The Perfect BLEND

Today’s Contributor: Holly Kofod is the Campus Innovation Connector and music specialist at Wooten Elementary and, this year, travels to Wooldridge Elementary for half a day. This is Holly’s 34th year as a music educator. When not working, she enjoys crocheting and  playing competitive table shuffleboard throughout the United States.

One of the greatest inventions in modern history is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I feel sorry for any human who existed before the “age of the cup” because they never got to know the delicious glory that accompanies the unification of chocolate and peanut butter. Previous to that time, people walked around in total ignorance thinking that they had to make an “either/or” decision related to these two approaches to snack-based nourishment; and then, a revelation happened that may have been something like this 1972 commercial for the product.

Same kind of revelation happened in education with the development and advancement of technology! No longer was it confined to the imaginative world of Star Trek “where no man has gone before” but now, it was invading our classrooms and homes “blending” into our daily lives! As the CIC on my campus, I get asked “What does blended learning look like in your classroom?” a lot and my answer is…a Reese’s peanut butter cup! (Mainly because I love peanut butter and chocolate!) No, really my blended learning classroom is like a peanut butter cup, let me explain.

Direct instruction from the teacher is like the chocolate.

  • Students still need to have some type of direct instruction from me.
  • I differentiate by pulling small groups of students throughout the class to my station to provide direct instruction at their current level of learning. Using data collected from online assessments/activities, group projects, and hands on learning stations, I am able to deliver direct instruction to students to enhance or revisit the skills needed to move onto the next concept.
  • Directly instructing a whole group mini lesson for only a few minutes at the beginning of the class and occasionally at the end of the class to recap the daily assignments / activities. Mainly, because students should be working at their own pace.

The technology, group projects, and hands on learning stations are the core or the Peanut Butter of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. 

  • Technology- Using BLEND, as well as other mobile and web based applications, students can learn at their own pace.  There are so many great resources out there to help generate individualized learning plans for students.  I have discovered through my leadership pathway the marvelous magic of playlists and have discovered  how to use BlendSpace  and BLEND (Canvas LMS) as the first resources to use to generate the technology aspect of the blended learning environment. 
  • Technology Assessments-  In order for the Blended Learning process to work, I need to build in assessments that can provide data on the current learning level of each student.  Using Google Forms, I can quickly assess the students and find out what the students know or need to know in order to move onto the next section of the curricula.  I fell in love with this form that one of the math teachers was using and have adopted it  this year to collect my data on a marzano scale – circled check: Rockstar (they can teach it to someone else) , check: On Tour, they got it, On Stage:  they got it with extra support provided, In Rehearsal: they did not get the concept and need reteaching and extra support.

I then use this data weekly to regroup my students for the next weeks’ small groups.

  • Group Projects and Hands on Learning-  I like to call this section- Performance: “Show off What you Know.” As part of the Blended Learning environment, students need a chance to display what they are learning through real world problem solving.  Students can work on their own or with a group in order to solve the problems, perform in an ensemble, compose a selection, read and or write rhythms and melodies, as well as improvisation activities.  If all of the learning took place on the computer with some interaction with teacher, then this would become online learning.  But once we add in the projects, collaboration, hands on learning, and team building then we develop more of the Blended Learning concept. Yes, technology can still be used for sections of  the projects but the students drive the type of outcomes during the “Show off What You Know”

It’s my belief that a Blended Learning Classroom will not truly be successful without the Chocolate-AKA the teacher and the Peanut Butter- AKA Technology and Hands on projects.  Therefore, when someone asks me “What does a Blended Learning Classroom look like?  I always say, a Reese Peanut Butter Cup! Yum!

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