Blended Learning: Reaching Digital Natives in the Mainstream Classroom, Part 2

Education & Technology

Read Part 1 of “Blended Learning: Reaching Digital Natives in the Mainstream Classroom” to learn about new teaching modalities that balance student involvement with engaging lecture.

Bringing the Cloud to my class

In my high school classroom, I have utilized WizIQ’s virtual classroom/education platform to bring in outside educators on topics in which I do not have particular expertise. For example, in my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition class, we were studying the Declaration of Independence as literature. While I was able to point out its nuances and literary content, I wanted to bring in an expert in the field of American history to do a presentation and Q & A on the document and its background.

I set up my computer and projector and utilized WizIQ’s virtual classroom. There was a definite anticipation on the side of the students that day as they came into the classroom looking forward to a live internet discussion. The instructor was then able to teach my kids about the document and its background utilizing WizIQ’s highlighting tools, document uploading, audio and video technology. My student’s raised questions and got answers live.  This was a truly rewarding experience as I was able to expose my students to this document in a multi-dimensional way: through lecture and discussion from a literary perspective, a presentation by an American history specialist, and through a follow-up group discussion and subsequent essay. My students were unlikely to forget what they learned that day.

Making Connections

In another class, I experimented with teaching traditionally while also having a live session with an out-of-state student. The student online saw and heard everything the in-class students saw only his experience was on his computer while they watched on the screen. He was even able to join in on the conversation.

Lesson capture and flipped classrooms

In contrast to this, I have also utilized WizIQ’s technology to record teaching sessions for future viewing. My students have often revisited these sessions for their own review.  While this works with my traditional mainstream classroom, it also works well with classes that are based on a rotational model of blended learning. This type of blended learning refers to classes that meet live part of the time and have independent cloud-based learning the rest of the time.

For example, students may meet in class twice a week and follow a schedule of cloud based learning the other three days of the school week. They could have various assignments that will lead them to live or pre-recorded sessions, internet research, and group sharing websites such as Ning. I have created a Ning website for each of my classes. There I post my PowerPoint presentations, live and pre-recorded presentations, videos, art and music that relate subject matter, class assignments and homework, member information, calendar of important dates, etc… The possibilities are endless. Students are able to create their own pages and collaborate on assignments. The usefulness of such a site really solves many problems in the classroom such as confusion about assignments, test dates, and missed classes.

The bottom line

So to the educator who is wondering what approach to take in the classroom to get their students engaged: begin utilizing a blended learning environment. Too much of one thing can cause students to lose interest. Teach your class. Your students need your expertise and passion for the subject matter in order to learn. Give them the opportunity to be in groups and share their learning with their peers.

All the while, utilize the cloud to keep things alive for the kids. They are crying out for a new approach in the mainstream classroom. An approach that makes them feel like they belong in our book and paper world. By utilizing web based learning we will keep them engaged in the learning process. These digital natives will learn so much more in a blended learning environment and thank you for it.

Deborah Cruthers

Deborah J. Cruthers has been involved in education for 13 years. She has taught grades K-12 for public, private, and home school students in special education, mainstream, and advanced classrooms. Her experience with educational technology includes cloud based learning in the following venues: synchronous, asynchronous, blended, and virtual classrooms.

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