Today’s Contributor: Carmen Barrera . She is a teacher and Campus Innovation Coach at Linder Elementary School, where she has taught for six years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas-Austin and her master’s degree from Texas State University.
I was not sold on BLEND. As with most new roll outs, BLEND was just another thing to add on to my growing list of requirements for this upcoming year. I couldn’t see the feasibility in my classroom. In my mind I could already picture a classroom full of students, who could not remember their usernames or passwords. Chaos ensues as students, easily distracted, start searching for something else on the internet than complete the assignment. Speaking of assignment, how long will it even take for them to type?
My head was full of doubts. It took a conversation with my brother to realize the lifelong benefits BLEND could have for my students. He began discussing how Canvas is used at his university for submitting assignments and it dawned on me. Utilizing BLEND will help my students be college and career ready by learning how to navigate and successfully use a system. BLEND can teach my students technological skills that will be necessary in any career, or college.
It took most students two different times logging in for them to be able to login fluently. Students stay on task and willingly complete their BLEND assignments because they are engaged with the presentation of the material. Students can easily complete an assignment within the given time frame, as lessons can be differentiated. All the previous worries are now nonexistent. The hardest part is taking that first step. I was so busy trying to figure out all the things that can go wrong, instead of giving my students the opportunity to give it a try. Finally, I just published my first module for my reading classes to complete and scheduled computer lab time, so that I was available if needed.
Now, my students can, with ease, read and watch videos that contains information about a topic, practice vocabulary, complete an assignment in their journal, take a quiz online with instant feedback, and collaborate with their peers by posting and replying to discussion boards. They are able to choose how to respond to assignments by typing their answers, handwritten, or submitting a video. My students went from learning about me and internet safety and etiquette to completing assignments on area and perimeter, grammar, and context clues. BLEND is utilized in my classroom for core lessons, centers, projects, and homework. At times, my students are using BLEND for every part of our lesson and other times we do not use it at all. BLEND is there to enhance a lesson and increase student engagement. When homework is posted on BLEND, I have 100% completion rate because my students want to complete the assignments. In fact, they beg for more homework and center work, if it’s on BLEND.
BLEND allows for students to be in charge of their learning and to collaborate with their peers through discussion boards, projects, and even just solving technological issues. However, a major aspect to BLEND is it allows for teachers to collaborate with other educators. I thought of one person who would also be interested on campus in exploring this avenue of teaching and learning. We started sharing ideas and challenging each other to expand our thinking. As a campus, BLEND has been used for professional development, increase campus communication, and a way to share our BLEND lessons through a campus-wide BLEND shared drive.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed. I was too, however the benefits for the students outweigh the risk of trying something new. In the end, just remember to start with one. One course to try it with. One day to just go and get it done with your students. One person on campus that will take this journey with you. One person encouraging you.
I find it so wonderful that our younger students are very easily working with BLEND. We launched our 1:1 devices a bit later in the year, so I’m still finding that my students are still having trouble finding modules, assignments and my daily pages. (Or maybe it’s that all their teachers are setting up their courses differently.) For a daily grade in my elective class I give my kids the option of submitting via a media recording and interestingly enough only a few kids ever do it. I teach high school, so you’d think they’d be all over submitting a video, but they aren’t. I think I will need to (more intensively) model how to find things in BLEND and create more videos so the kids can see I’m not afraid to do it.