Today’s Contributor: Gabriela Garza, CIC at Reilly Elementary
Gabriela Garza is in her 3rd year as an educator. She holds a Master’s Degree from The University of Texas at Austin. Currently, she is a 4th Grade Bilingual reading teacher at Reilly Elementary, and this is her first year as a CIC. Additionally, she is in the first year of Leadership Pathway for Literacy. Outside the classroom, Gabriela is a dedicated piano teacher and an advocate for the study of classical music in young musicians.
At Reilly, we are taking steps towards integrating Blend in our classrooms and creating community through the Reilly Staff Course on Blend. The inspiration to create this course came after attending a CIC session about the BLEND Campus Community Course. At the time, creating a community course seemed like a huge undertaking, and I wondered about an alternative solution that could be implemented in a reasonable manner. Perhaps your school is in the process of becoming familiar with navigating BLEND and increasing its use among teachers. In this case, you may find my experience helpful as you plan for campus community through the use of BLEND.
My first objective is to provide the opportunity for our staff to become accustomed to the BLEND experience before expecting teachers, students, and parents to be adept participants in BLEND all at once. Therefore, I decided to pursue a different avenue that would fit the current needs of Reilly; consequently, I encouraged campus community among the school’s staff through active participation in the Reilly Staff Course on BLEND. The most significant benefits of creating this course specifically for Reilly staff members include: a common place to go for information, increased collaboration, and enhanced knowledge of BLEND in order to implement it with students in the classroom.
Beforehand, I started out by analyzing information sent via e-mail by other staff members and administration. I noticed several items that were crucial but sometimes difficult to locate within all the e-mails in the inbox, so I decided to focus on those files as a starting point. In particular, some of the high-priority items include the weekly memos sent by our principal, counselor updates and SEL, staff meeting documents, and book study discussions.
I created a Home page to give an overview about the information included in the course.
I organized the Home page as follows:
As far as challenges go, I continue to learn about creating the buttons with links in the Home page. I recommend inserting a table in BLEND from the Rich Content Editor.
Here is an example of buttons with links to specific modules:
Next, I focused on organizing the files from these categories by creating different modules for the information.
These are fragments of our most helpful modules:
When organizing modules, I noticed that it is best to do so by adding dates to the titles; when you think about it, we organize ourselves around dates and deadlines. This is especially helpful if your audience includes adults.
Notably, the collaboration between staff members has been evident throughout the implementation of the Reilly Staff Course. I’ve had the opportunity to share it and guide my colleagues during staff meetings as we navigate through the many features of BLEND. This provided an opportunity for our staff to develop expertise and to experience BLEND as students and active participants. As teachers experience the Reilly Staff Course resembling the student experience, they gain perspective and the necessary proficiency to design courses for their classroom.
A highlight this semester is the partnership with our counselor and administration in the creation of a module dedicated to the Reilly staff book study. Collaboration and blended learning during professional development days have been greatly enhanced through the use of discussion boards for the book study reflections. Below is an overview of recent discussions and replies.
Although the course is in its initial stages, I am confident that we will continue to collaborate and expand our resources to include a variety of information. It has been helpful to refer to various documents on BLEND instead of having to locate files in the e-mails. Furthermore, articles and videos for SEL are easily accessible through embedded links.
Ultimately, I continue to explore avenues to increase our collaboration as a campus in the Reilly Staff Course. In the near future, I would like to initiate the BLEND Campus Community Course for Reilly with the goal of including staff, students, and parents in the adventure. With Reilly being a dual language school, BLEND would be a highlight for our Spanish and Mandarin programs. Until then, we will continue to strengthen our knowledge of BLEND through ongoing collaboration and participation in the Reilly Staff Course.