Tag Archives: Blended Learning

Pedagogical Tools

20 Aug


The list of digital technologies that might be used for teaching and learning is extensive. It includes: LMSs (Learning Management Systems); MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses); BYOD (bring your own device); BYOT (bring your own technology); BYOC (bring your own connectivity); makerspaces; robotics; digital portfolios; online discussion forums; blogging platforms; wikis, microblogging; back channels; audio recording and music making; image and video editing; creation of infographics, slideshows, and presentations; digital storytelling; social media; collaboration tools; mobile apps; game-based learning and environments; coding and computer programming; augmented and virtual realities; technologies for creating physical or virtual 3D models; gesture-based computing; learning analytics and statistical analysis software; online authoring tools; wearable technology; affective computing; rubric generators; quizzes; online response systems such as polls and surveys; video conferencing; cloud computing; and student feedback tools such as Turnitin, GradeMark, and PeerMark.

E-learning technologies are sometimes defined as asynchronous (any-time) or synchronous (real-time). Flipped learning is that in which traditional teacher instruction is delivered between classes via online video or presentation technologies, and class time is used for application and collaboration. Blended learning melds traditional classroom pedagogies with online learning tools and environments.


Curriculum Reflections

11 Oct


What comes to mind when you hear the term curriculum leader?  Do you have a vision of your HOF standing at the back of your classroom observing teaching and learning?  Do you see the instructional leader as the building principal conducting three-minute walk-through observations?  Is the curriculum leader the department chair? How many curriculum leaders can one school hold?

Curriculum leadership should not be determined by a person’s title or years of experience.  Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school. Strong, intentional leadership in curriculum development is a necessity for strong instructional leadership.

Curriculum leadership is complicated because leading curriculum development meetings involves working with fallible, imperfect human beings.  A second reason curriculum leadership is difficult is due to the school schedule and a lack of extended time for teachers to discuss and revise existing curriculum documents.  I know in my environment the complexity of documents can seem confusing. While it is difficult to ask for each teacher’s input, documents that are top-down rarely receive as much teacher buy-in as documents that were created by the teachers who are required to implement the curriculum.  Curriculum leaders must work together to create a culture of trust where teachers and administrators can agree to disagree.  Furthermore, leaders must develop quality time and create schedules which provide time for creative thinking and reflection, rather than scheduling early release days when teachers complete fill-in-the blank curriculum worksheets.

Five Reasons Why Schools Need Curriculum Leaders:

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides clarity.

What should every student know and be able to do?

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides opportunities to develop and empower future leaders.

Curriculum leadership is not a solo act.

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for continuous improvement.

Schools should be learning organizations.

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity to establish goals.

Goals provide teachers and students with something to aim for.

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for improved alignment.

Blended Learning

25 Aug


Blending learning is a new and often misunderstood pedagogical term. The best blended learning teachers understand that blended learning is student-centred and based on data. I emphasize that “three Ps” should guide how teachers approach student driven blended learning:
  • Students choose their own path: By empowering students to pursue the topics that interest them in formats that best suit them, blended learning is appealing, engaging, and personalized. What’s more, it helps students feel a sense of ownership over their learning, while teachers provide expert guidance.
  • Students work at their own pace: By customizing the pace of instruction and learning to meet individual student needs, blended learning enables students to spend their time more productively. Students can focus on improving skills that need work and skip past material that they have already mastered, which makes instruction more targeted and responsive to the differentiated learning levels in a particular class.
  • Students choose the place where they learn: Because so many useful and engaging resources are available online, students can learn from home and on the go, as well as in more traditional classroom spaces. This means that learning can happen any-place and any-time.The classical flipped classroom.

What have been you experiences in the Flipped environment?

Flipped Classroom Tool

13 Aug


The flipped classroom describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as problem-solving, discussion or debates.

In the flipped classroom, the roles and expectations of students and teachers change where:

  1. students take more responsibility for their own learning and study core content either individually or in groups before class and then apply knowledge and skills to a range of activities using higher order thinking,
  2. teaching ‘one-to-many’ focuses more on facilitation and moderation than lecturing, though lecturing is still important. Significant learning opportunities can be gained through facilitating active learning, engaging students, guiding learning, correcting misunderstandings and providing timely feedback using a variety of pedagogical strategies,
  3. there is a greater focus on concept exploration, meaning making and demonstration or application of knowledge in the face-to-face setting.

My favourite tool to in the classroom is Movenote. Movenote is a great free tool that integrates nicely with Google apps. With Movenote, you can easily present your documents with video and/or voice. You can also use a pointer tool to highlight particular parts of the presentation. I tend to use Movenote when I have templates using Google docs or presentations. I can then explain in detail how to use the templates, highlighting specific parts as I explain. Movenote then hosts the videos that are created, and I can either embed them on my site or use the link so students can watch the instructions anytime that they need to.

Thinking about eLearning

14 Apr

eLearning offers educators and students alike opportunities for creating meaningful learning environments. eLearning enables different types of social interaction, provide ready access to information and can overcome some of the difficulties presented by time and space. Students and teachers alike can create new materials and new knowledge with the media tools now available to them. These tools are constantly evolving as individuals and companies create and refine new software.

Including eLearning in teaching and learning requires a re-conceptualization of the curriculum and how it can be taught. Using eLearning to simply replace blackboards with whiteboards and pens with computers and word processors does not constitute a re-conceptualization of teaching and learning, nor the nature of school education. Bluntly PowerPoint is not eLearning. Such an approach will not support students to ‘learn, unlearn, and relearn’. I read somewhere this year that eLearning is just a tool to improve pedagogy.

The Online Environment

6 Feb

The importance of the design of an online learning environment is best summed up by Palloff and Pratt (2007). “We argue that it is not the curriculum we are converting but our teaching methodology; when our pedagogy changes, so must the course….

The four steps for creating an online course are:

  1. Defining outcomes and objectives.
  2. Choosing appropriate reading material, assignments and tasks.
  3. Establishing a topic – driven course outline
  4. Developing and aligning assessment activities with outcomes and objectives” (Palloff and Pratt, 2007, p130).

This sits well with the process I used to develop this my classest his year and will use to develop others like it in the future. In conclusion I felt my first step into online learning was a success because I saw students develop “who were confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners.” (The New Zealand Curriculum Document p7).

A Mixed Bag…

24 Nov
10 Random Thoughts on Teaching and Learning Part One:

1). The relationships among the staff in school have a significant impact on student learning & student achievement.
2). Teachers are responsible for their own professional development.

3). The simple idea that somebody encourages and believes in you can be hugely empowering.

4). A teacher not being attentive to the emotional status of the students in class is approaching educational malpractice.
5). Use your professional language with your students; in time, they will too…be a vocal & visible advocate for teaching.
6). Get with your students and move in your class!
7). Our students need all types of experiences. It’s not all about assessment and credits. .
8). Plan with purpose & act with confidence.
9). The purpose of education is so that younger generations surpass us rather than match us. We are creating leaders of tomorrow.
10). Our future depends on the individuals who break from the conventional practices

On-line Discussion Boards

I have had much success with this over the last 5 years but it has not been easy. I have relayed a great deal on literature and sharing ideas. Edelstein and Edwards (2002) reported the need for the teacher to manage the online learning environment through threaded discussion boards. “To accomplish a level of interaction that is conducive to an active and progressive learning community, a facilitator may opt to incorporate threaded discussions as a means of generating or promoting interaction” (Edelstein, S., Edwards, J. 2002, p21). Typically this would occur in a Wiki or perhaps some variant of a Blog.

The use of threaded discussion boards, allows for a level of connectivity and interaction in the process of learning that potentially occurs on the learners’ terms and time. It is also a process that calls upon the different learning styles. Steven A. Greenlaw and Stephen B. DeLoach (2003). “If critical thinking is to occur, students must be engaged by the assignment….For this engagement to occur, several things are necessary. First, the electronic discussion needs to be seen as an integral part of the course, neither optional nor extra credit. Second, the discussion should be clearly connected to the material being covered during the in-class sessions” (Greenlaw, S. A., DeLoach. S.B. 2003, p42).

“A threaded discussion is a resource that enables individuals to post messages, read, and reply to colleagues in an asynchronous discussion. This asynchronous format is one in which each member can contribute at a time that is convenient and is utilized for its capability to bring online learners together, even though they may connect with one another at different times and from different locations (Liaw & Huang, 2000; Wall Williams, et al., 2001; Youngblood, Trede, & DiCorpo, 2001)” (Waltonen-Moore. S., Stuart. D., Newton. E., Oswald. R., Varonis, E. 2006, p288).

Please be in contact if you would like to more information.

You’re the Voice

28 Sep

At my school we use student voice a great deal and very effectively I must say. At the end of every topic I send a survey out to my students. On one level it’s fantastic to get feedback from your learners about what is going well in class and what needs tweaking but on the other there’s the realization that my students are grading me.  Was I too grumpy yesterday when student A hadn’t finished work? Could I have done a better job of talking to Student B about their draft? Did I let an administration problem affect my teaching?

The evaluation is done in class but I am considering doing it via Google forms or 365 and the results then get shared with my HOF. Most of the questions are agree/disagree questions like ‘my teacher treats students and their ideas with respect. There is also the room for comment. It is something our students love.

I tend to prefer qualitative feedback that quantitative. A number of my students have talked about wanting more challenging work so I will work with them to look for projects that they can sink their teeth into for the rest of the year but more importantly for the 2015 cohort. They love my eLearning format and some students have requested to go fully online in 2015 without being in my class. This will be something I will have to put a great deal of thought into. As I have written here before the I have had great success with.

Cooper (2001) noted that a blended learning environment, one in which the traditional classroom and the online classroom complement each other, gives the best outcome. “Online instruction can offer new challenges and opportunities to both students and instructors. Most students do not view online instruction as a replacement for traditional classroom instruction. However, with the right subject matter, with the right instructor or facilitator, and for the right student, Internet or online classes can provide an effective educational environment and offer a viable alternative to traditional classroom instruction” (Cooper, 2001, p57).

Singh recommended that the blended learning environment was the next wave for E-Learning and that it would feature rich media content. “Blended learning combines multiple delivery media that are designed to complement each other and promote learning and application-learned behaviour” (Singh, 2003, p52). Investigating the idea that has serious results for teaching online, Singh goes onto mention that the online learning component within a blended learning environment, should be self-paced. This raises the apparition of the teacher being at best just a facilitator and at worst, a spectator (Singh, 2003, p58).

Another thing want to get better at before the end of the year is getting my students to work on managing self. This something my learners are not good at. Perhaps this could be a PLG study in 2015?

Professional Readings:

Cooper, L. W. (2001) A Comparison of Online and Traditional Computer Applications Classes. T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education) 28 (8) 52-58

Singh H. (2003) Building Effective Blended Learning Programs in November – December 2003Issue of Educational Technology, Volume 43, Number 6, Pages 51-54 Retrieved 9 August 2009 from http://asianvu.com/bookstoread/framework/blended-learning.pdf

Blended learning

15 Sep

“Blended learning combines multiple delivery media that are designed to complement each other and promote learning and application-learned behaviour” (Singh, 2003, p52). Investigating the idea that has serious results for teaching online, Singh goes onto mention that the online learning component within a blended learning environment, should be self-paced. This raises the apparition of the teacher being at best just a facilitator and at worst, a spectator (Singh, 2003, p58).

I am an exponent of the Blended learning environment especially the Flipped classroom. So let’s look at the behind-the-scenes of blended learning. What does it really take to be a blended learning teacher?

1. Flexibility

Things go wrong all the time. Have a digital Plan B on hand or, if necessary, a way to teach the same goal, but offline, using the resources in the room. You have to model patience. I know it’s hard.

2. Problem-Solving

Our tech person can’t focus only on your needs even though you might be using technology more than others. You need to great creative in your problem solving. I must remember to log problems on the job site.

3. Scaffold More

Make sure you lead up to your expectations in a step-by-step way. For instance, I start the year by setting out rules you can’t just ask students to blog or join the discussion room. You need to help them first understand.

5. Willingness to Learn from Students

They may know more than you.

6. Willingness to Give Up Time After School

Be prepared to get sucked into awesome online conversations long after the school bell rings. It won’t seem like a chore. It’s a pleasure.

I know that blended learning may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Having said all that, however, even those who may not be partial to these techniques may soon have to learn to be. It’s our students’ future. And what’s their future is ours too.

Singh H. (2003) Building Effective Blended Learning Programs in November – December 2003Issue of Educational Technology, Volume 43, Number 6, Pages 51-54 Retrieved

9 August 2014 from http://asianvu.com/bookstoread/framework/blended-learning.pdf

What Effective Feedback Is and Isn’t

11 Aug


As I prepare students for their next assignment I have stirred considerable interest in feedback and feed forward in conversations with students and staff.

Effective feedback is an enormous topic – and a crucial one for us to understand due to its powerful effect on student achievement.  Few aspects of teaching and learning have more potential to raise achievement.

To be effective, feedback must be goal-referenced, understandable, and immediately actionable.  Feedback should not be advice, evaluation, or value judgements.

Marge Scherer, editor of ASCD’s Educational Leadership, says that the best feedback “describes what the student has done and helps the student decide what to do next.” – notice she used the verb “describes” and not “evaluates”.

John Hattie and Helen Temperley, in their 2007 Article for Educational Review “Assessment: Feedback to Promote Student Learning”, gave us the three essential questions:
1. Where am I going? (What is the goal?)
2. How am I going? (What progress is being made towards the goal?)
3. Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?)

Hattie and Temperley called these: feed-up, feed-back, and feed-forward.

Grant Wiggins does a great job of further describing what effective feedback is and isn’t in his article: 7 Keys to Effective Feedback.

For Effective Teacher-to-Learner Feedback:

The key to effective feedback actually comes BEFORE the students begin their work.  Effective feedback requires well designed learning goals and success criteria against which students’ progress can be compared to formulate good feedback.  The timing of the completion of the work must be planned so the feedback can be given DURING the learning process, not after it.  Feedback loses a great deal of its impact if it is accompanied by a mark or grade.

To maximise the effectiveness of the feedback, teachers must:

Set clear, concrete, specific learning goals and must demonstrate what success will look like:
Do the students know what success looks like? Are the criteria clear enough for students to measure their work against it to identify gaps?

If you have the time and want to dive into some indepth study of Learning Goals, the Ontario Ministry of Education has put together a  short-course: Learning Goals & Success Criteria (6 videos of approx 8mins and a 57 page self-study guide).

Thanks to my PLN for providing me with this information this week.


Thanks for the questions and feedback on online learning.

I hope this is useful. In my teaching environment we commonly use the discovery approach to learning. Students have little trouble with the discovery approach to learning (Constructivist), so long as it is purposeful, engaging and directed at using the processes of cognition that improve learning. The experience of this pedagogy is that it encourages teachers to deliver lessons that are accessible to the Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic learner. The research of Kolb and Fry and also of Peter Jarvis, serves to remind us that in designing Online Courses, it is necessary to cater for the wide range of learning styles that exist (Smith 2001). Online Learning, should allow students to experience the Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic aspects of learning. This suggests that the online delivery of courses should draw on rich-mixed forms of media, to ensure maximum engagement with the students. Please contact me for references noted here.


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