Today’s Contributor: Alexandra Wood
I have spent the last four years working at Pecan Springs Early College Prep where I have taught kindergarten and fifth grade science, and where I am currently the Science and Technology Instructional Coach. My students and I love to work to prove that we can do anything! I love learning new technology and showing others how to make their lives easier.
My journey this year actually starts at the BLENDed Learning Summit last school year. I had multiple teachers asking me what sessions they should go to and what would be appropriate for their grade level. Each teacher came back to me with the same remark “Wow! That was interesting, but there is no way my Kinder/first grade/second graders would be able to do that!” At first I tried to persuade my fellow teachers that our kiddos are more capable than we give them credit for. Then I said that I would come to their class and walk them through the steps. However, teachers were still skeptical. Now anyone who knows me will tell you the more you state that something is too much of a challenge for the students, the more the challenge will stick with me and the more resolute I will become to prove you wrong.
Over the summer I decided that I would get all of the students not only on BLEND, but logging in by themselves and comfortable with the platform. In doing this I have a few tips and tricks for the lower elementary teachers among us.
1) Teach your children to create uppercase letters in a separate lesson from the first time you try to log into BLEND. I also recommend not using the caps lock key as they always seem to leave it turned on which leads to password frustration (mainly for the teacher!).
2) Don’t rely on your students to know when their birthday is (even fifth graders get it wrong). I taught my second-fifth graders the formula for their password, so they would be able to figure it out if they didn’t remember, and ended up teaching them when their birthdays were.
3) If you are going to use the Google tool, then have the students click on the Google app from their portal, leave it open and then open BLEND. When they have to authorize BLEND to use Google, it will already know who they are. It always intimidated teachers when it asks for their email address.
4) If you are going to record video, Google Chrome will pop up a flash error message on some district computers. I have found that Firefox has no problem with this message.*
As of the writing of this post, first-fifth grade are now using BLEND fairly proficiently. The classrooms are starting to use it for different projects. Older grades are using it for projects, while younger grades have been using it for watching videos and creating Padlets. Several classrooms are creating GT BLEND classes to challenge students already in the program or to collect data on potential GT students. Kindergarten students are still learning how to make uppercase and lowercase letters, but should be starting after the winter break.
While BLEND seems like a difficult program for younger students to master, if they are able to login, then the rest seems to flow pretty naturally for them, even for students from a Title I background. They know way more than we think!
“This classroom is … a mistake-making, laughter-sharing, independence-building, brain-stretching, sort of place! Everyone matters!”
*Editor’s Note: You can change Flash settings in the Chrome settings, too.