Blended Learning lives on a spectrum. It starts on one side with learning that utilizes a little classroom technology, and then it moves on along over toward completely online, personalized learning with human support. Within the spectrum we get into all kinds of classifications from Michael Horne's work over at the Clayton Christensen institute -classifications like rotation models, flex models, self-blended models, and enriched virtual models. Within those classifications, there are some models in place today who are just doing it right -folks like Carpe Diem.
But not everyone can jump into creating or even emulating the perfect individual rotation model this coming Fall semester. Transition management is key. And as long as you're moving in the right direction, appropriate movement is better than overstepping and stumbling. Most of these models are stops along the bus route while time catches up with vision anyway. But what is the vision, and where is the bus going? An excellent question.
The vision is personalization... a word not even my spell-check recognizes it's so ahead of its time. But its time is coming.
Using technology to engage students is better than lecturing for an hour from a podium. Bueller? Using technology to manage differentiation of instruction by student skill level groups is a smarter use of technology and another step along the blended spectrum. But the promised land, personalization, is using technology to differentiate for every student instead of a few ability groups.
And so there you have the spectrum. The bus makes its last stop for the day in front of personalization.
Personalization is using accurate benchmark testing to find gaps in individual student learning, then filling those gaps with playlisted learning objects that are high quality and unique to that student. It's efficient. It's testing for the purpose of finding gaps in student knowledge, not teacher performance -and cheating doesn't make sense. It clears the way for STEM, Project-Based Learning that makes school fun and relevant.
And it is coming. In NC we are already creating the Learning Object Repository, even if not everyone is quite certain what we're supposed to do with it yet. But now you know -the LOR is for playlisting, not lesson planning. We'll get there, and in my next post I'll talk about some of the things you can start doing now to be ready.
Today’s QuickEdTech lesson is all about keeping in contact with your students in the easiest, fastest way possible so that you can track the conversation for documentation purposes. This is a big one. You can sync your contacts in blackberry and iphone to your google contacts, so this should work for everyone. Note that the best way to text students isn’t using your cell though. The best practice is to send a weekly Google Voice sms to reach out to every one of your students, field the immediate responses via keyboard, and then use the Google Voice app on your phone for brief conversations at other times during the week.
Add students in their own ‘group’ to your google contacts. Delete that folder and start new every semester, which will keep those contacts from getting all mixed in with friends and family in your phone. When students call or text, you will still have a record with the kid’s name in your phone’s call log. You will still have the kid’s cell, parent’s cell, dla’s number, and home phone as well as ALL the emails associated with that kid right in your smart phone. But with this method, you will have all of these benefits without tapping that info into your phone one entry at a time. This will save you a ton of hours.
That should take you to the page where you can manage your google contacts, which are probably synced to your phone!
Google uses a very strict spreadsheet format to keep its contact information organized. We here at QuickEdTech have backwards engineered a great hack for you, and it’s going to save you a ton of time. Get ready, because it looks like this:
Part 1: Watch here for how to get your blank spreadsheet from Google so you’re ready to fill it in with your roster.
Part 2: Watch here for how to fill in your spreadsheet once you have the spreadsheet from Google.
Part 3: Watch here for how to upload the prepared spreadsheet to Google.
Remember that you will probably not get an accurate roster in a spreadsheet that contains student cell numbers, so you should create your own using a Google Form. For instructions, see the next post!
A script is a simple program that automates a task. It’s spooky, because it’s always watching -like a cyber stalker. When it sees what it’s looking for, it leaps on its prey and does… well, it does whatever you tell it what to do.
A good example of a simple but useful scripting tool is Texter, which you can download from the linked Lifehacker article. If you haven’t found this little gem yet, then you can thank me after you start using it religiously.
When I send out my weekly emails to parents, students, and school contacts, I set up three emails -one for students on point, one for students falling behind, and one for students who are missing in action.
As I scroll through my grade book, I use Texter to insert my note. It’s a fast way do individualize emails, feedback, and anything else you end up writing often -like your signature line!
Check out this example of me creating a simple Texter script to write my signature line:
Next, we are going to get a little bit more complicated with a different script writer called Macro Recorder. Enjoy!
For Sale -1 4G Verizon Mi-Fi; looks like I won’t be needing it any more!
A good friend has been telling me about a free app for my Droid 4 running Android 2.3.6, Gingerbread. It’s a tethering app, and at first I thought it was too good to be true. It’s that good, but it’s still true!
Right now I am typing this entry from a boat on a lake in Virginia where I have Verizon 4G signal. I tested it, and I even have enough speed to watch a Netflix movie without buffering. I wasn’t able to turn on the wifi and roll with it; I’m sure my phone company put the brakes on that feature. But I was able to connect the phone to my laptop via bluetooth and then turn on the bluetooth DUN feature of the app -voila! Fast internet wherever my phone has 4G signal.
Luckily, I signed up for an unlimited internet account a long time ago with my carrier and haven’t changed my account in such a way that ol’ Verizon can justify taking away this feature. I’ll be very careful to not piss them off in the future so I can keep my grandfathered status -it’s good to not worry about how much data I’ve used.
My recommendation is if you have an Android phone and you’re using a mi-fi or some sort of tethering device, check out the Foxfi app in the android market! It’s great for grading and communicating with students any time, anywhere.
I don’t think that in the history of my teaching, face to face or online, I ever got a complete roster on day 1 with accurate contact information for all of my students. It’s nobody’s fault. The fact is that people don’t update contact information with the local school when they move; they are focused on bills and boxes. And out of a class of thirty students, someone is always moving. The thing to do is to use a Google Form on the first day of class to gather student contact information. I’ll post an example of a good looking Google Form at the bottom of this entry.
Imagine a spreadsheet with a row on the top labeling each column. In your roster, you want the student’s name, and you want the student’s contact information -all of it. That means parent’s cell, student’s cell, parent’s name, parent’s email, student’s email… you name it, and there’s a column for it on your imaginary spreadsheet. This is exactly what a Google Form does. Check out the video below for a how-to guide on creating a Google Form.
Watch the video below to watch me create a Google Form before your very eyes!
Below is an example of a Google Form you might use to gather contact information from your students on the first day of class. Remember, contact information is only one type of data that teachers use in the classroom. Google Forms are great for polling, for backchannel, and for formative assessment!
If you’ve gotten this far, then you can be proud as a peacock because you’ve got embedded Google Forms gathering data for you, a phone with your students’ contact information in it, and a scripting tool that keeps you from having to write the same text over and over again. Hang onto your hat though, because we’re about to take it up a notch. With this tutorial, you will be able to send out a personalized text message to every one of your students with the flick of your wrist -I find it helps to say Alohomora when start the script, but more on that later.
One important thing to remember about this script is that it’s repetitive and cyclical. We are going to record it one time, and then it’s going to repeat what we ‘programmed’ it to do as many times as we want!
First, the bad news: You’re going to have to pay real money for a program to get this hack working. It’s called Macro Recorder. As of right now, it costs about $30. The free trial isn’t going to get the job done, so pony up if you want to call yourself a ninja geek. Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like: The cool thing about this particular program is that it lets you keep things very, very simple. That’s important. First, let’s go over how to simplify it with these simple steps. Think: simple
Go to View and unselect ‘show insert toolbar. Feel better?
Go to Tools, then settings. Make sure only ‘Record keyboard’ is checked.
Count the number of students you have, then go to Tools, then settings, then Playback settings tab. Set the continuous replay to the number of students.
Same location in the Various tab, select all three boxes.
Now that you’re ready to boogie, here’s a tutorial on how to create a script that will text your students a personal message all at once. Remember that you have to use keyboard shortcuts to get the deed done; using your mouse at all while you’re recording your script will break the magic.
Step 1: Set up your spreadsheet and practicing your script directions:
Step 2: Record your script:
Step 3: Autohotkey:
The next step is a bit of a curve ball. I know you have already downloaded and paid for a script writing tool called Jitbit Macro Recorder, but now you’re going to download another one -at least this one’s free! It’s called AutoHotkey. When you download it, don’t get all up in its business. It’s really quite simple -you just let it live, quite peacefully, in your tool tray on the bottom of your monitor. It will be a little green H that minds its business and doesn’t bother anyone. When you right click it, you will select ‘edit this script’ and a notepad window will open. When it does, write this in the notepad:
#z::Run test.mcr, C:\Users\Owner\Desktop
What that means is that you have your recorded macro, test.mcr, saved on your desktop. Hitting the windows key, #, and z at the same time will launch that bad boy. If you saved the file as something other than test, change the word file name in the line of code above. If you aren’t keeping it on your desktop, put its location in the C:\Users\Owner\Desktop part of the code above. If you don’t like hitting the windows key and z at the same time, change the letter in the code above and use the new keystroke.
This is as close to actual coding you will ever come with me. Hit File, then Save, and then close the AutoHotkey Notepad. Now right click the happy green H in your tray, and select ‘Reload this script.’ That’s going to tell AutoHotkey that you’ve made some changes and it better re-read the code so it knows what’s up.
Step 4: Make it Happen:
Now you are ready to test your script.
Caution: Don’t walk away from your script when it runs the first time or two. Babysit it while you grow confidence in a new script.
Scripts are just going to do what you tell them to, and they can go bananas on your computer if you’ve made any errors. Watch your script at first with nervous excitement, and then jubilant pride as it performs exactly as you planned it would… the third or fourth run. Note: I’ve done this hundreds of times, and I rarely get it right the first time. Don’t get frustrated if it gets wonky, as Jen P says. It happens.
Set up your Google Voice page on one side of your monitor, set up your excel page with the phone numbers and notes on the other, click on the voice page, and then click on the excel page. Make sure the mouse clicker is on the first kid’s phone number, and then hit the windows button and the z key.
Remember that if it starts to go bananas, you can hit ctrl+q to quit the script. If all goes well, you’ve just set up a system that will text message 60 kids in 3-5 minutes with a personalized message. Seems like a lot of work, but consider this -if you have a weekly conversation with your students via text message, then all you have to do from here on out is change the message on your Excel page, hit the windows key and z, and Alohomora -you’ve begun a conversation with your students again. Just be ready for when the script ends to answer a ton of text messages on your keyboard via Google Voice!
Two heads are better than one, and the few hundred subscribed to this blog are one heck of a resource! It’s time to tap that resource, so I’m introducing the ‘crowdsource’ segment of www.quickedtech.com. Today, we’re going to ask you a crucial question:
What are one or two crucial steps a school needs to take when transitioning to 21st century learning?
Please join iNACOL and your colleagues for this webinar entitled “Race to the Top District Program (RTT-D): The Essential Role of Digital Learning in a Successful Application” on Friday, August 31 from 4-5 pm ET. If you’d like to attend for free, please register here (http://www.inacol.org/events/webinar/special_edition.php).
At the end of this webinar, you will better understand the grant competition, programmatic goals and understand the role of online and blended learning in the next generation digital learning approaches.
Again if you’re interested in attending this FREE webinar, “Race to the Top District Program (RTT-D): The Essential Role of Digital Learning in a Successful Application” on Friday, August 31 from 4-5 ET, please be sure and register here: http://www.inacol.org/events/webinar/special_edition.php.
Over the past couple of days I’ve been honored to share some experiences and facilitate conversations around blended learning for Communities in Schools in North Carolina at Cisco. It’s been an incredible experience, and I’ve made some great new friends!
We started by doing some introductions, and I took the opportunity to share some of my experiences as an alternative school teacher and a blended teacher. We broke down the recently released work by Michael Horn and the Innosight Institute and talked about examples of blended models as well.
Here is a link to “Disrupting Class,” (e-book) a book I highly recommend around disruptive innovation in education, which we covered in our discussions.
Below is the Ken Robinson video we watched in the presentation. It’s excellent!
There were a few other videos I wanted to share with the group, but we were running out of time. I’ll embed them below so that you can check them out on your own time.
This one is a quick 2-minute clip on the Flipped Classroom, which is a sub-model of Horn’s Rotation Model. Lodge McCammon of the Friday Institute is someone to follow on Twitter around this model:
We were talking about resources around the Flipped Classroom, and I spoke briefly about Khan Academy and the effort at MIT to make science awesome. The video below shows how MIT getting the job done:
And last, another video I wanted to get to but didn’t quite have time for is the video that 2Revolutions uses to enter into discussions around innovating for the future. This video is especially relevant to CIS PLC’s, because of what you are doing around catching students who are falling off of the map. CIS PLC’s are catching those who the system is not working for and putting them back on the road to success. The teachers I met this week should be proud. I was certainly honored to be working with them!
The state and nation should know about Communities in Schools’ Performance Learning Centers. They are community-centered alternative schools that feature myriad blended learning solutions for students. The schools are small, and the classes are small. There is a sense of community and professionalism that the students are indoctrinated into with a clear purpose -get on the college track. These learning centers have graduated huge numbers of students where mainstream, traditional high schools have failed, and they are a huge asset to NC schools. There are 5 of them across NC, and here is a link where you can learn more! Thanks again for the opportunity, and I hope to work with you all again in the future.