This summer, the DigitalJLearning Network enjoyed the distinct pleasure of taking 16 educators, from 16 different schools, to the 2014 ISTE Conference in Atlanta, GA. We asked each participant to share what they learned with you, our readers, here on our blog. Elisa Marcus, fourth frade teacher at the Solomon Schectcher School of Manhattan, shares her reflections in this fifth installment of our blog series.
"It's not about the technology." Music to my ears! I heard this phrase used over and over at the ISTE conference and I couldn't agree more. In thinking about how to create a blended learning environment, it is this phrase that I keep front and center in my mind.
And, so, I have to ask: "Then what IS it about?" Of course, it's about the learning. It's about using technology to support thoughtful instruction, which gives students the opportunity and responsibility to learn with and from one another.
I went to an interactive session about the personalized learning approach. The presenters did not highlight any particular piece of technology. Rather, they discussed how their classrooms are designed to accommodate a variety of learning modes (individual, small group, large group, with device, without device, etc.) and how their learners are motivated to work on their own personalized projects. In a personalized learning environment, students can collaborate with one another and teachers confer informally with individuals and groups in response to their work and progress. Some teachers use morning "skill time" to teach or reinforce skills and afternoon “studio time” to give students time to work on their own.
This is just one of many kinds of blended learning environments. Technology is a tool that should support individual learning, communal learning, and the communication of that learning to external stakeholders like parents. It's up to the teacher to find the right tools in support of these goals.