Browning’s First Blended Learning Cohort Creates New Mindset

This summer, Browning faculty were invited to a special workshop organized by the technology department and led by Director of Technology Aaron Grill, Director of Academic Technology Saber Khan, Technology Integrator Anderson Harp and Blended Learning Specialist and Grade Five teacher Jeff Lisciandrello. Mr. Harp offers this report, followed by remarks from a number of faculty in attendance:

Anderson Harp, Technology Integrator

Blended learning is an educational practice that combines online and digital learning with face-to-face instruction. This summer the technology department invited an amalgamation of Browning’s faculty to spend a week off campus at a blended learning incubator, collaborating and designing innovative upgrades to curriculum practice. Our goal was to reinvent how teachers define their homework and classroom time, with effective technology integration, so that course work flexibility becomes personalized. 

Teachers from all divisions left the workshop with a new mindset and the tools necessary to execute plans for accelerated differentiation. You may be asking, “What will blended learning look like in my son’s classroom?” The answer will vary in each case, however these examples may shed light on how Browning’s thought leaders are incorporating teaching for understanding with technology.  
    •    Assessments for the iPad immediately deliver feedback to students and teachers.
    •    Google applications automatically save and organize student work into folders.
    •    Classroom websites simplify communication and guarantee assignments are delivered.

Leveraging these and other tech tools not only keeps our pedagogy relevant to 21st century learners, but also frees more class time for problem solving and critical thinking. Anticipate teaching that includes more active and interactive learning to complement traditional methods of instruction.

Our first Blended Learning Cohort was an exciting partnership supported by the technology department and left each faculty member committed to the pursuit of academic excellence and a lifelong love for learning. 

Many of Browning’s faculty members who participated in the cohort have provided feedback on their experience, newly acquired knowledge and plans for classroom integration. Read below:

Meg Epstein, Grade Four teacher:
My goals when participating in the Blended Learning Cohort were to learn more about Math Buddies, which is the computer-based portion of the new Singapore Math curriculum that we are implementing in the Lower School this year. I wanted to spend time with other Lower School teachers and technology experts to familiarize myself with this new platform and learn how to use it as effectively as possible in the fall. I also wanted similar guidance with Front Row, which is another online tool that the fourth grade boys will be using in math.

Susan Kehoe, Grade Three Teacher:
I attended the Blended Learning Cohort in hopes of furthering the effective integration of technology into my classroom. This year, I am excited to use Front Row, an online math program, to enhance my instruction in math. It will be an excellent supplement to my Singapore Math curriculum. Front Row provides real time data, which I will use to drive my math instruction and lessons. In addition, I hope to have my students use information gathered from this site to set goals for themselves and to really take part in their own learning. To further this goal of having the boys become active participants in their learning, I will be piloting Seesaw, an online digital portfolio program. The boys will be able to “show what they know” using photos, videos, drawings, text and audio recordings. I will be able to sit down with them to review each one’s progress over time. This program captures the learning process as it is happening. I am excited to document and track each boy’s exemplar work in all areas of the curriculum and share their digital journals with their parents, with the administration and with my colleagues.

Saber Khan, Director of Academic Technology:
Soon after I joined Browning, I headed down to the workshop site to plan with Jeff Lisciandrello and Anderson Harp for the week. Once the participating teachers explained their goals and project ideas, we identified resources and outlined how they might fit into their classroom. Working directly with science teachers, I was impressed with how engaged they were in making their classes innovative and engaging. The week ended with teachers presenting how they intend to use Blended Learning tools and concepts to make their classes more accessible. Working with the teachers at the workshop was a great way to start my position as director of academic technology.

Michael Klein, Math Department Chair:
The workshop was an opportunity to learn how to use numerous digital tools and instruction models to enhance pedagogy. One tool I explored is Khan Academy, a free online platform featuring intelligent adaptive technology that allows students to learn and practice mathematical skills and problem solving, while progressing at their own pace. Students as individuals or as a class can be analyzed in terms of proficiency in topics and their progress. This rich data then drives instruction for differentiated learning within the class, informing student support and enrichment. In combination with the appropriate implementation of the “flipped classroom” model of instruction, I expect this tool can help increase opportunities for group problem solving during class time.

Jackie Pellenberg, Grade Two teacher:
I am so grateful to have attended the blended learning workshop this past August! My goal for the week was to find online tools to use in conjunction with the Lower School's new Singapore Math curriculum.

Over the course of the week, I explored two online platforms, Front Row and Math Buddies. I plan to use both tools in my classroom next year in an effort to differentiate instruction and keep students engaged in math through technology. 

 

Judit Resika, Math teacher:
The four-day-long blended learning workshop offered me many new platforms, apps, and websites that I will use in my math classes. Two of my favorites are Google Classroom and Knewton.

Blended learning requires a new mindset and more flexibility from the teacher. I believe it provides a more effective study environment for the students. They can learn at their own pace, whenever and wherever they wish.

Imagine mixing ice cream and strawberries in the right way. Combining face-to-face and online learning will be as delicious – a new challenge for me but if the mix is right, then I believe my students will highly benefit from it.

Math homework will never be the same after this week of workshops. Creating screencasts via QuickTime or Explain Everything will be among the homework assignments this year.

Melodie Ting, Science teacher:
The time spent this week with colleagues was great! It allowed us to get ideas from each other regarding new technological platforms available for use in the classroom.  The ability to create a virtual classroom and link it to different platforms allows for a seamless way of integrating technology. Technological tools such as CK-12 allow teachers to create text and videos, embed pictures into a virtual textbook, and send homework assignments with adaptive capabilities. This means that the questions will change in difficulty depending on how well the students answer the questions. It will also give teachers a snapshot of the time spent on each question, how many questions they get right or wrong, and the difficulty level of those questions. Since it is linked to the text, the boys can be prompted to reread texts if they get multiple questions wrong.  Overall, it was a great and productive experience, and I’m very excited to try out new things this school year!

Zach Williams, English teacher:
Grammar and vocabulary workbooks no longer feel like adequate instructional tools to me as a teacher. Vocabulary lists too often shoot for the middle of the group, boring the top students. And my experience in grammar instruction, on the other hand, is that there are always some students who need remediation – who can’t, for instance, understand my instruction on prepositional phrases because they never got the hang of parts of speech – and those students are too often left behind. Blended learning tools, specifically, NoRedInk and Vocabulary.com, address these issues by allowing students to move through the grammar and vocabulary curriculum at their own paces. Thanks to the blended learning workshop, which was expertly run by Jeff, Anderson and Saber, I feel empowered to start using these tools in my Middle School English classes. I truly think this is going to make a difference: the boys are going to get this material delivered to them in a more effective and efficient manner, and the end result will be more class time devoted to literary discussion and creative work.

Brett Wisniewski, Greek and Latin teacher:
I found this summer’s blended learning workshop very fruitful. It was a great opportunity to think about using technology in my classroom, as well as gain new ideas about how to assess student progress and apply it to my lesson plans. I developed an idea for a role-playing game for my Form III students to play in which they will use conversational Latin to learn about the language and culture of ancient Rome. Learning from my colleagues in the tech department and sharing with my colleagues from all other departments was an ideal form of professional development. I look forward to applying many of these things in the coming year. 

Emilie Wolf, Science teacher:
Through the blended learning workshop, I learned about new platforms and new ways of using technology to enhance our students’ learning experience.

The sixth graders will be beta testing the flipped classroom model through EDpuzzle, an online- and app-based interactive video platform. This blended learning strategy will allow for more classroom time working on hands-on application of the concepts. EDpuzzle gathers data about each boy which allows the teacher to monitor the students’ understanding and tailor classroom time to meet their needs.

Having the time to work as a group and bounce ideas off each other was invaluable in integrating these great new tools into my classroom.