Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Ups and Downs of Blended Learning

I feel like a first year teacher again.  Do you remember that?  The roller coaster you were on emotionally?  Well welcome to my world this semester.  I have taken the Blended Learning Plunge. See my first post about blended learning here.   I have my students for "In Class" days 3 times a week.  Then for two days a week they have "Independent Days".  These are days in which they do not have to attend class unless they have a grade below a 70%.

The Ups
The independent days have been spectacular.  There has been some "ah hah" moments for my students that could never have happened in a traditional setting.  Let me share a story.  I gave a visual pattern assignment to my class on an "Independent Day".  (this is where only a few of students are in my class)   So I only had a handful of students doing this problem in class.

We actually followed Michael Fenton's steps through this visual pattern with a piece of typing paper.  Click here to check that out.  So a student and I were working on a problem together.  Although she is very slow at processing arithmetic, she is very good at seeing patterns and growth of patterns.  For this problem we progressed by giving steps 1, 2 and 3.  (see picture)
Then she was asked to draw step 4.  No problem.
Then she was asked to draw step 10 with relative ease.
Then I asked her to tell me about step x.  (This was the key moment I had been waiting for.)
She said do you mean step 11.
I said no, step x.
She said I don't know what you mean by step x.
This girl has taken 8th grade algebra, Intro to Algebra and now Algebra 1.   Now she was finally able to ask  about what x means.  It was a breakthrough. We continued to work together.   She put together the expression that represented the xth step.  Yes it took a while, but that was an amazing day of teaching.  I felt like it was a day that I live for when a student "gets" it.  A student finally figuring out what x is in an algebra class. Thank you Fawn Nguyen for visual patterns and Micheal Fenton for a format to teach visual patterns.

Here is another girl explaining the problem.  She did her work OUT of class on her own.  This is amazing work on Independent Day.

The Downs
So not all things can work perfectly.  That is certainly the case for me.  I had two students email me this past week with frustrations about the Blended Learning process.  They don't feel like they are getting enough practice.  These are strong students too.  I need to listen to them and try to improve the way that we are doing things.    
Planning:  Am I giving the students enough resources?  Am I providing the structure for the students working outside of class?  I'm not very confident right now.
Getting Enough Math?  I continue to struggle with the idea that the students are not getting enough math.  I don't see it happening (because they are not in my sight two days a week) so it is not as easy for me.  The balance is trying to give enough resources for students who are out of class and also make them appropriate for where their learning is.  If it is too tough, they can't complete it.  If it is too easy, then they tend not to do it.  We must keep our ideas and our routines fluid to see if we can improve them.  I certainly do. 

Since we are always learning we must always refine our teaching.  That is certainly what I'm doing now.  I am trying to provide the right balance of digital resources and practice.   I'm now working on a document for the chapter that we are working on.  I wouldn't call my document a Hyper-Doc.  However it is similar.  Below is the document I'm working on right now for the chapter we are in. Note:  this document  Always learning.