Reply – Re: Topic #1: Introduction to the Online Learner
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Re: Topic #1: Introduction to the Online Learner
— by Cathy Jack Cathy Jack
I teach high school in the Davenport Community School District.  In the past ten years our district, as a whole, has made a move to incorporate technology in the classroom.  This started school wide with a few carts of mobile computers that all staff shared.  This was new and innovative, but soon we saw drawbacks.  The computers took a while to load, broke easily, would not always be charged when needed, the carts were big and bulky, and all the charging wires got crossed up and pulled of the charging ports.  Within the last five years the district has purchased Chromebooks that now includes usage for grades 3 to 12.  Our initiative was to put a Chromebook cart in every classroom.  Although this was a gradual process, now almost all classrooms have a Chromebook cart.    We have improved our technology infrastructure to meet the demand of increased usage,  but we still run into problems with slowness.   We are in the process of checking out a Chromebook to each student like we check out textbooks.  I think blended learning will offer the most promise to the struggling student.  Online learning offers another avenue of instruction instead of teacher led learning.  With online resources there is a plethora of resources to choose from for a particular subject, each with its own level of content. I think the state of blended learning at my school is low.  Although all content areas in my school have implemented technology to some extent, I think it is still mostly just for research. I think we need more in service on effective online and blended learning.  

Challenges my school would face for implementation would be teacher readiness.  Time and trying something new are the two obstacles we face.  New ideas take more time to plan and organize.  With increased demand in other areas, time is a virtue, and most teachers are not going to do something that may require more time. Also, lots of apprehension is associated with trying something new, so it is all together avoided.    I see a wide range of abilities among staff when it comes to technical integration in the class.  There are those that actively try need things and those that resist technology use all together in the classroom.   We have a technical support team within the staff.  They do continual professional development so they are able to answer our questions, help with implementation of resources, and troubleshoot problems we may have.  In-service as a building instead of individual staff would be useful.

I really have no idea what blended learning is all about and I hope to learn a lot by the end of this course. I use Chromebooks in my class, but mostly for research.  I know there is a wide range of uses for Chromebooks in the classroom, so I want to maximize that use.  I know that self-paced instruction is a valuable learning method, so I would like to use blended learning as a tool for differentiated instruction.  Blended learning can allow me to tailor instruction more toward individual student needs.