Many posts, books, or articles about education tend to lean towards the big picture. They want to ask why and discuss large issues. I appreciate these resources as they provide me an opportunity to think about my practice and why my work affects students, but I’m often left asking myself how. How do I implement these large ideas? How do I find the time to create a plan to utilize these ideas? The aim for this particular series of articles is to help with the how. I’m striving to provide educators with a step-by-step implementation plan to create a student empowered, blended learning environment.
By blended learning environment, I’m referring to a classroom where the instruction happens face-to-face and online. The students can access the class materials from any computer with internet, turn in assignments, reference schedules, review discussions, and track their progress towards standards. The power with an online classroom environment lies in the students’ accessibility from anywhere, the teacher’s ability to personalize instruction for each student, provide feedback as students work through assignments online, and as a communication tool to the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s).
The first step in creating a blended learning environment is choosing a Learning Management System (LMS). An LMS is a web-based tool used to implement an online course. For K-12 educators, an LMS provides us the opportunity to have a blended learning environment where students can access the “classroom” from any computer with internet access. There are an overwhelming amount of choices available for educators. The point is to make sure it fits your needs. I want one that is easy to use (for me and my students), free, and allows easy communication to parents. Here are a few options I would recommend:
1) Schoology (free because my district pays for it)
PRO: Schoology allows for easy parent communication, gradebook, assignment feedback, Google App integration, discussions, and individual/group assignments.
CONS: Have to pay for the best features
**I have collected a resources to help you get started with Schoology**
2) Google Classroom (all my students have Google Accounts)
PRO: Sends an automatic, weekly email to parent(s) with upcoming assignments, completed assignments (with scores), and missing assignments. Assignment feedback, individual/group assignments.
CON: Doesn’t have a gradebook
**I have collected a resources to help you get started with Classroom**
3) WordPress (or any other free website builder)
It’s really up to you which website builder you choose to use. Many of them have become easy enough to use without needing any coding experience. It’s a great place to start every class with objectives, links, assignments, but the students won’t have the ability to turn in assignments through the free site.