Today’s Contributor: Jose Luis Perales.
I am a first-grade bilingual teacher of five years at Sanchez Elementary, current Campus Innovation Coach, and most recently Teacher of the Year for Sanchez Elementary.
Hello! My name is Jose Luis Perales, a first-grade bilingual teacher at Sanchez Elementary. My school is small, and the majority of our student population comes from low-income families, so with that said, most of my students do not have access to technology in their homes. The exposure they receive in my classroom to logging on to BLEND through Chrome is the only exposure they might receive to such things, and I feel such a great responsibility in having the potential to provide my students with the time to learn about how to handle this modern technology. However, as a teacher, I want to share my experiences in dealing with what it has taken to provide my students with those first-hand experiences of learning this new technology.
If you are a teacher of any grade level reading this, you know how busy your daily schedule is. You can probably recall at least two to three required teaching components that were just added this school year alone to everything else that you already do. Independent reading time, reading conferences, and writing conferences are some that I can quickly think of. So, how does a self-contained teacher incorporate blending learning in their already crammed daily schedule? For me, the answer was: simply become flexible with your schedule. Learn to say, “We will get to this one lesson tomorrow.” When my Technology Design Coach (TDC) would schedule a collaborative lesson, I would always try to plan it toward the end of the day, when my students were usually doing literacy centers independently (BLEND being one of them) while I worked with a small group. I had found the time in my daily schedule that would work best for me and my class. The students that were currently in a literacy center could have some exposure to a blending learning experience and log on to BLEND with the help of my TDC. As for you, you must be able to find that little bit of time in your daily schedule that you know you could sacrifice just a little, so that the students benefit either way, but this time in learning something about technology. I would suggest having a focus, depending on how knowledgeable your students are in the world of technology. For my first-graders, my focus was simply getting my students familiar with the technology available to them, which is a class set of laptops, and getting familiar with the ins and outs of Google Chrome and BLEND. Some might think that this is a large feat for first-graders to master, but with a little bit of practice, my TDC and I have found that six- and seven-year-olds are very capable of handling and maneuvering such technology that they could even train others of their age to do the same.
As a teacher, you must know that not everything goes as planned. That is what my TDC and I have found out during our multiple collaborative lessons. We know that BLEND is such a new resource and it is bound to have its faults. More specifically, I am talking about the logging on process for my students and the challenges we faced. BLEND offers students an easier option of logging on to the platform via a QR Code scan-able card that can be printed out for each student. However, I found out that the laptops provided to us had much trouble capturing and scanning the QR Code through their webcams which, with our already limited time in our daily schedule, became a major challenge in achieving our goal of successfully creating independent students that could log on to BLEND. I would like to share this one challenge along with other teachers that are currently thinking about trying out BLEND with their own class. We have high hopes that this will be only a small fix in our journey to teaching students the essentials of logging on to BLEND.
I am so glad that the district that I am working for is taking such initiatives to integrate a culture of Blending Learning to our everyday lives and lessons, but we as teachers must know that we must create time to integrate technology into our daily schedules and that with that, there will always be challenges that present themselves for our students and for us as well. I believe the important thing to remember is that we must at least understand the importance of the ever evolving technology in our lives and how we need to expose and teach our students these things to get them ready to live and work in a 21st century world.