News from Envision Schools – Kick Off Fall 2013
The 2013-14 school year is off like a thoroughbred. It has been such a whirlwind that I cannot believe the first month of school has come and gone. I have been busy planning out my Blended Learning coaching schedule, creating and delivering professional development tools and experiences, visiting classrooms and meeting students. Envision Schools has several projects this year that involve personalized learning opportunities through the smart and thoughtful integration of technology.
We are continuing our Blended Learning model in our mathematics department. The Algebra I teachers are continuing the programs that they developed last year and expanding their programs in interesting ways. One teacher was so inspired by the potential for personalized learning that he spent the summer developing a personalized platform that is truly changing how students engage in mathematics learning.
To read more about this see this post. We are also expanding our Blended Learning program in the math department by working with the Geometry teachers this year. This is going to be an interesting exploration into new technology tools that support this completely different subject matter.
At City Arts and Technology high school we are piloting our first grade level blended learning initiative with the freshmen class. This is a great opportunity for me to extend my expertise into other subject area domains beyond mathematics. I will be working closely with English, Global Studies, and Biology, in addition to Algebra I. In my initial meetings with teachers I have begun to scratch the surface of how technology can enhance the educational experience, and provide opportunities for personalized learning. For both the English and Global Studies teachers, being able to support students’ writing is one of the central challenges and an area where technology can create new opportunities. Hearing this reminded me of a tool that I discovered about a year ago – learn.ly, then 121writing, voicecomments, and now reinvented as Kaizena. They are officially launching this product Tuesday, Sept 10th at 5pm on #PATUE. The name references Kaizen, the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement, and boy does this team embrace that motto. The interface and functionalities make leaving audio comments a synch. Kaizena grabs docs from your drive, and updates as any changes are made. This tool is perfect for teachers who have many papers to read and provide comments on, as a quick voice comment can be inserted anywhere by highlighting and recording. Additionally, this tool is perfect for students who have a variety of writing challenges. If reading and writing are difficult, or English is not your native language, this can further complicate the simple act of getting and giving feedback. Now, however, with Kaizena the students can focus on doing the hard work of improving their writing by addressing teachers’ and peers’ comments and concerns.
The other tool that I am thinking of revisiting is the Google custom search. The Global Studies teacher specifically asked for help using technology to support the research process. Developing a custom search allows the teacher to control the web-sources from which the students are gathering information. This can be made very tight, so that only relevant sources are included, or this can be broader so that the students are challenged to discern the quality of specific sources.
Over the next year I anticipate that I will discover so many interesting new tools, and I hope to share my discoveries with my readers. Additionally, I look forward to continuing to formalize and expand my Blended Learning coaching model. I believe that this is a unique part of our implementation model.
Lastly, we are continuing the Blended Learning program with the Learning Specialists. Across the network students are using a variety of technology-based resources as assistive technologies. Our overall goal is to increase to use of these tools in the general education classroom. This involves working specifically with teachers to increase their knowledge and capacity, and develop the Learning Specialist’s skills to coach the general education teachers through the integration process.
We have many exciting things to look forward, and look forward to sharing the stories with the BlendMyLearning community.