Positions held include:
- Long-term sub (intermediate autism, primary SLD)
- 6th grade Reading Teacher (includes one year of full blended-learning instruction)
- 6th grade English Teacher
- Elementary librarian
- Secondary librarian
Positions held include:
Last year, when I was in the traditional classroom, I went completely paperless starting the first day of school. I had a class set of iPads dedicated to my classroom and students used them daily. All of our work went up on to Edmodo. Students did their reading reflections, goal setting, classroom discussions, and all sorts of other activities in our virtual classroom. Many times, just to toss things up a bit, I video-taped the mini lesson for the day and posted it there, leaving actual class time freed up for me to pull small groups, conference with individual students, or do other tasks that were essential to documenting student achievement. In working this way, students ended up creating their own record of learning for the entire school year. They learned (with direct teaching) how to properly answer each other online--and what the difference of formal and informal internet etiquette is. I told them that in our virtual classroom, they need to respond with proper grammar and capitalization, etc. Outside of the classroom, they could use their text speak. It’s a difference in settings that we have with a regular classroom and out on the playground, so once they made this connection, it was easy. We also used lots of anchor charts to document our collective group thinking. We kept those posted all year and continually referred to them so they were an active part of the classroom culture of expectations and learning. One of the most promising things I saw was that students who have terrible handwriting were able to be prolific when the barrier or handwriting was removed. They were able to type and not worry about if I could read their work or not. Kids did not have these iPads at home, so I made a concerted effort to create an environment of work during class time. I was in a non-block setting with 50-minute periods, so bell-to-bell on-task time was very important for the success of my students.
The biggest difference from the traditional teaching environment compared with the blended learning environment was a shift in thinking. I have always been careful to teach with intention anyway, but teaching without paper, you have to be that much more thoughtful--especially when it comes down to visualizing how students are going to perform tasks. There is a lot more planning involved to ensure that all t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. This means classroom management is paramount. You have to know what you expect all students to do--and you have to have a contingency plan should things (technology!) not work properly due to a malfunction or service outage, etc. While these are basic tenets of good teaching, many teachers may struggle if they don’t stop to think about every aspect from start to finish. Pre-visualization can work wonders if you take the time to do it.
The best way I found to be available to students is by being connected. In addition to having my phone with me wherever I go, so that I can answer those quick burning questions students have, I also set up office hours that remained consistent. This enabled students to meet with me either in person or in a private recorded instant chat situation. The student always received a transcript of the typed conversation so that he or she can refer back to my answers if needed later.