Webinar Date: October 24,2013
Teachers and administrators have always had the difficult challenge of choosing or developing print resources and materials that align with standards and effectively engage all students. With the explosion of available new digital resources such as websites, apps, and games, the number of potential resources available to teachers has dramatically increased; however educators now have the additional challenge of trying to figure out which digital resources best support the classroom and align with their curriculum. In the edWeb.net Blended Learning community’s October webinar, presenter Dr. Tim Hudson shared ideas for strategically choosing resources that not only align with your curriculum, but also enhance student learning outcomes, especially for schools using blended learning models. Throughout the presentation, he explores how the quality of digital learning experiences is just as important as the quality of classroom learning experiences, as well as how new technologies should be used to do more than act as a digital substitute for existing print resources. Attendees learned to evaluate whether resources are aligned with content and process standards, and also how to best leverage new technologies to support the success of all students.
To tell you a little bit about myself before we get started. I spent over 10 years working in public schools, both as a high school math teacher and then a K-12 district mathematics coordinator in suburban St. Louis at the Parkway School District. What else? I helped out in facilitating the district’s long range strategic planning efforts. My background is with Understanding by Design, the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe and I had a chance to work with them in my district. And, so as we start this webinar, a couple of things that I want to point out, one, it’s not a commercial for DreamBox. We had a couple of emails about that. I do work for DreamBox and DreamBox is the sponsor, but these ideas that I’m sharing are really about how I viewed curriculum and instruction when I was a teacher and as a district leader, the lens that I looked at resources through. It’s not a mass specific presentation either so, regardless of what content area you’re in, you should be able to glean some ideas. And, you know, DreamBox is used in Blended Learning models, but the most important thing that anyone should do when considering DreamBox or other things is really take a strategic look at your goals at what you’re trying to accomplish and determine what is a good fit for what you’re doing. And it is about a Blended Learning model, but really these ideas are about any learning model as you’ll see, as we go through the slides.
So, first this is an infographic that we’ve developed and actually we’re developing a white paper that I’m authoring around these ideas and this sort of, you know, infographic visual is kind of the outline. We do have ten things to consider. That number ten isn’t something we were shooting for–I know that happens a lot in emails, you know, ten things this, ten ways that. It just so happens when I considered all of the things I thought about when choosing curricular resources. It did happen to be ten. I’ll speak mostly about the first five, and we could certainly have some discussion in the Q&A about item six through ten and if the sequencing is right — different things. But, that’s kind of the framework that we will be going through, so we’ll walk in step by step through that. A couple of things that are not, sort of, not up for debate is when we’re planning anything related to learning, as I mentioned I worked my whole career with Understanding by Design. They called it planning “backwards” (Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe) you start with your results. What are you trying to accomplish? Then you decide, okay, what’s the acceptable evidence for students. What are we going to see in student work and performance? That’s going to indicate to us that they have achieved the results that we set out to do. Then you plan the learning experiences and instruction. And the reason that they call this planning “backward” is because typically, and I know I did this when I was a young teacher, you plan forward, you start with that third thing. I’m going to plan today’s lesson and teach a bunch of lessons then I’m going to write a test based on what I did in my lessons. But that’s not planning backwards from your goal. That’s actually just sort of charging forward with some instruction without necessarily having very clear learning targets. And they call that Teach, Test, Hope for the Best. Those are the three stages with planning forward.
So, this idea is going to run throughout everything that I’m discussing. So, here’s a cool thing. Peggy George in the comments just asked “Can you define Blended Learning in K-12?” Yeah, that’s great. Peggy, is not a ‘plant’. Excellent question, we really have to define our terms about what we’re talking about before we can move forward. So, what is Blended Learning? Now, there is an official document out there from Heather Staker and Michael Horn called Classifying K-12 Blended Learning. And they have this figure. This is straight from their work. Blended Learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. We’ll talk about more of those four things later. And at least part and a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home, so that’s the blend, you have some online, and you have some brick-and-mortar.
Now, one thing to think about curricular resources is when to think about planning backward. The phrases that stick out to me when I look at this definition is online delivery of content and instruction, because that sort of implies the second part is delivery of content and instruction at school. And, you know, there’s probably a whole lot of different things that you are thinking about when you hear the phrase “content delivery”, when you hear “instruction” and that’s part of what I want to highlight as we talk through this. Simply digitizing the same delivery of content and instruction that’s in a brick-and-mortar setting is probably not the best use of technology, for example.
So, in their document, one of the things that they do is they highlight schools and how different schools are blending their learning. And two examples that I pulled from their report back in 2012, they have this Flipped-Classroom model in the Stillwater Area Public Schools and the Enrich-Virtual model from the Albuquerque eCADEMY. And the question I’d like to post is, you know, which Blended model is better? You see, in the Flipped-Classroom model, there’s practice and projects at school then students have that online instruction and content at home on computers in which Virtuals are a little bit different. They do have some computer work in schools. But really when I ask the question, you know, which blended model is better? The first thing that you should think is I actually can’t tell. I mean these are just sort of structures. This just tells me where kids are and when they’re with an adult, when they’re on a computer. The questions we really need to ask is, well, what’s happening with the teacher? What did those learning experiences look like? What’s happening on the computers? What do those learning experiences look like? And really, blending, Blended Learning is a means to what end? You know, there’s the purpose is better learning. The purpose is not Blended Learning. So, we really have to think about our goals and then what blending is going to do to accomplish those goals.
And this is the key phrase, “The digital learning experience is the quality of those learning experiences is just as important as the quality of classroom learning experiences.” You know, we spend so much time trying to make sure teachers are highly qualified, have all the support and professional development they need to have great classroom learning. And often times when we look at digital learning, those standards are perhaps lower than just a little bit either because we don’t think technology can accomplish too much, maybe the technology isn’t there, isn’t where you want it to be. But we should be holding classroom and technology learning to the same standards. It’s kind of like asking “Which schedule is better?” I know as a high school teacher, some schools use Block scheduling and some schools use Traditional scheduling. And just as a thought exercise, to ask which schedule is better is kind of like the question I just asked a minute ago, “which Blended model is better?” And the reality is you need to first ask “What‘s happening during class?” And really, “scheduling is a means to what end?” And when schools consider different schedules, it’s usually different content areas who have different needs in terms of scheduling. And too often, scheduling is sort of a logistical thing that’s done not necessarily in the best interest of specific content area needs. And in that sense we don’t often schedule school just like we might not often blend learning in ways that are aligned with the goals we’re trying to accomplish.
So, when I think of Blended Learning, what kind of sticks out to me, what I kind of find interesting is we don’t use that phrase in other scenarios. So, if you’re doing any work with Blended Learning, perhaps this has occurred to you. How come nobody talks about blended farming? How come nobody talks about blended exercising? You know, if you go to a gym, is it a blended gym? Do you have a blended personal trainer? What about blended budgeting? If you know anyone who’s an accountant, do they use blended budgeting practices? What about blended medicine, have you ever been to a blended hospital? These questions should kind of sound silly— kind of because they are. Blended cooking is the restaurant you went to last week, is it a blended kitchen? What’s kind of interesting about this term “blended” in education is we don’t see this term used in other professions to my knowledge. And I think the reason is, is because in other professions, in other environments perhaps there’s a better focus on principles and outcomes. You know, there’s many debates about what learning outcomes should be in a lot of discussion and disagreement about how students learn. We have, you know, decades of research about how the brain develops cognitive understanding. But, you know, if you think about a hospital for example, it’s not a blended hospital because the doctor’s know how the body heals itself. And they know if they can grab them, if a machine can help them with that or if the technology can help them heal people and honors the principles of the medical principles, then by all means use it and don’t call it blended medicine, just call it medicine as it evolves.
I think sometimes, therefore, when we talk about Blended Learning maybe we’re talking about blended schooling where we’re talking about structures, where we’re talking more about where kids are than we’re talking about how they make sense of ideas and come to understand. So, I think of it in terms of blended schooling. And another Wiggins and McTighe book that I would highly recommend [Schooling by Design] if you’re in curriculum leadership, classroom whatever. They point out this, I think it’s pretty important that school reform efforts typically focus too much on various means. You know, Blended Learning is a means to an end. Scheduling is a means to an end. And too often your structures, schedules, programs, PD, curriculum, instructional practices like cooperative learning, or Blended Learning, or flipped classrooms, or iPads or hardware. So, we often focus too much on sort of the inputs rather than the outputs. And they go on to say that these reforms totally serve as the fuel for the school improvement engine. We should always be taking risk in trying new things in the interest of making sure every child is successful. But we can’t confuse something like Blended Learning or scheduling with the destination which is improved learning. So, we’re interested in better learning and hoping that technology can support that. Can support teachers, can support students.
Another way of saying this, Michael Fullan back in July, published a paper called Alive in the Swamp taking a look at how crazy the technology is right now and how everyone sort of sorting through it. Maybe that’s the sort of thing that brought you to this webinar today. You’re hearing a lot about Blended Learning and wanting to sort of sort through it because it’s kind of a mess and Fullan calls it a swamp. And this quote that he has and I’ll share a second piece in a second really highlights this issue that when we talk about technology we need to be considering pedagogy, outcomes, too many innovations for online content, you know, as you saw from the Blended Learning slides. When we talk about online delivery and instruction, content delivery online, what Fullan points out —and what I would agree with— is that a lot of these materials use basic pedagogy often in the forms of introducing concepts right by video then following up with a series of progression, exercises, and tests. You see a lot of that out there. And these digital innovations are just allowing us to do the same age old practices but in a digital format.
He goes on to say, “While these innovations may be an incremental improvement such that there is less cost, minor efficiency and general modernization.” It’s not really changing the pedagogical practice of teachers at schools or of the online learning. And the key to a great learning is supporting great thinking in the minds of students and we should use technology to engage students in more and better thinking rather than just digitizing things that we’ve always done. Peggy pointing out their Schooling by Design subtitle is Mission, Action, Achievement. A lot of times if a school district is going through re-missioning as if it were redefining the school’s mission, sometimes that seems just like a “put it on the shelf” kind of exercise. But as I mentioned here on the second, it can actually be quite powerful for deciding what technology you should use.
Another way of saying what Michael Fullan was saying is this “The SAMR Model”. If you’re familiar with this, Dr. Ruben Puentedura came up with it and I think it makes a decent amount of sense when you’re looking at technology and this is not necessarily educational technology either. You can either be substituting where you use it, the technologies, to direct substitute without any functional change. And augmentation where, you know what, we had a worksheet and now it’s a digital worksheet on an iPad, but maybe there’s a functional improvement that it’s automatically graded for example, so it saves you just some grading time. But really it’s still a worksheet. There’s a great picture out there of a tree and underneath the tree it says “I wasn’t made to be a worksheet” and then there’s an iPad underneath that says “Neither was I” kind of thing. So, I should probably put that in here rather than described it to you.
But anyway, then there’s modification where we’re actually using the technology to significantly modify the tasks and redesign the tasks that learners are engaging in. And then really a redefinition, the R allowing teachers to use technology to create new tasks that were inconceivable without technology and then this model. He calls them Enhancement RDSNDA and Transformation which are the yellow. And this has really been helpful. I’ve talked with educators just in looking at, “Okay, are we using technology in a meaningful, modifying, redefining ways? Or are we just substituting for things we’ve always done?”
So going back to the sort of Understanding by Design three phase plan backward thing, you have before starting any Blended Learning model or initiative. It all starts with what do you want students to accomplish. Those goals may or may not have technology inherently in them. I’ll talk about some specific goals here in a second. How will you know they’ve achieved it? You know, too often, if, you know, if school switched from a traditional schedule to a block schedule, too often there weren’t too rigorous assessment components in place so that two years down the line you could say, “Yes, this changing schedule had a meaningful impact on student learning therefore we should keep it or we should switch it back.” Usually it kind of switches and then there’s really never any evidence collected that it was effective. So you should do if you’re doing Blended Learning, make sure you have that rigorous evidence sort of set up before you move forward.
And then lastly, “What print and/or digital resources will you need in order to support student learning?” So this sort of infographic, there has not very much info at this point but the white paper will flash that out. Step one, Student-Centered. Always. You always have to begin by taking a look at the student learning needs. That’s where it all begins and some things to consider, how old are the students? What grade level are the students in? What content area do you need to be trying Blended Learning with or looking for digital resources to support? What about student proficiency sort of levels where kids are at? Is this going to be something for all students? Are you looking for something specifically for intervention, for acceleration, something that differentiates? What about the schedule and this isn’t about, you know, I’ve just mentioned when we’re talking about scheduling we want to make sure that the learning outcome sort of dictates the schedule. This is more the logistics of when students will be working with the print or digital resources. You know, not every student has access to technology at home, hardware software, Wi-Fi, those things. You can’t take those for granted in every community. So, it’s a matter of, you know, each school and classroom taking a look at when students can access the learning. During the school day where we allocate time for it, before or after school, special programs, home use and then really considering the print or digital access that the students will have. You know, that’s, once you have those questions answered, you know, you’re saying, “You know, we’re looking for 10th grade Spanish or we’re looking for 3rd grade Literacy that students can do before school.” You know, those sorts of logistics, we’re going to have to kind of have those in mind, you know, even though you need to reconsider them later as you move forward.
So the second piece and again this is just following the planning “backwards” idea. You need to define those learning goals and the assessment evidence that you need. What must be learned? What evidence will you collect? And we kind of have a cloud here in this graphic because it really represents the aspirations that we have as educators, the dreams. What do we want for our students to know, to understand, to be able to do? This really is what we are dreaming, the outcomes we want for all students. And then we have to put some really some, you know, decide how are we going to assess those goals have happened. So, when we talked about long term goals that, I mentioned earlier about district mission. We re-did the mission when I was in the Parkway School District in St. Louis and this was the mission that we settled on. This is about the eighth episode graph. It was kind of like having a constitutional convention. It was a great collaborative effort with the community, a huge stirring committee to help us work along. And as you see here, we want our students all students, who are capable, curious, confident learners, who understand and respond to the challenge of an average changing world. Some folks thought it was maybe a little bit wordy, but this is our goal. This is what we dreamed for all students. The kids would be, you know, when we are working on this, a lot of people would raise their hand or send some feedback that says, “How will we know and measure whether students are curious or not?” And, I would usually reply, you know, “Well I just got some evidence that you’re curious, you know,” it’s easier to find evidence of curiosity than we think that it is.
So, all of these things can be measured and we set up a strategic plan and metrics that we were going to use to monitor that progress that all students were making towards this goal. Now the reason that I bring this up here is because when you think about Blended Learning is it’s not just about short-term goals, you know, you’re not just saying “Okay, we need our fifth graders to learn how to multiply fractions.” We also need them to learn to multiply fractions in a way that still honors the long-term goals we’re trying to accomplish because there are many people, many adults who were not successful in mathematics for example, they never seem to have the chance to be curious in their mathematics classes. We have a lot of adults and students, starting as early as third grade who aren’t confident learners in mathematics. You know, it says confident learners, it’s not a confidence like an ego, it’s a matter of, you know, “I can learn this,” it’s that growth mind set carried back those sorts of things. And it’s a matter of understanding and responding. So, whatever technology you use or print resources you use or however you choose to blend, you can have these bigger goals, long-term goals in mind and need to choose smaller resources that still are aligned with these goals.
A couple Common Core examples (and this is just a brief exercise when you look at this speaking and listening ELA goal) ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail. Well that implies if students are going to need to have an opportunity to listen to somebody speak and a means of offering elaboration and detail. So, maybe that can be done with technology, maybe it doesn’t need to be done with technology. We don’t want to look at every goal and think “Okay, how can we do this with technology?” maybe it doesn’t fit. That’s kind of why I put the Math I in there, this second grade measurement, you know, in DreamBox, we don’t actually have lessons for this second grade math standard and it should be pretty obvious, why? If kids are going to learn to use rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, we can’t capture that on an iPad. So, you know, whether you’re in a classroom or school or like I am, you know, creating software, you need to be very realistic about choosing the right tools for the job and sometimes, it’s sitting right there in the standard.
So, we need to keep in mind learning is the goal. And if you’re trying to teach kids to use our yardstick using an iPad, that’s trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Tech use is not the goal. I mean it might be if you’re talking about a Computer Science program or course or something like that. But too often in education we think, “Okay, let’s get the technology, then decide what to do with it.” And instead of saying, “Here’s what needs to be learned,” let’s go find technology that will support it. It’s all about planning backward.
And the technology influences goals. There’s a product, there’s an app called Word Lens that’s been out there for a while and it’s great. Their little commercial on YouTube is excellent so the way the app works is you choose as you see there, Spanish to English. And you hold the phone on a sign written in that language and it translates it in real-time. It’s pretty impressive technology. And so, you know, if you’re a foreign language, modern language teacher, you might have been saying to students all along, “Well, when you’re another country, you need to be able to read the signs. So, let’s learn the language so you can read the signs.” Well, technology’s kind of flipped that a little bit because maybe you don’t have to actually read the signs and so here’s another one from their commercial. It’s a very important sign to be able to read, but if you have the app and the app’s working, there are some significant implications for modern language curriculum mainly in terms of how we motivate students and convince students that this learning has value. And it’s, you know, this modern language example, this is something that mathematics has been dealing with for a while in terms of, you know, if a third grader can multiply 27 x 32 on a handheld calculator, you know, 20 years ago, what does that imply for the classroom? [Sir, that app is called Word Lens.]
Wolfram Alpha is a free website, a computational knowledge engine. And I typed into it and just took a screen shot. You could go to this at: WolframAlpha.com. What’s the equation of the line perpendicular to y=2x + 1 through the point two coma four? That’s a problem that’s pretty standard in Algebra One or Algebra Two. Probably looks familiar. And when you typed that in Wolfram Alpha, it gives you the answer, I mean it shows you, you know, the equation, it shows you how it interprets it, it uses the vocabulary normal and it also graphs it for you. So, this is a very real concern for mathematics teachers and it’s not just like Algebra II.
If you type into Wolfram Alpha, “I have 2 cookies. You give me 3 cookies. How many cookies do I have?” It gives you this, what we would consider an amazing answer for a kindergartener. It even shows you a picture of how to solve it. It represents it with an equation, a sentence answer, and even shows it graphically. So, these are very real considerations. We have to be thinking in curriculum design with Blended Learning. There’s so much out there with technology that influences not only the goals of learning, but also how students accomplish the goals of learning. There’s a great question in an article about Wolfram Alpha from 2009. If computers can solve math problems so efficiently, or if Word Lens can translate science in a foreign language so efficiently, why do we drill our students in doing these things? And the answer he gives is this, you know, there’s important math ideas behind these methods. Showing that you know how to solve these problems is one way of exhibiting working knowledge of these ideas, what he’s going to say, we have to be more honest about what we’re doing in class in terms of executing memorized algorithmic procedures or in foreign language. Are we drawing on vocabulary when maybe they could use the app? And this is really the key point. The students feel that they’ve learned nothing that they can’t pull directly from Wolfram Alpha or Word Lens. Then the course has really been a waste of time and that’s the last thing we want for our students. We don’t want them showing up in class believing that, you know what, If you just let me use my technology I can get this accomplished. There’s more important underlying ideas that we need to refocus our curriculum on perhaps.
And that’s where, so again, we’re still talking about that second piece, define student learning outcomes. And if you’ve done any work with Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, they have this AMT framework that I find pretty helpful where you have different types of learning outcomes. You have A, the Acquisition of knowledge and skills, there’s information, there’s facts, there’s procedures. Arguably these are a lot of thing that kids can get online from Wolfram Alpha from Word Lens. But there’s also Making, meaning the M where you have to make sense of concepts, make sense of ideas, make sense of contexts, and situations. And lastly, the Transfer piece, the T is Transfer. That’s where students are independently using their knowledge and it happens during learning and after learning. I think it’s the third chapter of the book How People Learn. It’s all about, it’s called learning and transfer, great resource there, and also unfamiliar situations.
So consider those different kinds of learning outcomes because digital technologies as Michael Fullan mentioned in that quote, a lot of times they’re just focusing on at acquiring knowledge and skills so sort of outcomes that are a little more wrote perhaps. Too often when people say you can learn anything online, they really mean you can access any information online. It’s difficult independently to make sense of things, to make meaning of things, to transfer and demonstrate transfer of learning, whereas, it’s really easy to access knowledge and skills in some descriptions of how you would follow a process.
So, next piece. We’ve talk about these first two pieces; What are your desired results? What’s the acceptable evidence of learning that you’re looking together? Then let’s talk about learning experiences and instruction and we’ll talk a little about that distinction because they’re drawn here in the book and it’s worth exploring. So, we have that on our graphic where you need to evaluate and this is entirely about your classroom, your school, your district’s needs. What are your needs for quality learning experiences or quality instruction? And how do you decide what students might need technology for and what’s the best use of class time? A great video that I won’t show here, but if you go to YouTube and search for Kid Snippets: “Math Class.” This is a group, they produce a bunch of videos Kids Snippets where they record two children talking, having a conversation about something. They have this math classroom like a Blind Date one, they have a Driver’s Ed one, and then they have adult actors act out a scene with the dubbed children’s audio, absolutely hilarious. In this particular video you have this gentleman, he’s a teacher trying to explain how a ten minus one is nine and you see him like wiggling his little pinky. It’s pretty funny. Probably the funniest thing you’ll see all day.
And that’s kind of an instruction model thinking that I can just talk slower and louder to help you make sense of ideas. And this is something that’s not new especially for math class. This is a quote from another book I’d highly recommend, Teaching What Matters Most. You know, this fifth grade teacher saying “You know, I had great people teaching me math, they were very caring but for eight years all that ever happened was, get out your homework, go over the homework, here’s the new set of exercises, here’s how to do them, now get started, I’ll be around.” That is arguably how a lot of people experience math and perhaps other subjects as well. And that’s not what we want for students to be making sense of things. It’s certainly not what we want to put students on computers to do just to replicate that same process. This teacher goes on to say, “They were so concerned with the procedures that we didn’t learn how to think mathematically. I remember hundreds of procedures with not a single math idea and that’s something we need to improve.”
You know, when we say to young children “One ten is the same as ten ones.” That’s like a mind-blowing kind of thing. That sounds like you’re talking crazy to a kid. There are certain things that are very hard to just explain and it’s still crazy on a computer. You don’t just want to digitize a bunch of difficult instructional experiences. We want to engage kids in meaning making as much as possible. And that’s well, one of the learning principles from Schooling by Design comes up. They say “Understandings cannot be given.” And I think that’s true with a lot of our own experience when you say “I didn’t understand this until I really dug in to it myself.” So, we have to engineer learning both in the classroom and with technology so learners see for themselves the power of an idea from making sense of things. I love that. We all want kids to have light bulb moments with powerful ideas.
You know, just another example. When you say, “Hey, you’re adding fractions, add the numerators but keep the denominator the same.” If you haven’t made sense of that, it’s very crazy and it’s still crazy on a computer. And that’s one of the limitations of instruction when you think about learning principles and instruction; too often our goal is for kids to be able to think independently and apply things on their own. And yet if we focus all the time on instruction, we end up saying “Here, let me show you how to do a problem that you’ve never seen before.” And what happens is students never learn how to tackle a problem they’ve never seen before. It’s kind of a paradox. You can’t show someone how to solve a problem they’ve never seen before because then they haven’t seen it. We can give them tools for problem solving and that’s kind of appear in the Common Core State, that’s where Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice are so valuable because this is a K-12 standard that I’m afraid a lot of people aren’t going to be giving measuring and paying close enough attention to, you know, how well are kindergarteners making sense of problems. How well are 11th graders constructing viable arguments?
Number seven, look for and make use of structure. How do we know that every single student has had both the opportunity and the requirements? How we gathered evidence that every student has actually looked for something in a meaningful way? It’s incredibly difficult to capture but so critical to making sure that our curriculum isn’t just about a bunch of procedures rather than understanding. So, a couple of things here with instruction often times we would say “Let me explain how a mathematician thinks” or “I’ve shown you the math structure, now go use it.” Whereas you have to design learning experiences so that we can say, “You know what, as you’re independently doing this, you are thinking like a mathematician.” There are some things maybe we can’t show that you just have to, you know, exercise that muscle in your brain so to speak. We’d say on your own, you’re going to need to look for the structure, then you need to find it, then you need to use it. That’s actually aligned outcomes with the standards which is what we are trying to accomplish. Those are more long-term goals like curiosity.
And so this is, you know, we’ve done this for quite some time with the research from the book “How People Learn”. We want to provide students with opportunities to first grapple with something. Then we have a “time for telling”. To use another modern language example I, was talking with some high school modern language teachers and they wanted students to know how to respond in a situation where they were with other speakers in their language that was their second language and they’re talking and it’s hard to kind of keep up because you’re just learning the language, you’re not fluent. And then all of a sudden, they start laughing and look at you, and they wanted students to know how to respond properly. And they were wondering if they should, you know, on Monday talk about decoding fast talk. On Tuesday should they talk about the Cultural Humor? On Wednesday, sort of this piece by piece what I actually suggested was, you know, start on Monday with that experience so that you can first grapple with it on your own and see how uncomfortable it feels and see kind of how cognitively confused you are and then there’s a time for us to tell you “Okay, here are some strategies for dealing with the situation.”
Next, the personal “Light Bulb” moments, (Differentiation and Adaptivity) all happen at different times for different learners and as educators that’s what we really want. So, we have to ask ourselves, in any school situation, certainly Blended Learning models, what should this student be learning, doing, and thinking about tomorrow? Where could she or should she should be learning it, which requires us to have quite a bit of information about her as a person and her learning and her progress. Unfortunately what usually happens is we start with the wrong question which is, “When is her birthday?” It has nothing to do with where she is or what she should be doing. It’s more about “Look at your birthday. You‘re in this grade. This is what we’re doing on the pacing calendar.” When you’re thinking about Blended Learning, this idea of time, place, path and pace which I’ll get to in just a second is pretty a valuable thing. Too often in history we’ve maybe viewed differentiation as handing out series of packets and just, I find a lot of adults actually had this experience which is not really differentiation, not necessarily good learning from Packets. If you’ve done any work with differentiated instruction, you’re probably familiar with Carol Ann Tomlinson’s work. These are four of ten bullets that she shares about aspects of differentiated classrooms and what it looks like. And that last bullet there, what does this student need at this moment to progress with this key content, and what do I need to do to make that happen? This is actually a place why a lot of schools are turning to Blended Learning models because there’s far too much data assessment, testing process that a single teacher with 20, 30 or 40 students can manage, can deal with. And plus, learning is not linear. We can’t just hand out a series of packets. It’s not how cognitive development takes place. We’ve known this since 1989 and even before then. We need students to instruct their own knowledge, develop their own cognitive maps and that’s part of the power of Blended Learning is you can meet students more where there at because there’s great learning options out there.
So, there’s, you know, a benefit of Blended Learning is that we’re becoming more thoughtful about the strategic use of precious class time. And I, someone mentioned that in the comments I think a moment ago. But the danger of Blended Learning is that we become less thoughtful and strategic about how students understand and make sense of things. That’s kind of a key thing is we talk about differentiating for students and how each student is going to make sense to handle those light bulb moments sort of in a different schedule. And that goes back, that’s the same quote, I’m just highlighting a different piece. “Learners need to see for themselves the power of an idea for making sense of things.” That’s what we want to do as educators.
So, moving from sort of light bulb moments for every student, in a blended classroom, the teacher’s role in the blended model, the teacher’s role does take on different variations; the teacher becomes a strategic facilitator, a coach, and an instructor. And often times, you know, this is sort of step five as I’ve outlined it because we first have to be talking about goals, the evidence, what the learning looks like and then, you know, deciding what teachers should be doing and how they should be using that class time. It needs to come in after we have talked about what we’re trying to accomplish. Classroom time, just like computer time should be seen as a means to an end.
Here’s another quote from math Blended Learning report, where you have this “Learning is no longer restricted to the time, the place, the path, and the pace.” This is a key piece of Blended Learning when you start changing the way that students’ learning time is structured, where they are learning, the learning path that they’re on, and the pace in which they’re learning.” These are some key descriptors about how Blended Learning kind of works. One thing to note about that here with “Path” it says “Learning is no longer restricted to the pedagogy used by the teacher.” It should be pointed out that your learning could be restricted in a Blended Learning model and limited by the pedagogy used by the online teacher in the online instruction, or the designs of the learning software. We never get away whether it’s in classrooms or with technology. We never get away from the pedagogy. We never get away from focusing on the results and how the learning is accomplished for students.
Going back to the same quote, you know, using computers in a Blended Learning model is not going to make a difference if students are still experiencing math class this way. Let’s go over the homework, let’s do the new stuff, and I’ll help you with it. We have to be doing things better and different. When I would work with new middle and high school math teachers, I would often ask them “Hey, what are you going to be providing in your classroom that students can‘t get online for free?” I asked that for several years because you really need to be thinking about that. What’s the best use of time when we have 30 10th graders together? What are things that we can only do when we have 30 students together? As opposed to looking at “Wow, I have these 30 students. It’s challenging to manage.” And that’s true if you’re trying to differentiate for each individual student, but if instead you think “What can I do with this group of kids that I can’t do in their part?” That’s a good way to be thinking about Blended Learning. [Great point from Peggy there in the comments. Same tools and methods digitally you’re not differentiating even if it’s with technology.]
The logistical classroom reality is that there’s pacing calendars, pacing guides and one of the things that Blended Learning helps with that, I mentioned the path and the pace and the time of learning changing. The teacher’s role is to help manage that time and so right now if it’s just everyone does long division on March 1st, we know as a teacher if we’re working one on one, now this student shouldn’t be working on long division. She needs basic multiplication and the other students in the class have these other things they could be working on. In order to do that for a teacher, part of the reason like I’ve mentioned Blended Learning is becoming valuable it’s because teachers didn’t go into the classroom usually to give more tests, to use more time for tests, to do more scoring, to do more grading, to analyze more data. And you need all of those things in order to differentiate and that’s one way that software can help.
Teachers in a Blended Learning model need to take into account more data than before, but it doesn’t have to be cumbersome. You looking at what you’re observing with students. You look at your own classroom assessment and as you use technology, you look at the other valid data provided by the technology in a Blended Learning model. And then you need to provide, you know, that menu of great learning options. One way that teachers in a Blended Learning model could be thinking about things is — this is just one way to conceive of it – you have group work on the left, individual work on the right, you have instruction and learning experiences. And in these four quadrants, you know, typically that quote from “Teaching What Matters Most” that I shared, that would be in the lower left can here its whole class instruction lecture where it’s here’s how to do the problems, take out your homework that sort of thing. That’s typically what happens, whole group instruction and that’s been a logistical reality. With technology and Blended Learning models you have more availability. There are, you know, individual learning experiences interactive software and apps, independent projects, more time for mentoring where teachers can be thinking more strategically about class time and this might be a framework you find helpful for that.
So, we’re coming close to about 15 minutes left in the webinar and I’m just going to zoom through these last sorts of steps that we’ll be sure that when the white paper gets out and gets finished you’ll have more thorough descriptions of these different things. But, Assessment Design, you’ll see there in the picture, we’re sort of plugging in finding out what’s going on in student’s minds and the way that assessment happens in the classroom and using technology is very important in a Blended Learning model because, you know, is it a pre post-test situation? Is it an interview observational assessment that’s happening? Is it formative in nature? Is the technology able to support formative assessment and is assessment used summatively? There are a lot of assessment design questions that we should be keenly interested in, in order to get the most sort of up to date information about where students are and what they should be learning.
And then there’s the reporting issue. You know, most technology programs do provide reporting for teachers, for administrators, often for parents as well. And as you consider choosing digital resources in a Blended Learning model taking a look at how those reports play out and how usable they are and the quality of the information they share, that is a key consideration as well. The graphic we’d chose here is this idea of, you know, student growth, you know, through graduation. Their progress is so critically important.
Now, Hardware and Implementation, that’s sort of step eight in the way I consider it, because you too often, technology infrastructure determines what is purchased. You know, a lot of times, your schools will purchase a bunch of iPads and then the next question will be “Okay, what apps should we install on them?” And that’s really why I placed this so low in the order of things because it always has to start with the learning or what you’re trying to accomplish. And then ideally, you know, you’d frame your technology purchases and plans more around the learning software and things that you need as opposed to finding some devices and then trying to figure out what to do with them. We’ve see that happen far too often with a lot of different technology. And then of course the professional development requirements you see there in that little cloud there for number eight. There’s a lot going on here. Here’s the ‘devil’s in the details.’ And too often those details become the utmost priority as opposed to learning being the top priority.
Number nine, Evidence of Efficacy. Whether it be research conducted by a school district, whether it be, you know, word of mouth, whether it be, any sort of evidence that the software has been successful, has really made meaningful support, has provided meaningful support to the learning outcomes we’re looking for, be sure to consider that as well.
And lastly, Taking a Test Drive, the idea that, yeah if there’s software out there that you want to use in your blended model, you should have a decent opportunity, take a look at it and see if it is going to fit your needs, if it is going to be good for you. And hopefully, what you’ve gotten out of most of what I shared is all of these ideas are about us as educators deciding what good is, you know, when you say “Oh, is that good software? Is that a good device?” You can only determine what is good based on the outcomes that you are looking for.
Question and Answer Session
So, I kind of zipped to those last ones to provide some time for some Q&A. Alright, so one question that’s come through from Kim at the ELA School. Can you give some more practical Blended Learning tips and ideas that you can use in your classroom tomorrow? Yeah that’s a free question in the sense that, you know, we always are looking at when we find ideas and have access to tools we’d like to use things quickly. And everything that I’ve shared has really been a high level sort of thing rather as “Tomorrow, here’s how you can implement Blended Learning and take it directly to students.”
The first thing that you need to do is if you are using any software or let’s say there’s a website that you’ve been using in your class for a while. The best thing to do first is to probably take a look, you know, tonight at the goals that you are trying to accomplish. And then take a look at the website and see if it really is accomplishing those goals. You know, simply put Blended Learning means, you know, supporting what you’re doing in your classroom with technology. And so you think about what you would be doing in class tomorrow. And is there a way that you could use technology to support that? And it depends so much on your infrastructure on the software that’s available. Blended Learning as a model is something that’s a little more deliberate than sort of a make and take kind of thing, but if you can very clearly, you know, tell your students, “Hey folks, here’s what we’ve been working on. Here is a piece of technology that I’ve found that can support what we’re trying to do. Now go work with it keeping in mind this is the goal. That would be the first step, I think but it’s definitely not really something that can happen overnight as becoming part of your day to day business. It requires a significant effort. In another webinar we did with Tom Vander Ark he said that, you know, when the lessons over you have kids work on the computers. That’s not Blended Learning and that’s probably true on the off chance that after you teach your lesson, you’re using digital software for kids to practice what you taught in that lesson, that probably counts as Blended Learning, but as a sort of free for all go spend some time in the computers, probably not.
Scott, great question about comprehensive research, evaluating the effects of Blended Learning, I don’t know of any off hand. I would say that Tom Vander Ark’s website, GettingSmart.com, might be where you could find something to search around anything. Part of I think education research in general and certainly Blended Learning research is, as I’ve mentioned earlier that clarification of the goals of what we’re trying to accomplish that it’s kind of difficult to say “Well, we’re blending learning in math, but we’re not blending learning in English, but our school’s scores went up like this.” You know, of course, it’s a little bit messy. I don’t know if it would be possible, to, I’m sure it’s possible if you can measure anything. We have on our website a few case studies of districts that have used DreamBox effectively in Blended Learning models, but it’s in terms of like wide ranging, how effective is Blended Learning. I don’t know anybody that’s out there. I think yesterday, there was some research published about Flipped classrooms. I think something came out yesterday that I saw on Twitter. But as Peggy says “What’s the value added of using technology?” Yeah, if you’re doing the same thing necessarily expected to improve learning, yeah.
My Twitter handle is @DocHudsonMath and I don’t always tweet about math and I’m actually still sort of getting into Twitter. Any other questions that might be coming up? I apologize I saw someone view the slides in the audio weren’t exactly synced up so, I apologize for that. But one of the things that yeah somebody called out in the comments. What is the best use of class time? That’s really the key thing to Blended Learning, be deliberate about what you’re trying to accomplish whether it’s the books you choose, the print resources that you select the professional development that you invest in your time teacher’s time. And make sure that it’s aligned with your goals. If you like, someone else have mentioned that they’ve appreciated that the curious learner was in our mission statement. And that was, yeah, it was a very deliberate decision because when you’re trying to cultivate curiosity, there are you have to do things a little differently. You need to maybe hire differently and that’s also stuffed in Schooling by Design. Once you’ve come up with your mission, your curriculum, your assessments well only then do you know, who you need to hire and how administrators and teachers need to be evaluated and what you’re looking for when you have a perspective teaching candidate come in because there are things you can do to cultivate curiosity like grading student’s questions instead of their answers. Yeah, that’s one simple way, but the technology that you choose should complement that, should work right alongside of it because learning is learning whether it’s in the classroom or with technology. I’m not seeing any other question which is fine. Hopefully that means I was clear so…
Alright, so in closing. I want to thank you for your time. There’s my contact information if you’d like to reach me