Sunday, April 7, 2013

My blended learning, reflecting on flipped lessons, technology, and the CCSS...

I began this year with plans to use technology to flip my lessons. I was focused on one primary goal, use technology to make the most of teaching and learning. That goal, along with moving to 80 percent CCSS has brought about much unexpected change in the way I teach and the way my students learn.

My district is not technology rich. We have two computer labs we share across 750 middle school students grades 5-8. We have some wifi in the building and are only beginning to allow students to bring their own devices. A Smartboard was installed in my classroom this year which really made a huge difference in allowing me to support my students by exporting PDF notes of classroom examples.

The following is some of the technology that has supported my blended model of teaching and learning.  Technology supports and drives my lessons. It saves me time giving me more time to dedicate to my students. It supports my transition to the CCSS through the vast resources that have emerged from sharing national standards. I have created a list a mile long of internet resources and narrowed my list to my favorites over time. Presently, these are my essential technology tools.

1. (free) (for my students) has become the center of my student communication. I upload copies of notes that I export from my smartboard as a PDF, homework, links, helpful resources and anything else that will support my students learning outside of my classroom. A few of my students will write to me just about every night through a direct post. Students also ask homework questions and support each other through a group post. I know I have found a good tool when I wonder how I taught without it. Absent students can see all the missing work by dates and support material. Parents can also sign into a parent view of all their child's Edmodo groups if more than one teacher is using Edmodo.

2. (free) (for professional development) I belong to over 15 different professional Edmodo groups with other teachers. This has been a great resource as we transition into CCSS. Teachers offer all types of good resources and answer questions for each other. Connecting with teachers globally has taught me so much and lead me to some great resources.

3. (free) is a formative assessment website. It produces all kinds of data to guide your lesson progression. Once you establish an account, you have access to already created content by CCSS or you can create your own. I have been using this tool for four years and again, wonder how I taught without it.  I mostly use it for formative assessment data to measure achievement towards lesson goals. I can track each and every students, know where there are common problems, address any individual needs, differentiate group work based on data and so on............the list is endless. This week my students are completing a skills review with tutoring built in. They took an adaptive pre-assessment and were assigned review based on their results. The work is being completed at home and/or after school in the computer lab. This review will hopefully help them improve scores on the state math test in May. My students have learned to use their own data to adjust their learning strategies. It is amazing to see how they own their learning once they get used to having data feedback on their learning progression.

 4.  (free) is my favorite flipped lessons website. At the beginning of the year I used several resources for flipped lesson at home. I made some of my own too. My students really found Learnzillion to be just right for them. The video units are built around the CCSS and searchable by grade, content and standard. The videos have downloadable slideshows that the teacher can edit to your class. There is also guided practice for the students.  I use these videos for review, preview, introduction and teaching. I love this site so much that I am working for them this summer and proud to be a member of the 200 teacher strong Learnzillion Dream Team 2013.

5. is part of ExploreLearning. It is not free but I applied or a grant and am using it for free for a year. It is game based math facts practice. I identified all my at risk students and they are using this adaptive software to practice math facts to improve their math fact fluency. This is the piece of teaching we don't have time to go back and do for students so this software is doing it for them. They can view reports of their progress and so can I. I am happy to find something to support these at risk students outside of the classroom.

6. is not free but a fantastic web site filled with all types of real world examples of math. I show real world math to get my students to see purpose in their hard work. Most videos are excellent. This site provides a  lot of support to teachers too.

Back to my flipped lessons and my goals for the year. My lessons have turned into an ongoing learning process with no real defined line between school and home or learning/teaching except for our physical location. Many teachers worry about continual communication with students taking too much of their personal time. It really only takes a little time but the students have the sense of always being supported at any given time. They have grown to take ownership of their learning with me as their coach available to help when they need it. The "Blended Learning" is a better term to define what my lessons looks like. We have blended technology resource, classroom and home learning together to create a new model of learning that meets my students in their world where they learn best. Interestingly, my actual classroom is not technology rich and is centered around discussion and group work as my students work their way through their learning progressions in school and at home.

I would love to hear from other teachers on how your classroom has evolved this year.