Friday, May 22, 2015

Blended Learning and Teacher Empowerment

When I think about educational technology, it has never for me been divorced from pedagogy.  As soon as I encounter a new digital tool, although it might attract me at first based on its novelty, my mind immediately jumps to the connection of how can I use this with my students to __________.  I fill in that blank with all manner of things to include: uncover what they've learned, inspire deep thinking, provide a visual prompt or clue, create an engaging hook, etc.  So, sometimes I'm taken aback when colleagues suggest teachers who embrace technology "tool hop" without any intentionality or simply like to play with then next new, shiny toy.

Often, those same colleagues see blended learning, a mix of traditional face-to-face and digital tools for instruction and assessment, as a method that diminishes a teacher's role and cedes control of the learning to the computer.

I would direct those who believe so to read this definition of blended learning by Susan Patrick:
"Blended learning is a delivery system that utilizes the best of online learning tools and resources to shift the instructional model toward student-centered, highly personalized approaches.  Blended learning makes it easier for teachers to be empowered with technologies that allow personalization."

It is this message of empowerment through the use of technology to personalize instruction that I want to convey to all those teachers who remain skeptical about technology in education.

In Five Steps to a Successful Blended Learning Program, Sari Factor describes the teacher as the most important factor in determining student success in a blended learning environment and advises that "with data generated from online tools and resources, teachers can pinpoint individual student needs and focus on high-value activities" to include:
  • coaching students, 
  • providing intervention for those who need extra help, 
  • and designing challenges for those who grasp concepts quickly

In addition to using digital tools to generate important formative data, teachers have ready access to resources to be responsive to students' varying needs for intervention and challenge.  One way teachers can scaffold and support learning for individual students when formative data shows a need is to create individual playlists using Gooru.  Search their Community Curated Collections by age, topic, or standard.  See the curated resources and use the whole collection, remix the resources, or grab the video or web link that provides the perfect intervention or challenge in the moment for the individual or small group need.

Read more about successes and challenges of blended learning in action in Jordan Moeny's Education Week article In California, Blended-Learning Approach Turns Teachers into Facilitators and continue to feel empowered by the possibilities.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Active Video Viewing

I have been excited lately with the potential of using in blended classrooms to support active participation in video viewing. is a web-based tool that allows users to take notes while watching a video.  Here is an example of some notes I took while watching  Robert Duke's video "Why Students Don't Learn What We Think We Teach"

The added value of is the tool syncs with the user's Google Drive so the notes are automatically saved and can be shared.  The best part though is each typed note is time-stamped so when viewing your notes (or mine if I share with you), you can click on the time-stamp and the video is cued up to that very spot. And, the person with whom you share can add to the notes (notice the arrow above pointing to a note added by one of my collaborators).

Using videos as instructional tools is common.  Whole group viewing and discussions are certainly an important way to convey information and make meaning from what is viewed.  To that end, the MIT Blossoms program (Blended Learning Open Source Science or Math Studies) offers access to math and science videos in what they describe as "the lively video presence of a gifted guest teacher."  According to Putting Teachers at the Center of Education Technology the creators of Blossoms call their program’s "blend of computers and people a “teaching duet"" because in-class teachers facilitate active learning exercises interspersed through the viewing of math and science videos.

In addition to whole-group engaged viewing, teachers and students benefit from individual and small group second or third active viewing experiences using tools like or Edpuzzle.  Teachers can prompt students to think and engage with the content and open a window into the learning process when they embed questions in a video via EdPuzzle or assign note-taking with a specific focus through

For more ways to encourage active participation in viewing, take a look at the advice offered in this article by Emily A. Moore in Faculty Focus: From Passive Viewing to Active Learning: Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Online Course Videos

And I particularly like these tips from the University of Arkansas to promote critical thinking and active learning through video viewing:

Predict, Observe, Evaluate (POE)

  • Can be instructor produced, student produced, or existing (10-20 minutes)
  1. Student views first part of video setting up scenario
  2. Student predicts what should happen next
  3. Student observes the actual result
  4. Student evaluates the original prediction

Ten Frame Analysis

  • Student produces from existing video
  1. Assign video to view.
  2. Students will, individually or in groups, take ten screen shots from the video that they feel describe the issue.
  3. Students will describe why they feel these screen shots effectively describe the issue, as they see it.
  4. Students will submit an assignment with the screen shots and documentation or present to the class (video presentation in discussion board or through web conferencing).


  • Appropriate for Affective Domain objectives
  1. Assign video to view.
  2. Students will complete a survey or have a discussion (in discussion board or web conferencing) to describe how they felt about the topic before and after viewing the video.
  3. If students’ views changed, ask them what changed their minds.