Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Student Skills for Successful Blended Learning

I’ve been using a blended learning model in my classroom for a while now. I’ve found that using this model is extremely effective in providing personalized learning for my students. Moreover, allowing students to learn online for part of our instructional day enables me to teach small groups of students, often forgoing whole-group instruction. I’ve essentially created my own digital co-teacher because my students who are working independently learn online with lessons that I’ve created for them. 

My experiences last year helped me to realize that students need to be taught how to learn online. When beginning this school year, I had an outline of skills that I wanted to teach my students before they began learning online independently.

Media Interaction

Watching a video to learn something at school is a whole lot different than watching Netflix at home. Watching at home is a passive activity with the purpose of entertainment. In fact, many people “watch” TV while also playing on a tablet or phone, dividing their attention. These are not behaviors that will aid learning. For this reason, I take time to model appropriate ways to interact with learning media. We practice these skills as a whole class anytime we use a video, infographic, or image for our whole group learning. 

I encourage my students to pause videos to think and replay parts when needed. I also teach my students to take notes, draw diagrams, write questions, and solve problems while learning online. 

Digital Citizenship

A few of the most important digital citizenship lessons that I teach focus on creating a positive online community. Taking time to reinforce these skills early in the year goes a long way!
When learning online, my students have the opportunity to publish their work online, provide comments for their peers, participate in discussion boards, post video reflections, and topic discussions, and work collaboratively through the G suite.

To make the most of these experiences, I explicitly teach my students how to create valuable comments and how to receive suggestions from their peers. I have found that using student blogs is a great way to teach and reinforce these skills throughout the year. My students use their blogs to publish class work, reflect on their learning, and communicate with their peers. Last year I used a series of hyperdocs to create a blogging network for my class, and this year we are trying Google Sites. So far, I’m happy with blogs being authentic websites because my students have the added opportunity this year to work on designing their website.

Self Monitoring

Learning online takes quite a bit of self-monitoring. It’s one thing to work through an online lesson and complete all the required tasks. What’s better though, is teaching students to reflect on their learning and make choices based on their needs. If students realize they need more help with a skill they have a few options: redo the online lesson, ask a neighbor for help, or request a meeting with me to practice the skill together.

As much as possible, I want my students making decisions based on their learning needs. Of course, I still make most of the intervention decisions for my fourth graders, but they are capable of taking part too.


It’s very important to me that my students troubleshoot technical issues with as little of my support as possible. I simply cannot teach a small group of students if I’m continually refreshing websites, helping students log in, and reminding them to read the directions.

At the beginning of the year, I take a considerable amount of time waiting for students to troubleshoot their issues rather than rushing in and “fixing it” for them. To encourage student confidence, I make time for students to explore new apps before I model using them. I also ask students to demonstrate using apps for the class so that their peers know who to ask for help with certain apps if they are stuck.

My students this year seem to be a bit impatient when they run into issues. I still have students approach me with their Chromebooks during my small group instruction. For this reason, I created this quick chart to remind students of different ways to problem solve. I usually just point to the chart when I see a student coming my way so that I can avoid disruptions. 

Finally, I also designate a few reliable students as “tech support.” These students are my last line of defense before my intervention is needed. If a student has tried multiple strategies to solve their problem and a tech support peer can’t help them, then they can ask for my help.

Eventually, some of my students slip back into bad habits. When that happens, I usually buddy them up with another student for a few online lessons to reinforce positive online learning behaviors. Pre-teaching these skills is great, but I still make time throughout the year to reteach and further develop these skills.

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