Blended Learning and Motivating Change

The Backstory…

My digital story is based on experiences in my own school and district. Devices are easily accessible in every K-5 classroom. But they are not used as often as they should be. While some teachers use them daily, others might use them once each week. Blended learning is an intimidating concept for many teachers.While a majority of educators in my building are open to the idea of including technology-based lessons many are reluctant to do so, because today’s students are so comfortable with using technology. Many teachers are concerned with losing control over the learning process and some are more concerned with the technology being a distraction for their students. Generally, most of my colleagues aren’t confident enough with their own use of technology to guide students in how to use it.

I recognize that time is really is the educators’ most valuable asset. It’s the most common excuse I hear for them not taking advantage of my offer to help them use technology in their classrooms. Their time spent in the classroom is focused on meeting goals, addressing standards, collecting data, managing behavior, and using strategies that they have experience using. They are comfortable with what works. After school, they are grading student work, and planning lessons for the following day. It makes sense that they don’t want to waste their valuable time trying something new, when they don’t know whether it will be effective. Their priorities are on student achievement, after all… and not technology.

District administrators understand the importance of technology in a successful learning environment, and they’ve done an amazing job providing devices in the classrooms. They also offer and present professional development opportunities for our teachers, so that they can learn how to use the tools that are made available by district approved software and apps. But professional development typically takes place in a leader-centered environment. It doesn’t provide practice or opportunity for teachers to experience technology-based classroom instruction. And it certainly doesn’t provide them with time to develop innovative technology-based lessons.

If administrators want to encourage educators to use blended learning strategies they need to provide them with the one thing they need most; time to get comfortable with technology as a learning tool.  Restructuring professional development opportunities to include more learner-centered opportunities for our teachers would help to ease their burden. Allowing teachers time to communicate with one another, to learn from one another, and to collaborate in an informal environment where they can share their experiences with using technology in their classrooms, shows a district’s commitment to the shift to blended learning. Teachers with experience are perhaps the most important resource to teachers without. When allowed to get together to discuss what technology-based lessons are working successfully in a colleague’s classroom, they can individualize discussions in order to learn most effectively. Hearing from colleagues which technology-based lessons work and which don’t, makes it easier for educators to develop plans of their own. When an educator can create and introduce an innovative lesson with minimal risk, they will be more motivated to do so.

I created a plan that I call Motivating Blended Learning Educators (MoBLE for short).  It’s a proposal for my district to help their teachers make the shift from traditional education to a blended learning environment. This proposal includes a background of blended learning, with evidentiary support for its success as a learning strategy. It also includes steps to motivate educators through in-house learning experiences as well as a request for collaborative time during which educators can share and collaborate to create engaging and effective blended learning strategies. The role of district administrators should not stop at providing the tools and “how-to’s”.  They should do what they can to motivate and inspire educators to use the devices effectively. Providing teachers with dedicated collaborative time would demonstrate their commitment to making a shift to blended learning.  

My process…

The above video was created using Windows Movie Maker. Narration was recorded using Audacity, and photos came from a variety of sources, mostly my own photo collection. (I enjoy taking photos of successful technology lessons in my computer lab, and keep them as a resource in my own teaching portfolio.) I included an example of a faculty email regarding technology integration, which I recorded using Screen-cast-o-matic and the Snipping Tool. These emails are typical in my role as a technology integration specialist and instructor.

Literature Review

The above link will take you to literature research for my Innovation Plan, which is currently in development. Please feel free to comment on my findings.