Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

Posts tagged ‘Online Learning’

Global Conversations

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Collage of presenters at CO13: Connecting Online for Instruction and Learning Conference

Today was my two year anniversary on twitter and I was serendipitously honored to celebrate by presenting a course on Learning and Leading in Online Community about my work with YU2.0 for  the Connecting Online for Instruction and Learning Conference (co13). Learners included a lecturer at Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland, a teacher and researcher in Romania, an ESL teacher in Italy and an ESL teacher in the Philippines, a psychology teacher in Puerto Rico, a dance teacher in Massachusetts, an English teacher in Egypt, as well as learners in Nigeria, Argentina, England, Sweden, India, Senegal, and Australia. We joined together to discuss our learning and leadership in online community in a conversation I would not have dreamed possible two years ago when I tentatively ventured into the world of Professional Learning Networks (PLN’s) and online collaboration and engagement. 

I joined the conference as a learner with excitement, and as a teacher with humility, recognizing I would be speaking with individuals who have tremendous knowledge and experience. Through both the session I taught, or more aptly facilitated, and the sessions in which I participated as a learner, one primary big idea emerged for me – an idea which has similarly emerged for me in my current learning as part of #etmooc, a mooc (massive open online course) on educational technology and media. We must as professional learners own and personalize our learning. We must accept the role as “stars” of our own learning journey; just as we must, as educators, strive to empower our students to be the stars of their own learning journeys.

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Participant driven professional learning, and student-centered learning in schools represent a seemingly subtle, yet profound shift in learning today. There are no recipes, no clear paths, and no right or wrong ways to learn. There are possibilities and potential, actualized when we set our own learning goals, find guides to help us reach those goals, and remain open to shifts in the journey in directions we never imagined possible.

Two years ago I couldn’t imagine connecting in real time with educators from six of the seven continents (nobody participated in the session today from Antarctica, but you never know). I couldn’t imagine unconferences like edcamp in which experts and keynotes are eschewed and learners relish in learning with one another. I couldn’t imagine creating collaboratively with strangers who although we’ve never actually met, have become friends.

Learning On-Line

 

Move fast – don’t be afraid of failure

Empower your dreamers – say “yes”

Develop a vision and tie it to your mission

Focus on areas of most importance

Think about connecting with others

Brad Rathberger

Director, Online School for Girls

cc licensed image shared by flickr user Derek Purdy

As happens time and time again, at a professional learning experience related to technology, I learned not as much about technology as about learning.

I’ve enrolled in Charting a Direction for Online Learning, a year long course designed for educators at independent  schools. The course is sponsored by Online School for Girls, a learning organization serving a consortium of independent girls schools by assisting member schools to collaboratively develop blended learning experiences for their students. Most of the learning in this professional course occurs on-line, yet this past week I attended the first of two face to face sessions.

“Blended and online learning is as evolving of a field is there is in education. It is flipped on its head every six months or so,” shared Brad Rathberger, Director of Online School for Girls. We are beginning to recognize the potential to dramatically shift control of learning from teachers to students not as much through the technology as through the previously unimaginable potential for flexibility in the use of space and time made possible with technology.

Among the greatest moments of learning was the opportunity to hear from a number of students at School of the Holy Child. “We learn a lot about responsibility, academic integrity, learning to work with other people, and flexibility,” shared one of these very impressive high school seniors, reflecting on a course she was taking in multi-variable calculus. Participating in a college level math course, and interacting with some of the top female high school math students in the country, she interestingly didn’t reflect as much on math or technology, as on learning and growth, noting with maturity how she is less shy and more able to manage her time than she had been prior to her online learning experience.

While one cannot make generalizations about online and blended learning as there are so many approaches, evolving so rapidly, there are a number of broad models currently in use:

  • Rotation Model
  • Flex Model
  • Self-Blend Model
  • Enriched-Virtual Model

Rotation Model

Station Rotation Model

  • Students rotate through three broad types of activities in a continuous loop: individualized online instruction, teacher-led instruction, and collaborative activities and stations. This is the simplest blended learning model.
  • Alternatively, instead of one component of online learning there are two components, the individualized on-line instruction and the on-line assessments. Students rotate through four broad types of activities in a continuous loop: individualized online instruction, individualized online assessment, teacher-led instruction, and collaborative activities and stations.

Lab Rotation model

  • There is direct instruction for 3/4 of the day in math/science and literacy/social studies with teachers. There is a learning lab with on-line activities for the rest of the day, supervised by paraprofessionals.

Individual Rotation Model

  • There is a central computer lab along with numerous other learning settings, chosen depending on what a student might need; intervention, seminars, direct instruction, and group projects.

Flex Model

  • Students learn in a massive computer lab staffed by paraprofessionals for about half their day; and work with teachers in small groups for the other half. They come together for lunch and social activities.

Self-Blend Model

  • There is a physical place for students to come to learn in a collaborative environment when they choose to do so. Students can also work at home with their online teacher. They are not required to be in school.

Enriched Virtual Model

  • Students participate in supplemental on-line courses.

Independent mission-driven schools, not yet as fast moving or skilled at collaboration with other schools as we will need to become, must overcome a number of challenges, and capitalize on numerous strengths and opportunities, in order to design our own solutions for utilizing on-line and blended learning. If we are not proactive, as Brad Rathberger warns, we may find ourselves forced into solutions that do not reflect our missions.

As we move forward, what shall we consider in the move to blended learning options? How might we imagine anew possibilities for use of space, time, and financial resources? How might we assess the quality of on-line options? How might we support teachers to adapt and prepare for teaching and learning in a blended environment? How might we prepare our students? What cautions might we consider? What might inspire and enable us to dream?

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