Starting with Yourself: Six Ways You Can Get Comfortable with Blended Learning

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By William Kist

Kist Blended Learning 300x300I’ve learned about many different forms of blended learning over the past year of writing my ASCD book, Getting Started with Blended Learning. There are so many ways that teachers are using blended learning experiences in their classrooms. But these hybrid experiences don’t need to begin and end with your students. In the spirit of the Innovations in Professional Learning theme for Connected Educator Month, I would like to bring to light the many different blended experiences that can enrich your own professional development. Why not make use of some of the many time-saving techniques to stay connected with colleagues and thought leaders across the nation and across the world? Your face-to-face (F2F) interactions will be enriched by the interactions you have online. And, while you’re benefitting from these blended learning experiences, you’ll also be discovering the best ways to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities with your students. Here are some of my favorite blended learning tools for my own growth and the growth of my colleagues.

  1. Using Google Drive Within Your Professional Learning Community

Many teachers are using Google Drive with their students. Why not make better use of Google Drive and all of its elements (Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides) for your professional meetings? Such meetings often revolve around the examination of data. Having your data in an online forum such as Google Docs allows your team to use the comment features of Google Drive to facilitate discussion over the data. Or, try such add-ons as Kaizena or DocHub to provide comments via other media, such as audio recordings and document mark-ups. This way, your F2F meeting time will be more productive because everyone will have already commented on the document online. For an interesting twist, try putting each other’s lesson plans into Google Docs for commenting.

  1. Make Better Use of Video Clips

Often, our own professional development is centered on a topic of interest. One often neglected online tool for professional growth is YouTube. Consider assembling your own YouTube channel with various clips you have collected related to your area of inquiry. Make use of an app such as VideoNot.es so that you can take notes before your F2F meeting and have specific times within in the video marked to refer to during your meeting.

  1. Build a Wiki

Wikis have been around for a while now, but I still think they are some of the simplest, easiest, and most powerful web tools we have. Using such apps as Wikispaces, PBWorks, or Google Sites makes it easy and free to create a space to house common lesson plans, units, or any resources that you need to share with your team.

  1. Use Virtual Reality

As virtual reality kits make their way into schools, think about using the capabilities of simulations to work through difficult problems. Various classroom scenarios exist within SecondLife that can be used to stimulate discussion.

  1. Consult a an Expert Via Skype

Perhaps you have a difficult problem that can only be solved by an online expert. Never has it been more easy or inexpensive to connect with some of the most visionary leaders in our field. Instead of just reading the work of an expert, ask her to Skype in for your next meeting.

  1. Do a Hashtag Search on Twitter and Jump into the Conversation

We are often encouraged to use Twitter for professional development. Yet I find that teachers and administrators are sometimes hesitant to use this amazing resource. If you are wary of the Twitterverse, simply take a topic that you’re interested in, put a hashtag (or # symbol) in front of it, and insert it into the search box in Twitter. You will be blown away by the number of people across the world who are interested in talking about what you want to talk about. Jump into the conversation!

Use any one of these online learning opportunities, and I guarantee you will be impressed with how much it enriches your professional development!

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William Kist is a professor of teaching, learning, and curriculum studies at Kent State University, where he teaches literacy courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is the author of the ASCD Arias publication Getting Started with Blended Learning: How do I integrate online and face-to-face instruction? Connect with Kist on Twitter @williamkist.

As part of Connected Educator Month, William Kist will be the guest expert on the #ASCDL2L Twitter chat on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. eastern time. Join us as we discuss innovations in professional learning @ASCD and be sure to use #ASCDL2L.