Friday, August 7, 2015

Julie Davis: Blending Classroom Learning Since 2007.

If you are old like me and learned how to type on an IBM Selectric (or something like that), you remember your typing teacher standing in the front of the classroom saying something like..."A, A, A, A, S, S, S, S, D, D, D, D, F, F, F, F" and so on for a monotonous 50 minutes of instruction. I can still hear Mrs. Pendergrass droning off all the letters as she multitasked from doing it for so many years.

Fast forward to 2006ish: I started teaching keyboarding to elementary students at my current school. Their form of instruction looked a bit different- instead of me droning the letters for them to type, my students worked in "Type to Learn Jr.," "Type to Learn," or "New Keys for Kids." I sat in the back of the room and worked on things for other classes and walked around the class making sure the students were on task and typing with the correct fingers. It drove me insane! I was bored out of my mind as a teacher and I had very little interaction with my students. So I made a change.

I googled other options for ways of teaching keyboarding and I was intrigued by a method I found that was targeting special populations to boost their writing skills. I bought the Diana King: Keyboarding Skills book and quickly realized I did not want the book to become the instructor but there was a section in it that book that kept my (and other educators) attention. I adopted, and then adapted, the alphabetic sequencing "jingle" written in the book as one of the ways I would instruct the students as well.

Like any teacher worth their salt,  I always wondered which form of instruction worked the best for my students. In 2006 I had to choose a research project for my masters degree in Instructional Technology. At that time,  I taught 3 sections of grade 1-5 once a week, a grade a day. It was time to actually test to see what method of learning worked best.

I took one grade level and taught the class three different ways:
  • Class A was taught using instructional technology only (Type to Learn)
  • Class B was taught using a teacher-led approach only (Diana King Method Jingle)
  • Class C was taught using a combination of the above (Blended Learning)
After  several weeks of instruction, students were then evaluated/tested to see which method (if any) showed the greatest WPM (words per minute) for these students. I then ran the data through the available statistical software and with the help of my statistics professor (because I was clueless on reading the data), I found that only class C (Blended Learning) showed a significant positive effect on student learning. It was 2007- for the next 4 years I taught using that method whenever I taught keyboarding.

Blended learning is getting a lot of attention these days as teachers are seeing more and more significantly good options for using technology as a teaching tool enter the market. Quite honestly, it is no surprise to me. I ran the data years ago. 

As the school year starts in a few days, I look forward to helping teachers blend their classroom. I believe technology will never replace the value of a great teacher and the emotional and social  interactions they share with their students. I do believe good teachers are learning every day that there are technology options to help them better their classrooms by personalizing the needs of their students through differentiation and the ability to self-pace. I am looking forward to being a part of this process!