For me, blended learning has always been a necessity because it adds another element of creativity, provides otherwise unreachable resources, and promotes collaboration in education. It also allows for multiple kinds of learning environments to help differentiate instruction. Moving from brick-and-mortar classrooms and blended learning to solely online education was not where I thought I was heading when I set out to be a teacher years ago, but it has changed my perception of what learning looks like and also made me a more flexible and mindful curriculum designer. When I started, there were some undeniably frustrating days. How do I reach students? How do I keep them engaged? How do I know they are learning? As I progressed, I reminded myself, these are the questions every teacher must face every year no matter how the curriculum is presented. There are simply different ways of observing what is successful and who needs support. It is up to us as educators to develop a course design that encourages and provides resources to foster the best possible learning experience for every student no matter what way the curriculum is presented.
And then COVID-19 happened. Even though I am an online educator with my curriculum housed in Moodle, I still was not ready for this challenge. Although not a typical to an online teaching experience, I was used to meeting with my students whenever possible to check in, to see facial expressions, and make personal connections. That loss was palpable.
These changes have made it apparent how valuable it is for educators to be able to go seamlessly from an in-person to online to offline experience. Of course, few if any are there yet, but I think this needs to be part of our new-found educational literacy in the teaching world. The set-up is difficult, but the results are undeniably valuable now and even when we are back in classrooms.
Setting up our classrooms to be both online and in person, having that flexibility, is important for students who are at home because they are on medical leave, for parents wanting to check in, for collaboration with colleagues, students, and parents, and for having a supply of back-up resources ready for every situation. It’s valuable for substitute teachers. It’s valuable for teachers in the moment who need to differentiate instruction. Here are some scenarios. Did Johnny fail a test on algebra? I have a tutorial for that. Did Anika struggle with synonyms? I have an interactive video for that. Today, I need to have individual meetings with my students, but I want anyone not meeting with me to work on another assignment. There’s a simple solution because there are projects, readings, and activities ready to go in their online course. As it happens, this online course also hosts audio files, transcripts, and has printable and downloadable materials so that students without internet can take materials home on their school provided device or to their personal computer. Do I need my student to catch up on a lesson, unit, or semester they need to retake? Well, I have a credit recovery options available. Are a few students way ahead? That’s great because I can open a section in my online course that has extra resources, so the student remains engaged. I can do all of this because I already have my collection of tools, resources, curriculum, and my course designed in an online space where students and parents can go to seek guidance, examples, and choose the next step in their educational experience.
Many educators have gradually started this process well before now and have some online space set aside with supplementary materials, lesson plan outlines, and activities. but most of us were not ready to teach everything this way. And for classes like welding and physical education, there may not be experiences that compare with hands-on education until we get advanced virtual reality capabilities, but there are still detailed and complementary online curriculums that can reinforce previous or prepare for future educational experiences. The good thing is that we have a lot of tools to make online education a wonderful addition to our classrooms, even if we don’t yet have the infrastructure.
I work in distance learning at CA BOCES, so I know that through Learning Resources, it’s possible to find content for all types of classes – core, electives, AP, honors, CTE, and credit recovery. This is an invaluable tool chest because educators are juggling so much right now. We don’t have time to transfer all of our content into an online compatible form, try to reach all of our students at home, learn new technologies on the fly, continue to teach regular classes, prepare new material, and learn how to set up a course immediately all while keeping up with our own families. We have all tried and as successful as possible, but if you’re like me there is always more that’s possible and always a way to improve. If your district belongs to the DL COSER, CA BOCES might be able to help provide pre-made curriculum and as educators, we can supplement with our own material until we have time to create our own online classes.
I’ve found that the curriculum is excellent. It was created by education experts and is updated regularly to make sure that it’s current. Further, it includes resources that would take teachers months to gather. When I’ve used it, I’ve kept what I like, and added my own materials based on my expertise. Maybe as a teacher, I know that I have a better assessment or direct instruction, or my co-teacher has personal experiences that are invaluable to the learning experience, so I add those into my course. Maybe it’s clear that you know exactly how to engage your students, so you replace or add to the provider’s content with your own short videos. There are so many options and what I’ve learned using online content is that I don’t have to do everything. I can rely on my strengths, my knowledge of students and their lives, and my ability to tailor the best educational experience for students and I don’t have sacrifice parts when something unexpected happens. And to add to that, I can reach out to specialists at CA BOCES and get wonderful professional development on how to work in Moodle or another online platform, to help me make changes to my courses, to implement new digital resources, and to be ready in this interconnected and blended world. That is truly a blessing during this time of change and unpredictability.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
We are always looking for ways to improve our Moodle instance and this spring has been no different. We have added two features that will provide additional support for our students and out teachers. ReadSpeaker and DocReader are both available for student support. Intelliboard offers data reports that will support teachers as they monitor student engagement with the course content. You will find more information about each in the paragraphs below.
ReadSpeaker is a block that will appear on each page of your course. You may need to change the Appearance of your course if you don’t see any blocks. Clean is a good option if you need to make a change. Contact Karen Insley or Carrie Oliver if you need any help with changing the appearance.
The DocReader icon will appear automatically to the right of any document you have in your course. This will read any document, allow students to highlight text and make notes from the highlighted text and much more.
Here are the links to the playlists and the downloadable package.
Intelliboard will appear as the Instructor Dashboard on the left hand side of the teacher’s screen, near where your courses are listed. When you select the Instructor Dashboard you will see a visual representation of student interaction and engagement. There are also reports that you can select from for each of your courses. The resources below will give you further guidance on what is available and how to access it as a valuable resource for you.
Please contact us if you have any questions or would like some training!
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
With the pause created by the Covid 19 pandemic, the Learning Resources department is, now more than ever, responsive to our districts needs.
By: Alex Free, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Did you know that as a part of the Distance Learning CoSer, you have access to 200+ K-12 virtual field trips already scheduled and most are recorded? These virtual field trips are from top fee-based providers scheduled out in advance for you to register for using your school email address. How amazing is that? All you need is a computer with internet access, smartboard or projector, and speakers. Set up is easy!
FieldTrip Zoom Zone is the live event calendar where you “tune into” live educational broadcast with many other classrooms and interact in real time via the chatbox feature in zoom. How do you access Fieldtrip Zoom? Just follow the simple steps below:
Step 1: Register Your Account
Once logged in, you can navigate to your FieldTrip Zoom Zone calendar of subject areas. Also, you can search for programs by grade range and subject area by clicking from the search menu. Click on any subject area to expand to the program details.
**Make sure you are in the Zone calendar (not class) when booking events.**
Step 3: Book Your Event
Check out the upcoming events for March on FieldTrip Zoom:
For questions or assistance with Fieldtrip zoom zone, please contact Carrie Oliver.
To see a preview of what the FieldTrip zoom events look like, check out this recorded session: https://player.vimeo.com/video/393456875
By: Carrie Oliver, CA BOCES Learning Resources
In my short experience working with the Instructional Support Services Team and being introduced to the online world that is available to our students, I have come to realize that I could have done so much more for my students in the classroom.
OK…. OK…. Don’t get all in a bunch!! I know that for us educators, doing more is always included when we are preparing for our classrooms of students each day…… BUT …… had I known about MOODLE I could have created blended learning experiences that also made my valuable time more efficiently used. Possibly even giving me some self-care time!!
I have been working and creating course work in MOODLE for the past few months, as well as completing some of free training that is available to help maneuver all the options within MOODLE. Of course…..it is something that will need to be created and set up, but once it is done it will allow for more time. Great resource and great experience for inclusion of the classroom.
We are always available to assist with any questions or concerns.
By: Lisa Scott, CA BOCES Learning Resources
We have been busy with two new improvements in Moodle this summer.
First, we have upgraded our Moodle site to version 3.6. New features in Moodle include:
Second, we have partnered with Intelliboard to provide Moodle instructors with a dashboard that will display course information. Intelliboard offers an abundance of instant data from your course which provides instructors with real time data on student progress, completed assignments, and a big picture view of the course. Reports can be generated that provide detailed and specific information about the course and the participating students.
Both of these improvements are value added to our already free Moodle site.
You can learn more about any of these at our Moodle Users workshop on Wednesday, August 28th or contact Karen Insley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register for the workshop, have your district representative register you at: www.register.caboces.org.
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Digital Learning Day, hosted by Betsy Hardy, Distance Learning Coordinator for Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES (CA BOCES), was held mid-March this year at the Main Center in Olean. There was a record turnout from neighboring districts, with more than 55 educators from across the region including attendees from six regional BOCES, traveling to learn about implementing online learning in their districts or how to enhance current programs.
The day was split into rotating sessions with vendors that CA BOCES currently has partnerships with or with vendors that may be of future interest to any district hoping to broaden depth of transcripts, assist struggling students with unit, quarterly or full credit recovery, or generally provide multiple pathway of learning for their students. The day’s focus was on credit accrual or electives through Edgenuity, world languages, CTE courses, and electives through EdOptions Academy, unit and credit recovery through APEX Learning, homebound tutoring with iTutor, middle school content through Spider Learning, and K-12 collaborative and customizable digital content aligned to standards through Buzz at OHM BOCES.
Overall, the day was a huge success. At the beginning of the day, two rotating sessions with 25 minute overviews of the various kinds of curriculum and implementation methods were held. Lunch and breaks provided time to meet up individually with vendors to ask more district specific questions. The day was rounded out with presentations from Andover, Franklinville, and Allegany-Limestone sharing successful implementation stories of language programs, electives, and credit recovery programs respectively.
Fortified with information from the day, many districts are developing a plan for digital learning and reaching out to CA BOCES as they bring new curriculum to students across the region. For more information on online learning, please contact Learning Resources at 716-376-8281.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
What is blended learning? Are we truly blending learning in our region? Yes we are! Below are examples of Michael B. Horn - The Christensen Institute’s blended learning models that are taking place across our region, and quite successfully!
While blended learning began in simple applications to serve students in situations where there was no other alternative, it has grown exponentially over the past ten years in the Cattaraugus Allegany region, where our region is recognized as the leader in online learning in New York State BOCES regions!
Michael B Horn’s and Heather Staker’s book, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, lays out the process in a useful level of detail making it a must read for educators that want to take full advantage of tech-enabled learning. Staker shared, "I feel deeply sad when I see how many children do not have equal opportunities to high-quality schools. It's wrong that in a rich country with universal public education, zip code determines quality." But she feels fortunate to be living through the learning revolution where internet connectivity and personalized learning is “decimating old constructs about who gets what and introducing a new paradigm of shared access to the best learning experiences, regardless of geography.” (Education Week article - http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_innovation/2014/09/blended_a_conversation_with_michael _horn_heather_staker.html)
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning? Michael B. Horn adds, “Online learning, particularly in blended learning schools, gives students more and more ownership of their learning, this is a big deal as it can allow schools to individualize for each student’s unique learning needs.” (http://dailyedventures.com/index.php/2012/11/08/michael-horn/)
How do these online learning opportunities benefit students? Danielle, from Allegany- Limestone, replied, “I wish that I could have studied this way from the beginning of the year. When I’m in a classroom with people, I get distracted, but using APEX is great. The program is really straightforward. It tells me exactly what I need to know. Some days I let it read to me and sometimes I read myself. I came from Pennsylvania and the work was harder and my Biology class was in a different place and the online class is helping me.”
To learn more about successful blended learning models in schools, join CA BOCES in an Online/Digital Learning Showcase, where you can ask questions and view demos of 7 different online solutions for:
For more information about Digital Learning Day on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at CABOCES Olean Center Conference Rooms, go to: http://dev.caboces.org/iss/calendar/2017-04.
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES Distance Learning
Betsy Hardy, Distance Learning Coordinator for CA BOCES, was invited to present on a panel at a national conference last week alongside renowned author, Michael B. Horn. Michael B. Horn is the Co-Founder of Clayton Christensen Institute and author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. Betsy was asked to attend 2016 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium as an expert on implementing blended learning programs. During the panel, Betsy was asked a number of questions on strategies for introducing online and credit recovery programs, utilizing online portfolios in the classroom, and cited many real life examples of ways that districts have been successful in the Cattaraugus-Allegany region, as well as how program implementation has to be based on district individuality and specific needs. Some of the recommendations she gave included having a team set up the program, having a specific teacher or aide with students at all times while students work on their classes, and setting up multiple in-depth professional development opportunities for teachers.
One of the many remarkable insights that Betsy brought to the panel discussion, was her unique understanding of how rural districts utilize online and distance learning programs to help broaden the scope of student transcripts and give students unique opportunities to experience courses that otherwise would not be offered, as well as how online programs broaden student skillsets and exposure to a plethora of ideas and prospects. Betsy also noted the important role that credit recovery has played in the region, sometimes increasing graduation rates by as much as 10% in well-established programs with a dedicated aide for students working on their classes.
Betsy, alongside a renowned author, shared the noteworthy achievements and best practices that districts in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties have made as they move toward a blended environment, helping students obtain important 21st century skills. School districts should be proud that their implementation of blended practices has garnered national attention.
If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about blended learning opportunities and professional development, please reach out to Betsy Hardy, Justine Lombardi, or Christina McGee at (716) 376-8281.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES
Distance Learning, Blended Learning, Online Learning...just some of the names we use in the region to describe virtual learning. The Distance Learning team is always busy working with students and teachers. Check out this infographic: https://infograph.venngage.com/p/19994/what-is-up-in-distance-learning_
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