Power Up Blended Learning: A Professional Learning Infrastructure to Support Sustainable Change

The days and weeks leading up to a new school year are exciting. Teachers return energized, refreshed and ready to tackle another year. To capitalize on this energy, most school districts organize mandatory professional development opportunities for teachers designed to teach them a new teaching strategy or introduce them to a new piece of technology. I’ve spent the better part of the summer traveling around the country leading professional development for educators as they prepare for another year.

I love working with teachers, but I wonder how much of the work I do in a single day training translates into real change. I see my role at these professional development events serving as a “spark” designed to ignite interest and generate excitement about blended learning.

As the spark, I explain the WHY behind blended learning. I want teachers to understand the purpose of this shift from traditional teaching models to blended learning models. I share concrete strategies and examples from my work with students, so the transition is easier to conceptualize. I hope to pique their interest in the possibilities of weaving together online and offline.

I fear that many schools and districts have not invested in building a professional learning infrastructure to nurture the spark created during stand-alone professional development days. Instead, in many cases, teachers are left to tackle implementation alone. Without support, it is easy to abandon a new teaching technique, strategy, or technology tool. Teachers would benefit from working directly with a coach who can support them from goal setting and lesson design through implementation and reflection.

In my newest book, Power Up Blended Learning: A Professional Learning Infrastructure to Support Sustainable Change, I share the blended learning coaching cycle I use with the teachers I coach. My goal is to demystify the process of working with teachers on this transition. I also want to inspire coaches that feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of teachers they have been tasked with supporting. In the book, I encourage them to “start small” and begin 1:1 coaching with teacher trailblazers who can lead the charge. Then those classrooms can become open spaces where other teachers, who may be more hesitant or nervous about this transition, can go to see blended learning in action! Once those teacher trailblazers are blending, coaches can scoop up the next group of teachers.

Like all of my previous books, the goal is to provide concrete strategies and resources. In this case, the audience is school leadership and coaches. This book presents a three-part strategy–spark, 1:1 coaching, and professional learning communities–that schools looking to drive real change can use to weave learning into the fabric of their schools.

That said, inspiring educators to change their teaching practices and reimagine learning in their classrooms is not an easy feat. It takes time, energy, and resources. School committed to change must be willing to invest as much in building a professional learning infrastructure as they invest in the devices, hardware, and the wifi network. That is the only way that the financial investment in technology will yield transformative results in classrooms.

Ultimately, the success of blended learning hinges on the teachers’ ability to skillfully select the blended learning model and technology tools that meet specific learning objectives. This book is focused on how districts, schools, and leaders can build a robust and sustainable professional learning infrastructure to support teachers as they shift to blended learning.

Now available for pre-order on Amazon!


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1st Day Student Survey with Google Forms

On the first day of school, my students complete a detailed student survey. It is designed to collect basic information and help me get to know my new students. The more I know about them, the easier it is for me to design and facilitate learning opportunities that will appeal to them.

I also hope that taking the time to ask them questions, instead of simply inundating them with information, will communicate my genuine interest in them as individuals.

Click here to make a copy of my 1st day student survey to adapt and use with your students.

Instead of sending this survey home, I build it into a station rotation lesson on the first day of school. Students complete this survey and join our Remind text message group in one of our online stations.

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Padlet: Time to Take a Selfie Icebreaker

Do you struggle to learn your students’ names at the start of the school year? If so, this is an icebreaker activity you should try!

First, teachers create a Padlet wall, title it “Time to Take a Selfie,” and provide a prompt with questions for students to answer. Below is a list of questions I have used to encourage students to share something about themselves. Typically, I select three questions for them to answer in their post along with their names and photos.

  • Where is your happy place?
  • What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?
  • What is the furthest place you have traveled?
  • What is something you like about yourself?
  • What is your favorite story (book or movie)?
  • Do you consider yourself an introvert, an extrovert, or a mix? Explain.
  • What is one thing you wish you had more time for in your life?
  • What do you do to relax?
  • When you are not at school, what do you spend most of your time doing?
  • What is your most prized possession? Where did it come from and why do you love it?
  • If you could only listen to one genre/type of music for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • Think about the best class you’ve ever had. What made that class so special?

Once you’ve created your Padlet wall and decided on a question or multiple questions, post your photo and response to model what you want students to do.

My students LOVE this activity, and it makes it so much easier for me to learn their names. I keep the Padlet Wall with their names and photos pulled up on my phone (and a tab on my computer) the first week of school so I can reference it throughout the day as I’m interacting with kids.

I also project the photos if we have a whole group interaction at the start of the school year, so kids can look at the images and respond to each other by name. It’s important that our entire class community value learning each other’s names and making connections. This icebreaker is a fun way to do both!

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