Notebooks… File Folders… Pencils… Pens… Highlighters… Backpack… Paper… Calculator…
It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve been out of the classroom, the start of school makes me want to buy school supplies. There is something to be said about new beginnings and the excitement and anticipation of a brand new year. The past is past! Love that feeling of a clean slate!
This year takes on a little different look and feel in our district. Five instructors are moving to a blended learning format. My job is to support them in any way I can to ensure their success and the success of their students. The launch of this initiative gets me to thinking, what “school supplies” do these instructors and subsequently students need to start the year?
Information… For teachers and students in our district, blended learning is a new idea and a new way of teaching and learning. Having as much information as possible in the beginning sets the stage for what is missing and what needs to be added or supported. How prepared are students to learn in a distance learning setting? Not just online access, although that is important. What about time management? Reading and writing capabilities? Ability to learn independently? You may be asking, how can you hope to determine that information for a large number of students? We were fortunate to learn about SmarterMeasures Learning Readiness Indicator, an online assessment that measures a student’s preparedness to learn online.
The seven components of the assessment are:
- Individual Attributes – such as motivation, procrastination, willingness to ask for help
- Life Factors – time availability, support from family, school, and employers, financial considerations
- Learning Styles – visual, verbal, social, solitary, physical, aural, logical
- Technical Competency – technology skills
- Technology Knowledge – usage, vocabulary
- On-screen Reading Rate and Recall
- Typing Speed and Accuracy
A huge benefit of the assessment is that information is given to both the student and instructor. This includes not only a measure of where the students are and what needs to be improved but suggestions and resources for making those improvements. That is rich information!
Content… Over the past year these five instructors have worked on developing and refining pieces of their curriculum for online. They received equipment including GoPros and Swivl cameras. And, they’ve attended professional development sessions, online and face-to-face, to learn tools and strategies for creating and publishing instructional videos for their specific content. They have done their homework!
Dedication… This move to blended has not been an easy process, nor is the process complete. District and state policies are not completely in place. Attendance questions still exist. The answers to those questions continue to change. Challenges continue with the district LMS, the enrollment process and communication protocols. And yet… these five instructors persist. They are dedicated to the belief that the benefits blended learning affords their students is worth the effort. One of the five instructors shared a story about a student who was concerned about his ability to attend class 5 days a week and continue his employment. The blended format made it possible for him to attend class. He could attend 3 days a week and continue to work and generate an income. Five days a week, maybe not.
So, while the start of school still requires notebooks, paper and pencils, for these five instructors it also requires shared and targeted information, quality online content, and amazing dedication to their students by providing new opportunities for students.