Let’s get this started!

Hello everyone and welcome back!

So today, I’m going to be talking a little about my course prototype project. As of right now, I’ve only got a couple of rough ideas, but I’m hoping that by reading more of your blogs and thinking out loud, I can perhaps come closer to a conclusive route.

Back to the ol’ drawing board
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I’ve paired up with my classmates and coworkers Jaymee and Roxanne. We decided to take the blended learning approach, applying it to middle years ELA (specifically grade 6).

Now, there’s a big reason why I personally want to explore this specific subject. For one, I teach grade 6, so I’m quite aware of what students of this age find appealing, and more importantly, what they are more likely receptive to. Secondly, kids love technology. I love technology. So shouldn’t this just…work?

Right?
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Well, the more I think about it, the more trouble I have trying to come up with effective ways to construct a blended learning course as we would see in this example.

Reading through Stephen Downes’ post gave me some interesting insight on the difference between personal and personalized learning. The following quote breaks it up quite nicely:

Personalized learning is like being served at a restaurant. Someone else selects the food and prepares it. There is some customization – you can tell the waiter how you want your meat cooked – but essentially everyone at the restaurant gets the same experience.

Personal learning is like shopping at a grocery store. You need to assemble the ingredients yourself and create your own meals. It’s harder, but it’s a lot cheaper, and you can have an endless variety of meals. Sure, you might not get the best meals possible, but you control the experience, and you control the outcome.

What’s cookin’ good lookin’?
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Keeping this analogy in mind, I realize that my classroom definitely leans more towards Downes’ interpretation of personalized learning. Although I am providing my students with options (including the use of digital resources and tools), ultimately, they’re all getting the same thing (with minor changes here and there to cater to some of their personal needs).

The way I see it, blended learning should be catering to students’ needs in more ways than this. Essentially, I should be providing my students with a space to explore at their own rhythm, according to their own learning styles, capacities, interests and so on and so forth. I’d love to say that I do these things, but I don’t…which leaves me wondering, how on earth I can change this?

I dunno…
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The video we watched in class last week gave me so many ideas, but as I sat there watching, I realized that a lot of the things they were doing in the video would require a full-blown reconstruction of my classroom. The video is idealistic, and is obviously showing us what we can do, given that we have the resources, materials and the technology available for all students. For what it’s worth, the video gave me a better sense of what all this means.

After reading up on the SAMR model, I realized that whenever I’m using technology in the classroom, I’m rarely ever doing anything groundbreaking. My goal with this project is to actually come up with some concrete ideas on how to redefine the way I use technology in the classroom.
SAMR MODEL IMAGE SOURCE

I guess this is where I’m stuck right now.

What would make my ELA course a truly redefining learning experience for my students? Keeping in mind what Downes said, establishing this type of environment would require providing my students access to a wide range of digital and physical resources and tools. Knowing the reality that not all students have access to these tools, how can I still do these things within my school and community’s means?

hmmmm…
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For my prototype, I’m thinking of doing some sort of “exchange” writing assignment. “Exchange” in the sense that students would be paired up with another student, from another classroom, from another school (in another community, country, etc.). I realize that simply writing something on a word document is not blended learning; so perhaps integrating this exchange between students could truly enhance and redefine the way they work.

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Now the big question here is, what are the students going to write about? At the moment, I’m thinking a project like this should require some sort of research aspect. What’s the point of connecting two communities if there isn’t going to be some sort of exchange of ideas and information between both parties? This is where I’m hoping students make the call. If I want to create a blended learning course, the student should be calling more of the shots, including what they’re going to learn about.

Students could conduct interviews, write biographies, or research papers about topics that may not be easily accessible or available otherwise. We live in a time where most of us have access to basically whatever information we want, at all times. We no longer need to know everything, as we can simply Google the answer in a few short seconds. But as easy as it is to find out anything, true human exchange can have a much stronger impact on an individual. And let’s face it, we can Google anything, but how can we find out what it’s like being a 12 year-old that lives on the other side of the world?

As far as ideas for topics go, who better to ask than my own students? Over the next few weeks, I’m going to ask my students to brainstorm some ideas about what they would like to find out about other kids living in other places around the world.

I invite all of you to throw me some feedback. What have you done that has redefined the way you use digital tools in the classroom? What role should the teacher play with this sort of activity? How much say should students have? How much freedom should I be giving my students as to what they write about? Should the students be creating their own prompts?

As I said, this is all work-in-progress right now. I’m still trying to figure out what direction I’m going to take this in.

Thanks for stopping by, and hopefully the next time you stop by, I’ll have something a lot more concrete. Til then, keep fit and have fun 😉
Dre
Gotta love these two...SOURCE: GOOGLE

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7 thoughts on “Let’s get this started!”

  1. From reading your post I think it helps to remind ourselves to know we never create the perfect learning experience. I feel like flexibility and adaptability are two assets you possess so I’m sure as you learn alongside your students you’ll find the best-fit practice for your teaching style.

    At the very least, these are tips that came to mind for me in reading your post.

    Good luck my friend!

    Ps, as always, love the amount of gifs.

    Like

    1. Thanks a lot for the inspiring response brother. I completely agree, leaving room for flexibility is key, and building some perfect utopian course isn’t always going to happen and play out as planned. I actually ended up asking my students for some input today, and got a ton of helpful replies. I am going to summarize them for my next post. Thanks for the kind words again, much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Andres, I like the sound of your project, connecting kids so that they can write not only with purpose but with an authentic audience – is definitely what 21st century learning is all about. In terms of what kind of project you could explore, perhaps you may want to take a look at what would drive them and their interests. What topic would motivate them? With Pink Day coming up, you could look at doing a writing project related to social justice and social activism and the many ways we can be upstanders offline and online. (Which would connect to health in terms of connecting to curriculum for grade 6). From my own experience as a middle years teacher (mostly grade 7/8), it’s good to be flexible, but give the project a deeper purpose… Like “Writers for Social Change” or something like that… The next step for grade 6, would be looking at your students’ audience… The Edublogger has the Global Blogging challenge (the next one is starting in March) as does Pernille Ripp (she also runs the Global Read Aloud, which is a pretty cool project to explore in September). Or if you would rather start more locally, find a teacher who might enjoy connecting your classrooms and explore a curricular theme that will work for both of you.

    As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of blogging with kids. It helps them start to identify with the needs of their audience and see their writing from a different perspective, plus as you know, they can add gifys or their own creations to represent their ideas. 🙂 Anyways… Sorry for the ridiculously long comment… I’m just a huge fan of teaching middle years and collaborative writing communities! Good luck with your project!

    Liked by 1 person

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