With our school year more than halfway finished below is my 3rd reflection since switching to blended digital classes.
- Technology holds students to a higher level of accountability, gives them a ‘voice’, propels them to learn deeper, promotes deeper critical thinking and helps wean students from a garbage in- garbage out or rote memorization mentality simply for a grade to acquiring truly authentic learning experiences.
- Most students enjoy learning from short educational/instructional videos as well as focus better with short mini-lectures of 5 to 7 minutes at a time with group discussions mixed in.
- At this point students are very comfortable using their digital backpacks including saving and uploading files or links to their digital library. A number of students mentioned they really appreciate the ability to access their files and learning materials through Edmodo wherever they have access to an Internet connection. They also continue to tell me how much it helps them stay organized.
- Most students enjoy blogging or being able to comment on their learning to the group, responding to peer comments and suggesting feedback to each other. The asynchronous learning through our group's conversations allows students to read and internalize other students’ thoughts or perspectives and then think through and put in writing their own comments and/or perspectives. Overall it makes for deeper focused conversations. I recently facilitated a 6 class unit in preparation for the school wide ‘bracha bee.’ As part of each assignment students had to post to their peers on an idea, concept or blessing they had never learned previously and comment on another students post. The depth and focused conversations that resulted reflected the deeper learning taking place in the classroom.
- My class contains learners ‘all over the board.’ Yet virtually all students are engaged in their learning and on task the majority of class. The ability to differentiate instruction through content, process and product has truly been realized and augmented through student centered learning and the proper use of web 2.0 tools and learning management platforms.
- Finding the proper blend of digital work, frontal instruction and group discussions is ongoing. This is partly due as to the nature of Judaic classes including goals aside from course content; Namely for students to have time to bond with their Rabbi-educator role model and be inspired Jewishly through frontal teaching and discussions. I have found that within a 50 minute lesson there are a number of ways to configure your class so the students can learn as well as connect with you. For example you can start out with 3 separate 5 to 7 minute frontally taught lessons with 3 separate 4 minute group discussions laced within your lecture. Then for 10 minutes a student chooses either to work in a group, individually or work in a group you oversee. Students can then spend 5 to 10 minutes reflecting on their learning, posting and then responding to discussions threads to each other.
- I remind students daily of the expectation to use technology strictly for learning purposes during class time. This doesn’t necessarily mean students are off-task during class time but at the beginning of a period teachers need to create the digital framework for their students. I often begin class by articulating which specific websites/tools on the computer should be open and to close out all other windows/tools.
- I remind students on a daily basis they need to read the instructions carefully and not just give a cursory glance and think they know it! For example my Talmud (Analytical Thinking & Reasoning) class has a number of instructions for each ‘level ‘(read: ‘lesson’ however I use gaming terminology with this class.) The instructions are clearly laid out step by step but students don’t always take the time to focus on the details. They may submit work which does not have all the elements of that day’s assignment.
- There is very little to no behavioral issues as students are plugged in and engaged in their learning leaving little time for disruptions or boredom. Classdojo is an extremely effective behavioral management told when used correctly. Generally students appreciate the instant praise and feedback, their percentage and their running record for the year.
- Having loaded Bloom’s Taxonomy and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences graphs/charts in their digital backpacks I help students actively realize what their learning styles are and the depth of their learning. Sometimes a student tells me he/she has finished his/her assignment and I will either have them continue working on an anchor activity or I will actually pull up a Bloom’s Taxonomy chart and have the student think through which levels he/she accomplished with their learning. If he/she not yet done so I will challenge the student by giving suggestions which will aid them in reaching the top 2 levels (to create and to evaluate) with their learning. I also make students aware of Gardner’s MI verb list so they can be assessed (pre, formative and summative!) on curriculum in ways that align with their interests and talents.
So what do you think? Have you been integrating technology in your classes? Can you partially or fully relate to and empathize with my observations or do you have vastly different experiences? Can you appreciate how technology can afford students deeper learning experiences? I’m all ears...