A Tale of Blended Learning as an Itinerant Teacher: My Pass and Fails…

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Did you note the plural on “fail” in the title… Yup, that was on purpose. As a classroom teacher, I really enjoyed using a blended learning approach with my students. I used a flipped classrooms for a science unit, I allowed students to use their own creativity to demonstrate knowledge of an outcome anyway they felt they could- most created a video or used PowerPoint while some wrote and essay or did a live presentation. But my teaching assignment has changed and I find that incorporating blended learning as an itinerant teacher has become much more difficult.

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The first big challenge is the lack of time I get with my classrooms. I see one group of Grade 4 students for 45 minutes a week – and well, let’s face it, it takes them about 20 minutes to log on to a device, find the right website or LMS I am using and then, after the plethora or questions that tend to dominate the small group working on the device, I still have the other students seeking help – and now their classroom teacher is at the door ready to receive her students back. “Okay mes amis, we will pick up from where we were next week!” And so I start all over, again.

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The next big challenge is finding the support in the classroom. If I am working with a teacher who does not use technology in any way in the classroom (for various, but usually obvious reasons), the students are not able to function with the technology because they don’t necessarily have the “know how”.  And once I finally get it going, my time with that particular class is up. See you all next week…

I won’t say this is the last challenge, because we all know their are many more new and exciting challenges ahead in our careers, but my final challenge for this blog is delivery. Every teacher uses technology differently. Some use LMS platforms, other simply use one function online (Google Docs or web searches) and others are fully integrated. My favourite thing to hear is “Well, our teacher doesn’t want us to use Google Translate.” or “We don’t use Google Classroom because our teacher thinks it’s too complicated.” As an itinerant teacher, I try very hard to keep things as “normal” in the classroom as their teacher. I follow the same expectations or rules that the regular classroom teacher sets up, I make sure the same routines are followed and I try to make my entrance to the class as seamless as possible. But sometimes I can’t quite seem to get past the “Well, our teacher…”. I want to scream “DO I LOOK LIKE YOUR TEACHER?”  Of course I don’t scream it, my internal monologue is screaming, but I feel like, as an itinerant teacher, what I want to do and what I’m limited to doing infringe on who I am capable of being.

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Okay – philosophical rant is over! Let me get to the point of this blog. Yup – I deliberately started with the fails of blended learning as an itinerant teacher, but let me share with you a pass that I had this month! It’s Grade 5/6 social studies. Can’t teach the same unit to all the students because, well – those two curriculum are about as different as salt and oil. So, I did a lot of blended learning where I would work with one grade while the other accessed lessons and activities through our Google classroom page. We’d flip flop so that each grade got more individualized and traditional teachings from me, while the other group worked on honing skills. I decided that, for this particular unit, the students would write a test at the end to demonstrate their knowledge. Because I only see them twice a week, I decided to give them 7-8 different websites, YouTube videos or interactive games in order to do additional studying at home to compliment the studying we were doing together. Everything was laid out on Google Classroom. It was perfect!!!

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Then came time for the tests! I decided – let’s use Socrative and make the test online! Their new feature allows kids to go back and review and revise their answers! On the plus side – Socrative would correct the test for me so long as I clicked on the right answer or provided it. It was glorious! Most of the students thought it was great! They felt that taking a test online was “cool”. I was happy to get instant results, I could see where each student was at on the test and I could see if a student was struggling with a particular question. At the end, all I had to do was click on “Finish Test” and “Download Results”.

Wait – only “most of the students thought is was great”, what about the ones who didn’t think it was great. Well, they didn’t NOT think it was great, blended learning is all good and all, but it isn’t the answer for the perpetual lazy student. The morning of the test, I was doing 8:37am supervision. A couple of students who were writing the Grade 6 test came up to me and asked “Madame, is their a re-write for this test today?” My inner monologue started up “A re-write? You haven’t even written the test yet? What about all the practicing, learning, Google Classroom sites I provided? Did you not study for this test?” Oh wait, that was my outer-monologue. “Sorry Madame, I didn’t bother with it. So, is there a re-write?” Right- that’s when my inner-monologue started, and I can’t type what I was thinking.

As much as I have plenty of love for blended learning, technology in general and the desire to make sure my students get every learning opportunity available, I find that, as an itinerant teacher, my hands are sometimes tied. I do try my best in the short bursts that I have with my students. And, slowly, more and more teachers are exploring new ways to incorporate technology into their learning styles, but as long as I am the teacher that only comes in once or twice a week, I need to make sure that I don’t overwhelm them with so much. In order for me to deliver what it is that I need to teach in the time I am given, I have to make some concessions and compromises. And that is how I continue to learn and grow as a teacher as well.

 

Learning the Past Using the Future

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This week, I received some excellent news! I was able to join a group of amazing and talented fellow ECI 834 folks to work on the online/blended course prototype project. Friday night, using Zoom, Chalyn, Justine, Aimee and I met to work out some ideas on what we wanted to do as a project. Very quickly, we sorted out that we were all interested in working in a primary age around the topic of First Nations, Metis, Inuit instruction. As luck would have it, this past summer, I worked with the Ministry of Education in the Office of the Treaty Commission on the new 2016 TreatyEd documents (that are unfortunately STILL in draft form) and we decided that this would be a good place to start.

After perusing some of the drafts, we chose to work on the Grade 3 document which leads with the inquiry question: How have the lifestyles of First Nations people changed prior to and after the signing of treaties?

We are still in the planning phases and, using the information provided in the document, we are brainstorming ways of teaching this using blended and online learning. We have already set up a Google folder and within it we have a PDF copy of the Grade 3 TreatyEd document and a Google Doc in place for us to record our ideas, questions, comments and discussions.

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The major first step is complete! Now comes the fun part about researching ideas, preparing the lessons and making it all fit seamlessly together! I’m really looking forward to this project and working with some amazing colleagues!

I look forward to seeing what we can come up with and what everyone has in store for their own projects.