Four Essential Principles of Blended Learning Katrina Schwartz
The above article posted on Mind/Shift How We Learn had me thinking about the many successful tools I use in my blended math class. If I were to choose one thing I could not teach without, it would be the formative assessment software ASSISTments.org. Five years ago, my classroom only had an overhead projector and two classroom computers, no wireless network and access to two computer labs for a middle school of 800 students. It was then that I learned about ASSISTments. ASSISTments does many of the same things that other formative assessment software does. There are two reasons I still choose ASSISTments. First, I can use their created content by CCSS or create my own content. Second, it is a federally funded free online tool.
ASSISTments does four things for me and my students.
1. Track every student every day. I teach a team of 100 students. ASSISTments allows for me to track the progress towards the learning goals of every student, every day. I start my day with a cup of coffee and a review of the data reports responding to and planning around what I can infer from the data. I know who didn't do the work, who did, who is successful, who is struggling and mostly have data to generate a classroom discussion about math.
2. Generate classroom discussions around the learning goals. The data generated by ASSISTments allows for the students to analyze the report (names hidden) and discuss common errors. Each and every student is engaged in this work because they are prompted to think deeply about the learning when analyzing the data. High achieving students are engaged, thinking deeply about the concepts. The lower achieving students are asking specific questions, and figuring out their own errors, learning from this deep thinking.
3. Students learn to own their own learning progression. Students change their attitude about making mistakes when they gain control over their own learning progress. Students get correctness feedback from ASSISTMents on their homework/classwork. This allows them time to reflect, review notes, check math work, and ask for help from other student or me. They come to class in the morning having a clear view of their level of success with the learning objectives, often prepared with questions or anxious to share what they did wrong. In my math class the learning happens in the struggle and ASSISTments helps my students embrace the struggle.
4. Differentiate classroom instruction from data reports. My blended classroom is structured around the needs of each students. Differentiated groups are structured around the needs of students and the data generated by their classwork/homework on ASSISTments. The learning objective is posted and there is required work each must accomplish. The high achieving students are able to work at their pace moving ahead to challenge work while lower achieving students are working on the required work with the support of small group teaching.
Five years later I have a class set of iPads, a Smartboard, two classroom computers, and a wireless network students can access with their own devices. All these tools are just tools. They only become part of a well run blended learning classroom when implemented to best serve the students and teacher. ASSISTments.org serves me and my students on so many levels. This software allows for deeper learning with more teaching and learning time because of the four points explained here. I use many online programs for different purposes now but ASSISTment.org is the foundation of my blended classroom. It gives me the time to do the important work, teach my students!