You may have caught it. Last spring’s fever was all about how Silicon Valley was for the first time (probably ever) actually seeking out those of us in the “softer science” -—namely poets, writers and creative types—to enhance Artificial Intelligence technology with human personality. The Washington Post’s article entitled The Next Hot Job in Silicon Valley is for Poets was one of many to summarize the shift in what has been perceived as traditional high tech jobs.
The tech side of Silicon Valley has always worked with the softer skills but at a later part of the cycle— to promote and sell the technology. Now, the two are blending at the conceptual stage to imbue the software with what is perceived as uniquely human qualities – humor, emotion, banter, etc. Artificial Intelligence has led the way on this, but nonetheless it appears to be a trend that will only evolve. It is a recent real world example of why Blended Learning, a buzzword that educators have been inundated with for the last few years, is arguably one of the most relevant trends in education.
The talk behind blended learning is really about how to mix technology into the traditional school day in a meaningful way. Making the technology amplify a subject or skill is the key. Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan articulated the need back in 2010 when he proclaimed, “the factory model of education is the wrong model for the 21st century… our schools must prepare all students for college and careers—and do far more to personalize instruction and employ the smart use of technology.” The private and public sectors reacted by creating tools and programs that help achieve the goal of blended learning.
The goal is well explained by Josh Woodward, teacher/author of an article in Edweek entitled How Blended Learning Saved My Teaching Career. Woodward defines blended learning as “leveraging technology to provide students and teachers with immediate feedback, holding each individual student accountable for his or her academic success, and personalizing coursework to best meet students exactly where they are.” Immediate feedback, accountability and personalization…the trinity of the modern classroom.
While blended learning isn’t implemented in every school in the country, the Artificial Intelligence scenario mentioned above is a fitting symbol of how Education is evolving. The need to blend the two sides of the brain is a fantastic model educators can use when planning daily lessons under the umbrella of blended learning. How can we use technology to enhance a lesson? How can technology help us engage both sides of the brain in the same activity? How can we use the technology to engage as many learning styles as possible? And how can we know, right away, if it is working?
One part of the answer for blended learning is adaptive testing. Programs like SBACC, PARCC and state-based standards are in place to push the nation towards these goals. And, since you are reading this post, likely you know tools like Edulastic can help give the students daily access to these objectives even when the curriculum may still be in the queue for updating.
Using a tool like Edulastic means a teacher doesn’t necessarily have to wait to incorporate blended learning into his or her class. And, a county or even a district doesn’t have to lead the way for the students to have access to blended learning. By incorporating a few traditional assignments, chapter quizzes or unit tests in an adaptive assessment tool like Edulastic, educators can begin to blur the lines between pencil and paper and technology— all the while engaging both sides of the brain and a whole slough of higher order thinking skills.
Very practically speaking, there are three main ways I like to use Edulastic for blended learning lessons.
1. I like to use the spatial/mathematical question types for literature or history
For example, on a graph, students can plot the degrees of good or evil for characters in a story. Or, using the question types that focus on tables, drag and drop and matching, students classify and group actions, characters and events. I use these as small group assignments where student groups present their analysis to the class during the course of the text. Then, at the end of the unit, these same questions appear in the assessments.
By integrating spatial skills with recollection or analysis, you will be achieving the crossover of blended learning while tapping into several different learning styles.
2. Every question type in Edulastic can include multimedia
One of the easiest ways to bring in relevance to the lesson is to add videos from YouTube into the questions on an assignment. You can find nearly any type of video clip (educational and otherwise) on YouTube and YouTube makes it really easy to copy the “embed code.” Edulastic has simplified the process by letting you just paste the code directly into the textbox of any question type – from the classic to the advanced.
How To: Find a video on YouTube. Right click on the video itself and select “copy embed code.” Next go back to Edulastic. When you are in any question, put your cursor in the text box and the text editor appears. Select the small rectangle to “insert multimedia.”
3. Using reporting and redirect, you can individualize instruction
One of the byproducts of the students interacting with the technology is the ability for the teacher to get instant feedback from the software. I use the Mastery Report to see where each student is on a standard. I like the function of knowing how long each student spent on each question. Both of these tools help me identify the groups who need to spend more time on a standard. Finally I also the Redirect function to reassign assignments or questions to those who need more practice.
The benefit of a tool like Edulastic is that helps a teacher hit the key points of blended learning even as a district moves towards a widespread implementation. The teacher and student get immediate feedback, both are held accountable for mastery of the standards and the learning can be personalized based on the student’s pace.