Today’s contributor: Carmen A. Barrera
Carmen Angelica Barrera has been with Austin ISD for seven years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas-Austin and her master’s degree from Texas State University. She has taught third and fourth grade at Linder Elementary School and was named as campus Teacher of Promise and Teacher of the Year. Currently, she is an instructional coach and campus innovation coach for Linder Elementary School.
Blended learning isn’t only about bringing the community and the world inside the classroom, though that is a great outcome. Students experience meaningful, real world learning all while sitting at a desk in their class. We tend to focus on this part of blended learning, forgetting about another crucial component, which is bringing the classroom to the community. Learning and becoming part of the school environment can now happen anywhere.
For students, leaving the class either for a small amount of time such as tutoring, or longer periods of time will no longer keep them away from their classmates. In fact, the student can bring their classroom wherever they go in their community. For example, picking students up for in-school tutoring, can separate the student from their learning environment. At times, the student might not want to attend because they are going to miss out on learning with their other peers. However, with BLEND and blended learning, the student can still interact and learn with their other classmates, while also completing their other tasks necessary, such as attending academic interventions. As an instructional coach, I am able to provide differentiation within the pull-out small group by creating mini station rotations between blended learning and the teacher table. The students are able to learn in their classroom environment, without physically being in the classroom, and still receive data-driven targeted instruction.
For parents, it is difficult at times to leave work early to attend informational events on campus, or to read all the flyers that, at times, do not make it into their hands. Parents want to be a part of the campus community, but other responsibilities, or circumstances might prevent them from attending such events. Instead, they can now be aware and up-to-date with current information about campus events through the use of BLEND on the online parent portal. In BLEND, parents can access Linder Elementary Campus Community Course. This course has school flyers by month, parent resources, parent support specialist information, online learning links, and a calendar of events. The BLEND course allows parents to bring what is happening in their student’s classroom and school to their own community, whether it is at work, home, or traveling. Parents can be more involved and even view the BLEND work their student is completing in their courses.
For both parents and students, BLEND and blended learning provides a platform to take the classroom learning environment and share it with the community to create a greater sense of belonging and involvement.