Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blog Assignment #13

stacked books with graduation cap on top with computer mouse connected to the stack

Back To The Future

Brian Crosby is a 4th grade teacher at Agnes Risley Elementary School and author of the blog Learning is Messy. He posted a video of his presentation at TEDx in Denver where he discussed the activities of his class. What is so interesting about that? Well, Mr. Crosby was presented with an interesting challenge in his students.....

Mr. Crosby's class the year this particular school year was made up of  over 90% of students that English was there second language. Upon giving a survey in the first week of school that asked questions such as "What is your phone number?" and "What country do you live in?", he discovered that there was a disconnect between these students and what others had been trying to teach them . So, how did he address this problem? He used technology to engage his students.

Each student had a laptop and their own blog. When the class learned about the atmosphere, they did more than just read the textbook; they did a bunch of different hands-on projects, one of which was building a hot air balloon that went up over 100,000 feet! So what did they do next? Well, they embedded videos of the activities and what they learned from them into their blogs. Then they went into the history of ballooning and after that made a Wiki webpage. Then, they wrote stories as if they were the balloons. As yet another facet of this project, the students had to write high hopes for their community, themselves, and for the world and put them on "Stratocards" which went up in the balloon and when it came back they put pictures of themselves on it and part of the balloon. These were also put on their blogs. The responses to them were amazing! Other people from around the world started posting their high hopes and the students found out about world events that weren't covered by the news.

All I can say is wow! Mr. Crosby astounds me. He took what should have been a HUGE challenge of a class and managed to not only engage his students, but to also get them a worldwide audience. One of the things I love is that he took one project and expanded it to encompass a myriad of different subjects all the while having his students cultivate a learning network for themselves. Not only did they learn though, so did he, which to me is one of the most important aspects of being an educator.

Blended Learning Cycle

Mr. Paul Anderson is an AP Biology teacher in Bozeman, Montana. In his video, Blended Learning Cycle he discusses the strategy he uses in his classroom. To start, blended learning is taking parts from online, mobile, and classroom based learning styles and blending them together. The learning cycle is made up of what is known as the five Es: Engage, Explore, Explain, Expand Evaluate. Mr. Anderson combines the two to create the Blended Learning Cycle. His Blended Learning Cycle can be described by the acronym QUIVERS.

The cycle begins with very good Question. This question can be described as the "hook"; it's something that really gets the students' interest. The next phase is Investigation/Inquiry. The students experiment and investigate the topic being taught. Then there's Video. The method Mr. Anderson uses is podcasting. This frees up the instructor to review and allows the students to learn independently instead of listening to a lecture. Next is Elaboration. This is the time when the teacher can go into further detail about the subject. Maybe they can assign some further readings etc. to help really explain and really get into the nitty-gritty parts of the topic being discussed. Then comes Review. In this step, Mr. Anderson meets with his students individually or in small groups and asks them questions to check their understanding. They can't go on to the final step of the cycle until he's certain they know what they're talking about. The last part of the Blended Learning Cycle is Summary quiz. This step simply tests them on their knowledge of all of the other steps. After several of these cycles, the students then have a unit test on all of the material covered within those cycles.

I've always been a fan of independent learning, but I've never really known how to apply it to a middle/high school setting. After watching this video, I now know how. I love how Mr. Anderson breaks independent student learning into a sort of formula. This way, he can make sure that the students get the information they need to know and can easily see what (if any) areas need to be worked on. I fully intend to use some form of this method in my classroom.

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