Differentiation of classroom instruction using tools instead of toys.

Consider this; a classroom that allows students to move at their own pace; a classroom that allows spend time on topics that they find interesting; a classroom where mastery is the goal and not satisfactory. Consider a classroom that you will never have to say "oh well, most of them seen to get it so I guess I'll move on". A classroom where that one kid in the back sleeps through most of your and still gets a C, B or even A can finally be challenged.

Welcome to the 21st century classroom, the blended classroom.

In 2010 the department of education released a study on the effectiveness of online class compared to traditional (face to face) classes. The study determine two things.

1. On standardized tests, student who received instruction via an online class score the same as students in a traditional class. The study followed it up with the statement that school districts should use online classes to help relieve budgetary concerns and as a replacement for canceled classes.

2. On standardized tests, students in a blended (a class that is a blending of online and tradititional classrooms) scored 35% better then classrooms that relied only on tradition our online methods of instruction.

The short of it, traditional classroom can be replaced with online classes but blended classrooms can't.

So, what is a blended classroom, and how can I get the district to pay for (or more to the point how can I do it for free).

The phrase "blended or hybrid classroom" means different things to different teachers. For most teachers blended means sending home 60 minute lectures home instead, or in some cases in addition to, the 60 minute in class. Blended also means class time is resuscitation time, students working groups in groups on what was once called homework. For me, blended means differentiation, it means mastery, it means self paced. This next video is of Salman Khan and how he accidentely changed the way we look at blended class design.

 Here is some good news, his stuff along with a ton of other lectures can be found online for free, including lectures from the top colleges, universities, museums, and organizations around the world. Most are embeddable and some even come with additional support material (like "homework problems").

The list of tools here are to be used as tools and not toys. What makes a tool not a toy, its how you use it. To sit in a training about voicethread, classmaker, or google docs with out the discussion of usage of that tool turns it into a toy, something you'll once or twice in the course of a semester so you can check of the "uses technology in the classroom" box on your evaluation. You can't do that with these tools they have to used everyday to make an impact.

The first tool I used in my classroom was iTunes U. Colleges, universities, museums, and organizations from around the have placed video, audio, and support material in this "centralized" location. You want to know how it fells to sit in on a lecture on classical physics at MIT, its there. You want to tour the great museums of Europe, it's there. You want to learn Russian from a Russian, it's there. You could litererly walk into a new school, a new classroom and start "teaching" BC calculus on your first day. It's as simple as this, go to iTunes U, open up the link to Stanford search for Calculus 1, assign one lecture a week, or break it up into chunk; watch the fist 30 minutes on Monday; 45 minutes on Wednesday and the rest of the weekend. So then what are you going to do for the rest of the week? The important part, the part where the highest levels of learning happen for student, it's also the least guided part of instruction, it's what traditional classrooms call "homework".

Rant Alert !!!! Rant Alert !!!!

We know as teachers that students learn more when they're stressed (not over stressed), learning in the stressed environment is called "Active learning"; learning that happens environments that other very little stress is called "Passive learning". Think of your class, when is active learning going on, when is passive learning going on?

Taking test -- Active learning

Doing Homework -- Active learning

listening and taking notes in class -- Passive learning

So test taking and homework are the most stressful things in any class, they are also the least guided, while lecture time is passive, but is the most guided. Think of it this way, if time is currency, and you only could spend one dollar on each student, where would you spend it? Where do you spend it now?