’ blended Learning

Very shortly after determining what our group project was about this semester, Nicole and I determined that ours would be a blended course.

I mean, I know what blended learning is, I took a blended course in University so I know what it looks like- or do I?

I came across an article Alec had tweeted, and as I read through, I realized that perhaps my experience as an adult in a blended learning setting, might not be the only way to ‘do’ blended learning.  Perhaps there is more than one way to approach blended learning – and maybe it has more to do with the learners then it does a rigid format…

Unfortunately, my request for assistance from the Twitter-verse yielded no responses, so I had to try other avenues to gain some understanding!

When I am trying to gain an understanding of something, I always first turn to the definition.  Wikipedia defines blended learning as:

Blended learning is an education program (formal or informal) that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.[1][2][3][4] While students still attend “brick-and-mortar” schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices are combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery.[5][6] Blended learning is also used in professional development and training settings.[7]

A lack of consensus on a definition of blended learning has led to difficulties in research on its effectiveness in the classroom.[8] Blended learning is also highly context-dependent and therefore a universal conception of it is hard to come by.[9]

That last part… the “lack of consensus on a definition…” part, has got me feeling pretty good, because, to me, that means that my inkling about blended learning not being rigid and prescribed (done in a set format) means that it can look different in a grade 2 setting!

Next, I revisited some of what Bates discussed in Chapter 9.  It seems, while there is a lack of theory surrounding why blended learning is beneficial, it is important to circle back to student needs, and teaching preference.

Additionally, Bates mentions that there are a variety of designs for blended learning to take place which range from technology as a classroom aid (which I would argue fits in the ‘S’ category of the SAMR model), incorporating a LMS (which I think could fall under the ‘A’ or ‘M’ category, depending on how it is implemented), and lastly a combination of hands on learning followed by virtual learning/discussion in an online format (which you guessed it – seems to fit in nicely with the ‘M’ or ‘R’ category).

So, now that I have a clearer idea of what I have gotten myself into with saying I am going to develop a blended learning course, the question remains:  What is the best approach and application for incorporating blended learning in a grade 2 setting?

I have to ask that question, because when I first started this course and we settled on blended learning, I had visions of creating a completely online module that students would independently interact with at home, and would respond to online either at home or in class (because that was my experience as a student with blended learning).

I know blended learning in Grade 2 is possible, people like Kathy Cassidy, Erin Benjamin, Nicole Reeve (to name a few), do it all of the time!  However, all of my reading and defining has got me wondering, in grade 2, is it fair to expect all learners to jump in at the ‘Redefinition‘ phase, or does it make more sense to start with ‘Augmentation‘, and build from there?  To me, it seems as though Bates would argue the latter:

The research also suggests that these skills of independent learning need to be developed while students are on campus. In other words, online learning, in the form of blended learning, should be deliberately introduced and gradually increased as students work through a program, so by the time they graduate, they have the skills to continue to learn independently – a critical skill for the digital age – Tony Bates

I also found this great video outlining the benefits of blended learning, which nicely details the opportunities of moving further along the SAMR continuum:

How do I learn? Let me count the ways…

 

Here is the Bate’s article that I am referring to in this week’s vlog.

Additionally, if you’d like to learn more from some of my classmate’s thoughts on this (as mentioned in my video), check out their blogs below:

E. Therrien – You mean you like to read?

Sarah Wandy – The Media Diaries

Mrs. Melinda Pelletier – Learning Preferences change

 

 

 

Learning process and quality standards
Maria Cruz, Jaime Anstee and Katy Love [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Do I have the ‘Audacity?

In reality, learning content and skills development will often be integrated in any learning process. Nevertheless, when deciding on technology use, it is useful to make a distinction between content and skills. –Teaching in a Digital Age, Tony Bates

thinking-stick-man
Image via Public Domain

As I pondered this weeks readings along side my impending group project as well as my final reflection, there are many questions swirling around in my head about what the most appropriate tool for the jobs are.  Additionally, it is important to consider the things I am trying to convey, and what I will need to learn to effectively utilize the tool(s) I choose and to develop the content I require.

Some other things I had to consider when I was choosing the tool this week, was what would I do if I was creating an online course in a low bandwidth situation?  I did some reading, and I found this article, which seemed to indicate that an audio file requires less bandwidth than video.  This was something I hadn’t previously thought about but does seem like a good option if there are issues (I’m thinking for rural areas) with the bandwidth availability.

I found Audacity and assumed it was for creating pod-casts.  Pod-casts have never appealed to me before, I understand the concept, but I guess for me as a listener, radio has always been sufficient.  As a creator, I’ve always thought “Why make a recording, when I could make a video?”  Now I see that there are logical applications for pod-casts.  That being said, Audacity can be used for so much more… it is a audio editing platform that has applications in education, music, as well as pod casts (and probably many more things I haven’t considered).

 

 

For this reason, deeper understanding of a concept or an idea is often the result of the integration of content derived from a variety of media sources (Mayer, 2009). Teaching in a Digital Age, Tony Bates

Although I used to turn my back on Audio creation formats, I can now see that for course creation, there is definitely a place to include such things.  As well, if we are considering this from a student-developed thing, it would be user friendly, and give them another outlet to create and learn within.

As I mentioned in my recording, there are countless how to videos available online to teach all of the specific ranges of this tool (and I would argue their production quality is much better than mine!)  Have a watch, and see how easy this tool is to use:

 

To LMS or not to LMS…

Ok, I confess, I am *slightly* side-stepping the blog prompt, but in fairness, the readings this week worked to have me question the direction we were running with this project!

man-147091_1280
Is LMS just an updated term for “the man”? via Pixabay

The Learning Management System. The LMS. Or in the UK, the VLE. The Virtual Learning Environment.
Even though the latter sounds much less foreboding and controlling than the former, I confess: it makes no difference. I am not a fan. –Audrey Waters

I was somewhat relieved to discover that classmates Logan and Stephanie were also questioning the role of LMS because of the Waters post, as well as their own experiences with classes that utilized LMSes.

As someone who has taken MOOCs, online classes through LMS, and online classes without an LMS, I reflected about this passage from Audrey.  I came to realize…as a student, I do not enjoy courses run through LMS.  For me, courses run on LMS at times felt contrived, limiting, and inauthentic.  Word limitations, forced amount of responses, it can came across as dutiful and a work load to be ‘checked off’.

How education worked offline translated into how courses would work online. What a course looked like. How a course, and the knowledge that was generated and shared therein, began and ended in conjunction with the academic calendar. How each course is a separate entity — one instructor and a roster — hermetically sealed in a walled off online space, much like a walled off classroom. –Audrey Waters

After reading this portion of what Audrey had to say, it had me considering…is this why I dislike learning through LMSes?  Do young learners feel this way when faced with an LMS space?  Lastly, if we use an LMS does that mean we our limiting ourselves to ‘Substitution’ level tasks?

So, where does that leave my group on this prototype project?  Well, our ‘starting point’ is considering our learners (Grade 2 students).  As much as I dislike LMS as a motivated, adult learner, and even though I prefer learning in an Open Ed format, I tend to think it is more successful with motivated learners who can maneuver the internet (and alternative facts) independently.

 

There is something to be said for Gradual release of responsibility in this instance, and I don’t know that I can immediately and confidently unleash grade 2s into the vast world wide web.  Nicole and I have perhaps found a ‘loop-hole’ and would like to try and work with what we are calling a pseudo-LMS system, Weebly (if you are interested, you can find out more on Nicole’s thoughts about the program here).

After consultation with our PLN last week, we spent time playing with a few platforms and discovered Weebly is user-friendly (read: easy to set up and organize), has an option to add student accounts (which would allow for a blog/page option) AND does not require student users (in the teachers accounts) to be 13 or over in their terms and conditions.  This service also gives us the ability to have students accounts public or private, it will allow us to embed items from 3rd party sites, additionally, if you are comfortable with the themes available, this can be done for free!

Have you used Weebly before?  What grade(s) have you tried it with?  Any tips/tricks you can share?

 

What’s in a Learning Management System?

To me, learning about how to develop an online/blended course is an essential skill for educators these days.  However, as an Elementary specialist, how does this fit?    How do we merge the need to present authentic technology learning tasks to our students, while overcoming and bypassing the road blocks that exist?

When signing up for this course, I knew it was out of my comfort zone.  I mean not MY comfort zone – 70% of my Master’s classes have been done in an online or blended format. Then I read the following:

This suggests that fully online courses are more suitable for more experienced students with a strong motivation to take such courses because of the impact they have on their quality of life. In general, online students need more self-discipline in studying and a greater motivation to study to succeed. Tony Bates chapter (Teaching in a Digital Age)

This had me thinking: As an adult, the online format is easier for me to balance my life,  and it also works for me because I’m a motivated learner – does the same hold true for our ‘youngest’ learners?

Additionally, I have to say, taking an online course and creating an online course are NOT the same thing.  So this task, in my K-8 realm is goes beyond of my current skill set and my personal comfort zone (it’s all new to me)!

planning-online-course
Via Glulla Forsythe on Flickr (CC by-NC-SA 2.0)

Thankfully, this is where the wonderful and capable Nicole Reeve comes in!  She has got ideas, and is keeping me focused (I’ve been known to ‘see a squirrel or two’ when it comes to planning – in my defense I work with upwards of 400 kids and staff members in a day… I digress).

Nicole and I have decided to work together on this project and we are going to try focusing our module ‘where we are’.  That led us to Grade 2 Science: Liquids and Solids .  We are currently considering this a blended learning experience.  I am happier about this project now that we have an idea guiding us.

Liquids and solids was an ideal place to start in my mind because we are able to execute experiments within this unit.  In my opinion, this can allow for a balance of online/technology experiences as well as hands on experiences that our students can share using some (potentially) new technology skills.  Working to essentially ‘get our feet wet’ through blended learning in Grade 2.

Additionally, Nicole and I have begun researching Learning Management Systems.  There are many things to consider when teaching online such as: does it offer public and private settings?  What are the costs associated with the LMS and is it feasible to purchase one?  How will the assessment occur within the LMS?  Additionally in choosing an LMS we need to consider if it is a platform a grade 2 student can access independently.  After searching some LMS programs that geared toward K-12 learning, we have a few names, but haven’t chosen a ‘winner’.  What are some user friendly Learning Management systems you have tried?

That’s it for my tangible progress this week, now Nicole and I have got platforms to explore, and a lot of things to consider before we are able to move forward!

One more piece from the readings this week that  had me thinking this week, and I just wanted to finish up on this note as something that I’ve been considering alongside blended learning:

Personal learning is like shopping at a grocery store. You need to assemble the ingredients yourself and create your own meals. It’s harder, but it’s a lot cheaper, and you can have an endless variety of meals. Sure, you might not get the best meals possible, but you control the experience, and you control the outcome.

Ultimately, if people are to become effective learners, they need to be able to learn on their own. They need to be able to find the resources they need, assemble their own curriculum, and forge their own learning path. They will not be able to rely on education providers, because their needs are too many and too varied. Stephen Downes post

The last “first post” (for class anyway)

 

Hi!  My name is Amy Singh, I am a Teacher-Librarian in Regina, and have been for about 7 years now. As a teacher, I’m passionate about reading, literacy and of course, technology!

Three goals that I have for myself in this class are:

  1. Gain a better understanding of what goes into developing online courses
  2. Connect with and learn from new people within our class (aka grow my PLN especially on Twitter)
  3. (and I’m sorry, cause I have to say it) Finish the class and finish my Masters!

As far as what I will be spending my time on when I have completed my program…

family

I will definitely be spending some more time with these folks!  The smallest in this picture starts kindergarten in the fall and his sister will be in grade 4 at that time, so I’m going to relish in spending some more serious quality time with them before I blink and they are literally all grown up!  I’ve been hanging out with the other guy in the picture for about 17 years now (right now I hope you’re thinking, “I didn’t think she was that old”… we met in high school), but I think I’d also like to make some more time for the person who helped me manage it all!

Very excited to get this semester going with some wonderful people!

Reflections of a Teacher-Librarian

Well, that seems to be another semester in the books!  Although there has not been another semester quite like it for me – I can now say that I survived a full time job, parenting /family-ing, and two classes! (A feat, that I am quite sure I never would have accomplished without the support and understanding of my family, friends and colleagues)!

calendar-308517_1280
CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

As in previous semesters, I challenged myself to complete a Summary of Learning outside of my comfort zone, and therefore I found a new tool to test out!

Puppet Pals is a digital storytelling tool that is quite user friendly (both of my children 4 & 8, were able to create stories).  I liked the concept of creating a puppet show – and was able to purchase “full access” to the app for $8.  I was slightly disappointed because I thought I would be able to insert other objects into the show (pictures of items I was discussing), but I was limited to characters and vehicles.  There was some flexibility and customization available for the characters (which was fun to play with), but the types of scenes immediately available were also limited. Over all – great tool that could be implemented in a classroom!  I digress…

Please have a look at what I was able to create!

 

In the video I mentioned The Animal School by George Reavis – this is one place I wished Puppet Pals allowed for multi-media interaction (or at least would allow me to add outside objects into the platform).  If you have not heard of this story, I encourage you to watch the video version of it below.  I first heard this story in my Undergrad classes, and it greatly impacted my personal teaching beliefs – and it still holds true!

 

Finally, I wanted to provide an update on the Maker-spaces/coding project I am working on for my school.  I will be starting a Technology club this week, which will involve pre-coding and beginning coding tasks.  Following the winter break, I plan to implement a couple of ‘Maker’ afternoons with stations ranging from Lego building, cardboard design, hour of code activities, a knitting station, and sphero courses.  Additionally, I made a connection through a colleague, and may have an ‘expert’ (someone who codes, and develops apps for a living) who may be coming to our school to assist me in this endeavor!

I plan to start coding activities using Incredibox, once students are comfortable in that space, Daisy the Dinosaur is a great app to start with, Lightbot is another free site students can practice on, there is also Code which has countless variety of coding opportunities!

If you have any experience teaching students coding, I would love any input or feedback you have to offer!  If nothing else, I will try, I will learn from this, and I will do better next time!

Thanks for a great semester everyone – I’ve enjoyed learning from and with you.