“Teaching in their world.” Those are the words that Delaine Trexler uses to describe her eighth grade science class at the Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Junior/Senior High School.
Trexler combined teaching and technology, and turned her classroom into a blended learning environment.
In a blended learning environment the teacher delivers classroom content using traditional teaching methods and interactive online teaching methods. Teachers create customized online content and activities that are tailored to the students in his/her classroom.
This online content can be in the form of interactive videos or through a learning management system such as Schoology. A learning management systems allows teachers to not only administer a lesson, but track and record each student’s performance on a particular activity or lesson.
The system also mirrors that of a social media site – teachers can set up a classroom page, post assignments, quizzes or other pertinent class-related information.
Students are also invited to join the online classroom communication – students can review what they did in class, they can post questions about an assignment, comment on a homework assignment, help a classmate and provide feedback. Schoology even has an application or ‘app’ that students can download and install on their own personal phone or tablet device.
Students in Trexler’s class experienced blended learning for the first time during a recent cells and heredity unit.
Trexler, in collaboration with a Nancy Kather, a Computer Education Coordinator at Oswego County BOCES, created six uniquely different learning stations related to the study of cells and focused on improving students’ listening skills, notetaking skills, critical reading and reflection skills.
Four of the stations utilized some of Trexler’s traditional teaching methods while two of the stations utilized a technology component. One of the ‘tech’ stations required students to log into Schoology and learn about the different parts of the cell. The students took notes about each different part and then were asked to comment on which cell part they feel is the most important and support their statement using evidence.
Trexler admits that incorporating the blended learning model into her class took a substantial amount of preplanning and coordination, but the benefits she says are “worth it.”
“This learning model allows me to get the most out of my teaching time and allows me to individualize instruction as needed,” she said.
The learning model appeals to a variety of learners – self-directed learners, independent learners, learners who benefit from collaborating with others as well as learners who might require more one-on-one instruction.
Students learn at their own pace and Trexler said that she can provide more hands-on support to students that might need help mastering the content.
The online classroom communication and collaboration through Schoology has also been a great experience for Trexler.
“It has such a social media feel that students love it,” Trexler said.
She has had students post questions after class and after school and she’s able to respond almost immediately. In previous school years students would have to wait until the next school day or class to ask the same question.
Trexler said that when she introduced Schoology and the idea of online communication she gave the students some ground rules.
“No text talk or abbreviations. I ask students to post something like they would write it for class,” she said. Adding, “LOL [laughing out loud] might be the only exception to the rule however.”
Trexler is just one of four teachers that have piloted blended learning at the APW Junior/Senior High School this school year.
All of the teachers that are piloting the learning strategy this school year participated 24 hours of professional development with Kather over the summer months. In addition, each received 10 Windows tablet devices to support their instruction.
Each teacher works with Kather to develop a lesson plan utilizing the tech components and learning management system.