My Journey Into Blended Learning

It was 2010 and I had just completed my first year teaching, in which digital devices were available in my classroom.  The computers were large, slow, and relatively limited in their ability to deliver instruction, but that didn’t matter the seed had been sewn.

Fast forward 6 years.

No longer a novelty, technology has begun to permeate every possible nook and cranny of teaching and learning, and with it has come vast new experiences and opportunities for our students.  My early experiences, though just a glimpse of that opportunity, helped form my own personal philosophy and beliefs on how and why technology can help me and my students teach and learn.  This post is going to look at my own personal journey with regards to blended and online learning.

From moment one when my students began to leverage technology in my face to face classroom, I knew that technology had the potential to serve as a solution to many of the aging nuances that traditional education had engrained in our youth.  Digital media has transformed the world for many, but especially our youth.  Accordingly, our approach to teaching must change with it, as the world we are preparing them for is strikingly different than that of 10 years ago.  Having said that, the qualities that we must instill in our students are far more diverse than the traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Though these still remain important, focus needs to shift to areas such as creativity, critical thinking, communication across many different platforms, and collaboration all within a digital world.  As I continue to leverage technology, my goal is to instill these core values into my everyday practice, all the while demonstrating the power of teaching and learning with technology.

Engaging students in a digital world can be a very challenging task, particularly when our students have all sorts of different experiences and preconceptions about what technology is and isn’t.  In order for us to leverage technology, we must often deconstruct and then reconstruct, why and how we use technology for learning.  By modeling the effective and responsible use of technology my hope is that we are able to engage students in a way that allow them to see technology as a key to their future.  With such a fluid and rapidly changing world, our goal as teachers needs to in part focus on creating and fostering the desire of our students to become life-long learners.

On a personal level, my classroom has and always will be an ever-evolving work in progress, in order to best meet the needs of my students.  One of the primary challenges that I am expending a lot of time and energy on is creating an engaging community within my classroom.  Though reach of technology continues to grow each day, our world is still built on human to human interaction, and it is those interactions and relationships that shape who we are. I believe one of my biggest challenge is engaging students in a digital community and teaching them how to leverage technology to enhance our world.

Though creating online learning communities can be a challenge, there are three methods I have been leveraging in my class to help create an online community.

  1. Model, model, model.  No different than more traditional methods, it is important we model what effective and responsible use looks like.  Anytime online communication is required within my class, I try to model what responsible behavior looks like.
  2. Have consistent high expectations for online behavior.  Just like in a face to face setting, if we have clear expectations that students can follow, they know where the line is in the sand is drawn.
  3. Use the teachable moments.  When students choose not to be responsible and effectively engaged digital citizens, use those decisions as a way to teach them WHY those decisions are not constructive and how they could make other choices in the future.

Though we are all at different parts of our own digital journeys, creating a community that uses technology to enhance our classrooms is something that all educators should take seriously.  Using some of the methods outlined above, I hope you find value in this post and are able to open up your classrooms to a new bright future with the use of digital learning.

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