Over the past few weeks, the #hackyrclass community have been sharing ideas about #blendedlearning and #differentiation. The challenge is how to walk the talk in the teaching and learning environments many state and state integrated secondary school teachers operate in on a daily basis. While it’s easy to get enthused sharing ideas with your online community of fellow teacher geeks (sorry guys) it’s often a different story back at school the next day. I think if we were to be completely honest, many of us would admit that our physical resources including access to ICTs often put a big hand brake on making these worthy ideals a reality.
That said, rather than focusing on what we can’t do in small spaces with minimal available technology, I’m hopeful it’s the little things we can do that will set in motion the paradigm shift needed to make blended learning the norm. So here are a couple of small things I’ve tried recently with a trusty data projector, internet and an iPad:
1. Brainspark app projected off iPad as starter – you can use words or pictures to get them writing
2. Storystart app’s photo gallery projected for students to select a setting to write about
3. Showme tutorial to reinforce the concept of showing not telling when writing creatively. There is a Showme app as well which has loads of potential for students to create their own tutorials too.
4. Gave iPad to student to take a couple of pics outside for a writing assessment. He just couldn’t find a way to start otherwise.
I’ve now got most of my Year 9s signed up to taierihotreads and they are starting to blog about books they are reading. We developed a set of class rules around commenting and these are displayed in class. I also developed a help sheet to get them going which included making the actual steps clear, pointers as to content, some starter sentences and a word bank. Quality and depth of reflection varies but I’m still hopeful this is a step in the right direction for encouraging reading, developing critical literacy and writing for publication. I have found the hardest thing has been getting them to remember passwords and logins. Think I’ll design credit card sized card for them all next time to keep handy.
It’s been great to have a few people outside the class commenting on posts. This really bolsters their confidence and helps give the students ownership of the site which is the ultimate aim.
Keeping it current
I couldn’t pass up these opportunities to make links outside class with seniors:
1. YouTube clip of well-known Americans reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings following Maya Angelou’s recent passing. Used with Level 2s who are focusing on texts that fit the theme of The Voiceless this term.
2. Used start of this Radio NZ flashback to 1994 including an interview with Rena Owen prior to viewing Once Were Warriors today (heard it previewed in car on way to work – #alwaysworking)
3. Used The Boy Who Danced With a Tank poem by Adrian Mitchell to coincide with 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square rebellion. Watched TVNZ item broad cast last week for background.
It’s a start.