Leading Edge Certification

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A Professional Learning Community WITHOUT the Internet!?

Think about the word network. Seriously, stop for a moment and think about that word. For me, I think about computers connected to one another, or maybe a big brain/master computer that allows other computers to talk to each other. After a while of thinking, I tend to think about the verb: to network, as in, “I’m going to ISTE to network.” It wasn’t until I started reflecting on this today that I realized these two words are related.

Network and network are polysemes–words with the same spelling and distinct but related meanings. (It’s a version of a homonym.) It’s curious to me that in the year 2013, these once-distant words have such similar meanings. I’ve blogged before about begin a connected educator. Heck, I even teach a course on it. It just occurred to me how important essential the internet is to my professional learning. I can’t imagine teaching without it.

The sense of community I feel as a teacher is profound. Twitter, Google+, and the internet in general are a significant part of that. At the Next Vista Awards last month, I met an eduawesome teacher.  We talked about video, ed tech, music, beer. But, he’s not on Twitter or Google+. So… I don’t even remember his name. Contrasting that with a conversation I had a year ago at ISTE. I met Corrine Okada, we connected on Twitter and Instagram, and we continue to collaborate and communicate.

We take the ability to communicate with anyone around the world instantly (and for free) for granted. We can connect with teachers globally like never before. ISTE recently announced award recipients (and I’m one  of them). Within a couple hours of an article being posted, educators from around the world were congratulating me. Again, we take communication like this for granted. If you stop and think about what’s actually happens, it’s amazing. Erin in Michigan and A.J. in Philly are congratulating me. It’s super stinking cool!

twitter mentions

When I think of technology in the classroom, my first thought is always about what I can do in the classroom with tech. Thinking about students and tech is always second. I’m wondering how my students might respond to a prompt about their learning network. I think the answer would make me sad. I’ve never even asked my students how they use the internet to develop a personal learning space. I don’t think they’ve even thought it was an option. So, while I’m edustoked to have a supportive, robust learning network, I need to spend some time considering how I can support my students in developing their own learning space online.

Append the Blend

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Append the Blend

I can make videos. I can teach. At some point, I realized I could teach in a video. This is blended learning.

I’ve been blending my courses at both University of La Verne at at Azusa Pacific University for a while. At first, my videos were created from necessity. At ULV, we meet weekly for five hours. That’s a long time. My lectures were dense with information, and had little interaction. So, I flipped my courses whenever I had a long lecture–students watch my lecture at home and take notes, and then we spend more time in class on activities and discussion. This is a much better use of class time. Students appreciate the flexibility, and I appreciate more discussion and less lecturing.

At APU, summer courses have a strange schedule: we have five hour classes twice each week. Again, that’s a lot of class time. Born out of this impacted schedule, I flipped my class again. One of the meetings had lectures and activities online, and the other was entirely face-to-face. I already had a sequence for this course, so the flipped sessions ended up being arbitrary at first. Student feedback has slowly transformed this process.

As it turns out, blended learning already has a taxonomy. The Innosight Institute has published a whitepaper on blended learning trends and practices. They identify four blended learning models: Rotation model, Flex model, Self-Blend model, and Enriched/Virtual model. My attempts at blended learning fall into the Flex model. My videos can be used as enrichment or to reteach.

I didn’t know what I was doing when I began blending my courses. After reading the whitepaper, I realized that I need to support student learning in a blended environment. Next quarter, my APU students will join a Google+ Community, where they can connect, share resources and ideas, and support each other. The combination of my course website and a place for online discussions will hopefully make students feel more connected.

A significant component of a blended course is student control over path. I could definitely leverage some online video tools to allow for more student choice. My goal is to transform, rather than sustain, the traditional classroom model.

Blended Palette