While the headlines champion the 1 to 1 technology initiative rolled out by Richmond Community Schools in the 2017-18 school year, the real story is the impact of the blended learning approach that has begun as a part of this plan. While having technology is important, the computers are not the difference makers- it is what you do with that technology that impacts teaching and learning. So how do we know if these initiatives have been effective? I have found 4 people that have benefited from blended learning.
Students- Students love the organization of the Canvas LMS (learning management system)- they now have access to notes, discussions, handouts, and class discussions around the clock. Losing homework is no longer an option. They also feel the blended approach is more engaging- they cite the use of Twitter, Nearpod, and Flipgrid as examples of things they have never used in class before this year. Communication has also improved as emailing your teacher has never been easier. Students headed to college are happy to have experienced an LMS which will ease their transition to life after high school.
Parents- "What did you learn in school today?" no longer has to be the opening line of after-school conversation. Parents can now observe their students work and learning through Canvas. Instead of just seeing grades, parents can now view the lessons, notes, work, videos, and discussions in their student's classes. It's like being in class with the student- minus the eternal embarrassment to the student.
Counselors/Coaches/Club Sponsors- Communication has never been easier. Each of these groups can quickly communicate with individuals or entire groups, without the annoyance of a group text (Why do people still send groups texts?). Canvas has also become the place to store scholarship info, team schedules, awards programs, meeting notes, etc. If weather causes a cancellation or delay (which happens nearly every day this spring), students know where to get the most up to date information.
Teachers/Administrators- Communication and feedback have never been this timely, thorough, or ongoing. Gone are the days of passing back papers that are quickly discarded after the receiver glances at the score. Teachers and students can now have a conversation as the work is being produced, and the conversation can continue long after the work has been returned. Teachers can use the SpeedGrader to quickly score close-ended questions, while giving written, audio, video, and annotated feedback on other types of submissions. Surveys and announcements are great tools to gain real-time data from both student and adult groups. The move to a blended learning approach has also given various teachers the opportunity to lead professional development throughout the year. As teachers and students have learned alongside one another, the culture of our building has changed as well. Collaboration is now the norm as we work with more people than we ever have before.
In the coming weeks I will examine ways that each of these groups can maximize their blended learning experience.