Blended Learning in K-12/Blended Learning in Grades 3-6
Starting Out With Blended Learning
As students become more confident of their technology skills in grades 3-6, and access to technology at home increases, the opportunities for blended learning experiences broaden. Web-based resources can provide more indepth information on academic topics, support slow learners, and enrich high achievers. Communication between home and school can be vastly improved by utilizing the web to improve the learning experience.
One simple way to begin using technology with students in 3rd through 6th grade is through an asynchronous communication such as the use of e-mail. There are numerous ways in which e-mail can be helpful in the classroom setting. Using e-mail as part of a blended learning experience can enhance a face-to-face discussion and allow students to further explore their learning. Many students already have a home e-mail account which they use to communicate with their friends or family, and by the age of 10, students are mature enough to learn how to use email. Teachers can make themselves available to students and parents through email, to answer questions on specific topics and to discuss classroom topics. Students can stay in touch with the teacher if they are absent.
Another popular use of e-mail is keypals, in which students are matched up with students from other schools and participate in an exchange of information and ideas. Keypals help the students see themselves as part of worldwide learning community, and learn about other cultures and ways of life. Another use of email is to adopt a grandparent. More and more senior citizens are becoming technology savvy, and would love to exchange information with students. There are some safety measures that teachers need to set forth if adopting a grandparent. Full student names, addresses, and phone numbers should not be given out at any time. This is to ensure the safety of the students in today's world.
Instant Message (IM) is a synchronous form of communication that can be started in the middle grades. IM allows instantaneous feedback from teachers or students. Students can ask questions of other students or the teacher about an assignment or participate in a discussion with a teacher or classmate about concepts or topics being covered in class. IM does have some drawbacks. Students can send inappropriate messages or pictures to other students or teachers, so it is important that students are instructed on acceptable use. Restricted accounts, which many parents use for their children, might block the use of instant messaging.
Improving Home-School Communication
Getting parents involved in their child's education is key to academic success. Teachers can publish web pages linked to the school website to provide a multitude of information for parents. Teachers can provide a weekly agenda of what's going on in class, they can provide detail of homework assignments, permission slips for field trips, and much more, to be available to parents trying to stay on top of their child's education. Many teachers use blogs for this purpose, which might be a simpler way to get information online immediately. Teachers can also link to websites that enhance or expand on topics covered in class.
There is no doubt that technology can improve parent-teacher communication. Through the use of Edline or classroom websites, parents can stay more involved in what their student is doing in the class and also how they are doing in the class. If a parent can quickly view what their child has to do or see an area where they need assistance, it can make for easy communication with the teacher about what needs to be done. For success to be evident, there must be good communication between the parents and the teachers. --Nick Hartz
Many online activities are available for 3rd through 6th grade students that provide extra practice on classroom topics, or expand and enrich learning. Teachers can link to these sites so they are available to students outside of school. Across the curriculum the web offers resources that engage students in the learning process, and will actually make them want to spend additional time outside of school on learning.
It is important when planning a blended learning lesson within the primary grades to focus on a unit of study, then intertwine it with technology. The educators at San Diego State University have designed a tool to aide teachers in their preparation.
For teachers looking to integrate science experimentation into their middle grades' curriculum, a wonderful interactive site is Zoom Kitchen Chemistry. Here, students can conduct virtual experiments to learn about real-life chemical reactions, or find out about real science experiments they can do at home with items found in their own kitchens. This site is wonderful for extending classroom learning using technology. If the class is studying space and the solar system, an excellent resource for young astronomers is Star Child. Here students can find information about space topics, utilize simulations and a glossary of space terms.
One method of blended learning in math is to have students practice their math facts online. This provides the opportunity for students to spend extra time practicing if needed. At Math Magician students can have fun interactively while working on math facts, all operations, and two levels are available, so more advanced students can progress at their own pace through more challenging material. If the teachers seeks ways of using manipulatives to teach math, a wonderful site that utilizes java applets so students can have a hands-on experience is The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.
A great source for students to work on their reading skills is The Reading Matrix. There are numerous reading activities ranging from vocabulary, comprehension, to proofreading, and short stories. Many of these sites provide an online quiz for the students to take. Teachers can find good sites on this page by looking at the ratings that it has received.
Students can have a blast at National Geographic for Kids. Students will spend hours going through the website which contains, quizzes, games, cartoons, and excellent information. This site is great for any social studies buff, or anyone that wants to have fun while doing research on the web. This site will have students talking about social studies for the entire quarter.
Everyone wants to create their own music that they can listen to. The website Creating Music (which requires Java) allows students to create their own musical sketch pad and then listen to what they have designed. Students can learn about beat, tempo, and rhythm while enjoying being the composer of music. This is a great site for elementary students to learn about music and to get them interested without having to pick up a single instrument.
Virtual Field Trips Field trips are a large part of any classroom. Quite often a teacher would love to take her students places to which a bus trip is not an option. Technology offers the solution with virtual field trips. Students can look at museum artifacts, visit an aquarium, or admire beautiful art while sitting with their class. Sharing a field trip virtually is also a great way to reflect a on a trip and share experiences with future classes. For example, each year students from Bennet School in North Carolina design a website about their trip to the State Capital, each year the website gets remodeled, but old versions are kept online to serve as a scrapbook.
How about a field trip without even leaving the room? With the creation of video conferencing this is made possible to all students and teachers to further enhance their students learning and enthusiasm. Students love to take field trips and they love to go on the computer, now teachers can have the best of both worlds. Here are some sites that encompass a virtual field trip.
Science Center is a great site for science educators who want to have their students learn first hand about the human body, space, dinosaurs, and eyes. For this field trip a fee of $150.00 is required for a 45-minute tour. This might not be feasible for schools who are on a very small budget. They do provide a 25 minute project for about $100.00.
Ever want to receive video feeds from underwater? The Aquatic Research Interactive Site does just that. Science teachers can have students watch video streams from underwater for numeous topics. This site has been designed for teachers and students to better understand concepts below the Earth's surface. Not a science teacher? Math, history, and physics teachers can also benefit from this site as well. There is one major drawback to this site, the fee. A whopping $195.00 fee for the use of the video clips are required.
Teacher's Pet? That might be what students will be talking about after a trip to The Bronx Zoo. This two way interactive site is designed for the elementary students to learn more about an animal's behavior. How about having a lion in your class? This site allows a class to have them and you don't have to worry about students with allergies or a student being attacked. This site is sure to have your students talking for a long while. This fieldtrip is $125.00 for a maximum for 35 students.
Conclusion: Can blended learning work in grades 3-6? That depends on the teacher, tech support, students, and administration. Lisa Abate understands that a blended learning classroom will require more work. She mentioned that she spent a lot of her time "troublehooting studet problems (such as lost passwords)." (Abate, 2004) Essentially, doesn't education come down to "are students learning?" If students log on to a website long after they are finished woith their assignment to further enrich their studies have teachers accomplished their goals? Is the time worth the satisfaction a student gets by learning more than have to? In Lisa's beta test of her math classroom she found that students were spending more time than needed on specific activities. (Abate, 2004) This is a teacher's dream come true, students spending more time than is required on assignments.