This is a guest blog post from Carolyn Mitchell, a Digital Learning Specialist from Lewisville ISD.

What’s your blend? Blended learning is a hot topic at TCEA this year, and at a workshop on Monday morning, Lewisville ISD Digital Learning Specialists shared the theory behind blended learning, introduced workshop participants to the LISD BlendED program which supports blended learning on the district’s high school and middle school campuses, and empowered workshop participants to determine what the “blend” might look like in their districts, campuses, and classrooms and how to design classroom learning experiences for a blended model.

In a video highlighted by student voices, Sandy Lumley of Marcus High School briefly explained how blended courses were structured for juniors and seniors who choose to take these courses at Marcus and then specifically discussed how she blends learning for students in her Algebra 2 classroom.  Students shared what they liked most about their blended Algebra 2 class—personalization of the learning and the opportunity to have flexibility in their schedules—but also the opportunity to work with Ms. Lumley one-on-one and to collaborate with their peers.  Students de-bunked the myth that they were teaching themselves by participating in a blended learning class.

Workshop participants learned that there were many types of blended learning models that were part of the blended learning taxonomy, yet their definitions are purposely ambiguous so as not to force a “structure” to the model. Administrators and teachers contemplating an implementation of a blended learning model are given the freedom to innovate based on what their vision of blended learning should look like in their particular circumstances.

With the ISTE and iNACOL standards as the focus for the instructional design, the implementation of the learning experiences, and the expectations for teachers, coaches, and administrators, attendees were given the opportunity to use Pollmaker to determine what their blend should look like based on a series of questions.  Conclusions were affirmed, or in some cases, a new blended learning path was considered.  Workshop participants saw how the blend could be transformed using Understanding by Design (UbD), the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) to design authentic learning experiences that are both engaging and strategic.

Attendees explored tools that could be deployed to turn standard classroom lessons into interesting participatory experiences. Some that were found to be particularly interesting and effective were TedEd, eduCannon, and Teach-Em  video tools for creating interactive lessons;  Curriculet, Google Docs, and No Red Ink for creating experiences that allow students to interact with content, and the Blended Learning Toolkit. Padlet, Trello, and Dotstorming were of particular interest as collaborative tools to “start the conversation” and share knowledge.

Workshop participants left the session with a blueprint of what their brand of blend could look like, with tools to jump start the learning, and with the understanding that there is no “right way” to blend.  The time, the place, and the space are up to you and your students.