Hello, all and happy Wednesday! If you’re back to school like me, I hope your school year is off to a fantastic start! I’m still struggling to settle into a routine that includes 3 ballet classes, two jazz/tap classes, 3 soccer practices, piano lessons, working out, making lunches, fixing (and eating) supper, teaching three online classes, teaching all day … I could go on, but you get the idea! We all have hectic lives, and so do our students. Sometimes I wonder if we as teachers remember what it was like to be a student. In my case, I had ten classes in high school, which were complete with ten sets of rules and expectations, homework, projects, and different learning environments. I was a good student but still found this overwhelming. In addition to having multiple classes and classroom expectations to master, my students also experience quite a different teaching strategy when they enter my flipped, blended, and gamified classroom. We use the available educational technology tools at our disposal daily and heavily in our classroom to enhance learning, quite possibly in ways they’ve not yet experienced.
Understanding the Why
In my Government classes, my students progress through units of instruction in the form of HyperDocs. Our HyperDocs are housed in the form of a Google Site, and include “Engage,” “Explore,” “Explain,” “Apply,” “Reflect/Share,” and “Extend” components. Students begin with the engage and explore sections to become, well – for lack of a better term, engaged in the content they’re learning and establish background knowledge about the subject. The explain component requires students to view and interact with instructional videos through one of my favorite educational technology tools, Edpuzzle. The apply section requires students to choose a product to create that demonstrates their understanding of a variety of concepts addressed in the unit. I also include a rubric that students can use not only to understand the requirements of the project but also to self-assess and make adjustments before submitting their product. (Check out my unit HyperDocs here!) Even though this process is a huge shift for my students, I want them to understand the “why” behind what we’re doing and the educational technology tools that we’re using. Why am I asking them to create a representation of their understanding that requires them to include not just a definition of a term, but also (and more importantly) a thorough explanation of the concept? Why do I ask them to assume that their audience (me and others we may share their work with) has no idea about the concepts they’re learning and it’s their job to offer a complete presentation of that information? Because I want them to demonstrate their understanding of a concept … not whether or not they can copy/paste from the Internet or from their peers!
Do. Not. Panic!
When we experience something new, one of our first responses is to FREAK OUT because we don’t know what to expect, we’re scared, or we just want to continue doing what we’ve always done. When students encounter something new or different, they’re likely to have the same response. This is OK! I’ve stressed over the last week and a half the process that we will follow throughout the duration of our course, the building blocks of knowledge that we acquire and use as we proceed through our units, and what my students are expected to do with what they’ve learned. Clarity of expectations and processes are key in any classroom, but especially when we’re asking our students to do something much different than they’re accustomed to.
I’m here to help
As I’ve said here and in my book, one of my favorite features of my flipped/blended/gamified classroom is that I feel like I’m able to actually help my students on an individual level. When a student or group of students is struggling with the systems of government, I can re-teach that concept for those students. When a group of students is ready to be challenged and extend they’re learning, I can do that by offering them activities that encourage them to go above and beyond, and am there to help them if they need it. I feel like I’m really able to be there for each of my students. Even though the first few weeks or the first unit can be challenging, it’s so worth it!
I hope you’re excited about the new school year and the knowledge that we get to have such a huge impact on the future through our classrooms!