fter reading over my notes from class, reading Tony Bates Chapters, reading posts on Twitter and reflecting upon my own personal experience, I would definitely confirm that blended and/or online learning appears to be at least as an effective or more than traditional instruction. I have been integrating new technology into my classroom all of my career. Although I succeed and thrived in more traditional instructional environments, I could see the potential of using technology as a way to motivate, engage, and differentiate the learners I am blessed to work with. Society and learners have changed and I think it is a disservice not to pursue methods and tools that provide opportunities for innovative ways to get better. Innovation just doesn't comprise of new ways but also of better ways to approach a concept. Throughout my career, I have explored many ways and attempt to be a lead learner and share these experiences with students and staff alike. Many times I have felt like an island unto myself but more recently with the professional learner network I have developed on and offline and recent programs I have been a part of like the Regina Catholic School Division Connected Educator program, I feel that more educators are understanding the importance of blending technology into their classrooms. It is important that we introduce and engage students in 21st Century skills, that we embrace the ISTE standards, and that we understand how to pedagogically use technology to provide learners with opportunities that recognize learning styles and promote lifelong learning.
I have also experienced many blended and online learning experiences as a learner. Back in the early 2000, I received a degree in Educational Technology from the University of Cape Breton. I was able to experience first-hand how learning in an online environment works. I enjoyed my experience and felt it was a positive learning experience as I have had in traditional ways. I was engaged and had to be organized, disciplined, and have the rigor as I had in other environments. I also had the benefit of acquiring many new technology, interpersonal, and communication skills during this process as well. I continue to improve my professional development by accessing many learning opportunities provided by edtech companies. I am a Microsoft Education Fellow and have access to 100s of online workshops on a variety of topics such as how to connect on Skype, computational thinking, STEM, Sustainable Development Goals and more. With each online course I take, I receive a badge for completing but more importantly I feel that I have had the opportunity to stay current and improve. I also take part in a weekly Twitter chat on Monday nights. That chat is called #formativechat. Each week there is a robust conversation on topics that relate to formative assessment. The engagement and passion that come from the group of professionals that attend has had a positive impact on me and my classroom. Now, I am starting another online journey through my participation in ECI 834. I have enjoyed the first couple classes. It is great to be able to learn from home and learn in this medium. The ability to meet and share via Zoom in real time and communicate through blogs, Slack, and Twitter creates a robust and deep learning experience. All of these experiences also lead me to believe that blended and online experiences are valuable and confirm that these experiences are just as effective if not more as traditional instruction I have participated.
Still it is my experience that at the heart of positive classroom experience is an enthusiastic, organized, and engaging teacher. The ability to create and delivery content that learners will engage in and provide effective and efficient feedback is crucial to any learning environment. Learners can tell both on and offline if the instructor cares and is invested in the material and success of the class and learners.
y experiences taking part in blended and online learning has been an amazing journey. There have be many challenges along the way. At the start and really only until more recently most people either did not understand the potential or the viability of these experiences or were very afraid. I ran into opposition or was dismissed by many when I started infusing and blending technology into my classroom. I was lucky that there were just enough people and people in higher positions that supported me and saw the same vision and opportunities. Having technology that works is also a great challenge. As time has moved on this is becoming less of an issue, but still making friends with the IT department is always a good idea. Even though students today are seen as digital natives (not sure if I like this term or 100% agree with it), many still do not know how to learn with the technology they have grown up with. Some students already know, thrive, and love traditional instruction. Some students are ‘scared’ to learn with technology or have used it one way so much they can’t see the learning opportunities available. Some get distracted by technology and can’t seem to be able to concentrate at tasks at hand. There have always been challenges to motivating learners. There are also other stakeholders like parents and administration that can be challenges to blended and online learning. Not being able to see the potential or feel like they need to protect their children from the pitfalls of the online world or still clinging to traditional ways (I feel that by doing this is a big disservice but that could be a topic for another blog).
Even with the challenges in the way, I have had and have been able to provide some game changing instructional experiences that just could not be possible with traditional means. I also feel that I have helped prepare students more for the world we live in now and in the future not just the world that is behind us. I have been able to meet the needs of a greater number of students, provide engaging learning experiences that have had students think in innovative way, and most importantly build better relationships with my students. I have become a better teacher because of the access and opportunities afforded to me through online environments. This has fed my passion to be a lifelong learners as well. I have loved working with other teachers on their journey and being a mentor for those who would like to provide innovative ways to connect with their learners and other stakeholders. I also love the fact that there is always more to learn and get better at in these environments.
The questions posed are ones that I continually reflect upon as I try to provide learning environments that reach out and engage students. To provide opportunities that help students overcome physical, learning style, or other limitations are all possible in blended and online environments. There is so much potential to have every student find their learning path and enjoy the gift of learning. These experiences coupled with a passionate educator that can harness the power and grow in these environments provide effective learning environments.
I have included a vlog as part of this week’s entry to give a snap shot of what my class looks like and some of the ways I use blended learning and infuse technology in my classroom. You can also see some of the experience I have on my eportfolio http://deanvendramin.weebly.com or follow me on Twitter @vendi55
21st Century Skills
Microsoft Education Community
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Dean Vendramin. Educator for over 20 years. Currently Education Leader for Math/Science at Archbishop M.C. O'Neill Catholic High School. Have a passion for all things in education with emphasis on technology integration, assessment, professional development, and 21 Century Education. Posts are articles he has written for the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation monthly newsletter The Bulletin, Saskatchewan Math Teachers' Society The Variable, blog requests from memberships he is a part of, and his own thoughts.