When teachers are using the right technologies and strategies to implement blended instruction, they also transform their classrooms and the overall learning setting for all students.
What does your classroom seating chart look like?
Enhanced by technology, we redefined our activities to provide instant and meaningful feedback. Students are now centered of their process, and they are the center of their learning setting. In a teacher-centered setting, students are often seated in rows and column facing toward the front board. All students are given the same task or questions, and the teachers have to wait for all, or most, of students to complete the tasks or answer the questions before teachers can provide feedback to the entire class.
In our modern blended classroom, instant feedback and the adaptive nature of the technology-enhanced activities allow students to take risks and answer questions because they can retry to earn partial credit. The instant feedback allow students to self-assess their understanding real-time and learn from their mistakes while building self-efficacy and growth mindset.
In our modern blended classroom, we seated students in heterogeneous groups to maximize the benefits of instant feedback by using it as the thriving force for natural and genuine structured collaborative conversation. In their groups, each is accountable for their own learning process, yet they all have access to instant support from their peers.
In traditional group settings or group activities, where all members are expected to be accountable, yet no individual accountability is enforced, at-risk students are left behind. Advanced and proficient students take up more responsibility because high-risk students often do not try their best. They know that all group members will have the same grade even they do not put in the same effort. Because there is a lack of practical and effective methods to enforce individual accountability, many group activities in traditional instruction are not successful, at least for high-risk students. A common problem when having students sit in groups in traditional instruction is that students, especially high-students, often rely on copying answers from their peers. Consequently, good-intention collaborative activities contribute to widening the achievement gap among students and continuing to leave high-student further behind.
In our modern blended classroom, technology-enhanced activities enforce individual accountability in real-time; more importantly, all students’ responses, effort, and learning outcomes are documented and auto-updated in a comprehensive grade book. There is no need for ineffective and biased peer evaluations or rubrics. Accountability and collaboration occur simultaneously. There is complete transparency in students’ learning progress.
For example, a lecture is delivered at each students’ pace through the students’ teacher-made video embedded with adaptive and auto-graded questions. Students learn focused content at their pace while we teachers take an active role in facilitating students’ learning process, during which students become an active owner of their learning.
Similarly, practices and assessments are auto-graded and adaptive, so students are given instant feedback and retry until they have mastered the content. Supported by a heterogeneous group setting, a simple independent activity can become an engaging and collaborative group activity.
What does my classroom management look like?
On the surface, it seems that the key to effective classroom management strategies focuses on consistent expectations and routines. It is about keeping students quiet or busy from bell to bell. This type of classroom management is most effective in honor or gifted classes since those students are easily threatened by grades and parent’s involvement. In lower-level classes, consistent expectations and routines can longer appeal to some students, and it does not affect high-risk students. Consequently, many teachers rely on assigning busy tasks such as worksheets or book works that teachers have little intention of grading, for the main purpose is for classroom management rather than authentic learning. Therefore, the second half of effective classroom management is promoting authentic student engagement, which is more challenging than the other half. Through traditional instruction, students’ engagement is passive as the teacher is the center of the stage, where the teacher has to put on a show. However, teacher-centered instruction restricts students to be passive learners. Consequently, students’ engagement is very limited no matter how hard a teacher tries to put on an exciting show.
In our blended instruction, we replace teacher-driven instruction with student-centered instruction, where students take an active role in their learning while teachers are facilitators. However, this only works when we integrate technology and specific strategies to redefine instructional activities with adaptive and instant feedback features.
What about students with special needs, IEP or 504?
We all know every teachers want to support students with special and provide meaningful accommodations. However, we don’t want to disable students by succumbing to students, case carriers, or parents’ excuses. We all want the best for students; however, case carriers and some stake holders may prioritize students’ achievement over students’ learning. The lack of transparency between achievement and learning create mistrust among all stakeholders; consequently, different stakeholders blame each others for any students’ failures. Some administrators and case carriers believe that teachers do not emphasize with students’ unique challenges, where some teacher believe case carriers and administrators are making excuses for students. Through traditional instruction, this cycle of blaming each only further divide important stakeholders rather than bringing them together support students with special needs.
In our modern blended classroom, all stake holders, including students, have complete transparency of students’ learning and achievement. Integrating our learning management system website and specific strategies, we can capture all students’ attempts, responses, and grades of all activities, and the data is organized into comprehensive and auto-updated gradebook. Altogether, all stakeholders no longer have question each other’s commitment to support. Rather, we use the comprehensive data to determine how we can each student based on each students’ specific weaknesses and strengths.