Blended Learning in the Mathematics Classroom
The Blended Learning in the Math Classroom presentation was delivered online using Zoom for teachers in the School District of Oconee County in June 2021 as part of their district summer institute. The purpose of the presentation was to provide support for middle and high school mathematics teachers in embedding technology tools into their mathematics lessons. Four teachers participated in the session. Although the title of the presentation included the phrase “blended learning”, the focus of the presentation was on general use of technology tools to enhance teaching.
The presentation was organized into three sections based on the S.C. Teaching Standards: environment, instruction, and assessment. For each section, technology-enhanced examples of mathematics instruction were explored. Teachers experienced each technology tool or example by engaging in a student-facing activity as grade 6-12 students might experience followed by group discussion of how the technology tool supported their understanding of the mathematics task. Then, I provided an overview of the teacher view of the tool and explained options for creation and design of tasks using the tool. After introduction to the tech tools and examples, participants selected choice board activities to create applications of the tools for their classrooms.
Teachers have varying abilities and knowledge of tech tools. Although the pandemic required quick learning about technology as teachers transitioned to remote learning, many teachers still have a small toolbox of tech tools from which to choose. Other teachers are very knowledgeable and are using technology within their classrooms daily. As a presenter, I have learned to use the knowledge of the room to support and build group knowledge. Presentations become learning community meetings more than an expert on a stage. This practice allows me to grow my knowledge while I am supporting the development of knowledge in others.
Pre-Assessment is Essential. This presentation was based on a presentation originally created in August 2020 and refined for this group of teachers. One element I added to this presentation was the Sli.do pre-assessment: “What tech tools do you use in your classroom for student learning?” Adding this pre-assessment to the presentation provided data that allowed me to adjust the presentation and tech tools offered for the audience. This poll also builds my knowledge of tech tools that are being used in the classroom to add to my own toolbox. In the future, I would like to have a pre-assessment prior to the session, if possible, so I can plan ahead to offer new tools for their toolbox instead of relying on my in-the-moment flexibility.
Align the learning objectives with the session title. As I have examined and reflected on this presentation, one concerning element is the seeming lack of alignment between the session title and the learning objectives and activities. Although I did not set the session title, I wonder in retrospect if the teachers who attended felt the session met their needs regarding blended learning. Although I shared a definition of blended learning and we discussed as a group how they used blended learning in their classrooms, I don’t know if the session overall “blended learning” or “technology-enhanced mathematics” was about. In the future, this is an element of the presentation where I need to increase my intentionality.
Practice what you preach. My most important take-away from this presentation is the importance of practicing what you preach. If, as a presenter, I claim that student engagement, choice, and voice are important, then I should include student engagement, choice, and voice in my presentations. Based on feedback from participants in this presentation and others, I typically meet this expectation. However, I know that when my group number is small (as it was in this case) or when time is short, I tend to relax my expectations and talk through activities instead of expecting participants to complete them. For example, in this presentation I included a choice board at the end to make connections between our learning and the classroom. However, visiting the Padlet where participants were expected to share their work to create a group resource shows that none of the participants posted. This indicates to me that I ended the session without requiring them to complete the choice board activities. I want to discipline myself to hold high expectations for participants, and myself, even when the numbers of participants are small, or time is short.