Teaching with technology presents a unique set of challenges for middle school teachers. On one hand, kids love their devices, many become so engrossed in their digital activities that they forget what time it is. On the other hand, leaning on a computer can be extremely distracting. Ask any adult, how often do you sit without checking email, social media, Amazon or the latest sports score. In 22 years of teaching, I have had the pleasure of teaching face to face in a public-school setting, earning a master’s degree at a distance online, teaching online courses in a virtual school and designing courses for online use. Based on these experiences, I have seen the benefits of online learning, but also it’s drawbacks. I believe the key to success in our schools is blended learning. It provides the best of both worlds bridging face to face learning with online technology.
The virtual experience for middle school students. Kids love the idea of being 1 to 1, learning from home. I see the appeal. The greatest challenge is the lack of working face to face with other students and teachers. Unfortunately, a very few numbers of our mainstreamed middle school students have the organizational skills and discipline needed to succeed in a wholly online learning environment. I have seen personally students not log in for days, do very little work. When they return to a regular school setting, they have massive gaps in their education. At one end, sitting a student down in front of a computer for the entire day is not an effective use of time. On the flip side, we’ve all experienced that teacher that lectures 24/7. Even the best students begin to drift off despite the best intentions. Siting squarely between these two extremes is blended learning. Here are the three basic components.
Component 1: Part of the course is delivered through online instruction. This could be through the use of websites like EdPuzzle, Readworks or and LMS like Google Classroom. Instruction could be recorded in a flipped lesson or read though sites like CK12. The key is harnessing online tools and apps to reach desired learning goals. These can be video, interactives, games or using productivity tools.
Component 2: Part of the course is delivered face to face. Kids build a relationship with their instructor. Kids need someone to model behaviors, check their understanding and interact with on the good and bad days. The teacher provides enthusiasm, guidance and skill building for students. This all works together to reach meaningful learning goals.
Component 3: The interaction of the online and face to face components. This is where the professional educator planning skills come into play. The face to face lesson and the online components must be aligned. At the most basic level, if you teach three new skills face to face, then students should apply those three new skills online. For example: Students are discussing the latest impact of a massive Earthquake as a class. Looking at examples of destruction and empathizing with the families that have lost everything. The effective blended learning experiences connects this discussion/learning event with an online component. For example, kids can research what tectonic plates this occurred on. Or they use a Google interactive to build fault models to apply to this situation. The opportunities here are only limited by your imagination.
In this series of post, we will be looking at the components of blended learning and how to develop effective teaching and learning moments. Until them, here are some examples that take advantage of blended learning to teach science concepts.
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