LearnBop Community Blog

Blended Learning Done Right: How to Use EdTech to Make Students CRAVE Learning

Posted by Dillie Baria - Guest Author

Jul 29, 2015 8:23:00 AM

A lot of perspective on blended learning is derived from educators. The pros and cons. The fears and successes. We think we know how edtech benefits our students within traditional classrooms, amidst the rising concerns of e-safety and student data privacy. But what about what students think? 

This quote from a student sums it up: “It makes me want to be creative”. 

The freedom to capitalise on their own creativity is what motivates children to learn better and have greater chances of succeeding. Creativity does not endorse mistakes; it is about the process, the learning journey. Integrating ICT forms an integral part of this creative process.

I teach primary school (mainly students ages 6 and 7) in London. A few weeks back, we learnt about the significance of glossaries in our Year 2 classroom. We looked at a plethora of books that held them and practiced writing a glossary, in our Literacy books.

The next day, I told the class that they were to work in pairs to write their own non-fiction books, which sported a glossary at the endon a topic of their choosingon an iPad using Book Creator.The lesson lasted over two sessions. 

In fact, it lasted well into their playtime; I ultimately had to gently remove the iPads from their eager hands just to get them outside. The finished works were not only informative, well-written e-books, they were visually appealing creations that successfully embedded collaborative and deep thinking skills you wouldn’t normally expect from 6 and 7 year olds. 

The perhaps rushed expectation was for them to have these books completed within the hour, instead of the two hours it really took. Had this been the expectation for their Literacy books instead, I would not only have had moans and grumps, the quality of work would have been less than extraordinary, with few infusions of pure passion. They couldn’t wait to proudly share their projects with the world that is our school.

Blended learning is a concept that a lot of us struggle with, especially with a full curriculum which threatens to burst through its seams. The challenge really lies in finding the time. But here’s where we get lucky... most children have an innate bond with technology – which means they enjoy spending time exploring, figuring things out – and they do so at a faster pace than the adults. The Book Creator project above was only the second time they had used the app in a few weeks. Yet, I merely facilitated the lesson with minimal suggestions.  

As we approach the end of an academic year and start, dare I say, thinking about new possibilities for the next one, the best time to embed the basics of ICT would be the first few weeks of school. Let students have a play with their devices, apps, and blogs.

Here are three tips and tools to effectively create a blended learning environment in your classroom:

1. Math / Reading Rotations. I have a timetable set up with ability groups.  While I work with one group, another group could be creating their follow-up from the previous lesson on an app such as ShowMe.  Alternatively, instead of creating and photocopying a multitude of worksheets (oh, the trees!) if your school uses Google Apps for Education, create a worksheet within Google docs, and Smart Copy it to the relevant groups of students who can access and complete these on laptops.

The next step could be to publish the completed work on their blogs.  I ensure that each group has an opportunity to create something using technology within these rotations in a week.  A group of Year 3 students in my class once created and edited a short documentary as part of their reading follow-up.   Also within the rotations, students may be facilitating their own learning through useful websites and apps such as Spelling City. A student who shuddered at the word Maths started excelling when he started on Mathletics. I had regular pleas from him, asking that I set him up with more tasks!  This was a student with no access to technology at home, either.

2. Collaborate and Listen!
An individual, a pair, or a group can showcase their understanding of, say, a mathematical concept using apps such as ShowMe and Educreation.  My students have used these creations to help others within their class and other classes to teach the concept themselves.  By sharing their own learning, or simply having an audience, students feel empowered and begin to take ownership over their learning.

3. Blog It! 
The school I taught at in New Zealand initially published student work on e-portfolios that required parents (only) to input a password. Which begged the question, why do we even bother when these e-portfolios are glanced at only every once in a while? 

Once we fully integrated Google Apps for Education into our teaching and learning pedagogy, Blogger, which resides under the umbrella of GAFE, became a success story. Receiving comments, especially from students and teachers around the world, motivated our students to challenge themselves within their learning, enabling them to climb higher on the assessment ladder. This is once again integrated into their rotations. 

Here is a link to some of the outstanding blog work produced by Elm Park School in Auckland, New Zealand. Check it out!

Overall, the idea is to get students to explore and create, not just rely on playing games on apps, which, in my opinion, encourages students to become somewhat passive as learners—although app games can form an integral part of their learning journey when it comes to mastering concepts such as learning basic facts and matching opposites.

In my experience as a teacher, creating a successful blended learning environment has generally created a positive attitude to learning among my students. Their notions of of e-safety, which is well and truly drilled into their psyches throughout the year, enables them to grow into informed, confident digital citizens. Here is a poster which I had laminated on my wall, and spent the better half of the first term referring to it constantly... the rest of the year was taken over by students themselves, reminding each other.

I hope you found this post helpful. I’d love to hear about the approaches you take to blended learning—please let me know in the comments below!

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Topics: Differentiating Instruction, Resources, Teaching & Learning, Innovation, Connected Educators, Educational Technologies

5 Tools for 2014-15 School Year Reflections

Posted by Jessica Sanders - Guest Author

Jul 27, 2015 7:51:00 AM

As you wrap up summer and prepare for a new year it’s good to look back and reflect on what worked, what didn’t, what your students liked and what you want to do differently. While you can simply write this in a notebook, taking a few minutes every day or every week to reflect, the following tools allow you to make a more complete record of your reflections.

By using a voice recorder or online note-taking app, where you can link to resources you created or photos you took, you can get a more complete picture of the school year, which make your reflections more useful. Consider using these five tools for your reflections this year.

1. Evernote

Evernote, or Google Keep, makes it easy to organize all your reflections, documents, and notes in one easy-to-access place. Use this to bullet point your thoughts, link to images and videos, and organize your reflections, with a note for each subject you teach or every tool you use.


2. WordPress 

Use WordPress, or another blogging platform, to record a series of reflection posts that you can scroll through as you start lesson planning for the next year. Write one post a day or week, reflecting on a new topic. Add images of the classroom and link to resources or documents you made. By compiling everything in one place, you can make your reflection process more effective. 

3. YouTube 

YouTube is a fun alternative for school year reflections. You can use it in two ways:

  • To compliment your written reflections. Perhaps you re-record a lesson using different main points, based on what students said in an end-of-the-year poll.
  • In addition to or instead of written reflections. Sometimes you can better express thoughts out loud than on paper. Use YouTube, keeping your videos private, as a way to do free-flow reflections, similar to free-flow writing.

4. Smart Voice Recorder 

If you want to record your reflections, minus the video component of YouTube, use Smart Voice Recorder, or another simple recording app. This has the same benefits of video recording, without having to get in front of the camera. Not to mention, you can use this app to record your reflections whenever you have a minute, whether you’re sitting in traffic or relaxing at home.

5. Padlet

Padlet gives you the opportunity to reflect in a collaborative environment. While, personal reflection is important, doing the same with your coworkers can be valuable as well. Not only does this give you an opportunity to see how group activities, field trips, and school events were for the other teachers you work with, but you can use it as an opportunity to get new ideas for your classroom. 

I hope you found this post helpful. I’d love to hear about the tools you use for reflection—please let me know in the comments below!

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Topics: Resources, Teaching & Learning, Connected Educators, Educational Technologies

11 Ways to Incorporate Blended Learning into Kindergarten

Posted by Kaitlyn Rickman - Guest Author

Jul 22, 2015 8:41:00 AM

Kindergarten: it looks different, sounds different, and even smells different. And in an age where technology is increasingly found in elementary classrooms, many teachers are left asking when and how technology should be introduced to youngsters.

There are a number of learning opportunities when technology is integrated effectively into the classroom: learning can be individualized, students can collaborate, and teachers become facilitators. Recognizing this, I opted to give blended learning a try in my own kindergarten classroom. And indeed, by the end of the year, my five and six year olds were able to operate computers independently, created projects together, and were developing some basic coding skills.

These results were achieved through careful and purposeful scaffolding with technology throughout the school year. The use of technology in October was vastly different from how it was used in May. October was filled with lessons about logging in, shutting down, winding up cords on headphones, and how to wait patiently for help. Some of these lessons involved me using prep time to set-up computers and then running back and forth across the room to help panicked kinders who lost their tab or accidentally logged out.

However, by December, we participated in the Hour of Code, made our own light design on one of the White House Christmas trees, and had started using Khan Academy. By March, I was using Khan Academy and ThinkCentral (a curriculum resource) while also working with small groups to differentiate instruction. And by the end of the year, my students further developed their coding skills, created a digital story with a partner utilizing the Little Bird Tales software, and had explored Google Street View to learn about different landscapes (as a way to integrate science and social studies).

Here are my 11 strategies for blending technology into the kindergarten classroom:

  1. Use software that is age-appropriate. Look for programs that don’t require a lot of reading, that are interactive and visual, and will be fun and engaging for this age group. I would suggest creating a test account for yourself so you have full access to the student experience.

    Tip: One way to track down resources like this is to use hashtags on Twitter to ask other educators what they’re using; also, consider checking out EdTech indexes like the one EdSurge has created to help you track down the right edtech for you.

  2. Use tech as a tool instead of a supplement. Avoid the traditional “computer time,” by integrating technology in meaningful ways. Using your learning objectives as a guide, ask, Hhow can I use technology to help my students achieve their goals?

  3. Start small and allow for exploration. Before doing any academic work with technology, let your kindergartners play with it. Some may not have any background knowledge in how to operate a computer or iPad; give them the opportunity to figure it out. Even starting with fun websites like abcya.com that have fun educational games (and don’t require a login) can help youngsters get acclimated to using technology.

  4. Have extra adult support for troubleshooting. If you have a teacher’s aide or parent volunteer, they can be a great resource to help students when they run into a problem they cannot solve (like clicking on the wrong tab or accidentally logging off). This will prevent many meltdowns if extra help is available!

  5. Use screencasts to give visual instructions to new software. Screencasts are a great way to give instructions for using software that don’t require the teacher to do a live demonstration. Instructions can be viewed multiple times, the teacher can pause the video to answer questions, and students are able to preview the software before using it. Screencast-o-matic is a great free resource to create your own screencast.

  6. Keep logins simple and accessible to students. UseUsing memorable combinations can help students log onto their own accounts independently. Using combinations of first names, number of letters in name, special classroom codes, etc. will keep things personal and easy to remember. You may also want to add this information to the front a work folder, index card, or something else they regularly access if they need help remembering. This adds responsibility for students and keeps you from running around and logging everyone in.  

  7. Scaffold instructions for independence with software. Remember to start small. Don’t expect students to be able to operate software completely the first time you introduce it. Scaffold the same way you would with the rest of your instruction. For example, practice only logging in and getting into an activity the first few times you use new software. This may require more prep for you in the beginning, but will effectively build independence overtime.

  8. Let them struggle (and problem-solve). The hardest thing as a teacher can often be letting your students struggle or giving appropriate wait-time before jumping in to help. In the beginning, you may want to jump in a bit faster, but as students become more independent, step-back and see if you students can guide themselves. Ask guiding questions such as, “Hhow do you think you could solve that?” This will make technology less intimidating for them, and for you!

  9. Individualize instruction to build independence in thinking/learning. Once students are able to use technology independently, use this newly learned skill to differentiate instruction. There are a number of programs that allow students to progress individually through lessons (LearnBop, Khan Academy, MobyMax, Razz Kids, etc.). You could even use programs like Edmodo and Schoology to assign your own lessons to individual groups.

  10. Allow for creativity and collaboration. While kindergartners are just learning to use technology, this doesn’t mean they are too young to collaborate on creative technology projects together. Digital storytelling is a great way to allow creative youngsters to express what they learned.

  11. Integrate technology regularly and in a variety of ways. Practice makes perfect, right? The best way for young learners to get comfortable with technology is for them to use it regularly and in a variety of ways. With regular integration in my classroom, my students were willing to take risks with technology and their learning I didn’t think they would.

I hope these tips were helpful to you, and help you get started with blending technology into your classroom. I’d love to hear about how you use edtechplease let me know in the comments below!

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Topics: Differentiating Instruction, Resources, Teaching & Learning, Connected Educators, Educational Technologies

5th Grade Math Problems: Common Core Alignment

Posted by The LearnBop Team

Jun 30, 2015 8:36:00 AM

The Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and ELA, English language arts/literacy. These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. To date, the majority of U.S. states have adopted or are beginning to adopt these standards in the classroom. (Check out this map to see where exactly the CCSS has been adopted.)

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Topics: Implementing the Common Core, Resources

Show Me the Money: 6 Steps to Help Teachers Advocate for an EdTech Purchase

Posted by Chris Brida

Jun 29, 2015 10:11:51 AM

It’s that time of the year—budget time! Well, actually it’s not that time of the year because budgets are frozen, but it’s the time of year to start thinking about what you might want for your classroom next year. And I’m not talking about pencils and paper, I’m talking about technology.

You’ve gone to all the tradeshows, your colleagues have told you what’s good, and now you just need to convince your principal to make an investment in you and your classroom. I’m very purposeful about my use of “investment” here, because that’s what EdTech is. You aren’t just throwing money into a wishing well and hoping for something good. Instead, you’re going through a very deliberate process and asking your principal to make an investment in the success of your classroom.

So now what? You want it, but how do you get it? There’s a process that I think is tried and true (I’ve tried it once, and it worked!) that I want to share with you about going through the procurement process with your principal.

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Topics: Implementing the Common Core, Resources, State News