Several weeks ago, we began some strategic planning to address a large class-number problem we knew we would be having in our upcoming second semester. The short description of our solution is that we would create a blended learning experience, using local resources, for these students. The beauty of our solution is that we would not have to acquire any new resources, we could use existing resources in our school. The focus of our work would be in training staff members and students in the format, design and tools we would need to have a successful experience.
We have designed an online mini-course for our health classes. We had our Health/PE teachers collaborate with our instructional coaches to develop quality online curriculum for this blended learning experience. Curriculum design is a passion of mine so this is right up my alley! It was exciting to see this develop during our progress monitoring checks. After we decided on the content, choosing our delivery tool was next. We are fortunate in that Cumberland County Schools, #Broadfinalist, is a Google district and one of the top 10 largest school districts on Edmodo. With a combination of the two we feel we had great resources we need to make this successful.
The most important component is getting our learners ready for this endeavor. We outlined all the operational knowledge we know our learners need and came up with a pretty concise but critical list. Our students have been on Edmodo for years so we felt comfortable with that knowledge base. We designed a training protocol for our students on Google. @CumberlandCoSch enabled Google accounts for all 6-12 students earlier this year. Our training was a walk through on the various Google tools they would need to complete assignments and navigate coursework. The pictures here are of our training day with kids. They came with a lot of prior knowledge and of course some had more experience than others but by the end of the session, all students were where we needed them. In the pictures, you will see our Innovation Coach leading a talk with a group [I even took over session when she was called to the office].
This will be a great experience for teachers and learners, for our school as a whole. I plan on showcasing our plus/deltas and progress with our staff as a whole to show where we can go and move as a school. I’m proud of this experience we are creating and building in house. I’m excited about this because its another chance to share a real-life working example of students centered learning experiences that our learners need and that our school can provide.
Earlier this week, I found this article on the different types of blended learning models out there. A real value of this article is the summary of the benefits of blended learning. Our original plan was sparked by necessity, pure and simple. But while we’re here and have engaged in some great curriculum design and planned for great learning experiences for our learners, we are going protect this as endeavor and promote it benefits. Hopefully, we’ll see this expand and grow.
I need to give thanks to a lot of people for this:
- SLMS Instructional Team for dreaming and pushing forward and our Health/PE teachers for curriculum design
- Innovation Coach – Ms Crumpler, you rock!
- 6th grade Broncos – Kids Rock!
- NCVPS – Bryan Setser and Don Lourcey for first exposing me to blended learning
- Donna Peters and Dave Cassady
- Cumberland County Schools for having the foundation in place and willingness to be flexible
- And of course my PLN!
My district, Cumberland County Schools [@CumberlandCoSch] is a Google district. Like a lot of districts, many of our functions have been sent to the ‘cloud’. In addition to benefiting from the integration of many Google apps, our email is now hosted on Google’s servers.
This is the first district I’ve not used Outlook for my email client and as such, I’m missing some impactful features. One feature is the ability to schedule emails. Email is an essential communication tool and most people see it as tool for communicating in the present. Understanding and utilizing a scheduling feature is a is a must of school leaders.
Plan and write your follow ups
All school leaders have important talks with all stakeholders and often need to have them followed up. Using the calendar is a great way to build reminders for follow ups so that we don’t forget but even after the reminder comes, we still have to craft the message [specific for this, write the email]. What better way to plan the follow up than to write the actual email and schedule it to be sent at the specific time you deem would be most beneficial.
The Danger of the Draft
One makeshift solution that’s been shared with me is to type the email and don’t send it, leaving it in ‘Drafts’. While this saves typing the email down the road, you have to remember to go back to your drafts and send the email later. The obvious danger here is without a good reminder in place, you can forget to revisit the draft to send it.
The Boomerang Solution
Boomerang is a third party solution for the scheduling problem. I’ve been using it for several days and it has tested out great. Boomerang is a quick download for Chrome or Firefox. After a couple of quick ‘how-to’ videos, the Boomerang menu item will appear on the Gmail menu bar. When you compose your first email you’ll see a change to your email appearance. I’ve attached a couple of pictures below to show you the changes.
The videos will define how to utilize the ‘Send Later’ feature but curiosity will guide you just as well.
Next week is our district’s spring break and I don’t plan on sending any emails to my staff as they enjoy their time off. This current week, I’ve had talks with several groups about rigorous instruction and student engagement. Instead of waiting for the Sunday before to sit and craft the email, I have already created the message while it was fresh and scheduled its delivery. This method ensures teachers feel the impact of the conversations we have recently and I can count this task as complete.
Use this feature to help ensure your message gets where it needs to go, when it needs to go and more importantly, is written how you want it to read exactly.
The Spring Lake Middle Instructional Leadership Team had a great collaborative growth experience with the Cumberland County Schools Curriculum and Instruction Team.
The CCS C&I Teams makes regular visits to schools to observe classrooms and give feedback to the principal and/or other personnel. For our visit today, our Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum, John Gibbs, visited with our curriculum specialist in math, social studies, science and literacy. They spent several hours in the building visiting classes, having conversations and ended the day with a group share of plus/deltas. These visits are always positive – at the end we all have a clear direction of the successes and work throughs.
During our conversation, I learned the C&I team capture walk through data using a GoogleDrive spreadsheet. They set up multiple fields with specific information they want to collect and later review. All the specialists understand how to manipulate the information, including using colors to highlight certain information for various reasons.
There is a high degree of synchronicity this week with Google Forms and Walk Thrus/Informal Observations. Earlier this week, after a lot of productive work, I made a post on how to send feedback from a GoogleForm [GoogleForm for Feedback Tool]. Utilizing the features of GoogleDrive is a great way to make sure a team is being data driven and all are going in a good direction.
I shared our GoogleForm Walk Through tool with them. We started the talk showing the parallels in both spreadsheets – exact same end results and capabilities of looking at data. We next went into a talk about how the GoogleForm streamlines the process adding the information into the spreadsheet. This process is made altogether easier with the use of our iPads. We shared iPads from one of our Project Carts and paired off with the C&I and did more walk thrus using our tool. We wanted the team to compare the experience with iPads vs laptop and reviewing the data at the end.
This was a great collaborative session for everyone. We got to share our process and tools with a visiting team and we benefited from their feedback on our walk thru tool. This is value of finding the solution through collaboration.