Today’s Contributor: Alex Hubbard
Alex is a 6th Grade Language Arts and Science teacher at the Lee Elementary 6th Grade Leadership Institute.
Last year I embarked on a leadership pathway focused on transformative technology. For those of you unfamiliar with leadership pathways in AISD, this is an opportunity afforded to teachers where they undergo a two year series of professional development in a certain area of focus. The technology based leadership pathway really has to do with blended learning being leveraged to help personalize and differentiate educational experiences for every student. When I first started out I didn’t know what to expect, and I’m still learning, but I wanted to share a few key takeaways from my experience thus far.
Blended Learning is NOT just learning on BLEND
When I initially started this journey I assumed blended learning meant having kids stare at a computer screen for the entirety of class on BLEND (Canvas). What I have discovered is that good blended learning encompasses a balance of face to face real world interactions with the use of technology of any type, which leads to a more personalized learning experience for the student. For a basic example, students can learn new information on the internet or online encyclopedia independently and at their own pace, and use that information to discuss new learning with classmates in a face to face discussion. This may seem obvious , but I think many teachers probably equate blended learning with the use of BLEND, which is true to a certain extent, but as Campus Innovation Coaches this is also an idea that we should demystify. BLEND can be a great tool, but does not have to be the only tool , and it is most useful when coupled with collaborative, face to face interaction.
Voice and Choice are Powerful
Another key component of blended/personalized learning is providing students with an abundance of voice and choice so they can take ownership of their learning. It was difficult at first to cede so much control to my students in terms of how they present information and choose how they learn, but what I’ve seen over time is that it allows students to take greater ownership over their learning and can build a tremendous amount of confidence. I’m often blown away by my students unique talents.
Metacognition is Key
To me this has been one of, if not the most important ideas I have learned about. In this day and age it can be hard to carve out the time for students to set goals, evaluate their learning, and determine areas of success and improvement. In other words, to create space for metacognitive checks. This year I have seen the power of allowing for this reflection. When students are given the opportunity to reflect on a process and their successes and failures they are able to grow exponentially and gain confidence. Additionally, I have seen that often the work becomes more engaging and meaningful for the student. Without metacognitive skills being taught and scaffolded, blended and personalized learning is much more difficult to utilize. This ideology represents a huge pedagogical shift, but a very important and necessary one that will create successful, lifelong learners.
As I enter the last leg of this two year pathway, I have been pleasantly surprised at how this experience has transformed my teaching and my approach to working with students. The ideas above are just a few of the many things I have learned and been encouraged to reflect on throughout the process. If anyone is interested in learning more about this leadership pathway or about blended or personalized learning please feel free to reach out.