How it started
My innovation plan centered around bringing blended learning stations to my students. I planned to start small by implementing blended learning stations within my own classroom and then to gradually branch out and have my department, and eventually my school adopt blended learning stations. My original plan involved adding in two to three stations including at least one technology based station a few days each week. The original timeline for my plan involved getting my blended stations going in the spring of 2021. We had limited access to technology and in spring of 2021 the laptop cart in my room was repurposed to the reading department. Though I ended up with a small number of iPads later in the semester, I chose not to start my innovation plan until the following fall.
How it's going
I began the fall 2021-2022 school year with a unit I created with stations that were ready to go. My district rolled out a 1:1 technology initiative, making it much easier to bring my plan to life. I used The Core Learn Small Group Time Planner as a guide for slowly introducing stations to my classes. There were three stations and I had them set up for two days each week. The first time the stations were timed and students rotated through them. With this type of rotation I noticed that some students fell behind in the stations. I had my students complete an online questionnaire after completing two weeks of stations. Some of the students liked the stations but many did not like the discussion boards. Based on the results of the questionnaire and the observations I had made, I decided to change how the stations were set up. I set up the blended learning stations in a menu format on our learning management system, Schoology. Students were given everything they needed for stations including those on paper at the beginning of class and were given the freedom to complete them in any order on their own. I made myself available to anyone who needed it and gave feedback on their work. I discussed with my students in class how things were going with the new station rotations. The responses were overwhelmingly positive for the changes I made. This was the moment when the path I was on became clear and I began to see success.
Over the next few rounds of stations, I added elements including short flipped lessons and collaboration boards (in lieu of discussion boards). Each of these helped enhance student learning. The flipped lessons gave students a chance to work through a short guided practice with me at their own pace and then complete the rest of the lesson on their own. I was also available to help students who still needed a little more guidance. The collaboration boards I use are part of Nearpod and are similar to Padlet. Students are given a topic or vocabulary activity and create a response and add images to go with it. I am also adding in mastery based elements into the stations that help students review topics.
Reflection and goals
Creating and implementing my innovation plan has been a challenging and rewarding experience. I have learned so much as I've gone through the process of getting my innovation off the ground and I can honestly say I am not the teacher I was before I started the DLL program. I am more in tune with my students' learning needs now than ever before and we are a team when it comes to learning. I have involved them in the process of finding what works for them which they seem to appreciate. I have learned to be adaptable and willing to make changes in my plan which will help my students.
Involving my students in the process of how our stations work is one of the best decisions I have made. My students have given me valuable input that guided my stations to where they are now and though it is not perfect, most of my students have benefited from the blended stations. Adding flipped lessons into stations has also been beneficial. I noticed that many of my students could work through a practice lesson with me and then were able to complete the rest on their own. There were a few that needed extra help beyond the video and I was able to work one on one with them to get them where they needed to go.
I have also started adding in mastery based activities for students to review maps and take quizzes with. Many of these have game-like qualities which help maintain student engagement. I have noticed that most of my students will continue to work at these activities until they reach mastery before moving on and I plan to find more ways to add these types of activities into my stations for next year. There are so many ideas and activities that I have yet to explore and I am looking forward to finding new ways to keep my students engaged and learning.
Though I have had a successful beginning to my innovation implementation, there are several areas I need to address. Offering my students authentic learning experiences was one of my goals for my innovation and though I have given my students more choices in their work with blended learning, most of what I have them do is still very much tied to the curriculum and standards that I am required to teach. The discovery element of the learning is still lacking. I want to find ways to get my students thinking like historians rather than just feeding them facts that they need to know. Sixth grade social studies is tied to district assessments each six weeks, but I am looking for ways to add in more discovery and project based lessons. Another area that I need to rework in my plan is student collaboration. There are opportunities to collaborate in some of the blended stations I have made, however I can still create more chances for quality conversations and collaboration between students. Finally, I have fallen short on giving personalized feedback to all of my students. During the implementation of my blended learning stations this year I noticed that I tend to give more feedback to the students that need extra help than those who work independently. I am looking for ways to be more inclusive of all my students with feedback.
There are parts of my innovation plan that have gone really well and there are parts that could use improvements, but overall I have seen my students benefit from the changes that I have made. I have learned to be patient and adaptable when implementing something new in the classroom. My plan looks different than what I imagined and that is because I listened to the needs of my students. As I move forward towards having my department implement blended learning, I know that once they understand the benefits of blended learning, they will find a way to implement it and make it their own. I plan to share my own experiences both good and bad with implementing blended learning stations in my classroom in order to make a connection with my fellow teachers. I also want to emphasize that this is not a one size fits all plan and that each teacher will be able to find what works best for them as they implement blended learning. As I plan for future innovations, the most important thing I’ve learned is to be open to possibility. I may have an idea that takes shape in one way on paper, but I need to be open to the changes that occur as I learn and grow with the ideas.
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This blog includes posts about education and digital learning and I will update frequently so check back often for new posts!