Sunday, November 23, 2014

Blended Learning Blunders

Even before I'd heard the term "flipping" back in 2011, I tried to create a blended learning environment in my own way. I occasionally had access to about 15 very old laptops through a check out system. Although they were available for other teachers, it soon became apparent that other teachers didn't want to bother with maintaining old laptops and so I had them in my classroom quite often.

Sometimes it's good to experience some success early on when you're trying something new. I experienced a lot of success! Kids were motivated, loved doing assignments online, and enjoyed the ability to extend the classroom walls beyond the traditional clock. As a class (actually 5 sixth grade classes), we had many engaging discussions after school hours about the subjects we were learning about and about life in general. But the utopia didn't last for long.

Every year brings a new group of students and going back to teaching 5th grade was a challenge. They enjoyed playing the games and chatting. But to engage in conversation, to complete assignments, to watch even a 2 min. video of instruction was difficult. I also had about 10 students who didn't have regular access to the Internet and more that didn't have tech or homework support at home. I tried to do an in-class flipped model. That's really hard without access to devices. I grabbed the iPads and scheduled lab time as often as I could! It required me to be very flexible with my schedule and to adapt all of the time. The inconsistency of having devices made my schedule inconsistent. And...having the classroom schedule being changed all of the time had benefits but certainly had a lot of disadvantages.

This year I feel more prepared to teach in an online environment than I ever have before. But, I still lack the consistent access of tech. I try very hard to keep a consistent schedule. It's virtually impossible when I'm trying to grab 30minutes of lab time here and 30 min. there.

Although I love sharing what I have learned these past few years, the more I teach others how they can integrate tech, the less time with the lab or devices that I have for my class. It's a true dilemma for me.  My wanting to share almost always trumps my greedy desire for lab time or iPads.

I'm in a strange situation. I KNOW what I could be implementing, I have SOME knowledge of how to use the tool or program, but I need the TIME to PRACTICE with the kids. I need time to troubleshoot. I need time to feel confident. I need time to make the tool work seamlessly with a lesson.  I know that by the very nature of wanting to use tech that I should always have a plan B,C, and D. I do that now. I want to get to a point where I can prepare a lesson without it taking me hours of my time for one lesson. It's not about the tech! It's about the teaching and learning. However, it is somewhat about the tech if you're learning how to use the web tool or program.

At some point, I will find a way to get a set of iPads or even better-laptops for my class. I am determined! I need access to tech every day all day! That's when I could really develop a blended learning classroom.

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