Blended Learning in Action: Five Elite Educators Share Their Strategies
We wanted to know how our Ambassadors, an elite group of education professionals from our community, are practicing blended learning. Here's what five of them had to say.
5 Blended Learning Strategies from Schoology Ambassadors
Northwood High School
As an English teacher, I have tried a variety of blended learning strategies within my classroom.
For our unit "The Things They Carried," students must know important information regarding the author and the Vietnam War. I created stations for students to rotate through, using Schoology as the hosting ground for worksheets and links to resources. For example, there are links to a Prezi about the author, Google slides in regards to Vietnam weaponry and language, Glogster regarding the draft lottery, and links to a website that holds letters from Vietnam Veterans. Additionally, I used a Schoology media album to share real photos of Vietnam for students to analyze.
When appropriate, I have created short video lectures (no more than 10 minutes long) for students. I generally also include notes for students to complete as they watch the video. I have utilized EduCreations, Doceri, or simply just Screencastify. I tend to upload my lectures to YouTube and embed the videos within Schoology.
I have played with creating self-paced units for students, as well (however, I'm still very new to this approach). For my Creative Writing students, I created a self-paced unit on Pattern Poetry. A Schoology folder was created specifically for this mini unit. I also used the student completion tools for this mini unit. Students worked at their own pace to watch several flipped videos and to complete the poetry tasks at hand. If students completed the entire unit prior to the due date, additional enrichment activities were also included.
Asst. Curriculum Director for Technology Integration
Seaman Unified School District
This school year we brought a group of 24 K-6 teachers into our district's first Blended Learning Community. We have been using two books to guide our blended learning implementation: Catlin Tucker's Blended Learning in Grades 4-12 and Gina Pasisis's The Flipped Reading Block. The Catlin Tucker read has been a big hit and I also had the opportunity to hear her present this past November. Her blended learning ideas are awesome and easy to apply if you are looking for a place to start. She has a newer book out now called Blended Learning in Action. We will likely be using that to drive our next Blended Learning Community for 17-18.
Currently, our blended learning teachers are mostly following a station rotation model of blending with a few doing a flipped model as well. Both of these models work perfectly with Schoology tools. Schoology courses have allowed teachers to create self-paced learning activities that students can work through in station rotations while teachers pull small groups for more personalized instruction.
We've most recently given examples for how this could look for math. We used Schoology to create a learning flow aligned with our Everyday Math curriculum. For example, in one of our sample blended courses, there is a folder for every unit and section. The contents within each folder are set with student completion rules and organized as follows:
- Mental Math—a quick quiz or review to check for understanding of previous material
- Math Message—set up as a page and displayed in-line, this is typically instructions for students to do a partner-based activity
- Watch & Learn—a video either made by the teacher or pulled from another resource on the topic if students need to hear instruction again
- Practical Practice—at least two options, sometimes up to 4, these are either online/Schoology-based activities or instructions for non-digital activities to complete in order to practice and demonstrate knowledge on the section concept
- Show What You Know—test/quiz on the materials when the above items have all been completed
For the flipped model, we have many teachers create demonstrations or instructional videos using QuickTime screencasting and post these on their Schoology courses. Examples where teachers have been using these are: introducing vocabulary, tutorials for drawing pictures (K-1 classrooms), and direct math instruction.
I also want to mention that we bring our blended learning teachers together for one day every quarter for blended learning PD. We have created a Blended Learning course in Schoology and all of their PD day materials and activities are within the course. We blend those days for them, with some activities in Schoology and some not. We often allow them to work at their own pace while exploring our topics for the day.
Discussion boards are almost always used for them to share and reflect. We also have a Media Album in the course for teachers to share pictures of their classrooms and videos of them blending. This has been extremely helpful since we are all in the first year of this together. Since not all of our teachers in the same building, the media album has allowed them to see what other teachers are doing and get ideas to bring into their own classrooms.
Director of Online Learning
Lancaster Bible College
Blended learning at our institution is an evolution of two seemingly disconnected paradigms. First is the ongoing suspicion or distrust of full online education. Many educators still feel that online education is somehow inferior to traditional face-to-face education and is incapable of delivering adequate student learning outcomes. While this notion is not correct, the fact remains that the perception exists. So blended learning is a way for them to “compromise” and salvage some face time so that "real learning can occur."
This debate primarily occurred as we introduced more graduate programs. The result was that for these graduate courses, we would keep the accelerated six-week online structure used in the undergraduate programs, and add two sessions in weeks three or four for face to face learning. That model has largely become the standard for our blended graduate programs.
However, over the years that negative perception of online education has slowly wane. Previously skeptical instructors have now become digital practitioners, and they are more willing to rethink the model that had become our standard. Now a second paradigm is emerging that perhaps a “one design fits all” is not the best for all courses.
So now we look at blended design from a program perspective. For example, professional counseling courses benefit from ongoing collaborative interaction between students and the instructor. For example, as they explore case studies, the students will respond with a peer review and then a collaborative discussion to discern best practices. These courses have responded with more sessions that are shorter, for example meeting Saturdays during the course for just 4 hours.
Leadership classes, on the other hand might be working on a capstone project, and they might benefit from extended session towards the end of the course. Levering technology and collaboration within Schoology, they can use the early weeks to collect information and conduct focused research, then come together towards the end of the course to present their finding in a group setting.
All in all, the emerging consensus is that blended education can deliver effective learning, and that creative use of scheduling coupled with effective instruction design will yield improved results.
Ramtown Elementary School
Blended learning allows me to self-pace units for my students. For example, students were given about five class periods to complete three challenges relating to a Digital Citizenship Google Slideshow. I presented them with the game rules, which showed all their targets for the challenges and badges they would receive.
After this, they have a folder named "Get Charged Up!" Every challenge is located here. Within each challenge, the student was guided through missions which walked them through the learning of the challenge. After the three challenges were completed, if a student finished early, they were directed to the BONUS CHALLENGES!!!!
Please remember, if you create bonus challenges, they should not be busy work, but challenges that provide students with cognitively complex tasks. These extra challenges should be more difficult for students to complete.
At the end, students were directed to a discussion board to share and comment on their classmates’ slideshows. Setting my class up this way enabled me to spend more time with the kids who need a deeper understanding of the basic concepts. On the other side, I was able to set free the kids who excelled and let them go at their own pace.
Online Learning Coordinator, Grades 7–12
Fairbanks Local Schools
Schoology was an integral piece of my blended learning environment. The use of Schoology allowed me to manage the different projects, assignments, and assessments that were taking place at the same time in my classroom. I would have never made it as far as I did using paper and pencil.
I used Schoology as part of my blended approach to push students toward mastery. Completion wasn’t enough. The ease of submitting and resubmitting assignments were important because I could easily let students know what they needed to improve prior to submitting.
Using the individually assign feature was important as well because if students needed extra practice with something, I could get them that information without having to publicize it to the whole class. Completion rules were a great addition a few years back, it allowed me to layout the path in advance and then turn students loose. I was no longer the one holding them back, or pushing them too far, students were able to take ownership of their learning.
Finally, the ability to hold all of these different resources in one location streamlined the process for myself and my students. Everyone knew where the information was stored and how to access it—everything launched from Schoology. Trying to manage these separate moving parts without a true LMS would have been daunting.