June 2018 Blog
As we are approaching the end of the term, it certainly feels that time is precious. This is especially true at Crookhorn and as the timetable has rolled over and we get our new classes for the next two weeks, we now have an excellent opportunity to set new learning opportunities for our students. There never seems to be enough class time. We have so much to accomplish; there is so much our students need to master before they move on to future challenges in FE and then the world of work. Like many, I have struggled with the balance of what I can do in the classroom, and what can be done outside of the classroom. When I see or read about teachers that get this balance right, I think the students become far more independent learners and thus more successful over time. This policy of blending the learning between what is done in class and what is done at home via e-learning or more traditional ways is something I want to focus on in this blog.
I believe the key to success when considering blended learning is planning homework to support the learning. Firstly, let’s consider our training from a few years ago- Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy. This is something that has helped our planning and I would even go a step further, it is a necessity for any Crookhorn learner. Scaffolding, and moving from receptive skills to productive skills is the foundation of any strong learning classroom. Students who can move from describing something to creating with it, in a whole new context, often do well. When we don’t have enough class time to thoughtfully guide students up the pyramid, from one cognitive domain to the next, there are problems. There are gaps in their learning. They arrive at the next level, and they struggle.
The first strategy is to construct thoughtful lessons that guide students up to the taxonomy. We generally spend a lot of class time working on those level cognitive domains. We may spend sacred class time explaining the simple past time, showing students how to form it, and quizzing students on the forms. Then, what do we do? We ask students to go home and ‘create’ something in the past time. When we step back and look it at, it really doesn’t make any sense, does it? We spend an hour in class ‘teaching’ the past time, and 5 minutes explaining the homework they will do creating with the past time.
The second strategy is to move those low-level skills out of the classroom and work on those higher-level skills in the classroom.
This strategy is the foundation of the ‘Flipped classroom’. I believe that class time should be about applying, analysing, evaluating and creating because that is where students need the most support. At home, they can study videos on the basics of the learning outcome and then class time then becomes about applying what they learned. And, yes, in the beginning, there is an adjustment period. After all, this is a strong shift in the paradigm of teaching and learning. However, not long after, students see the real value in learning outside of the classroom and applying that learning in the classroom. Class time is not only precious for teachers; it’s precious for our students as well.
There are different models for implementing blended learning, and the method used will vary depending on your classroom. I recommend starting with one method–if you see positive effects, that you have more time to collaborate in class and your students are more engaged then continue. If not, then use this opportunity as a way to learn more about your students and their needs. As teachers, we need to constantly reflect on our methods and encourage self-assessment with our students, all part of learning and growing together. Getting started can take some risk and exploration, and definitely time. At Crookhorn, we believe strongly in a culture of error and taking a risk, so go for it, take the chance and see if it helps. Speak to your coach about it, plan something and get them to give you some feedback on it.
Here are some different ways to use technology to “blend” or “flip” learning that in my experience have worked well. These tools can offer innovative or creative learning methods in your classroom, opening up the time and space for where and when the learning occurs.
1. Flipping and Blending with Videos- In the past when I heard “flipped classroom” I thought that meant simply assigning a video for students to watch. It can be, as it was originally considered the traditional way of flipping the classroom, but there has to be the follow-up, accountability and more than just simply assigning a video.
2. Game-Based Learning and “Practice” as Homework Alternatives- Perhaps you want students to simply play a game or have some practice beyond the school day. There are lots of options available, some of which enable students to create and share their games as well. A few of these that you are probably familiar with are Kahoot or Quizlet.
3. Discussion beyond the College Day and Space
There are tools available for having students brainstorm, discuss topics or write reflections which can be accessed at any time and from any place.