Krystal's Klog

Volume 1, Issue 4

Blended Learning

Now is the time of year that our stress can reach a fever pitch. Data hangs in the air like a thick fog, and everywhere I turn I hear snippets of conversation about benchmarks and released tests and bubble kids and district rankings.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. We are all talking about our students and how to help them achieve at the highest level possible. One way to help our students is through differentiation and blended learning.

Blended learning may have a bit of the flipped learning reputation, something new and different that someone is forcing us to try. But in fact, blended learning is something that we are actually doing all over our campus already. We teach whole group, small group, with computers, with games, with videos, etc. In many of our classes there is "true" blended learning because the students are using resources such as Study Ladder, Think Through Math, Odyssey, iStation, BrainPOP, etc to learn at their own pace, with lessons that are just right for them. There is also the piece of blended learning that has students continuing their learning outside of the classroom, which is see all around our campus as well.

Where I feel we could better leverage blended learning is by being more intentional about it. While many of the programs we use are fantastic, there isn't a lot of control from the teacher, and the students may end up getting lessons that are not as important as other lessons we would have chosen for them.

This is where having a device for each student, and way to easily and quickly communicate with the students what we want them to do would be fantastic. As our district looks more at the blended learning model, they have begun to look at Learner Management Systems or LMSes. After hearing from a few LMS providers, I've started to get really excited about the possibilities they hold for our students and for us. What I get really excited about is the ability to collaborate about what to do in our classrooms, and then share best instruction among students. We don't even have to be departmentalized to have teachers focus on a lesson or area that they have fantastic ideas and resources for, we just have to use the LMS to deliver that instruction.

If I notice that my team member has amazing abilities with teaching fractions, I can leverage that to my advantage with an LMS. Most of the platforms have the ability to record video right in the lesson. We could work out a flipped lesson that would allow all students in my grade level to benefit from that expertise, while I share my expertise in something else. This is at the heart of departmentalization--focusing on the area that you are really passionate about so you can teach the heck out of it.

We are doing this already. Fifth grade trades classes, fourth grade teachers get the whole grade level together, and we share our ideas and lessons within teams all the time. Having an LMS and a device for every student would increase our ability to reach them with the best and most timely instruction, without a lot of extra effort on our part, which allows us to continue to broaden the reach and depth of our instruction.

I came across an article for an app called Tiny Tap that I had saved a while back. On the surface it looks like it is a very simplistic app designed for toddlers, and while it is, I think that it could be used for much, much higher learning.

The premise is simple--add a picture or video--create a question that could be answered by tapping something on the screen and highlight the part of the screen that could answer the question. So for basic memorization of things like landforms, math equation vocabulary (think addend, subtrahend, etc.) and the like, it would be very easy to create quizzes to test that knowledge. Have the students create the quizzes and you have already added a layer of depth. For ESL students this would be great for learning parts of the classroom or building. And because it is oral and tactile, it makes the quizzes accessible to all students. Tiny Tap also just added "challenge mode" to the app, which will allow for score keeping!

But I think that we could go further with app-smashing. App-smashing is taking several apps and using them together to create a final product. If you are wanted to make the questions multiple choice, you could find several pictures, use a photo editing app to make a collage and then use that image in Tiny Tap. Or better yet, have the students do all of those things. If pictures aren't readily available, have the students draw pictures to go with the concepts.

I think this is one of those apps that has so many possibilities beyond just the intended use. I'd love to bounce some Tiny Tap ideas around with you!

March Digital Citizenship

Kindergarten: Parts of the computer on BrainPOP, Jr. Moby and Annie share the basics of computers, what they are, how they can be used and what the different parts are. Feel free to watch the video at (Email me for username and password.)

First Grade: Online Safety. "Professor" Garfield along with the cutest kitten Nermal teach the students the basics of staying safe while online. They will learn the acronym YAPPY to help them remember what information is private and not to share their private information.

Second Grade and Fourth Grade: Forms of Media with Professor Garfield. When Nermal goes bonkers of Sugar Coated Sugar Puffs, he learns a powerful lesson about media and how it can be persuasive. Students take a look at advertisements and learn to ask five questions: who is the author, what media format does it take, who is the audience, what is the content and what it the purpose.

Third Grade: Powerful Passwords by Common Sense Media. This is an introductory lesson to passwords. Student discuss why we have passwords and learn the do's and don't's of creating strong passwords. Here is an online security family tip sheet.

Fifth Grade: Privacy Rules by Common Sense Media. This lesson teaches students to take a look at the privacy laws of children's websites and to actually read the privacy statements that they usually just click right through. Here's a family tip sheet on privacy and digital footprints.

Questions? Feel free to contact me!

About Me

A Klog is a knowledge base, and that is what I would like for my newsletters to be. A knowledge base of ideas, tips and tricks, news and stuff that I find interesting and hope that others will too.