With increasing and ever-evolving technology in the classroom, it stands to reason that our teaching techniques would also improve and adapt alongside. Blended learning is the notion of integrating traditional classroom teaching with digital elements, commonly involving a virtual learning platform that both teachers and students can access to offer different mediums for learning. In theory, this is an incredible opportunity for teachers to innovate and use different media, methods and programs to teach but it is also a breeding ground for complacency when simply moving the same techniques from paper to digital.
Blended learning should be much more than this and can not only enhance learning in the classroom but mobile learning as well, particularly when you have platforms such as Google that are easily recognisable but with privacy concerns. That doesn’t mean you have to opt for a Google education platform like Classroom, you can consider other VLE providers instead as long as how you use them is different. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that just because you are using technology to teach, that you’re being innovative. If you’re simply uploading the worksheets and having students fill them out online, you are simply upgrading your platform rather than your teaching style.
Being more engaging and motivational (among other things) are key elements to virtual learning environment success so here are some ways you can ensure that you are using digital teaching to its full potential.
How To Innovate With Digital Learning
Give Students Authority – Students who have more control over their learning process are more likely to both enjoy and adapt it to suit their needs. Digital learning gives the opportunity for around the clock access and can allow them to adapt the pace or topic to suit their needs so give them the freedom to explore this.
Use Different Mediums – From audio soundbites and books to videos and games, use various digital mediums to make the content more engaging and mix it up. You could create QR game treasure hunts to integrate real-world and digital content which will motivate students.
Be Adaptive – Teachers have access to real-time feedback with digital teaching and these analytics can be more representative of interest than students so use this to your advantage and adapt teaching methods to suit. If students are engaging more with videos then develop the content to align this way, alternatively if you can see them avoiding areas online, try to offer more help and instruction to make it more interesting.
Make More of You – Screencasting, for example, can allow you to create a walk-through or video to help those who learn at different paces. The students who just need the instructions once or prefer to replay instructions can use the screencast to answer their own questions, while you have the freedom and time to help those who are struggling and give them one-to-one help.
Digital learning is only as useful as the teachers who wield it to their full potential and without exploring all of its opportunities, it is going to be no different than the pen and paper approach. Hopefully this brief introduction has convinced you why blended learning is an innovative way to engage students, evolve how learning takes place and make the classroom exciting again.
There are a few things you should be considering when it comes to online safety and privacy. VLE’s are great, and we know that when students use them effectively, they can achieve remarkable results (read about the correlation between VLE use and performance here). However, when yo’re thinking of using virtual learning environment software and services, you need to ensure your students’ safety. Think about the following when discovering and making full use of digital content and consider making your students aware of the issues.
There are three facets to digital citizenship; safety, literacy and responsibility.
However, this is not the case with all learning platforms. You need to know what you’re signing up to when you register your information on sites and apps. Look at the agreement you’re making and what they’re going to require from you. Read through the agreement rather than blindly clicking on the agree button. You might realise these platforms are after more of your personal information than first thought. Students need to take overall responsibility for their online safety, but to do so, they need to understand what this means, and that’s where digital citizenship in schools comes in. As their teacher, inviting them to use a particular platform they would not have known about without you also puts the onus on you to make the right choices on their behalf.
Keeping your information secure is important. Passwords come into their own when it comes to keeping information safe. Vary your passwords; don’t use the same one to access everything, as once someone gets hold of that password, they can access all of your information. Uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters should all feature in a strong password. Digital privacy in education is more important now than it ever has been, and solid passwords are an essential first step.
Don’t trust everything you see online. Be sensible and learn to recognise when you are consuming false information, or heading to an unsecure site. Be wary and vigilant when navigating through the online world. Not every site is a good site, and if you think something isn’t quite right, then it probably isn’t. Know what you’re looking for from a service and feel safe using it. But, does that mean we should only use services we have already heard of? Not necessarily – as you could be missing out on great learning opportunities. Check out our take on Considering Non-Google Education Platforms to see what we mean.
Tips on evaluating an online service in terms of student protection:
As a teacher selecting an online service for your students to use, you have the responsibility of keeping them as safe as you can. But how do you select Virtual learning environment platforms with safety in mind? Ask these questions when considering Virtual Learning Environments for schools – they’ll help you make an informed decision. If you are answering “yes” to most of these questions; you might want to consider an alternative service.
- Does it collect information that could personally identify a student?
- Does it share information with 3rd parties?
- If you discontinue use, will student information be retained?
- Are targeted advertisements served to users?
- Are they unclear about data security processes?
- Are there any reviews online that raise red flags about the service?
Virtual learning environments are becoming more widely used. They are excellent at combatting a huge number of challenges faced in the sphere of learning; such as larger student populations and reduced budgets. But, learners sometimes find it easy to lose motivation in a Virtual Learning Environment. It’s not difficult to lose motivation in a traditional classroom if you aren’t interested in the subject, and even easier to let your motivation slip when no one is standing over your shoulder ensuring you do the work.
So, how do you motivate students to keep engaging with the subject, when they’re behind a screen? Students can be excellent at hiding their lack of motivation and engagement, and you need to be on top of your game to recognise when things are slipping. It’s far less trouble to keep them engaged in the first place than it is to try and motivate them once they’ve lost their drive. So, how do we ensure they’re getting the most from their learning, and you’re getting the most from them?
Engagement equals motivation
It’s human nature to be lazy, why waste energy? People want to do things using as little energy as possible, so if we can get away with not attending something, not paying attention or letting others do the work for us, often we will. This behaviour becomes extremely noticeable in a VLE for students. Teachers will see that some students will slow down their use of the Virtual Learning Environment software as time goes on; this is them losing motivation and their engagement levels slipping. There’s a direct correlation between the success of students and their VLE use (which you can read about here) so we know it’s imperative that we keep students engaged with their learning. However, we also know, that accessing a VLE for learners 100 times or 100,000 times, doesn’t necessarily make for greater success. Surprising eh? Take a look at our article to read more about this.
It’s all well and good appreciating this challenge, but even better knowing how to combat this as a teacher. Here are some pointers.
- Communicate with your students. Keep in touch, however that may be. Talk to them through a messaging centre, arrange 1-to-1 time or ask direct questions in a group discussion. The second students feel forgotten about, they start to disengage.
- Set expectations. If we know what is expected of us, it’s a lot easier to apply yourself to those expectations. The flexibility a VLE can provide is one of the top benefits, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Letting your students know what you need from them in terms of participation from the get-go, will help you down the line.
- Set goals. Working with each individual to set goals for progress gives your students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. If they’re accountable for their progress, you will start to notice them sticking to their goals more rigidly.
- Monitor progress. Don’t stop monitoring and reviewing your students. There is always room for improvement, and reviewing results on a regular basis will help you recognise when things are slipping.
- Peer collaboration. Set tasks where your students need to evaluate content from a group discussion. This reduces the temptation to log in to the VLE, show your face and then stop paying attention.