Blended Learning at Brewer Middle School: All Aboard

Blended Learning at Brewer Middle School: All Aboard

At Brewer Middle we’re beginning our fourth week of school. The first three weeks passed quickly as we all (re)adjusted to middle school life — teachers and administration laying down the tracks upon which the rest of the school year train runs, students hopping on board.

The blended learning pilot program in Brewer’s six E/LA classrooms has gotten off to a great start. Teachers and students are loving the chromebooks and becoming better acquainted with them by the day. We’ve figured out smooth, safe procedures for getting chromebooks back and forth between charging hub and student desks. We’ve established rules for using chromebooks in class. And we’re beginning to explore the world of possibilities for teaching and learning that these little laptops bring to our classrooms.

To me the most exciting thing about all of this so far is that everyone is so engaged in this new kind of learning. Brewer Middle School serves a large and highly diverse population with learning abilities all over the grid and these chromebooks create bridges we can all cross together. here’s an illustration:

Class begins with everyone taking the SRI (Scholostic Reading Index, a multiple-choice reading test that outputs a lexile score we can use to predict reading level). Results are automatically sent to the teacher but students also save their score report to their google drive because we’ll analyze them later. As students finish- which can take 5 minutes or 45- they hop over to typingclub.com and practice some typing technique. (Ms Hutter reminds everyone to take screen breaks: standing up, stretching, closing eyelids and rolling the eyeballs around. as I do this right now I’d like to extend the same invitation to you).

Ah. Much better.

So. Students roll from the SRI to typingclub, and then the faster typers keep it movin’ over to ignition — here they learn about digital literacy by watching short instructional cartoons and completing interactive activities. At the end of class, chromebooks are quickly returned to their charging hub, the day’s digital activities are brought into the physical realm with a pair share, the bell rings, and off we go.

Full disclosure: we haven’t been without some bumps on the tracks; all entirely reasonable, and all with clear solutions, I should say, but bumps nonetheless. here are the most common ones:

There are a few chromebooks on every cart of 36 which need recalibration, so sometimes students get caught up in troubleshooting (or not, staring blankly at their screens) before they ask to switch over to a new chromebook. here we want to balance the urgency of learning with the ability to troubleshoot on our own — tough one, eh?

Speaking of troubleshooting: we are working on developing our muscles of intuition for these chromebooks; so sometimes students feel they’ve hit a wall and need help when really they’re just a click or a few away. other times, students know the right moves to make to resuscitate their chromebook and can even guide their neighbors to safety as well.

Some students have a tough time keeping track of all the new logins and passwords. don’t we all. [sigh]. a hard copy handout students can use to keep track of everything solves this issue.

And this morning we experienced our first digital earthquake: internet was down district-wide, taking the chrome right out of our books. we were back in the 21st century by the end of block 1.

Fortunately the learning continued even when the blended was on a halt.

On deck for the next post: shakespeare tweets; pencil, paper, and (chrome)books meet.

Thanks for reading, comments and wonderings welcome.

Until next time.

[Ms. Nolan’s 7th grade english class meet their chromebooks for the first time. Oooh, ahhh.]

Written by Adam Hurwitz

Adam Hurwitz

Teacher at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, CA.

One comment

  1. It would be interesting to read in a future post more about what competencies you expect students to attain by the end of the school year and the strategies and online experiences are designed to address those competencies. For example: How frequently will students take the SRI to see progress in reading and what activities will help them improve reading? Have you set growth or achievement goals for lexile score improvement or for typing speed and accuracy? How are you measuring progress for other ELA competencies such as writing and grammar? What mix of online/individual and offline/group activities will address these competencies?

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