Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Examples of Blended Learning at Greenwood College School

I recently gave a presentation on the progress we have made in developing blended learning courses at Greenwood College School. As I created this presentation, I began to reflect on how far we have come with using this approach to personalize the experience for students. During this current school year alone, many teachers at Greenwood have developed lessons and units that they have already implemented and many full courses that will be implemented next year, all using blended learning tools.

What struck me as I sorted through all of the many blended learning tools teachers are using or have created at Greenwood was how well these teachers understand the needs of their students.

To follow are some examples of the blended learning tools that teachers have used or developed this year.

Grade 9 geography will be implemented as a blended learning course next year. The teachers developing this course recognize that this will be the first blended learning experience for many students, so they have planned to start each class with a teacher-directed lesson, similar to what would be found in a traditional class. They will then use technology to check for student understanding and to send students down one of two paths, either to a task that will reinforce the concepts just covered or to a task that has students apply and go deeper with what they have learned. The teachers are using technology to facilitate the pathways for students. They recognize that not all students will understand all concepts the first time they are exposed to them.

The teachers in Grade 12 English this year have used an online Hamlet text to enrich the learning of their students and to create more classroom discussion about the text. Often, when studying a Shakespearean text, the students spend a good deal of class time reading together as a group. Rather than doing that this year, the Grade 12 English teachers had the students read scenes along with the online resource at home. This resource reads the text with or to the students, while highlighting the words as it reads. Students could also choose to watch the scenes from a variety of different movie or theatrical productions. The resource gave students assistance with the language and its meaning. When students came to class after actively reading/listening/watching the assigned scenes, they were put into discussion groups based on need: do they need help understanding the scenes, do they need to talk about character or do they need to discuss bigger themes of the text? Using technology in this way allowed students to spend class time in meaningful dialogue about the content that they needed to understand most.

Another example of technology helping to guide students’ learning was found in the Grade 11 and 12 blended learning mathematics classes. Students in these classes can move through the material at their own pace. Technology is used to assess students throughout the unit. If they achieve a mastery grade on an assessment, the moodle platform releases the next few lessons for them to work through. If they do not receive a mastery grade on an assessment, moodle will not give them access to the subsequent lessons. In this case, the teacher is alerted that the student needs concept clarification. The teacher then reinforces the concept with the student and provides more practice. The student is then able to attempt a similar assessment and once a mastery grade is achieved, they are given access to the next few lessons. Students have found that technology used in this way has forced them to stay true to their learning and not assume that they understand a concept. Teachers working with the students in these courses have found that the technology has helped them to more easily determine when students need help.

The blended learning tools described in this blog post are creative tools that teachers have found or developed to help personalize their courses. There are many more examples of blended learning being used at Greenwood College School. As teachers develop these resources, they are keeping student needs in mind and varying how the tools are used in different grade levels and subject areas.

Heather Thomas
Director of Personalized Learning

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