Blended Learning: Designing a Whole Group Rotation with StudySync

The term “blended learning” is an umbrella that encompasses many different models that combine active, engaged learning online with active, engage learning offline. In my book, Blended Learning in Action, I included a chapter on the Whole Group Rotation, which is a modern spin on the Lab Rotation. Given that an increasing number of students have access to devices in their classrooms, thanks to 1:1 initiatives and mobile device carts, it is not necessary to send students to a lab, or separate space, for online learning. Instead, an entire class can rotation between online and offline activities together in a single space.

Unfortunately, many teachers are not explicitly trained on blended learning models and are unsure how to weave the online elements into their practice. I frequently enter classrooms where teachers divide time between direct instruction and time spent working online. Instead of dividing the class into two distinct parts–offline with the teacher and online work alone–I’d love to see teachers weaving together the online and offline moments more seamlessly so that students can appreciate the connections between the online and offline work.

There are several benefits to using the Whole Group Rotation. The offline elements allow teachers to provide instruction and allow students to engage with one another to develop key soft skills. The online elements can:

  • Be tailored to address the individual needs of the learners.
  • Allow students the opportunity to control both the pace and path of their learning.
  • Create time and space to work with individual students or small groups of students who need additional support, instruction, or scaffolding.
  • Provide opportunities to conference with students to review their work, discuss learning goals, and conduct side-by-side assessments.

When I work with teachers, they are excited about the potential benefits of using this model; however, most of the curriculum that school districts purchase is not presented in this way. So my job as a blended learning coach is to help teachers take what they have and create dynamic blended lessons that weave together online and offline elements.

I use StudySync with my students and want to model what this process looks like with a StudySync lesson. For teachers using StudySync, I hope this demo of my lesson planning process will provide some clarity about how to approach a Whole Group Rotation with a StudySync First Read Assignment.

Below are the resources mentioned in the video above. I’ve created short links that will prompt you to make a copy if they are resources you would enjoy using!

Posted in Learning | 5 Comments

Middle School Writing Rubrics

In my book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12, I shared the following middle school writing rubrics with my readers. Unfortunately, the short links I provided in my book have timed out, so I wanted to share these on my blog so any middle school teachers interested in using them have access! Feel free to make a copy and adjust as needed.

I will be posting the high school writing rubrics as soon as I can get them reformatted in a shareable version. If you have rubrics you use, love, and are willing to share, I’d love to crowdsource rubrics here!

Posted in Learning, Writing | 4 Comments

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!


Posted in Participation | 2 Comments