Well, another course in the books – almost anyways! To say that I have learned a lot this semester is an understatement. I think the most important thing I can take away from this course though is my mindset towards blended learning in the classroom. I have changed the way I view myself as an educator and I am constantly questioning and considering how I can make my courses more accessible for students as well as more manageable. How can I help my students become better learners in this ever-changing world? And how can I help them “re-find” their creativity and allow them to challenge what education looks like?
As I stated in my previous blog, I did not consider myself a “blended” educator before starting this course, even though most of my material has been accessible to students through Google Classroom for the past year. I didn’t think this made me a “blended” educator until other teachers in my school and even my admin mentioned to me what a great idea this was.
I also ran into the curious problem of students not attending class due to some health related issues, BUT completing all work and communicating with me via Google Classroom and Remind. This happened for the first time last semester and I was immediately frustrated by it. I discussed it with my admin who asked the simple question: “are they meeting the outcomes?” I thought about it and while the student was missing out on what I thought as valuable instruction, conversation and socialization in my classroom, they were completing the required assignments, and therefore meeting the outcomes. It wasn’t as enriched as I wanted it to be, and I was left with a feeling of disappointment for the student. I wanted them to do better, because I knew they could have excelled in the course if they had only come to class, but this was their choice, and this was how they met the criteria to ultimately graduate.
I have the same issue occurring this semester with the exact same circumstances. This student just doesn’t want to be here (at school) because they would rather do the work in their own space. This semester, I had a conversation with the student right away because I understood where this was probably going to end up going. There are some extenuating circumstances to the reasoning of this student not coming to class, and I cannot help but admire them for the tenacity to complete a core class (ELA B30) completely on their own. I should also mention that their knowledge on the subject matter we discuss in class exceeds some of the other students without even being there for the conversations, as well as they have yet to miss a deadline and remain in contact if there are ever any questions. This whole circumstance leaves me stumped and in a predicament about blended learning as well as how to control attendance. Do I cut off their access to Google Classroom? Stop posting all the material and subject matter so they have to attend? Do I introduce the idea of “flexible attendance” to all my students? Any opinions are welcome!
This example touches on a lot of the questions from this week’s class and really has me pondering the future of education. What is it going to look like? The way I am viewing it, mostly due to this course and the ideologies we have learned, is that education should
be flexible and there are a variety of ways for students to meet the outcomes necessary to graduate into a world that is filled with other types of technology and opportunities. My AP Calculus class is working their butts off to write an exam in May, but I cannot get some of them to invest their own time into the course. I want this course to be blended and I want them to be able to learn on their own. These students, after all, are the ones bound for university and need to learn these skills like time management and independent study. I then look at my ELA courses, where I want to focus more on what we do in class, and the opposite is occurring. I think it might be time to focus more on what my students need and directing it that way instead of where I want them to go. We all know letting go of control as a teacher can be a scary idea! This is one way this course has helped me. It is helping me find where I need to direct my attention and knowledge when it comes to blended learning. Helping me recognize opportunities to incorporate it more seamlessly instead of forcing it.
Another important concept from last week’s discussion is the idea of teaching empathy and citizenship. I don’t think schools will ever be replaced completely by technology for these reasons. Our world would not be a good place is everyone was stuck indoors, on their computers, learning by themselves. Students need discussion, they need socialization, and they need to learn important concepts like citizenship to be successful in our world. I think it is really important to teach digital citizenship, and 21st century competencies, but those things don’t mean much if we don’t teach people how to be good humans first.
After reading Amy’s blog post this week, I reflected on why I became a teacher, and it was to build relationships and connections with students so that I can help them figure out their teenage years and beyond. If students don’t come to class, don’t socialize with each other, learn how to have important and appropriate conversations with others besides their best friends and families, I think our world will look very different. Students learn coping skills, how to interact with people they don’t get along with, how to deal with controversy and conflict, and figure out things about themselves they never would unless they were placed in an environment like a school from a young age. These discussions and conversations with students are the reason I became a teacher! I love watching the “ah-ha” moments, and the impromptu life lessons that appear in the middle of the lesson, and the laughter that comes with some of these discussions. I would miss these so much if education became purely online, and those are the reasons I think it never will be. Those moments are lessons are too important to miss out on.
To close, I have really learned a lot through this course. I’ve picked up some tips and tricks to enhance my blended classrooms and figured out how to incorporate it more seamlessly into my everyday teaching using things like Flipgrid, goFormative and Socrative. I have also learned to make adjustments to my classrooms to accommodate more types of learners that before a blended platform would have simply been written off. I’m excited to see where these new ideas I have learned this semester take my future classes and where education will go in general. The most important thing though, will always be making connections and figuring out how to reach more students, creating more opportunities to showcase how they learn and what they need to learn.