Sneak Peek at “Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology…”
Today I completed the reviews of the copyedited files of my book! I also got to see the final cover that was selected, so I wanted to share it. It has been a wonderful journey putting what I have learned in the last 3 years into a book for other educators.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The 21st Century Classroom
Chapter 2: Blended Learning
Chapter 3: The Role of the Teacher in a Blended Learning Model
Chapter 4: The Art of Asking Questions Online
Chapter 5: Develop a Dynamic Learning Community Online
Chapter 6: English Language Arts
Chapter 7: History/Social Studies
Chapter 8: Science
Chapter 9: Math
Chapter 10: Flip Your Instruction With Online Discussions
Chapter 11: Assessing Work Online
Why Did I Write This Book?
I wish I could say my decision to adopt a blended learning model stemmed from a desire to be innovative and progressive. To be honest, it came from a place of desperation. I was drowning in work. Larger class sizes, overwhelming stacks of grading, and more pressure from administration to prepare students for “high-stakes” standardized exams were the true catalysts that led me to adopt a blended learning model.
I was hesitant, even skeptical, at first. I worried about student access to technology, the time required to facilitate online work, and how I would create a virtual safe space to support respectful dialogue.
I had eight years’ experience teaching high school English in the classroom and three years’ experience teaching online college-level writing courses. My goal was to blend the best of both worlds—the face-to-face interaction of the classroom with the flexibility of online discussions, collaboration, and group work—in order to enhance my effectiveness and combat the growing number of pain points afflicting the teaching profession.
I have learned a great deal about the web tools available to me over the last few years. And I have explored the limitless potential of online discussions as a foundation for myriad online assignments. I evolved from asking analytical questions about literature to using my learning platform to support collaborative group work, creative writing, peer editing, student-driven projects, and standardized test practice. As a result, I feel more empowered. I realize that technology cannot replace me, but it can make me more effective, decrease my grading load, and teach my students critical 21st century skills they will use long after they have left my class.
What Is the Purpose of This Book?
Most teachers are so overworked it is daunting to imagine shifting to a blended learning model. This book presents a clear path teachers can take to adopt a blended learning model that works for them and their students.
Many college-level texts on blended learning focus on the pedagogy, theory, structural design, and budgetary issues at the heart of a blended learning model. This book was written for teachers in upper elementary through high school, so the focus of this text is practical application of these theories in Grade 4–12 classrooms.
Why should a teacher buy this book?
1. It advocates for a teacher-designed blended learning model with concrete strategies, ready-to-use resources, and examples grounded in the Common Core State Standards.
2. It shows teachers how they can use an online environment to give every student a voice, increase engagement, drive higher-order thinking, and make homework an interactive experience instead of a solitary practice.
3. Teachers will learn how to integrate technology into their existing curriculum in order to build community and create a student-centered classroom that challenges students to be active participants in the learning process.
This book will also provide professional development instructors, instructional designers, curriculum specialists, administrators, and credential programs with resources needed to support upper elementary through high school teachers in effectively shifting to a blended learning model.
The theme of the student-centered classroom is woven throughout this book because the ultimate goal of using technology to complement work done in class is to shift the focus in the classroom from the teacher to the students. Technology can be used to introduce information and engage students in discussions and collaborative group work that have traditionally required large amounts of class time. This frees up precious class time to focus on activities that utilize the potential of the group.
How Is This Book Organized?
Chapters 1 and 2 describe the changing landscape of education, identify 21st century skills that students today need to be successful, and define what the term blended learning means. This introduction lays the foundation for subsequent chapters, which provide strategies, concrete resources, and examples.
Chapters 3 through 5 cover topics that will help teachers get started with a blended learning model. Chapter 3 focuses on the teacher’s role in a blended learning model, with a discussion of learning platforms, facilitation roles, and weaving the two mediums—face-to-face and online—together. Chapter 4 is about the art of asking questions that successfully drive dynamic discussions online. It includes tips and strategies teachers can use to design engaging online discussion questions and topics for students. This chapter covers question types that drive discussions as well as question types that kill conversations. I have designed a variety of example questions for each of the four subjects covered in the Common Core State Standards: English, history/social studies, science, and math. Chapter 5 describes a clear strategy for building relationships online and teaching student how to contribute in a respectful, supportive, and substantive way. This chapter walks teachers through the best practices for creating a virtual safe space, establishing expectations, and fostering relationships online. I encourage teachers to begin with a solid foundation to avoid problems online (e.g., cyberbullying) and raise awareness about netiquette.
Chapters 6 through 9 are subject-specific chapters that focus on the four subject areas covered in the Common Core State Standards: English, history/social studies, science, and math. Each of these chapters provides examples of online discussions and activities that address the Standards for upper elementary school (Grades 4–5), middle school (Grades 6–8), and high school (Grades 9–12). I have clearly identified the Standards associated with each online task.
Each online example is followed by three lesson ideas for student-centered in-class activities that build on the work done online. These activities are not complete lesson plans; rather, they are designed to inspire teachers who want to draw online work back into the classroom to create student-centered learning opportunities. For those of us with little technology in our classrooms, I suggest low-tech strategies for extending online work done at home back into the physical classroom. For those with 1-to-1 programs, computer labs, or laptops, I offer suggestions for incorporating technology into these student-centered activities. Throughout Chapters 6 through 9, I include information in the sidebars about the web tools I mention. You will find the URL, a brief description of the tool, and information about costs associated with using it. I have tried to focus on web tools that are free or have a lower cost for educators.
Chapter 10 discusses the flipped classroom, which is an instructional model that falls under the umbrella of blended learning. In this model the work traditionally done in the classroom and the work done at home are flipped. Students view videos of lectures, demonstrations, documentaries and other forms of media at home, then class time is used to apply that knowledge. The goal is to maximize class time to facilitate hands-on practice in the classroom and shift the focus from the teacher to the students. I encourage teachers who flip their classrooms to wrap the content students view at home in a dynamic discussion or debate, which improves retention and encourages students to demonstrate higher-order thinking.
Finally, Chapter 11 ends the book with a discussion of how teachers can assess the work done online, while making the points for virtual work visible. Because many teachers are feeling pressure to prepare students for standardized exams, there is a section dedicated to using the online space to prepare students for these high-stakes tests without sacrificing class time. I also designed and included a collection of rubrics that are anchored in the Common Core State Standards to aid teachers in assessing online work more efficiently. These can be used as is or adapted for individual teachers’ needs.
Each chapter ends with a summary and a collection of study questions. Because I believe discussion is central to learning, I designed questions to encourage further conversations about the topics covered in this book. They may serve as a helpful guide for school districts, credential programs, and groups of educators completing a book study of this text. These questions are intended to invite reflection and produce discussions about how educators might implement, adapt, or build on the ideas presented.
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