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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Blended Learning from an Edtech Perspective

Year one of the blended learning math prototype for the eighth grade math class is in the books. It has been a year highs and lows, confusion and accomplishments, making things work and figuring out what doesn't work. And that is just from my perspective, not from the actual teachers that made this prototype rock. 

Taking on learning a brand-new LMS that was actually a student performance system was a feat in itself. Adopting blended learning with students that were used to "sit and get" seemed like an impossible task at times. Navigating standards, modalities, checkpoints, and grading heaped extra fast learning on the part of overwhelmed teachers on a regular basis. To say they persevered would be an understatement for the year. Not only did they persevere but they owned and achieved far more for our school than anything a gradebook, NWEA testing, or administrative satisfaction can show. And yet gradebooks, testing and administrative satisfaction in the program were all evident as well. 

There are things that prototypes do that you don't expect.  This prototype created a culture of risk-taking that is not the norm at our school. This prototype allowed me to flourish in the idea of innovation by giving me authority and opportunity. This prototype gave Ed Tech a voice in academia more than ever before. 

But what really excites me about this prototype is that it proves that even the students you don't always expect to have the desire to succeed or take on their own learning will choose to set their own goals when they feel supported. The results of the student survey abundantly stated that the majority of students loved the self pacing aspect of this class. In the beginning of the year that wasn't even a goal but these three amazing teachers saw the value. The students loved the feeling of empowerment that voice and choice  in the path of their learning created for them. Students were setting their own goals higher than the teachers would have ever created and they were learning what works best for them in order to meet their learning objectives. Personalized learning happened. Every person in the class that filled out the survey left the class feeling successful in math this year. 

I am thankful for the opportunity I had to be a small part of this math prototype, I am thankful for the teachers that I worked with at CCS that jumped in with both feet and followed the vision but took it beyond where we ever expected it to go. The very essence of the word prototype means learning, adapting, revamping, trying, failing and in then creating a sample or model that could serve as an example for the future. I have no doubt that has been done. I also believe that many of the students that were a part of this prototype learned more about themselves as learners than they ever have in the past because they were stretched beyond their normal mode of learning. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have taught the students the process of recognizing how they best learn. 

The teachers of this class went into this prototype feeling ill equipped and overwhelmed by the change. They came out of the school year seeing the value, becoming passionate about the vision, and willing to take on more. I cannot wait to see what the future holds! Jennifer Matthews, Sara Davick, and Nicole McKinney thank you for not shutting the door in my face when I said "exit ticket," "lms," and "standards" over and over again. Thank you for supporting me in my role as well. All year long I stood amazed at God's orchestration of a team that brought to the table so many varied gifts that played a crucial role in the success of this year. Team work makes dream work!

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