Monday, September 17, 2012

Blended Learning PD

This summer I offered a technology integration course, TechSploration, to the staff at our schools in Hartford.  This 1 credit course proposed to touch upon Common Core and Technology, Google Apps, Web 2.0, and Social Media in Education.  This course was offered predominantly online over the summer through the course management system, Moodle.  

We kicked off the course by meeting in person to introduce everyone to Moodle, and to review the outline of assignments, communication and expectations for participation.  I asked participants to post their goal for the course on our WallWisher, which I posted on the front page of our Moodle site, to serve as a reminder for them throughout the course.  

Over the course of the summer teachers spent 1-2 weeks on each module: Common Core and Technology, Google Apps, Web 2.0, and Social Media in Education, learning more about each topic and doing some independent exploration of their own.  Each module asked the participants to complete a final task, while also thinking about how they might take their new learning and skills and build a final project.  Along the way, participants were asked to blog and use Twitter for class communication and in cultivating resources and their own Personal Learning Network.  
(Social Media Module)
As the course wrapped up in August, teachers spent two weeks constructing a final project of their choice.  The requirements for the final project consisted of the following components:

1) Write a blog post about your process.  I would like you to identify:
  • why you chose this assignment
  • what you hope to accomplish
  • how it is going/or went
  • how you plan to assess your success

2) Post a comment(s) and/or link about your work these two weeks on your Twitter account.  Think about how you can use your Twitter followers to find resources, information, etc.

3) Construct your project using a web based tool.  This means that you could build your unit in Google Sites, or a collection in Google Docs, or create a presentation using VoiceThread or Sliderocket--whatever you choose.  

In September, we met as a whole class to present the final projects. I was impressed with the variety of directions participants diverged. Some teachers set up classroom websites using Google Sites, some teachers set up Edmodo classrooms that they are now using as a learning management system, some teachers used tools like FlipSnack and VoiceThread to construct learning materials for professional development and classroom activities, another used Google Earth Tours to construct college admissions tours. It was amazing to see the products they were able to create in just a few weeks of learning new technology skills. And as an added bonus, we were able to make connections across disciplines and our schools.  

Teaching a class in this forum was new for me as well, and there are some changes that I will be making before I offer it again. I accepted students from all levels of comfort and skill with technology and made accommodations in terms of my support and the way materials were presented, but I know this can be improved. I may offer the course again and offer a strand for more advanced techies, and another for those that want more support, or I may just re-work some of my lessons to provide more choice on both ends of the skill spectrum.

Check out a few samples of the work my teachers and counselors accomplished:
First Things First blog
What is Language, SLP presentation using Slide Rocket

Comments from participants: 

"I have a much better awareness of the existence of many web tools and the possibilities of Google Apps and will be better prepared to naturally integrate them to enhance learning rather than trying to "fit them in" in an isolated fashion."

"The course challenged me to learn new technology and tools and to work thru problems."

I want to thank all of the participants of this course for their energy, enthusiasm, and encouragement. As we begin our new school year, I am looking forward to continuing to check in with my TechSploration participants and see in which areas they continue to grow, and ways I can continue to support them.

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