Tech Tuesday #20: Putting Differentiation on Auto-Pilot

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Did you ever read a choose-your-own-adventure book? If so, you know that the reader controlled what happened in the story. Differentiation should be the same way. Students who need help should get it, and those who have mastered content should be able to move on. Further, it should not be labor-intensive for teachers to set up such differentiation and try to keep up with which student is on what track. Today, let’s explore innovative uses of OneNote, Microsoft Forms, and Canvas LMS, three tools with features that make differentiation easier and even automatic.

In OneNote, we will:

  • explore the individual and groups distribution features
  • see how you can reward students with badges using those features

In Forms, we will:

  • turn on the branching feature
  • try a sample branched activity

In Canvas, we will:

  • create a module
  • turn on the Mastery Paths feature

Intrigued? Watch the video embedded below, taken from my Tuesday weekly Facebook Live session at 8PM EST, where I discuss all the features in detail and show them in action. Like the page now so you never miss another video!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #18: Interactive Worksheets

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Worksheets. Dittos. Activity sheets. Whatever you call them, if you’ve been a student or teacher ever, you’ve done them or you’ve assigned them. My own worksheet evolution as a student started with handwritten sheets of problems that teachers ran through the intoxicating ditto machine. Then, textbooks came out with the fancier blackline master versions, some of which were copied onto an overhead transparency for us to “go over” in class. Though I never experienced them as a student, graphic organizers were all the rage when I was in college, except that they were always supposed to be student-generated…well, that’s a story for another day. And finally, what would the world be without the cuted-up versions we now pay three to five bucks a pop for on Teachers Pay Teachers.

But has the structure of these worksheets fundamentally changed just because they’ve gotten cuter? It’s the same as with any other assessment–changing the look without the function does nothing to improve teaching and learning. There may indeed be times when a worksheet is the best tool for using the hand-brain connection to help students retain information, but do they have to be so dang boring?

In the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live session I do every Tuesday at 8PM EST, I share three of my favorite ways for making worksheets more interactive. Click PLAY to have a listen, and I hope you’ll follow this blog and like my Facebook page so you don’t miss any more great ideas!

What was your favorite idea from the video OR what ideas would you share for making worksheets more engaging? Please leave a comment below.

Resources mentioned in the video:

  1. Worksheet Works
  2. Magic Square
  3. Poetry Packet

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #17: Quizzes that Can’t Be Googled

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The culture of cheating has been around forever. Students have long been keeping cheat-sheets in their pockets, writing answers down their arms, and dropping their pencils on the floor to pass answers to friends. We knew those tricks as kids. However, with the advent of auto-grading quiz technology, many teachers are even more nervous about the security of their assessments.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the structure of our quizzes instead. If we are still creating quizzes where the answers can be Googled, we are not changing with the times and may, in fact, be increasing our students’ temptation to cheat.

In the video below, which is shared from my weekly Tech Tuesday Facebook Live sessions at 8PM EST, I will share with you five tips for changing your mindset on quiz creation. I’ll also share three specific ways you can quiz in a way that creates easy grading plus shows deep content knowledge from students:

  1. The Personal Dictionary Plus Frayer Model Quiz
  2. The One-Question Quizzer
  3. The Fill-in-the-Blank Reading Quiz

Want to hear more? Click to play the video below:

Want the resources I mention in the video? It’s easy! Just click FOLLOW and subscribe to the blog. I will be happy to share my folder with you.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #16: Five Tricks for Getting More Out of your Interactive Whiteboard

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For all the thousands of dollars spent on interactive whiteboard technology in classrooms across the world, you’d think those boards would be a little more…well…interactive. But who’s touching, writing on, and playing with those boards? In most classes, it’s the teacher. However, it’s really students who need the opportunity to touch and interact with those boards to cement their learning.

In the video below, I discuss five ways to make your interactive whiteboard more than just a “bedsheet in the backyard.” Let it do more than just project. It can:

  1. help students who missed class interact at home
  2. help you track attendance
  3. help you deliver content to student devices
  4. help you transform dull slide decks into interactive learning experiences
  5. help you engage students with games-based learning

Is your board doing all that? If not, watch the video below, which was recorded from my weekly Facebook Live session every Tuesday at 8PM EST. I’d love to have you join me next week!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Resources:

Smartboard Tips and Tricks Prezi

Tech Tuesday #14: Office365 for Littles

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I was a middle and high school English teacher for eleven years. Little ones were foreign to me, and that fact was compounded by the fact that I don’t have children of my own. How to teach them was a mystery. However, since my transition to Instructional Technology in the last four years, I’ve been working with elementary-schoolers more and more…and their teachers. What I’ve seen with the little ones is that it takes more repetition to teach them something, but they can do it. What I sense with their teachers is tremendous fear over allowing them to do things on the computer. Of course that’s not a universal truth, but I see that fear as pretty widespread. Thus, I made it my mission to “con” the teachers into trying some different activities with their little ones.

Since we are a Microsoft district, I began launching templates that they could use with their students via our learning management system, Canvas. These templates are inspired by Christine Pinto’s work with Google templates and are adaptable for different age levels, although I have focused on K-2 here. Let’s walk through some of the templates I share in the resources link below.

Activities Ready for You to Use Tomorrow with Primary Grades

  1. First of all, if you’re a teacher with Excel fears, you’re not alone. I hear more than any other software that this spreadsheet-making machine makes teachers shake in their boots. However, I have little ones graphing already. One of the templates that I share at the bottom of this post is one that allows students to decorate a picture either of the beach or of a leprechaun’s lair. They drag items into the picture and then count and graph those items. The graph is powered by conditional formatting so that the students see bar graphs start to appear as they graph. I have done the same activity with kindergarten through 2nd grade, and all have enjoyed it. For a twist, and this was suggested by first grade teacher, I added a challenge tab where students count the items by twos, fives, and tens and then graph that way. It’s elevating the learning but still allowing them to have a lot of fun.
  2. In addition to Excel, I have several PowerPoint activities the kids really enjoy. One group of second grade teachers said that they really wanted to use a self-paced center in our learning management system, but they needed help designing it. Since I love lesson design, I asked them to send me some ideas and materials, and I would build the activities for them. Thus, I learned that there are three strategies for subtraction with regrouping. Who knew? When I was in second grade, we just wrote down the numbers and figured it out;) I created three different subtraction activities for them. In one of those activities, students use a number line to help them solve an addition or subtraction problem that involves regrouping. I created a table with jumps that they can fill in to help them do the math along the way.
  3. Another activity involves the traditional algorithm or what some students cause stacking. It’s the method we all learned as a child. However, there’s a twist. Students are taught the “rhyme rule” to help them decide when and if they should borrow. This activity is a choose-your-own-adventure where students decide which part of the rhyme rule applies and click a button to select it.
  4. Finally, I gave them both an addition and subtraction activity with base ten blocks. The students represented two different numbers with the base ten blocks, which were digital on PowerPoint, and then they were able to count and arrive their final answers for each of ten problems. I’ve also adapted this activity for first graders. Instead of adding the digital blocks, they simply count how many are represented and write that number both as tens and ones and as a final answer.
  5. I love when a teacher is inspired by a lesson and feels like she can adapt it for her own use. After I created this series of math lessons, I had a teacher reach out to me and asked about the best tool for making a coin sort. She wanted her students to know the fronts and backs of the coins and also how much they were worth. I was able to create that for her, but the idea was hers.
  6. Any of these templates can be used as inspiration just like that. Let’s talk now about some activities for kindergarten. These students not only need to know how to use technology but also need to be able to apply it to real content from their classes. With that in mind, and with Christine Pinto’s inspiration (site linked above), I was able to create several activities for them. One of them, which is iPad-based, has the students go around and take pictures of items that are representative of a certain color word. They are learning to match the color with the word itself and also to find items in that color. I did this one was kindergartners recently, and they really liked it.
  7. Another activity I created involves number sense. This template is best for the computer, although you can certainly adapt it for the iPad. Students were given a number on a slide and had to know what that number was in its written form in order to add that number of shapes to the slide. In PowerPoint, it’s really easy to go to the Insert menu and add shapes, and those directions are included on the template. Though I did not get to this part, having them also fill the shapes with color would have been a fun extension.

With inspiration from the activities I’ve discussed here, I hope you feel empowered to create activities for your own students. You can always reach out and ask for help, and I will be glad to help you make any templates. There are lots of Google resources out there, but I’ve struggled to find many created for Office 365, so I’m proud to have these activities join that movement. Your little ones can do technology, and they can use it to do more than just play. I would love to hear from you what your favorite activity is from my resource folder and what you wish I would create. Leave a comment below; I love sharing and receiving great ideas!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

P.S. Every Tuesday night, I host an exclusive Facebook Live at facebook.com/techlolley/, starting at 8PM EST. Did you miss this week’s? Tune in below:

Tech Tuesday #13: What to Do When There’s Not Enough Classroom Tech

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In today’s post, I aim to shatter the number one myth I encounter as a teacher tech trainer: “I can’t use technology if everyone doesn’t have a device.” I can address this myth, because I overcame it in my own classroom, and you can too! My most recent classroom teaching experience was as a high school English teacher. Because our school was overcrowded, I got to live in trailer land, cottageville, or whatever you want to call it. I had twenty-four laptops in a car I had earned years ago, but at this point, they were slow-to-boot and not always the best choice for quick formative assessments. I also had one iPad (more about that later), as well as two desktops. The bottom is that, while I did have devices for some students, I had to rely on student phones for much of what we did in class.

Five Ideas for Using Your Limited Technology

There was never a day I taught that I had 1:1 devices for my students; however, I found a way to use technology with students almost every day in my class. Here are five ideas from my classroom to inspire you to make the most of your devices as well, specifically student phones.

Number 1: The One-Question Quizzer

It was always hard for me to use other people’s lesson plans. However, as a new American Lit teacher a few years ago, I turned to my best friend, Teachers Pay Teachers, for inspiration. One unit I purchased was from Laura Randazzo to teach Huck Finn. She gave me the idea to give students a one-question quiz on each night’s reading. Students came in every day, took out their phones, and followed a shortlink to a Google Form where I had put her questions. If they had read, it was very quick. Of course, I had to walk around while they quizzed, but the quizzers were great for phone-accessibility, and the data was ready for me at the end of the quiz to inform my instruction for that day. What about kids without phones, you ask? My two desktops and my one iPad were both available as supplementary devices, but I honestly had no problem with kids sharing phones; after one kid was done submitting, he could pass his phone to his neighbor for a quick turn answering the quiz. (P.S. If the kids did cheat this way, they were very bad at it ;))

Number 2: Reading Comprehension Checks

Another idea for using the phone devices that students do have is to create short formative assessments. Sites such as Socrative or Kahoot make review fun. In my classroom, I loved using Newsela as a site for nonfiction content related to fiction I was addressing in my class. However, the quizzes were pretty difficult.  By using the more gamified sites, I was able to quiz over those articles quickly with student phones and they thought they were just having fun. Two students could again share if the quizzes were short enough.

Number 3: Lightning Debates with Instant Feedback

One of my final teaching posts entailed me teaching honors 9th grade lit. Those kids loved to debate. They may not have been interested in everything I did in class, but if there was a chance to argue or make their points, they were certainly interested in that. Here’s where their phones came into play and made debating more fun and relevant. I lined students up facing another student in desks. They had previously researched a controversial topic such as euthanasia when I taught Tuesdays with Morrie. As the students went back in a point-counterpoint style debate, the other students had phones out and were able to vote for the winner in the three minutes that the the debate took. At the end, I had a grade on the rubric and was able to add bonus points for the winning student in each team. None of this required computers or iPads, just the devices in their pockets.

Number 4: Video Feedback

I’ve mentioned several times on the blog that the feedback students care most about is not the teacher’s. It’s that of their classmates or the greater world. This next idea for using phones when there aren’t enough regular devices addresses that need. I used Poll Daddy, which allows you to create free polls that are embeddable on a website. When students completed a video project, such as the time I had them present grammar terms or vocabulary words in a fun video, they were able to share the voting link with family and friends both inside and outside the school. Whoever got the most votes was declared the winner of Lolley’s Red Carpet Awards. How did students do their voting? From a phone 🙂

Number 5: Free Phone Apps for Classroom Tools

Finally, a last way to take advantage of non-traditional devices that students already carry is to connect them to free apps that support your learning management system or class digital notebook. The apps I like are OneNote, Canvas LMS, and any of the Google apps. Again, all are free and all are perfectly powerful on handheld devices.

Three Ideas for Getting More Classroom Devices

I’ve talked a lot in today’s  post about how to use hand-held technology, but what if you don’t even have that? What if your classroom is a no tech land? I have three ideas for you. Number one is to submit a Donors Choose Grant. Of course, you need to follow your district’s guidelines on how grants can be submitted, but if this high school teacher who generally didn’t get presents could get donations enough to buy class iPad, so can you.

Tip number two is ask parents to send in old phones. I don’t know about you, but I have at least one or two phones sitting in a drawer at my house. They’re not in service either because we upgraded or because they weren’t functional for what we wanted to use them for. However, if they can connect to Wi-Fi, the pared-down versions may be perfectly good for what needs to happen in your classroom. Tap those parent resources.

Finally, as I tell some of my schools that are not one to one, use what you have. Even if it’s small, if you can prove to your district or your parents or whoever is holding the purse strings that you are determined to use technology in your classroom despite the limitations, it’s going to send a message to somebody and when there is technology to give, I’m sure it will come to you.

No man is an island, and neither is a classroom teacher. Though I thought of some ideas for using the tech you have and even getting more, I would love to hear yours. Share something that will rock my socks off in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Check out the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live Tech Tuesday session I host every week at facebook.com/techlolley at 8PM EST.

Automate Your Life by Connecting Favorite Online Tools with IFTTT

I am just slightly hyper, as anyone who knows me can attest. However, I still need help. I can’t possibly get everything I want to do done in the day, and I’m sure you’re the same way, right? Enter a really cool product called, “If This, Then That,” or IFTTT for short. IFTTT provides a way to have two tools in your online life talk to each other and allow automation you never thought possible. For example, your Twitter account can send photos to Facebook, or Facebook can send tagged photos of you to your Google Photos account. Cool, right?
Watch this video to see how other IFTTT applets just could be work-life changing.

Tech Tuesday #9: Four Powerful Tools for Student Engagement

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I’m what you might call a free spirit. For that reason, I probably should never commit to doing a blog series, because if something more interesting catches my attention, I will definitely abandon the series to go to that topic. That’s just what happened when I paused to talk about blended learning and email/file straight-up strategies. Anyway, here is the long-awaited conclusion for my series on choosing the right tools for your classroom. In previous weeks on Facebook Live and in this blog, I have addressed how to choose assessment tools as well as content delivery tools and my favorite recommendations for each. If you missed those parts of this series, go back and read them or watch the videos. So with part three, we’re going to talk about student engagement tools. No matter what grade you teach, you probably struggle at least some of the time with your students’level of engagement. I know I did and still do, even with my adult students. And we’re only making the problem worse when we lecture or do worksheets or even show videos for extended amounts of time with no application. I’ve referred to the 10-2 method as I’ve discussed benefits of blended learning and other best practices. What do you do, though, with those two minutes of application? Well today, I have four tools I’d like you to try when you’re ready to engage your students. But before we get down to the tools, let’s talk my favorite topic: pedagogy. How do you know what tool to choose? What if the tools I recommend don’t work in your school or those companies go out of business? You can’t get too attached to a tool. I’ve learned that as one of my favorites, Office Mix, is retiring in a couple months. I have to instead get attached to what the tool does, and that’s what I want to help you learn as well. So without further ado, let’s dive In.

 Choosing the Right Engagement Tools

 What are the best features you should look for when you’re trying to find a tool to engage your students mid-lesson?
  1. First of all, look for live response. There’s nothing that excites a kid more than to see his or her name or nickname pop up on the board with a response. It could be exactly the same thing that we previously would have had them put on a sticky note, draw on the dry erase board, or write on a piece of paper. It’s not the topic. It’s the methodology.
  2. Next, you will want a tool that will allow you to have either anonymous or name-associated posts. Sometimes you need your students to be accountable for what they write. At other times, though, you might be looking for survey tools that will allow your students to do a response, especially if you’re expecting honest answers. Make sure what you pick is appropriate for the job. You could use a tool that allows anonymous or named posts, or you could use two different tools for either one. That might add some nice variety anyway.
  3. Number three, and this is basic, is to choose a tool kids like. Referring to what I just said in tip two, that pursuit of the elusive student interest might mean that you have to change things up every once in awhile. I showed the tool Sway, which I’ve discussed in a separate post, to a sweet male teacher a couple years ago. He fell so in love with it that he said, “Suzy, I’m having my kids make a Sway every week!” While I shared his excitement about loving this tool, I’m sure the kids did not enjoy working with the same tool week after week. So pick a good one, but don’t be afraid to change it up.
  4. Number four is to make sure the tool is free or affordable. You are the boss of how you spend your money, and maybe you’re still in one of those blessed school districts that still has classroom budgets to give out. Or maybe you can talk PTA into giving you some money. But if not, free is the way to go. If you do decide to pay for a tool, look at how many times you’re going to use it and divide that up from the total cost. That way you can see if you’re really using a tool that’s worth it.
  5. My last tip before we go diving into some of my favorite tools is to make sure that the tool does not mine student data. I am loving the new Common Sense Privacy Evaluation Initiative research. I was at ISTe when the organization launched this initiative to a small group of us at dinner, and the project asks companies to evaluate and provide evidence of their abilities to protect student privacy. I know it may not come to our minds all the time, which is why I’m sharing this tip here, but you really should care about what the cost of free is. Make sure the tool does not give away more than you would want to share about your classroom and the students in it.

Four Powerful Tools for Student Engagement

Now let’s get into the fun part and the reason that so many teachers go to conferences. I get it. You want tools you can use today or tomorrow. So let’s get down to business.
  1. Have you heard of Mentimeter? It’s a great pulling tool that allows you to collect student options in word clouds and eleven other ways. From their phones or devices, students simply go to menti.com and put in a code for your presentation. Preparation on your part is minimal, and students can respond to form a word cloud, take a poll, take a quiz, and more. If you’re using the tool to have students vote or give feedback to each other, I also love the ability to present only the winner, complete with a confetti celebration. Here’s a video that shows how the tool works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfKj2s69nio   Mentimeter has been the go-to tool at many conferences I’ve attended recently, so it definitely merited a place on my list. However, I don’t want to ignore the tried-and-true.
  2. Poll everywhere is a tool I’ve used for years. Though I’ve been out of the classroom for 5 years, I’ve still found use for this tool even in church camp settings. It allows students to respond to an open poll, again in word cloud or graph style. A practical classroom use I had for Poll Everywhere was the ability to have my students instantly vote on debates. I matched my freshman students in mini one-to-one debates for three minutes. At the end of each debate, other students were instantly able to vote for the winner. Though I graded everyone individually, the winner received bonus points. It was a great motivating factor. Any time that students can give instant feedback, that feedback is going to be more valuable. Also, the fact that the feedback comes from peers makes it ten times more exciting for students than if the teacher had just graded them.
  3. My third tool is Today’s Meet. Again, it’s an oldie but a goody, and I don’t want to assume that everyone’s heard of it. Today’s Meet allows you to open up a temporary room where students can chat or answer question you’ve provided. After the amount of time that you selected, the link deactivates, but there is a transcript feature while it’s still open. When I was first introduced to back-channeling, maybe ten years ago, this is one of the tools that caught my attention, and it still works well. A neat little feature that it has also is that students can’t put their full name in. When they start to type more than one word, it limits them–the tool respects student privacy. Try this fun little tool for shy kids in your class who may need to have an ongoing chat with you but don’t want to ask questions in front of everybody. You can also read any questions at the end of the lesson and answer them.
  4. Finally, Microsoft Forms is definitely a favorite. It replaced Excel Survey a few years ago,and has a beautiful layout that I was missing with the older tool. You can give surveys and graded quizzes. It also embeds beautifully in your learning management system or in a Sway. If you need to collect easy data and have beautiful visuals at the end of it, Forms is worth checking out. I actually did a whole webinar on this tool. Though some of the interface has updated, the basics are the same and I think you might find the webinar helpful.

Want to know more? Watch this video for a quick sample of all four tools in action.


So those are my tools and tips. I want to end, though, with two other little tidbits you might find valuable. First of all, try taking your link from one of the tools and pairing it with either a QR code or a short link or both. Any way that you can make the student link more accessible will just speed up the ability for students to get there quickly and to interact with you. You don’t want to waste the two minutes out of the 10-2 method just getting to the link. Also, as I stated earlier, you want to make sure your students have each other as the audience as often as possible. In addition to the debate idea I gave you, here’s another idea: two groups of students who need to give speeches could do so over Skype or video conference. As one student is speaking, the students in the other class are giving compliments and critiques via one of the tools we suggested above. These are just two more ways to get your students flowing with technology and engagement. 

Do you have other engagement tips or tools? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.
With Tech and Twang,

Interactive Student Review with Better Flashcards: Pear Deck Flashcard Factory

Every year, I go to a technology conference here in Georgia that has about 4,000 attendees. It’s no ISTE, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. There always a ton of new ideas, and I never can get to everything I want to see. Especially when I’m nervous about presenting.
However, there are some years when I feel like I don’t learn much that is totally revolutionary. This year was that way. My one standout was learning about Flashcard Factory. It wasn’t even its own session but really just an ear-catching moment in another session. But it’s stuck with me because I thought the concept was so cool.

Discover this Cool Tool!

If you’ve heard of Pear Deck, which integrates with Google products, you may not know that they just came out with Flashcard Factory as well. The teacher generates a list of vocabulary words and correct definitions for students. Just that fact makes all the difference. If you’ve ever had your students look up words in the dictionary, you know that, without fail, they find a definition that has nothing to do with what you wanted them to learn. Not so with Flashcard Factory. Using your provided information, they are assigned to a day shift or night shift team in the factory. They sit together in small groups and come up with illustrations and examples for the words and definitions. You then are the quality control to accept or reject definitions that later go into a master set. Intrigued? I was. Watch the video below to see how some real teachers helped me practice this process that you will love using with your students.

Want more cool tools? This video was part of the Twelve Days of Tech-mas, originally hosted at my Facebook Fan Page. Go follow and like it now so you can be in the live audience every Tuesday when my newest tip goes live. But don’t worry if you missed a few. They’re all linked right here:

Day 1: Digital Writing and Drawing

Day 2: Creating Custom Breakout Edu Games

Day 3: New Ideas for Using QR Codes in the Classroom

Day 4: Pretty Up Your Online Life with Colors and Emojis

Day 5: Favorite Chrome Extensions for Teacher Productivity

Day 6: The Best Six Podcasts for Teachers and Teacherpreneurs

Day 7: Creating Your Own Free Embed Code

Day 8: Interactive Student Review with Better Flashcards: Pear Deck Flashcard Factory YOU ARE HERE! 🗺️ 🌍

Day 9: Recognize Incremental Learning and Increase Motivation with Badging

Day 10: Create Recipe Lists and Auto-Populated Emails with Office Quick Parts

Day 11: Automate Your Life by Connecting Favorite Online Tools with IFTTT

Day 12: Organize URLs and Enhance Productivity using Excel Spreadsheets and OneDrive

 

Tech Tuesday #5: Ten Tips for Blended Learning Done Right

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Blended learning is a relatively new concept to me. I certainly was implementing some online or technology-driven learning in my classroom a few years ago. However, the concept of blended learning was just really a phrase in the back of my mind. Thus, with my district implementing a Learning Management System (LMS) which allows for blended learning for the first time on a widespread basis, I thought it would be important for me to learn more about it.

I just got back from the TCEA Conference in Austin, Texas. At that conference, I decided to change my normal pursuit of gamification strategies to a two prong attack on a different subject line. I followed the track of blended learning, and then also within that subgenre, using an LMS with little children. I hope to share some of those second ideas more in a further post. Today’s post, though, is all about the logistics of blended learning, specifically my top ten tips for those who want to start it off right.

Ten Tips for Blended Learning Done Right

Number one. Use your learning management system as a one-stop-shop. Again, I want to go further into LMS for Littles in a further post, but suffice it to say here that you need your students to believe that everything they need to be successful in your class is found in one place, and that’s the LMS. Now, blended learning means that students have face-to-face and online learning. Thus the blend. However, the learning management system is certainly an integral part of the operation. If you don’t send your students there frequently, they don’t have a habit, and they don’t know how to login. They need to know that you are putting all of your best resources there for them to use. Forming a habit with students and parents will strengthen your ability to blend in one of the four situations I’m about to discuss.

Blended learning involves student control, at least part of the time, in each of the four areas which I will specify as blended learning tips 2 through 5.

Time, Place, Path, and Pace

Number 2. Students need control over their path. Maybe some students need to navigate through video content while other students need an article or a worksheet. The bottom line is that students have different needs and thus, they need different opportunities to learn. We call that paths in blended learning. Some teachers get as detailed as making personalized playlists for students. Maybe you’re not ready there yet,  but it’s important that students are at least beginning to exercise choice over the path of their learning.

Tip three. Students also should have some control over their pace. Give me a literature passage, and I can dissect it in no time. I can give you brilliant insights on the metaphors and the symbols and the characterization. But give me a calculus problem, and you will definitely see my pace become different. It should be all right for students to master content when they’re ready, whether that be faster than everybody else or slower. Pace is a huge component of a successful blended learning.

Number 4: students should also have control over time. Now I’m going to go ahead and discuss the big elephant in the room. I don’t mean that your students should be doing all their work at home and then coming to your class and acting like maniacs in their free time. What I do mean, though, is that if they work better in the morning or in the evening, we should account for that preference at least part of the time. I definitely work best in the early morning hours. As a matter of fact, I’ve often thought I would be just as productive if I only worked half the day 🙂 Training students to prioritize their most important tasks at their most productive times is also valuable life skill and one that is perfect for blended learning. If they have a playlist or a hyperdoc or a module in a learning management system that they can attack in their preferred order, that prioritization really will go a long way in their success.

Tip number five. The last area in which students should have control in blended learning is over place. This concept can range from flexible seating in the classroom to being able to do some work in the media center or at home or in a blended learning period. Blended learning makes possible this flexibility and place that is crucial to success.

Three Benefits of Blended Learning

My 6th tip is that blended learning done well should allow you to buy back time. Imagine all the processes that you explain over and over or the concepts that are something that students need to study in review. If you’re able to turn those into your online modules and then work with students who still don’t get them after repeated exposures, you are buying back both students’ time and your own time. The video content is doing the work that you might have had to do in twice as much time.

In the same vein, tip number 7 is it blended learning allows you to clone yourself. You may have students on multiple learning paths, but there may only be one teacher in the room. I know when I taught high school that was usually the case. Even students who were on special ed consultation didn’t necessarily have a caseworker or co-teacher in the room. Blended learning allows you to create content for most of the students most of the time so that you can pull small groups of students that you need to either enrich or remediate to your desk while the others are getting high-quality instruction.

I hope that those of you who are teachers and parents will appreciate tip number 8. It is to make blended learning, in both its explanation and its execution, simple enough that parents can help. We can pretend that parents won’t access the learning management system from home on behalf of their students, but instead, let’s find meaningful ways for them to participate. Let’s create videos that show how to navigate our system. Let’s eliminate options that are unclear in our menus or on our settings. Let’s make sure that parents who want to help their students to be successful can find what they need, and thus that students will truly be more empowered in their quest for time, place, path, and pace.

Number nine is crucial for every type of learning, not just blended. In addition to strong content, engagement has to be a priority. Just slapping some resources up in a module is creating a $1,000 pencil or another boring digital textbook. It’s not going to further the learning like blended learning is meant to do. It’s important to put interactive resources and formative assessments throughout the content.

Finally, tip ten is that blended learning is a perfect opportunity to build in differentiation with high-quality resources. One workshop I went to in Texas suggested that for every standard, the teacher has at least two learning options available. You could create those by learning style or by readability or whatever method you choose, but building in two options is auto-differentiating and also increasing the quality of the content we’re putting out there.