Blended Learning Reflections and Notes from the #NAISToF Conference

This summer I was selected, along with 34 other educators across the country, to attend the National Association of Independent Schools Teachers of the Future Conference to be held in Alexandria, VA on the beautiful campus of Episcopal High School.  This year’s conference is titled “Exploring Together: Blended and Online Learning” and focuses on four themes: blended and online learning, student health and well being, student assessment, and accreditation.  
During our morning sessions, participants were involved in rotating through a series of three stations: collaborative, independent, and direct instruction.  This rotation was to serve as a simulation for what we could take back to our own learning environments and use as a model for differentiated instruction.  Individuals numbered off into three groups.  My first group was direct instruction.  During this fifteen minute session, we viewed a brief presentation sharing the core elements of a blended learning model according to the NAIS.  

4 Essential Elements of a Blended Classroom:

a.  Small group instruction – increases effective instructional time by providing opportunities to teach to smaller groups of students
b.  Integrated digital content – engages students for individualized learning
c.  Differentiation – enables differentiated instruction for greater impact
d.  Data driven decisions – provides frequent, high-fidelity data to inform instructional decisions 
These essential elements should happen every day in a  blended learning environment.  Blended learning is a strategy to support personalized learning.    
I often talk about having balance within the classroom.  I do not believe there is a “one-sized fits all” form of instructional delivery.  I firmly believe that each year should look different for the methodologies used depending upon the class composition.  With that being stated, the saying “The more ways you teach, the more students you reach” perfectly applies.  A blended learning model can support this level of differentiation within the classroom environment.  I’ve been using a model of instruction in which allows my students to work in a variety of capacities along with receiving more personalized learning.  I refer to this method, or time during our class, as digital workstations. 
Grade 2 Classroom: Erin Klein
During our digital workstation time, students are working in partnerships to rotate through a series of flexible learning spaces within our classroom to demonstrate proficiency in concepts we’re studying and apply their knowledge in creative and meaningful activities that are student driven.  Additionally, as part of the rotation, I meet with two partnerships to form a small group.  This small group time allows me to personalize the curriculum for the individual learners.  While I’m meeting with small groups, other partnerships are engaged in other content area stations around the room.  Because I involve the students in the planning of these stations, they take ownership of the activities.  The level of creativity they have when planning is to be admired.  I appreciate seeing how the students collaborate together when developing ideas for each week’s station activities.  
You can read more about our digital workstations by viewing my complete post on Scholastic.  
In our afternoon session, we were asked to come up with a goal for ourselves to think about regarding  blended learning and innovative curriculum.  As I reflect on our digital workstation time, it is my personal goal to take this platform a step further by beginning to document student growth and progress.  By tracking student growth through formative assessment pieces and portfolio artifacts, it is my hope to demonstrate the benefits of personalized learning via small group and individual instruction.  I plan to continue using applications like FrontRow to track student data through adaptive assessment measures.  I will continue to share the process of our work as it evolves.  
Brad Ratgeber: “7 Rules of Thumb for Blended and Online Learning”
In closing, our cohort listened to two inspiring presentations led by Michael Nachbar and Brad Rathgeber regarding blended learning and online instruction.  It was beneficial to hear both individuals share about the power of student learning through blended and online environments.  During our break-out sessions, we met with grade level groups to discuss to each session.  It was comforting that each conversation throughout the day didn’t focus on devices but rather the pedagogy.  So many ideas have been shared about meaningful ways to enhance curriculum through organic ways of utilizing a variety of mediums into the classroom.  I’m looking forward to following more  classrooms that are having success with blended learning environments, differentiated instruction, and personalized learning.  
If you’re interested in following the resources shared throughout our learning experience at #naistof, I’ve curated the books, blogs, links, and more all on a Pinterest board that you can access by clicking here.  

Erin

Mother. Teacher. Keynote. Author

Erin Klein is an award winning educator, national keynote speaker, author, and mother.

5 Comments
  1. I'm positive about the majority of these ideas. To be honest it's a real challenge to teach a big group. You can't possibly help everyone, especially when students learning abilities vary. Smaller group is much more efficient and can benefit everyone. Back during my teaching practice I even had to order custom written papers for college since it was really hard to both study and teach a large group of students. I'm happy to have more time now. Anyway, thanks for sharing and keep it up, your blog is amazing!

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