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Part 2: Tips from blended-learning teachers about the structures and systems that make blended work

Created by Silicon Schools Fund and Clayton Christensen Institute.

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Video transcript

- All teachers know that you need great systems in your classroom, even the little things. It's as if, if there's any one problem, create a system for it. I remember one of my teachers was frustrated by her bookshelf at the end of free reading time because the books were a mess. So after lots of lecturing, she finally decided to take a picture of what she wanted it to look like, and post the picture on top of the bookshelf, and it essentially solved her problem. It's so simple, but if you find a structural systematic approach, you can solve a lot of problems. - So blended learning teachers are coming up with great systems to make their classrooms run smoothly. - The fist two weeks are procedures, and that includes when they go to the computer labs. Mrs. Sara, who's my paraprofessional, she's going to show the kids how to walk into the lab. If they do not walk in quietly with their hands behind their back and sit down at their computer, she takes them out, lines them up, and they do it again. If they don't enter quietly, takes them back out, lines them back up. We can do this seven, eight, nine times if that's how long it's going to take. Most of the time it doesn't. Then, as they know, as soon as they get into the lab, Mrs. Sara tells them, she models what she wants them to do. She says, "Headphones on." They all put their headphones on. - [Voiceover] Watch how smoothly it works when you have good systems, for a student to know exactly what to turn in, and then easily transition to working on a tablet. - Organize in a consistent and predictable way. I have stations in each of my classroom where the technology is set up, where students are completely self-sufficient in getting an iPad, moving to the spot on the carpet where they work on the iPads. Getting a Chromebook, carrying it over to their seat, working on it there. The systems have to be predictable, have to be consistent. - There's a clear theme that emerges from all these structures and systems, and it's that the teachers are creative. The teachers find solutions to the problems and they're getting ahead of the problems and mapping out where we need to go. We know that the things we've raised are just the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure at home there's a lot of you who've already had a really great system or a structure that you've been thinking about that works really well in the blended learning setting. - Now, there's one other idea that Brian and I have been toying with, which is that as we move to these blended learning environments, what are the right signs that we should be looking at to see if students are truly engaged in learning? - I think about this as stop measuring proxies of learning and start trying to actually measure learning. I remember when I was running a summer pilot, we've talked about, with blended learning, there was a student who wasn't there the first day, so I came back the third day and I saw this kid. He was standing in the doorway eating an apple. I was an old-school, like law-and-order kind of principal. I went up to this kid. I was like, "What are you doing in the hallway? "Why are you eating an apple? "Where were you day one?" He just looked at me and said, "Hey, slow down. "I'm the top scoring kid in the class right now." I took a breath and I said, "Come show me." We walked in and he opened his laptop and he had made more progress in his one day than everybody else had in two. So I said, "Go finish your apple." Right? It's like he had proven to me that he knew this material, and I could finally get inside the black box and see some indications of learning versus whether his headphones were in or whether his eyes were on the teacher the whole time. - Kids get off task, as in any classroom. When I have noticed a kid is off task, I usually go over and ask them what they're doing. That might mean as I'm walking over they've just closed down the tab on what they were just doing. We might check the browser history or whatever, it depends on how much you actually care about that nonsense. I generally find that kids who are off task are not engaged or motivated, or understand why that task is the right one for them at that moment to help them in their learning. So if you're convinced that it is the right task for them, that it's the right module in Khan Academy or whatever it might be, then that's a conversation I think is worth having with the kid. In a blended classroom, you often have the minute to three minutes it takes to have that conversation, because other students are generally working hard and on task, and you can get that done. It could be that that kid, particularly as you get into middle grades and high school grades, really disagrees with the task they've been assigned with them, and I try and respect that as much as possible. If that kid can articulate to me that they actually should be working on something else at that time, I generally say, "Sure, that works for me," and "What's your plan for coming back to this?" Put it back in their hands to take responsibility for coming back to that original learning. - One of the things that most schools fail to do in the blended learning model is really look at the data that the software programs are providing. Almost all the programs can tell you, these are the five kids that are in trouble right now on the software program. I've seen cases where sometimes a teacher will let a student go three weeks with absolutely no growth, and the information was there every single day on that report that was never looked at. So we have each of our teachers, or paras, print out that report daily and know exactly who are the five kids I need to talk to tomorrow when they come in the lab about their performance from yesterday. That's become part of our staff culture and it's been extremely successful at driving our achievement in blended learning and software programs. One of the most important components of using a lab or a Chromebook lab effectively is that the teacher's up and monitoring students at all time. We ask the teachers every two to three minutes to step back, scan the room, and look for behaviors that are not acceptable. Typically you'll find students that may not have their headphones on when they need to have their headphones on. It's really about having your head on a swivel when you're in the computer lab, because kids will occasionally drift off and get off task. Just like in a traditional classroom, you want to be tracking the classroom at all times. Another technique that's really critical to have in your blended learning program is a way to reward student performance. We have several different awards that students can win in a week. Who grew the most? Which are the students that had the greatest improvement one week to the next? - Before students go on technology, we map out what it should look like, what it should sound like, what it should feel like. What it should look like is you are on your technology. Your eyes are on your iPad. Your eyes are on your Chromebook. Your hands are moving. You're interacting with the program. What it sounds like is it's quiet in the classroom, so that the students on the carpet can work. What it feels like is it feels purposeful. It feels intentional. It feels like you are showing honor to the people who are learning, like you are showing love and respect. You feel happy. So mapping out the purpose, and mapping out exactly what those clear expectations are, is essential. - It's really important to help students understand that you're going to honest with them. It takes a long time, as a teacher, to come to a place where you feel comfortable being honest with your students about what they know and what they don't know, because you're really worried that you're going to break their morale. But, you have to do it if you want to move the needle and you want to help students change the trajectory of their lives, you need to empower them with information. So a lot about the next generation model is taking what students know and what they don't know and putting it in their hands and saying, "You have the power, you have the power "to decide what to do next. "This is where you're at. "What do you want to do? "But we're going to be here with you "and have that conversation alongside, "and we're going to be here. "These are the tools and these are the structures "that are in place so that we can support you. "But I need you to understand that we see what you see "and your parents see what you see "and you need to see what you see "so that we can make movement." - Throughout the course of a day, found myself starting to just ask kids a lot more questions to help them come up with their own answers to things, whether that is to understand content, whether that is to understand instructions, or whether that's to like resolve conflicts with their friends, or problems they feel like they have with a teacher or another adult. I think we've really tried to create this culture as a faculty that our job is to help kids learn how to solve their own problems. I think it's been a great thing because I think instead of me just giving kids answers, it's really helping me push kids to come up with their own answers.