To enable better integration of e-learning within my classroom, I developed a programme which allowed students to decide when and where they will do their learning.
Using more and more technology in the class, it was clear that using the designated one session a week in the ICT lab was not enough to integrate technology in my classroom programme. My students were also capable of managing themselves to some extent and I wanted them to take more ownership of their own learning. The only way I could make full use of the classroom technological devices (laptops and computers to start with) was to throw out the way I had previously run my class (at Maths time, everyone was doing some kind of maths activity, similar with Literacy, etc) and look at a more flexible learning environment.
Questions I asked myself
- Why do all students have to do a subject (e.g. Maths) at the same time?
- Is it possible to organise their programmes so the computers get the maximum use?
- How do I know the best time for their learning ~ can they decide when to do activities that do not rely on a new skill being taught?
How it Works:
Teacher Sessions - Workshops
Students still need to attend group lessons with the teacher (that was a given). I named these 'workshops', where students, depending on the topic, would know the workshops they need to attend during the week...Maths and Literacy are the main subject areas that require these workshops. Depending on the topic, groups are formed by either interest (e.g. when we were doing instructional writing, students were writing instructions for using different e-learning tools and were grouped by the tool rather than ability) or by ability (e.g. for Maths). Students then have a follow-up session straight after the teaching session, allowing them to consolidate the skill they have just learnt.
The activities needed to be at a level where students were able to 'get on with it', and also reinforce the skills they were learning in their workshops. When I looked at what we had in their programmes already, there were activities which they did not need a teacher to be over their shoulder.
- Spelling: students practice their weekly spelling words with a list of activities (using their Multiple Intelligences)
- Publishing: students spend this time publishing their work to their wikispaces
- Reflective Journal: towards the end of the week, students write a reflection of their week of learning, this may include their successes, their next steps and what they have enjoyed (they have a list of sentence starters that can help them if they need it).
- Blog: my students don't have their own blog, so within their wikispaces, they have created their own blogs. They publish their reflections of the week here.
- Editing: students go through their writing, reflections, anything and spend this time proofreading their work. I allowed them time in their timetable to actually sit-down and make their writing better.
Finishing: students have time to finish off any work they have not completed during that week (or in previous weeks).
Whole Class Lessons
There are still some things we need to do as a class. Within their weekly timetable, these are already written in (e.g. Assembly, P.E., Library).
What it Looks Like
Monday morning, as a class we sort out our timetables. I have my timetable, which includes workshops and who attendees. Students start by putting in their workshops, then they can insert their activities around this. We have a computer booking system, where students book into computers. If there is no computer free at the time they want, they need to re-organise their timetable. I use the class wiki to post their supporting material and many of the lesson e-learning tools used in the workshop. Recently I have used flipped videos, where students view the material before coming to a workshop. This has been a great success and allowed students greater time to work on the skills taught.
Session are usually 30 - 45 mins and their timetable is broken up into time slots.
Things I needed to do as a teacher
- Let go as a teacher: students are not all doing the same type of activity, so as teacher, I needed to let go of the control and allow this flexibility in the class.
- Allow flexible learning spaces: changing my classroom to allow students greater access to computers was essential. My classroom has different learning areas depending on the need. At every table there is a computer (laptop or desktop computer). I have a teaching group table centered around the IWB. Students chose where they sit depending on their timetable. If they need a computer, they sit where they have booked a computer, if they have a workshop, they sit at the teaching group table. Some students even choose the floor ~ as long as they are engaged and focused, they can make that decision themselves!
This idea has transformed my class. My students are in control of their own learning and are a lot more independent because of this. I often come back to class from a break and they are sitting down, getting on with their programmes! They are independent, focused learners who are capable of making choices that impact on their own learning path.