Moving towards blended learning

Question: In your present educational/teaching circumstances, what level of problem is most urgent to solve and why? What type of team would you need in order to solve it? Who would you place on the team, and who would lead it?

The question asks for me to focus on my own teaching environment. However, since everything regarding the structure of my school and the future of our French Immersion online program is up in the air right now. I decided to focus on another school that I know a lot about. Both my children have been students there since Kindergarten and I have been volunteering there for the last 10 years.
Six years ago, the school district to which my children’s’ school belongs implemented a one-to-one computer program for all students in grade 4 to 12. However, the technology was added as a tool to help in the classroom, but no goals on why it should be integrated were developed, nor strategy specified as to  how to implement it. Christensen (2015) stipulates that “by just introducing technology in the classroom, the disruption is being missed which is required to arrive at a more positive outcome. ” From what I can tell to this day, the technology is mostly used for word processing, doing research online, and working on limited pre-approved computer programs. I cannot blame the school’s  teaching staff as they were not informed of the goals of the implementation nor have they received any training on how to properly embed technology in the classroom.
​“In his book Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom, Larry Cuban reported that across a large sample of school in his study, computer had little or no impact on the way student learned.”
I believe that the school has access to the tools to implement a blended learning model. However, there are many steps that are required for this to happen. In other words, the district or the school would need to take “the necessary steps to change the norm through an intentional transformation” if they want to utilize to a greater extent the technological tools they have at hand.
First, they would need to identify the goals to make the change. In the case of the school, the goals could be to increase students’ success, offer more personalized learning to students, and to enhance the learning experience with the 21st century technology. The next step would be to organize a team that would design, organize and prepare the implementation of the blended learning model within the school.
However, I don’t think that this educational entity is ready to do the jump to blended learning. Therefore, I would like to present to them a project of a smaller scale. With the authorization from the governing body, I would like to assist a few teachers to implement blended learning in one section of their Français Langue courses. This could be used as a pilot project. I like the advice that Tucker (2013) gave in her article called: “Think big but start small”.
In order to run this pilot project, a lightweight team would be required. It would composed of two Français Langue teachers, a course developer, someone from the district’s technology department and someone in a leadership position. I would like to recruit one Français Langue teacher from my children’s school and another one in the district as content specialist. An administrator at the school level or at the district level would provide an administrative point of view. The computer technician would help with programs’ implementation The course developer would be me as I have experience developing courses and program for online learning. I would also be the one leading the project as I have a good knowledge of what blended learning is and I have an idea of what this model should look like in a Français Langue course.
At the end of this pilot project, data would be collected to see if teaching a Français Langue course in a blended learning environment has an effect on students’ success, an increase on personalized learning, and an improvement in students’ ability to use 21st century technology. A summary of the course would be prepared to present to the teaching staff and the governing body in hope to advocate for more blended learning courses to be developed and offered within the district. If more teachers are interested in this innovative model, either other lightweight teams or a heavyweight team would need to be created. This disruptive change within an establishment would require professional development and some funds to help with the transition. In consequence of this disruption, the technology would become more integrated in the teaching and learning which would be nice to see.
Up to today, I have taught in face-to-face and online environment. However, as I learn about blended learning and look how I could make changes within an educational environment, I am drawn towards this innovative model of teaching. Since I might not be teaching at my current online school next year, the idea of launching a blended pilot project in Français Langue courses is very appealing to me. I guess time will tell.

Christensen, Clayton. (2015). Blended: using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass. A Wiley Brand.
Tucker, C. (March 2013). The basic of blended instruction. Retrieved November 22, 2016 from

A Rallying Cry and Who to Deal With it.

This week's blog post for blended learning is centred around identifying the problem that needs to be assessed to create change, and what kind of team is needed to solve it.

According to Horn & Staker (2015), "The most common mistake [in implementing technology] is to set forth with an appetite for the dazzling technology, rather than with an interest in the relief it might bring when applied strategically to a frustrating problem.

There seem to be new innovations and devices every day that claim to be the solution to this problem or that one. Many teachers, schools, and/or districts can be persuaded into believing that they need these in their classrooms due to elaborate and well designed marketing campaigns. Despite despite their appeal, many "have had little effect on how teachers teach and students learn, except to increase costs and draw resources away from other school priorities" (Horn & Staker, p.96)

Horn & Staker (2015) suggest identifying a problem that needs to be solved and then deciding what is necessary to solve it effectively. This is the "rallying cry" (p.98).

Horn & Staker (2015) also suggest the SMART model for planning the implementation of an idea.
Specific—Does it target a specific area for improvement?
Measurable—Does it quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress?
Assignable—Who will be responsible?
Realistic—Can results be achieved realistically, given available resources?
Time-related—When can the results be achieved? (p.102)

Interestingly, they also suggest that the problems should be framed as external threats (p.107). I find this interesting as it is kind of the same marketing technique that product designers do toward schools.

So to tackle this assignment for my current situation, I need to define a problem by the above model, which is not easy as I am in a part-time elementary Music position. To make things more difficult in regard to change, I share the position at the school with another teacher!

Anyway, here goes:

Specific - I find that most of my students cannot read music, which hampers their ability to learn more interesting and advanced songs. We are limited to rote learning, simple songs, and memorization. I need something that will help the students learn to read music, other than the traditional methods of paper-based drill and practice.

Measurable - It will demonstrate progress by the fact that students will be able to access more difficult pieces of music and be able to learn them independently or in class.

Assignable - I will be responsible for the delivery and structure of the implementation.

Realistic - This can be accomplished using a combination of the resources at the school and at home (if applicable).

Time-related - This is achievable over the course of the school year.

What is the external threat?

This one is tough. I suppose the threat is that music is often marginalized in times of budget cuts and more focus is placed on its role of providing teacher prep than what is actually being taught. With increased musical literacy, students will be able to share more interesting and engaging performances both as school-based performances as well as individual group projects. (I know, a little stretch perhaps!)

What kind of team is needed to solve this problem? (Functional, Lightweight, Heavyweight, Autonomous) 

In this case, I would mostly need a functional team consisting of myself and the other music teacher. However, there might need to be a lightweight team if it required the reorganization of lab use schedules and budget from the school.

For a functional team, we would decide what resource best fits our needs for the improvement of musical literacy.

For a lightweight team, the Principal and I would lead the team as I need to be in control of what is being implemented, but the Principal would have to be in control of any schedule modifications and to support any parent communications.

Here is what I propose:
Students would spend one of their two weekly music classes in the computer lab working on musical theory (note reading, rhythm, pitch, etc.) through the use of online content which operates in a gamified environment. This would be engaging for the students due to its gamification, but educationally beneficial due to the improvement of their musical literacy skills.

Once the students have become familiar with the website, they would continue their practice at home. The website which contains the content is currently free, and therefore would not incur any additional costs for the school. In addition, the computer lab is in place, so no additional technology would be needed at school. 

What needs to happen:
- Privacy permission forms from parents to use the site are unnecessary as no personally identifiable information is necessary, but notification of the intent to use this as a part of music class is necessary.
- Lab time will need to be set aside for the class so that it does not conflict with the school lab schedule.
- Alternatives to assist those with no home-based options must be explored and presented to parents.
- Evidence in the form of performances, or improved musical literacy must be provided by the end of the year to support the continuation of this use of technology in the Music class.

So, this was a tough one for me as I don't have a classroom and don't have full control over the program at the moment, but this is an example of what could happen.

What needs to be fixed in my world?

In my present teaching situation there are a number of problems that I would like to fix. Some of them are within my control but most are not because they do not pertain to the education of my students but to the problems that my students have that have led them to my program. They are deemed to be at-risk students. They all require temporary or ongoing intervention in order to succeed academically. (Wikipedia, 2016) Teaching in an alternate classroom has its advantages. I already use a self paced model. My students are already self-directed to an extent, in that they work on what they want, when they want, but there is so much more that prevents these at-risk kids from learning. My number one problem is outside the scope of OLTD 511 in that the biggest benefit that I could give to my students is continued mental health, and addictions counselling. 

After having solved the counselling problem, I would turn my attention to the learning in the room. I am the only teacher in the room and I work hard to teach all of the basic academic courses that my students access. To make matters worse, I am unable to offer most of the upper level academic courses such as biology, chemistry, english literature, calculus, law, geography, etc. because there just isn't time. My biggest problem is that I would like to provide access to out-of-reach courses and opportunities for my students. I offer the basics so that they can achieve their graduation certificate but they could do so much more if they had the opportunity to extend their learning to other subject areas. 

I would move my instructional pattern to an A La Carte model, allowing the students to take courses that are outside of my regular program, while still attending school and taking advantage of what I am already offering.  This problem falls into the area of a non-consumption problem. According to Horn and Staker (2015. p. 191) a non-consumption problem is one in which a school is unable to provide a learning experience. In my case, I am unable to offer all of the courses that my students may want to take and an A La Carte model of blended learning would allow students to take courses not offered via an online source and still attend school where they can receive help from their regular teacher as well as access an online teacher. 

In order to accomplish this goal, I would need to put a team together that will understand the problem and find solutions to make the blended learning model that I have chosen a reality. This would be an autonomous team because I would be launching a disruptive educational model that would need to completely change the way that I do business within my classroom. 

The team would have to be made up of a number of individuals. I would like to think that I would be in charge of the team because I am the teacher who would be implementing the new blended model. I would need to have the support and knowledge of my principal, he is aware of my frustrations towards the lack of courses offered and can help convince the upper levels of the school district as to the merits of the change. He is also in charge of my district's distributed learning program, so would have the necessary knowledge of online and paper DL courses offered within the district. I would need to include the district instructional technology co-ordinator because she is the person responsible for implementing the technology for this type of learning model. I would also need the district's head of technology because he is able to help sort out any problems with the needed internet access as well as devices needed for the students to access the courses they would now be able to access. I would also include the principal of the building in which I teach. I envision that she will be interested in accessing the program for students not in my program, but who attend the school, who might wish to take courses not available to them.

This idea of disruptive change to the learning experiences of my students is a complex issue. An A La Carte model of blended learning could help to increase the availability of courses for my students but I would need an autonomous team made up of varied individuals to implement such a huge change for my program.

The more time that I spend thinking about the value of the blended learning environment, the more excited that I become about the prospect of implementing some part of this plan. A 'big picture' change is wonderful to think about but at this time, I think my students would be much better served if I start small, with a few flipped lessons or the introduction of online resources to fit the existing course material that I use.

Horn, Michael B., Staker, Heather. (2015). Blended - Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

At-risk Students. (2016) Retrieved from: 

November 22nd, 2016





 The problem I chose to undertake for this assignment is the limited technology available to me and no help or assistance with our computer lab time.  To begin on this journey, I am going to apply Horn & Staker’s (2015) SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related) objectives to help in organizing the problem and set the goal.

  • Specific:  the area of improvement that I would like to target is increasing the amount of iPads  in my classroom and to get some support during computer labs.
  • Measurable: set-up date with IT help confirmed, iPads uploaded with appropriate apps, extra devices bought and prepared, buddy class available to help on computer days.
  • Assignable: I will be the lead, asking for team support from the Principal, IT help, and buddy class.
  • Realistic: with some personal financial output and follow through from my team this goal can easily be obtained.
  • Time - related: Within a month I will be able to see if my plan has been successful

Due to my team design requirements, I would classify my team type as  lightweight (Horn & Staker 2015). This is essentially an in-class issue, but in order for my plan to be fully manifested, it will be necessary for me to work with other individuals.  My team will consist of
myself as the lead, the  principal, IT rep, and buddy-class teacher.

When I began a Kindergarten teaching position in a new school this year, I was disheartened to find out the school only owned 6 iPads.  In the past, I have successfully used iPads as a station in a rotation model and was looking forward to doing the same again.  I love the  possibilities of what we can  create and explore.

This year, with the addition of Seesaw digital portfolios, I am anxiously awaiting teaching my students how to create their own portfolios.  I have also been experimenting with station rotation and would like to include this technology component into the rotation.  We do have a computer lab, but with the school bottom-heavy with primary K-3 (7 classes) and light with intermediate 4-7 (4 classes) we do not currently have a buddy class.  

To begin in this process, I will need to meet with the principal of the school and relate my urgent need to get the school iPads ready for use.  Although making the appointment with the IT help is out of my control, I can regularly check-in and inquire on the progress.  

The next step will be to meet with our new grade 4-5 teacher to see if she is willing to split her class to accommodate two separate buddy classes.  That would mean, each of her students would have two buddies.  This would help immensely with login during our computer lab period.  I currently find the amount of time it takes for my students to log on the computer consumes the bulk of our 25 minute weekly period.  Once students learn to successfully master this step, we will be able to work more on the computers.

 I am hopeful that very soon the iPads will be up and running.  Once that has happened, I can begin the Seesaw and digital citizenship lessons I have created, and incorporate the new rotation ideas I have recently been reading about in a book called, “Innovate with iPads”.  


Horn, M. B., & Staker, H. (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve             
     schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Lirenman, K & Wideen, K. (2016). Innovate with iPad: Lessons to transform learning in  
    the classroom.  Irvine, California: Ed TEach Team Press

No Problems…..Just Solutions.

​One of my favourite sayings is, “No problems, just solutions.”

Educators face many challenges today.  Class size and composition, reduction in funding and services, and the adoption of multiple initiatives involving curriculum and reporting.

In my current teaching position I would identify two urgent problems, or as I like to refer to them - challenges.  Challenges provide an opportunity for change and growth, whereas problems infer a force hindering progress.

The first challenge is significant underachievement in literacy and numeracy.  Many students arrive with significant deficits and make little progress in spite of many initiatives in place to support them such as guided reading, levelled literacy intervention, numeracy in-service and more.

The second challenge is a significant population of the student body coming through the doors physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially unprepared to learn.  In many cases conversation and play that is important to language development is neglected as is building basic numeracy through counting games.  Nor is it uncommon for students to arrive at school late, hungry or tired.

The first challenge would likely require a heavyweight team to design and implement a sustaining innovation solution as it crosses grade and subject areas and any initiative would likely impact all staff.  Keeping in mind the SMART goals framework (Haughey, 2016)  I would recommend a heavyweight team comprised of representatives from primary and intermediate grades, support services and administration and co-chaired by the chairs of the literacy and numeracy committees to  be formed to meet at an agreed upon time on a monthly basis to consider instructional models and strategies and present reccomendations at the April staff committee meeting with the intention of collecting baseline data and piloting the recommendations in the 2017-2018 school year with additional data collection and analysis in April 2018 to monitor progress.

The second challenge is one that is not likely to be solved on a school level and would require an autonomous team comprised of representatives from the school district, Vancouver Island Health Authority, Ministry of Child and Family Servies and community groups such as Nanaimo Food Share, Literacy Nanaimo and other stakeholders as a starting point.  The systems in place to support vulnerable families appear to be failing and I suggest the financing and delivery models of these services needs to be rethought.  I propose that such a committee should be led by an impartial outside party as many of the aforementioned parties are likely to be resistant to the disruptive innovations likely required to achieve the desired results.

It is notable that neither of the challenges identified refer to technology.  Technology may or may not be utilized as a solution to these challenges.  Horne (2015 ) and Hudson (2013) remind us that the most successful blended learning environments have begun by identifying a broad problem.  How to include technology was not the problem.  It was the solution.  It was a deliberate, intentional choice made in the context of a larger framework.

Much the same as KIPP charter schools use technology to facilitate the implementation of small group instruction and personalize learning, I propose that implementing a station rotation model (which is already used in several classes) can facilitate small group instruction and assist in personalizing and enriching learning and make steps towards resolving the first challenge that exists in my school.  Mine is only one voice.  The advantage of forming a team is that you benefit from the experience and insight of many minds whose voices may express a potential solution one individual may not have considered.

The second problem will require disruptive innovation that challenges our priorities as a society and will not be a quick or easy fix.  The model may be so different from the existing one that I cannot begin to predict the form it will take.  It will require a strong advocate with exceptional managerial skills to facilitate.  I believe that person is out there and will one day step forward.  That is my hope.  That is my vision.  

What's yours?


Horn, Michael B and Heatyher Staker (2015) Blended:  Using disruptive innovation to improve schools.  San Francisco.  Jossey-Boss.

Haughey, Duncan  (2016). SMART Goals. Project Smart. Retrieved 22 November 2016 from

Hudson, Tim.  (2013).  How to Implement a Station Rotation Blended Learning Model. Retrieved 21 November 2016  from

Personal Learning Networks

Over the last week and a half, I have been busy reading articles and watching webinars as part of this course and others. I have been finding new ways to expand my professional networks through online means.

Global Education Conference

As part of OLTD 501, I was directed to a couple of different places. The first was the Global Education Conference, which was a free online series of keynotes and webinar sessions held between November 13-16, 2016. While I was unable to participate live in all but one of the sessions, I did watch a few recorded sessions after the fact. A few sessions I watched are as follows.

1) International Open-mindedness through Technology by Sara Abou Afash, a PhD Student

This session, while short, outlined what online resources we could use to encourage global open-mindedness among our students. The speaker suggested many tools that are familiar to most of us such as: videos, blogging, interactive maps, and social media. She also suggested a couple that are less used in practice but excellent ways to share and experience culture and traditions. These included: virtual field trips, Google Doodles, and school to school collaboration. One of the interesting ideas she put forth for collaboration was that each school celebrated each other's holidays together. This would be an interesting way to gain insight to another country's culture. 

I think that the Internet and technology are great ways to investigate and educate about culture, traditions, and tolerance. By connecting with people around the world, we realize that we are all closer than we think.

Here is the link to the recording,

International Open-mindedness through Technology

2) Using Digital Media for Global Collaboration: A Look at Two iEARN Projects by Chris Baer, Arts and Technology Teacher, iEARN Project Facilitator and Curriculum Developer

This session was about creating global collaboration between student-student, classroom-classroom, school-school, educators-educators. It outlined two different projects which iEarn is running. 

The first project is a two-part program. The first part of the program was One Day in the Life, where students from different countries shared pictures they took with short captions about what was going on. The pictures were based on an assigned topic and students commented and had discussions about the pictures in an online forum. The second part of the program was augmented reality where students took green screen pictures of themselves in different poses and inserted themselves into different environments. 

The second project is where schools from the US collaborate with one of 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Teachers on both ends would participate in face-to-face workshops first. Then they would collaborate online to create and implement projects in their schools. Finally, there was an exhibition of the project, usually with a video feed so both schools could be involved. This seems like an interesting option, although not available in Canada through iEarn.

Here is the link to the recording,

Using Digital Media for Global Collaboration: A Look at Two iEARN Projects

3) Not me! Unconscious Bias in our Global Classrooms by Adam Holden, Head of Academic Planning & Resources

This session was brought to my attention by a discussion post in our cohort Danica Radil. It discussed the unconscious biases that everyone has despite their best efforts to be unbiased. These biases stem from our environment, upbringing, experiences, and exposure to different media. It started out by asking the participants to form a mental image of a scientist including physical appearance, age, and what they are wearing.

Did you picture a white, middle-aged man with a lab coat? Apparently that was the first thing most people imagined. This is not because there are no women, or coloured scientists or different clothing options, but this is what we are shown in pictures, clip art, movies and TV, etc. on a regular basis and it has become an unconscious stereotype. Interestingly, he mentioned at the end of the session that if you tried to imagine something more politically correct because you knew that the aforementioned image was what he was expecting you to see, that that was also biased.

It is interesting to check our biases or have them pointed out to us once in a while. Because they are unconscious biases, we don't actively think about them and we may not even realize that we have them. Sometimes, it takes an objective observer to watch and take notes on your teaching in order to identify them. Some common biases are gender preference, student preference, biased questioning, or any type of discrimination. It is worth having someone watch your class once in a while to detect these. However, if you know someone is watching, are you unconsciously changing your habits to look better?

Here is the link to the recording,

Not me! Unconscious Bias in our Global Classrooms

One of the more interesting aspects of this conference was the gamification part through the GEC Chrome Warrior. By attending or viewing various sessions, following the conference, Twitting, and reflecting on your learning among other things, you could gain points and receive a GEC Connect Champion certificate of participation from the conference chairs. This was an interesting way to encourage and maintain participant involvement. I was able to achieve the 300 points necessary without a huge time investment and it helped me reflect on what I had learned.

The second place I ended up was After signing up as a member, I went to the webinar recordings and watched the following:

Making Your Classroom a Digital Learning Hub with Google Classroom by Shannon Holden, Assistant Principal, Republic Middle School, MO
This webinar described the process of creating a Google Classroom and how to administer and use it effectively. There are many hurdles in BC in terms of being able to use this suite of apps due to FIPPA, but it is possible if all the forms and waivers are completed. What it is basically, is a simple LMS where you can post announcements, quizzes, assignments, and have discussion forums specific to your class. As a teacher, you control who can join the classroom and what their restrictions are (if necessary). It is a versatile tool that can be used to create an online or blended classroom.

The funny thing is how he described how to create your own Google Classroom (or School) if your school or district doesn't or won't support it. He makes sure to mention that you should ask for permission first rather than forgiveness after!

Here is the link to the recording,

Making Your Classroom a Digital Learning Hub with Google Classroom

Similar to the GEC, upon completing a live webinar, you receive a certificate of completion. If you watch a recording, you need to complete a quick review quiz and you receive your certificate as well. In some districts, you may be able to provide these certificates as evidence of Pro-D, but should ask first.

Thoughts on personal learning networks.

Both of the resources above are excellent ways to expand your personal learning network. There are frequent live events that you can attend throughout the year. As people from all over the world present and attend these sessions, the number of possible connections and contacts you could make is seemingly endless. Whether you are presenting, attending a session, or just following on of the related social media streams, there is ample opportunity to expand your knowledge and skills through these networks.

Other than the two networks that I have introduce and my experience with them, there are many other options for building personal and professional networks.

Twitter is quickly becoming the choice for many educators because the communication is short, easily shared, and available pretty much anywhere you can get an Internet connection. I am still new to Twitter and haven't built much of a network yet. This particular blog exercise asks me to twit it when I am done. Although I am great at organizing and mediating the information I receive from the firehose through email, the Internet, and in person, the sheer mass of information ready to be unleashed by Twitter scares me a little. 

Google+ communities, Facebook groups, and other social media are also frequently used to share information and create networks. 

The most important thing about whatever network you choose is that you participate and share. While it is easy to sit back and consume for hours on end, a vibrant and effective network requires active participation by all members.

What I see as a problem in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Diploma Program at Vancouver Island University 

“So much to do and not enough time to do it” is the lament of students and instructors of the 2-year Diploma Program in Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Fish-Aqua) at Vancouver Island University. The program strives to provide learning opportunities to prepare students for employment in broad ranges of jobs in different but related fields, from fish health technicians to fish farm managers, from environmental outreach educators to fisheries habitat restoration consultants, and from microalgae culturists to shellfish growers. This results in a heavy course load and rigid schedule of lectures, labs, field work, and hands-on technical learning activities that might be alleviated by transforming some of the content into online learning components based on a blended learning model.
I would suggest beginning by identifying the problem and stating it in the SMART way, as defined by Horn and Staker (2014) in Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools:

  • Specific - Students in the 2-year Fisheries and Aquaculture Diploma Program at Vancouver Island University have a very heavy course load but still need more hands-on components specific to their fields of interest, and opportunities to explore the required knowledge content in different ways.
    • Students complain of current workload (traditional classroom)
    • Threat: Declining number of applications to program possibly due to competition from more focused programs of shorter duration offered by other institutions. (Nonconsumers)
  • Measurable – 1. Convert some lecture content to online formats and develop new learning strategies for the material and offer it in blocks available as extension courses earning diploma credits;  2. Student success with the new course/program design, and a student satisfaction survey; 3. After implementation of the new online credit courses for one year, compare numbers of applicants with those of previous years.
  • Assignable – Lead 1: Fish-Aqua Department head with a team of professors/instructors and technicians, Natural Resource Extension Program, with assistance from the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL) and the Information Technology (IT) department. Lead 2. Dean of Science and Technology and a team of educators and an Administrator.
  • Realistic - Given current resources-professors will need time to prepare online components and new lab and field components, and the project may require funding for quality video production and specialized software programs.
  • Time-related – Initial delivery of select courses for Spring semester of 2018, i.e., Larval rearing and shellfish aquaculture course.

The Fish & Aqua department chair would need to work with Natural Resource Extension Program personnel to develop some online courses that could be offered for stand-alone certification or as credits towards the diploma program. The credit courses could be taken prior to entering the diploma program or, if a student is required to retake a course due to failure, withdrawal, or scheduling conflict they could do so at their convenience. The lecture portion of a course could go online in full or section and made available for credit from anywhere at any time, leaving the laboratory, field, and technical components to be taken during the reduced on-campus portion of the diploma.
The leaders would also need to organize the right teams:
  • Lightweight: To develop courses would include educators (professors, instructors, and technicians) from Fish-Aqua and the NREP Program, and representatives from both IT and CIEL.
  • Heavyweight: To determine new course credit and delivery system: Dean of Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Fish-Aqua Chair, Educators (professors, instructors, and technicians), NREP Program Assistant and/or Coordinator, and VIU Administrators
As a sessional instructor I don't have any influence on how the programs are managed at VIU but I plan to present the case for blended learning and hope to have a framework to present to the Department chair and Dean as a result of work done in OLTD 511. I welcome any suggestions on how this plan could be framed better. 
Horn, M.B. & Staker, H. (2014). Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Creating a change – blended learning

Present Teaching Position
Currently I teach in a grade 3/4 classroom in an inner city school in Surrey, BC. The composition of my class is diverse and challenging, but it is the challenge that I thrive on. I am working together with my job share partner to create the best environment possible for our students with the resources provided. At the moment I teach 0.4 in the classroom and my job share partner owns the position. With this said, I essentially teach in her classroom and most of the time because I’m the minority in the partnership I feel as if I teach to her program and don’t always do things the way I would or did when I was in my own classroom full time. In terms of my personal life this works for me and the craziness that is my life at the moment. Professionally however, I find it to be less than satisfying and I have a strong desire to alter and change the way things are being approached.
The biggest challenge in my teaching position at the moment centers around Mathematics. My school is one of the larger ones in the district and due to high needs across the board, the majority of our classes are splits. My class along with two others decided at the beginning of the year to platoon during Math to alleviate some of the pressure around meeting the needs of all of our students. It seems to be working out for the other two teachers who have taken the grade 4 and the grade 5 students, but for my partner and I who are teaching the grade 3 class it is not working in our favour. At the moment my partner and I teach separate Math units independent of one another. I’ll set the stage for what the composition in my math class looks… 

  • 4 low incidence students on modified programs with full time child specific EAs
  • 8-10 students working at varying levels well below the grade 3 standard
  • 4 students who are unable to work independently on any subject matter 
  • The majority of my students are ELL
  • 2 students with behaviours that are unsupported
  • 1 student who started the school year with absolutely no knowledge of the English Language
  • Approximately 6-7 students who are able to work independently  
​Based on the above, I find it overwhelming to teach this group a Math lesson. I have never had a group of students so dependent on the teacher or another adult to help them through a lesson or activity. While some might see having 4 EAs in the classroom a great benefit, in this case they are very child specific and can actually create a great deal of distraction for myself and some other students. I'd love to take this assistance and make it work for everyone. The progress my students have made so far this year does not compare with that of other years and this needs to change. 
The Math program that I’m delivering needs to be drastically altered in order to successfully reach all of my students.

To introduce a blended learning component (station rotation), in order to allow time for me to work in small groups with students at similar levels. The goal is to have them working independently on a computer program that is meaningful and useful to their Math education, rather than busy work that doesn’t enhance their Math education in any way. I want my students to be successful and at the present time the format of our Math class isn’t ideal for all students.
Blended learning has the potential to create a more personalized learning experience for my students. Many praise the possible benefits of a program such as this, but it takes some serious thought and planning in order to successfully implement at any level in order for it to become a “sustainable innovation” (Staker & Horn, ).

What Type of Team Would I Need to Achieve This?:
Because this is one block out of my day and in my own classroom, I would need to assemble a functional blended learning team to achieve my goals. I would ultimately be the lead in this re-format of my math lessons and my teaching partner would be consulted for input and discussion so that it can work for the both of us. I would need to consult with the EAs within my classroom as their involvement in our lessons might be impacted as well.
According to Horn & Staker (2015), “Functional teams are best suited to improving one component of a product or one step of a process”. Because I’m not suggesting that I completely overhaul my entire teaching philosophy or program but rather one subject, this aligns perfectly with the definition of a functional team. My current problem and suggested solution will have no impact on other classrooms in the school and will not require coordination with other teaching groups or departments within my school (Horn & Staker, 2015).  

My hope is that with the introduction of a station rotation component of a blended learning program in Math, I can create a more personalized learning experience in Math for my students that allows them to progress more naturally and effectively. 
​Horn, M.B., & Staker, H. (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools     
[Kindle]. Retrieved from

An Ideal Learning Environment

My elementary school years occurred during a time that was very focused on teacher centred instruction. During the early years, I recall very little collaboration or group work, but rather a lot of structure and expectation. Art time was always a favourite, because it usually happened on a Friday afternoon and we were generally permitted to talk with our friends during this time. This structured learning style suited me for the most part as I was a quiet child looking to please. As long as I showed up and listened, things generally went my way.
I was successful learning under such a model, however as I progressed through my years of education and into post-secondary education I could see where my short falls were. The type of direct teacher led instruction failed me in some ways. Things related to problem solving were very difficult for me. It was not an approach that I was familiar with. Typical question and regurgitated answer was the norm throughout my education. When I arrived at University, I realized that I needed to learn these skills or success would not come my way quite as easily. Fortunately for me, I was able to manage and focus my skills where they were needed. Similarly, when I began teaching Math and the questions were mainly focused around problem solving I was baffled. Had I learned this way from the start, I feel that I would be a more well-rounded student and teacher that is able to fully understand and have the ability to communicate that understanding clearly. That being said, it has helped get me to where I am today.
Another way in which this style of teaching did not aid me comes down to my own style of learning. I was not and am still not an auditory learner. Listening to a lecture for example in University was useless to me. If you asked me a question right after class I likely couldn’t answer it. I coped regardless and developed detailed note taking skills from which I was able to learn from. I feel that I would have greatly benefitted from a blended model during University
When I think of the ways in which technology was integrated into my education, it is vastly different than how it is now. Computers existed in my schools and they were always a highlight of the day, but they were used solely for typing practice and maybe a game or two. Towards the end of high-school I recall signing up for an email account, however I’m not sure it was related in any way to my studies.
Thinking back on my experience as a student and now an elementary school teacher, I have a sense of what I would include in my ideal learning environment.  
1. Choices: Students would have the opportunity to choose an activity that best suits their needs and learning styles to show their understanding for a given concept or activity. I recognize that this would be difficult to achieve for absolutely everything that is done in a classroom, but providing some consistent choice would be positive. 
2. Blended: There would definitely be a blended
aspect to my ideal school environment. I would
have embraced the opportunity to use technology
as a tool in my education. I see technology as
being both collaborative and independent, which
would have suited me quite well. I am a 
very independent worker and thrive on being able
to work at my own pace. I love the ability to learn
things that you didn’t set out to learn when
​using technology. It can take you so many places! 

Photo Credit: Ken Whytock Flickr via Compfight cc
This article by DreamBox Learning outlines some of the different models of blended learning. For my own ideal elementary school, I think that I would prefer the rotational model. It allows for variation while at the same time offering consistency and structure.
3. Welcoming Classroom Environment: I would have enjoyed having varied seating arrangement and furniture organizations in my learning environment. One can become more motivated simply by a change of scenery or a more comfortable setting. When you feel safe and invited in an environment, you are more likely to succeed. 

4. Structure: while I would have thoroughly enjoyed having choices, a fun environment and blended learning incorporated into my education, I am still one for structure. I think structure is important in a child’s life especially if that child does not have structure at home. Structure does not have to mean sitting in rows and working independently all day, but consistency from day to day and a general understanding of what is expected would have been a great guide from which I could have worked with. 

It seems as though a school environment that allows for personalized and competency based learning through a blended model would benefit a great deal of students. 

If I could go back in time and design my own learning environment what would I create for myself, knowing what I know about education today?

VIU Fisheries & Aquaculture students learning how to sort oysters from one of the Deep Bay Marine Station's rafts. (Photo credit: K. Leask) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) 

Too much of student’s learning time is spent sitting in desks staring at exercise sheets, books, or computers, and the students are often either struggling to keep up with the class or bored to distraction. If I could take what I now know about learning and teaching back in time and create a learning environment for learners of all ages I would build a more active, experiential program with students’ progress laddered to accommodate individual learning styles. I don’t know how I would accomplish this idyllic learning scenario with a class ratio of thirty students to one teacher but if I could take modern technology back in time with me I think using mobile electronic devices, Wi-Fi, and the internet might facilitate both the experiential learning and the individualized learning programs.
I wouldn’t have believed how effective a learning tool an electronic device such as a tablet computer could be in a very hands-on and physically active course if I hadn’t seen it in action in the Forestry Program at VIU. Students are required to purchase an iPad as part of their course supplies but don’t have to buy any textbooks because each iPad contains a virtual library of forestry references and is GPS-enabled so it can be used for navigating in the woods, collecting field data and participating in classroom activities. Having ready access to course information, the World Wide Web, and word processing programs and other forms of recording, would facilitate reflection by the students on their learning.
Students could acquire the knowledge and some skills through online educational programming, with face-to-face teacher or tutor support, and progress to the experiential components and through the course would be competency-based. This fusion of experiential learning with online learning and competency-based achievement would fall into the flipped classroom model of blended learning as described in Horn and Staker (2014). Accommodating individual learning styles and progress in a course with a large experiential component conducted with student peer interaction, would be more difficult to schedule in a small class than in a very large one since a minimum number of students, at or near the same competency level, would be needed to carry out activities.
I haven’t come across any successful examples of this kind of learning environment but I’m hoping to get some ideas from Horn & Staker’s (2014) Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools so stay tuned.
Horn, M.B. & Staker, H. (2014). Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.