At the beginning of this school year I was taking part in the #saskedchat twitter conversation. In one of the questions we were asked to use one word to sum up our focus for the upcoming school year:
A1: if I had to sum up my focus this year in one word I think the best one to use would be ‘intentional’ #saskedchat
— Nicole Reeve (@nicolereeve) August 26, 2016
Setting intentional teaching as a focus and using it to guide my planning throughout the school year really has kept me on track with my year plan. Not only that but I really feel that I have provided my students with more meaningful learning opportunities by weeding out some of the fluff that sometimes makes its way into the classroom.
Not only has being intentional guided my teaching this year it has also guided both myself and Amy as we have planned out our prototype unit for this course. Pretty much from the get go we knew we wanted to tackle primary science for our project. Being that the project was to design an online or blended course we knew we had to pick the best option for our learners.
Understanding that grade 2 students are still building their understanding of tech and tech tools we knew the course we were creating had to be a blended one. The students taking this course will need guidance and support from both home and school. We needed to be intentional in how we planned things out and I think we have done just that!
Many of the articles you will find about online and blended learning focus more on university type settings, some on high school and very few on primary classrooms. If you do happen to come across an article about blended learning in a primary classroom a good chunk of the articles are focused around 1:1 classrooms. That’s not to say they are all bad as some of the articles share teachers reflections about what blended learning has done for their students. Take for example Sandi Capelli who shares that:
“This journey has also been about freedom. I have learned to trust my students’ intuitive knowledge about technology, which has allowed them to teach each other and me.” – Blended Learning in a First Grade Classroom by Sandy Capelli
Maybe in an ideal world 1:1 works but the reality is many of us don’t have 1:1 classrooms!
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t do blended learning in a primary classroom! In all honesty, it would take a lot to convince me that blended learning was really present in a primary classroom if all students are on a device at the same time doing the exact same activity in a specific way that the teacher has prescribed. Easy to say right? How about walking the walk instead of just talking the talk?
Well actually, it was accepted last week but I am just getting around to writing this post!
Since Amy and I are doing grade 2 science I thought I would try out a blended lesson with my current class as we begin our Animals unit in Science. We have a classroom Seesaw page and use it pretty much on a daily basis to share what is happening in our classroom. However, I had yet to use it as a space to provide students with a task. So, why not try it out!
I shared the following document with my students. We reviewed the document, Kidrex and the ChatterKids app and then I sent them on their way. I set out two expectations for them prior to starting 1) they needed to work as a team 2) they needed to ask three classmates for help before coming to me with questions.
Did everything go perfectly? Nope, it sure didn’t but I do dare say that it was a success!
What went well?
- All groups were fully engaged throughout the entire time they were provided to do the task. The EA that was in the classroom at the time even said “wow, they area ll so engaged”!
- We were able to borrow 5 iPads from another classroom so we had 10 in total.
- The internet worked!
- Students were using KidRex and ChatterPix both for the first time and without much guidance they used it with ease
- Most asked classmates for support before asking me or the EA in the room
- Some students went into the classroom library to find information from books they had previously read and knew would support their learning
- We had several students away the day this was introduced but students who had already completed the project were able to act as guides for those who hadn’t and missed the introduction
What would I change for next time?
- I wouldn’t be so quick to help those that come to ask questions. I would use guiding questions without providing them the answer they were looking for.
- The app offers users the option to add filters and fun images on top of pictures that have been taken, we had to have a conversation around why a birthday cake filter might not be appropriate for a post about the names of baby animals
- Those who struggle with reading had somewhat of a hard time following the instructions, next time I might do more of a picture story for instructions or have those who are lower level readers work side by side with myself or the EA if they are in the room at the time
- Not sure how I would change this but the one downside to the ChatterKids app is that students who may not have made it to the upload on Seesaw step will need to have the same iPad as they did the previous work time as the file is stored in the iPad not on the app itself. We were lucky that the classroom we borrowed the addtional 5 ipads from was able to let us borrow them again the next time
Check out one of the final products from this project here!