Online video sharing sites are an excellent resource for the kind of active teaching centerpieces
that make a classroom great. But if participation and direct engagement
are the keys to the effective use of technology in the classroom today, then maybe something a little more interactive is necessary to keep active learners motivated, stimulated and excited.
One innovative way to spice up the audio-visual aspects of your learning environment is to move away from viewing video in the classroom and move towards creating it.
These types of projects can combine a number of great take-away lessons for the students into one fun project – and better yet, it works across learning levels! These cooperative projects are excellent ways to:
- Encourage ownership & community collaboration. Group projects work best when every member feels like they hold a piece to the puzzle – and video projects have enough components (like planning, capturing content, editing) that everyone can be equally involved. These social learning exercises can be easily facilitated by tools and content management systems like Blackboard Learn.
Last week, I had the pleasure to spend the morning with Leslie Fetzer, an Occupational Course of Study Biology teacher at North Carolina Virtual Public Schools (NCVPS), who was in DC visiting the Department of Education
because she was recently named the iNACOL/SREB National Online Teacher of the Year. Leslie works in a blended model, partnering with a face-to-face teacher, to teach students with disabilities. She is also on the NCVPS team that builds all of the online courses from scratch and depends daily on Blackboard Learn
and Blackboard Collaborate
As a former teacher who loved walking in the door each morning to greet my classroom full of energetic second graders and hear their stories from the evening before, I am always curious why teachers like Leslie made the decision to teach online. Leslie strongly believes in the connection between students and teachers as well
. She thinks it is important to “watch what they watch, listen to what they listen to, and read what they read.” She also thinks it is important to engage them with the tools and topics that they respond to, which is what led her to using technology in her classroom.
Through activities like collecting polling responses through cell phones and sharing content through prezi, she noticed an increased energy and enthusiasm in her class. Leslie remembers one student acting up in class and another coming to her defense saying, “Don’t mess with the Fetz!” This loyalty enabled her to get her students excited about science. As technology options in high schools progressed, she began teaching part-time in an online school.
Leslie remembers clearly the moment when she decided to switch to teaching online full time. She was teaching a chem lab. Her class size had grown over the years, and in one moment, she looked across the room and noticed ~12 hands in the air. She knew each student had a different question, and she couldn’t get to each of them fast enough. She felt strongly that if she had been teaching online, she would have been able to give each of her students the personalized attention that they needed.
I started at Blackboard one week prior to the launch of Blackboard Learn, 9.1. My first week was filled with a buzz that I couldn’t quite understand. All of my colleagues assured me that 9.1 contained some great new features, especially for K-12. As I learned more about the lesson plans and standards alignment and interactive tools that were a part of 9.1, I realized that the product changes really could make a difference to teachers and students.
This week, as details emerged about Learn 9.1, SP8, it took me no time at all to realize how exciting this release is for K-12 educators. From the moment you open a course, small but powerful differences catch your eye.
As someone who taught elementary school for 6 years, I was very excited to spend a few hours with Kristin Kipp, the Online Teacher of the Year
. Kristin teaches 11th
grade English at Jefferson County Colorado’s Virtual Academy. She previously taught in a traditional school and now loves teaching fully online.
I am most curious about her day-to-day interactions with other teachers and her students. She says she “lives in Blackboard.” However, while the bells and whistles of online learning attracted her to teaching, it is clearly the students who keep her hooked. As many teachers do, Kristin fills with enthusiasm when describing her students who might not otherwise graduate without the Virtual Academy – those with medical issues, those who had family obligations, and those training to be elite athletes. In fact, students led her to online teaching. She left the classroom to be an Instructional Coach and missed teaching. One of the ways that Kristin shares her belief in her students is by making it clear to them that online learning is not easy and that her standards are high for each one of them.
People use a lot of different terms when they talk about Virtual Education: Blended Learning, Virtual Schools, or Virtual Programs
While we hear these words used interchangeably, it’s fair to wonder if there is a difference? And, how are schools and districts using these terms to define their virtual education programs? Many of our clients have shared their virtual education stories with us, so, let me breakdown for you what they’re saying:
in Louisiana has created a successful blended learning program through Blackboard Learn using tools such as blogs, wikis and podcasts to facilitate collaboration between students and teachers and encourage higher order thinking and problem solving skills. Blended learning
combines the traditional brick and mortar school building with the Blackboard Learn platform and is commonly used to extend the school day and bring in engaging 21st
Century learning tools to the curriculum.