Who Moved the Front of the Room?

I walked into a 1:1 elementary iPad classroom and knew it had happened. There was a happy hum in the room, kids were working independently in soft spaces, and the vibe in the room was productive and calm. Where was the front of the room? Where was the teacher?  

What I am describing is a disruptive blended classroom as defined by Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker in the book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. “There is a simple rule of thumb for spotting a disruptive model of blending learning: if students are learning in a blended setting, and you can’t figure out where the front of the classroom is then it’s probably a disruptive model (Horn, Staker (p.76).”    I have witnessed this shift happen several times as we have implemented 1:1 iPad classrooms in my district.     Teaching and learning looks very different from the traditional model we envision when we think of a classroom and school. Instead of finding a teacher delivering content in one unifying message from the front of the room, teachers are crafting a personalized learning environment grounded in pedagogy, choice, and creation which shifts the teacher from the front of the room to working alongside students and a shift from desks to soft spaces throughout the room.  

How does a shift like this happen?

Developing a blended learning culture within the classroom day is the key. Blended learning is defined as, “A formal education program in which a student learns: at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”  As an iPad coach, I work in classrooms alongside students and teachers.  From Day 1, we begin to craft this blended environment.  

Here are a few steps to get started.

  1. Set up a blended classroom workflow using tools such as iTunes, Google Classroom or a learning management system such as Schoology or Canvas so students can have control over time, place, path, and/or pace. This is the place to design the content and deliver course materials.  Once this workflow is in place, it is easy for students to access and submit assignments anytime, anywhere.  Not only is this great workflow, but it also provides feedback and privately differentiates for every child seamlessly.
  2. Leverage the audio and video capabilities to provide students choice and independence in how they learn and how they demonstrate mastery of objectives.  Both teaching and learning is now multi-modal where students have more options for creation that includes audio and video.
  3. Create soft spaces in the classroom and give students the freedom of movement and collaboration so they can work individually and with one another naturally throughout the day.
  4. Let go and let them learn. As you shift to working alongside your students, take advantage of the time to conference individually and provide guidance to small groups.  
  5. Be patient with yourself and your students. It takes time and perseverance to craft this environment.

How are you creating a blended learning classroom for your students?

Leave us a comment below.

Written by Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1)


The Learning Never Stops with iPad Anchor Activities

What do they do when they’re done? This is a question that so many teachers have as they begin to let go of their classroom and students begin to take ownership of their learning. As students move at their own pace through guided instruction or learning activities they will inevitably finish at different times. One of the biggest fears of teachers is that students will have nothing meaningful to do during the transition time. This has always been a challenging moment unless they have an engaging task for students to work on while they wait for their fellow students. So, how do teachers continue the learning process for their students during these times?

The iPad offers multiple answers to this challenging moment for teachers. One of the biggest advantages of having iPads in the hands of our students is that anchor activities are right at the their fingertips. There are so many quality apps for different ages that allow students the opportunity to practice basic skills, review material, or even extend their learning acquire new skills. One advantage is that this can happen at the student’s own pace and level. Another advantage is that there is no prep time for teachers. Anchor apps can be used at any level, however, the use in elementary classrooms is particularly powerful throughout an entire day of transitioning between activities.

So what are some great apps that our elementary teachers are using to keep the learning process going during these times? Check out the list below and please comment on any apps that you feel our students should be using as well!

Math: Front Row Math, Teach Me Kindergarten/1st/2nd/3rd
Writing: Teach Me Kindergarten/1st/2nd/3rd, Handwriting Without Tears 
Reading: Front Row Reading, Epic, Raz-Kids 
Vocabulary Work: Keynote, Quizlet
Coding: Kodable, Lightbot, Hopscotch, Scratch Jr.

Written By Jeffrey Bernadt  |  @jeffreybernadt