Thursday, June 5, 2014

Apologies and Blended Learning Update

Well its been a few weeks without a post as I have been wrapping up the school year doing testing, going a little crazy, attending meetings, completing checklists and building my course for next year. Its amazing the things we are capable of when we love doing what we are doing. That doesn't mean every day is a picnic. It just means that everyday I enjoy the challenge. Even when one or two individuals would do their best to keep me down.

Have you ever heard of a flipped classroom?

Another great method of delivering curriculum in a way that is exciting and fun. Many people try to tell me the differences and similarities of flipped classrooms and blended learning. Ummm! Really... Flipped classrooms are one part or could be one part of the blended learning process. You can compare apples, and horseshoes. Well you can! But I am pretty sure the similarities will be difficult to find. Check out the video and tell me what you think below.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How does Blended Learning Help EVERY STUDENT?

Recently I have been reviewing a lot of data. I am been reading a lot of information, and I have identified a lot of really interesting videos and statistics that have altered my thought process. Not necessarily change my opinion but definitely alter my thought process.

I have seen videos about how we currently teach to the middle and how in order to bring every student along for the ride we have to stop teaching to the middle. Teaching based on the average student hurts both weak students who need extra help and more advanced students who need more of a challenge. Well this is definitely true but what else can we do to complete this puzzle?

At a recent meeting we spoke about being innovative. Coming from the corporate world I have a very good idea of what innovative means. Having worked for and studied companies like United Parcel Service I have pretty good examples of what innovation looks like. I still have yet to see what innovation looks like from an education standpoint. Instead of innovating I see us moving on a horizontal plane hoping to find the right method to use to teach students. Until we find that method I don't see innovation as a possibility. Often we talk about how things were done in the past and about how antiquated methods of instruction delivery no longer work. This thought process is not innovative and will not lead to a new era in education. It is my belief that they no longer work because fear is no longer a factor. Students feared the ruler to the knuckles and the phone call home or the trip to the principals office. We no longer have that fear and have to rely on curiosity, passion and intrigue. We also have to rely on teachers who feel as though they are needed, respected and engaged themselves to deliver instruction to students in ways that increase curiosity, passion and intrigue.

Some of the articles I have been reading have been talking about High School Graduate Enrollment in College. Only 6 years ago over 70% of graduates were enrolling in College. The latest update in 2012 shows a decline to 66% of graduates enrolling in college. This number has been declining regularly and it is believed that it will continue to decline. Some believe that the decline is due to poor economic conditions as a result of the mortgage mess of 2008. I personally believe that it is partially due to increasing tuition while the major reason is due to lack of interest in college education followed the by a small percentage affected by the economy. Ask these would be students if they know someone with a Sallie Mae student loan and that could be your answer too.

I realized about 2 months into my career in education that not every student was going to go to college. You wonder maybe why that is important. Okay well I will tell you that it is important because often I found myself educating based on the assumption that every student would go to college while indirectly and ignorantly offending those that weren't college bound.Well blended learning may be a solution. Lets talk about innovation.

Blended learning gives me an opportunity to teach more than just the curriculum. We often refer to some of the skills that I teach as "Soft Skills" however I will be using the term "Employability and Interpersonal Skills" for the 2014-2015 school year. Students this year learned how to dress appropriately, how to speak professionally, how to perform in an interview, how to write resumes and cover letters on top of their personal finance curriculum. The new year is exciting to me because I will be taking this to a new level and it will include areas such as:

1) Working in teams of people from various backgrounds
2) How Science and Technology plays a role in the work environment
3) The ability to write and speak well
4) The ability to solve complex problems and think of and evaluate possible solutions and outcomes.
5) What a global environment is and how it could affect them
6) Creativity and Innovation
7) How to adapt to change and new settings.
8) Numbers, numbers and more numbers - Statistical evaluations
9) A strong sense of ethical behavior and how to maintain a high level of integrity.

These are skills that every student needs. Whether they are college bound or not these are essential life skills that will help them in any work world. Either as a civil servant, a cashier or a government employer or executive manager. Incorporating these lessons as part of the curriculum and providing differentiated delivery (3 methods) will help to eliminate the "teaching to the middle" or as I would like to call it, "being an average teacher." 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Teacher Reach

When you hear the term teacher reach you think about the number of students that you can reach. For some; that might mean adding more students to a roster to maximize the number of students you teach.

On the other hand teacher reach in my vision is the number of students you can engage, and "reach" with your program. Differentiating instruction isn't just about assignment modification for students who are more advanced or less advanced in a specific area. Differentiation is about variable delivery in my opinion.

                             Self Paced Online Delivery
                       +   Individual Classroom Work
                       +        Group Classroom Work
                       + Group Classroom Discussion

I want to reach more students meaning instead of 15 out of 25 students mastering the standards I want 23 out of 25 mastering that standard. The variable delivery of instruction is what makes this possible. My time in High School did not go well I admit it but because I was a better self-paced online student I earned honors graduation in both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. It was because I was able to learn in a way that interests me. Students in my classes will be exposed to several different instructional methods for similar materials. The materials will all be standard related.

In the end, as I increase the success of my course I hope to take on a higher number of students in hopes of developing a higher percentage of successful young adults.

Blended Learning is Not Easy

So we are piloting a couple new programs that I am pretty excited about but I think there are some differences in my view of the programs and everyone else's. I want to clarify my vision in hopes that everyone understands what I am seeing when I create my current courses.

One of our new programs being designed is being created in hopes of reaching more students. Matter of fact we are going to be able to reach about 40% more students which in and of itself is amazing. How are we doing this? Well partially online delivery of course material. Some of our course materials will be facilitated online and students will have the opportunity to perform some of their work at home and will attend that class only a couple of days per week. They are able to work in a self-paced environment where students will not only learn the material but they will learn to work without supervision which in turn will make students more employment ready, college ready if they choose and most importantly it will make them more mature and prepared for the real world. What is great about this facilitation method is we are still using 1 curriculum which should make its implementation a little bit easier.

Now the new Rotation method is a method I have piloted in various spurts all throughout this year. Testing how it would work and how effective it would be. This method while on the surface does not seem like a lot of work however what I am finding is that it is extremely difficult to implement. My vision for my program is above and beyond the standard and prepares students for work and money management in the 21st century. First and foremost I am required to implement the National Standards and Curriculum in my course. While this course is very well put together there are no real life experiences for students to relate to and understand. So that is why I am also implementing Dave Ramsey's new course as well. In July Dave Ramsey will introduce a new Financial Peace University Series. I will spend a good portion of my summer watching the 12-18 hours of video FPU offers and piecing it together with the current curriculum so that it aligns properly. Finally I have decided to create a group that will create a curriculum for soft skills. Soft skills are the employability, and interpersonal skills people need to make it in the real world. Many people think things like communication skills come naturally but fact is that in this world of technology and social interaction students find it difficult to engage in face-to-face social interaction. This new Program will be implemented as part of their rotation as well and will be pieced into the current curriculum so that it aligns with current standards. So as you can see I have my work cut out for me.

I am not saying I have more work than anyone else nor am I complaining about the amount of work that I have to do. Matter of fact I find this one of my greatest challenges and I am excited about the opportunity. I am very passionate and excited about the new school year. How many teachers can say that as the current school year hasn't even come to a close yet? My vision is to build a course so interactive, comprehensive, and inclusive that students will feel fully engaged. You can't force a student to learn, but you sure can create a nurturing and engaging environment that challenges them to be the best they can.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Digital Learning Systems

There are many Digital Learning Systems, Learning Management Systems and Artificial Intelligence Systems that could make education more effective by proving the educator more time to use on individual student needs.

Edmodo - - Is a very basic Social Learning Platform that is a decent free system that will organize your students work, organize assignments, digitize tests, grading and more. It is great for small classroom management.

OpenClass - A Pearson product. Not much more to say about it. I would not recommend this product based on the lack of updates. The system seems incomplete and is a management nightmare. It does work with Powerschool applications and google apps but is not 100%. I have heard that Pearson is creating a new product that is supposed to be released next year making it the 3rd Learning Management System that I know of from Pearson.

Schoology - - If you add Edmodo and Openclass together you have Schoology. Schoology is the LMS that I recommend. It is user friendly for both teachers and students. Works with Powerschool and google apps and has a nice simple social-like platform. Some have said that, "this is the facebook of education." I personally believe this system to be very well put together and best of all it seems to have a hard-working, dedicated team of developers putting it together. Since my life revolves around blended learning I found schoology to be that product that maximizes my individual student interaction. Because of schoology I get to spend more time with students. I would be happy to look at more if you would like to recommend one please send me a message.

Questions Received:
1) Doesn't this remove the classroom learning atmosphere and place emphasis to online learning? Yes as a matter of fact it does to a certain degree. First it is a fact that online learners out pace face to face students in learning. Second utilizing the system allows me to concentrate on other important areas during classroom interaction such as real world employability skills. Third this system gives a digital platform which students today are more comfortable with. It has a social look and feel which is a comfortable setting for them. 4) If creates an engaging environment where students are partially learning online, partially learning in class through assignments, and partially learning in group and individual discussion. Positives for the school are that it reduces the amount of printing, toner, paper, and equipment costs.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Competitive working environments, Soft Skills, and Social Media Platforms.

My favorite parts of the blended learning environment are many. It truly is a model that works well and creates an engaging environment where students feel challenged on their own levels and gives an educator significant amount of time to make a difference with students who have individual needs. 

One of the other great things about blended learning is it gives me the opportunity to add value to my courses. I don’t have to just stick to the curriculum anymore because the curriculum is only a small piece of the puzzle. 

While my courses are specifically designed to teach a specific job related or life related skill I have the added benefit of an environment where I can teach job related skills also known to us as soft skills. Soft skills are the essential skills employers are looking for from a candidate such as punctuality, work ethic, eye contact and the ability to shake a hand, introduce yourself and dress properly. 

It also gives me an opportunity to teach students about their personal brand strategies. Every year 34% of candidates according to Forbes do not get hired because of information found on their social media page. It saddens me to see such a controllable number as a wall to employment. 

This is a fantastic article and an eye opener and can be found below.

Students can and will benefit from the lessons I teach because they aren’t just about a specific subject areas. They are all related to their ability to be successful in a highly competitive working environment.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Blended Learning - How to get the most out of your Teachers and the best out of your Students.

As a first year teacher I have learned a lot of great and wonderful things but nothing more important than the early discovery and implementation of a blended learning environment. There are many different definitions of blended learning and they all incorporate one or more of my beliefs of what blended learning is. Please understand that my definition isn't the only definition but it is the one that I believe fits the best.

"Blended learning is the combination of a digital learning environment, online learning environment, classroom learning environment, group learning environment and individual learning environment that completely differentiates the instruction given to students and gives them the ultimate opportunity to learn the concepts being presented."

My favorite part of blended learning is the time it gives me to work 1 on 1 with students at their level on the things they find most difficult. The reason I believe so strongly in this method is partially because of my personal difficulties in High School and partially because of my initial experiences as a High School teacher.

The blended learning environment allow curriculum to be delivered in several different interactive ways. It creates an environment where questions are easy to ask and material is easy to understand. Just today I spent about 15 minutes of my class just answering individual questions in a group atmosphere. I come from the corporate world where employee engagement is and essential part of the employees success and what I am finding out is that students are not much different. The more engaged they feel and the more attention they receive the better they do.

I hope you learn from my blog and most importantly I hope you will share your personal experiences as well as your methods with me. I am always looking to incorporate new methods.