Find out about how we are incorporating blended learning in our classrooms, and learn some great vocabulary too! You can find the definitions for the highlighted words in the glossary at the end of the article.
When I sat down for a meeting with my teachers on the 10th March, I couldn't have known how much was soon to change. Although we are based in Edinburgh, I had worked for many years in Spain and my former colleagues there had told me that the already enforced lockdown in Madrid looked set to last for 5 months. This piece of news utterly shocked me, and prompted me to immediately begin to research our online teaching options.
As soon as I started looking at what was available, I realised that we had been asleep at the wheel. After only a few minutes digging, I discovered that included in our G Suites fee were the Google Classrooms and Google Meet platforms. We had had these resources at our finger tips for years, but we hadn't used them! As lockdown progressed and we had to pivot to exclusive online teaching, myself and the teaching team began to develop our virtual learning skills. The result has been the discovery of how we can use technology not as a gimmick, but as a way to truly help our learners advance.
At the start of September we came back to the classroom, but with new safety measures in place to ensure the safety of students and staff. This meant that there would have to be a lot of changes in how we deliver our face to face classes. Things as commonplace as handing out a photocopy had to be reviewed. Not only that, we didn't want to lose the fantastic new skills we had spent 5 months honing online. The clear way forward for us was to implement blended learning as a permanent feature of our methodology.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning basically means using a combination of what we can call "traditional" teaching with technology. There are lots of different approaches to blended learning, with the flipped classroom probably being the most common. Check out the video below from Education Technology for a great summary.
Thinking about our own experience, we asked ourselves the following questions:
What elements of online teaching were the most successful, both in terms of teaching and administration?
Through feedback from both teachers an students, the most successful elements we used were
Which can be used easily with smartphones? We found that all of Google's products like Docs and Jamboards can be easily used with a mobile phone, but of course typing at length creates an issue. The number of students using laptops vs mobile phones varies from class to class, but around half of our students are using their phones, which means we need to make sure materials are easy to read and interact with on them. For example, a big thing to consider when producing material for class are reading tasks - It can be difficult to read a text on an A4 layout on a phone. To combat this, we have edited the text to have narrower margins so that they are smartphone friendly.
be asleep at the wheel - not paying attention to a situation, so that something bad happens
dig for something e.g. information - to investigate in an attempt to uncover information about someone or something.
pivot - to change your opinions, statements, decisions, etc. so that they are different to what they were before
gimmick - something that is not serious or of real value that is used to attract people's attention or interest temporarily, especially to make them buy something:
hone (your skills) - to direct something such as an ability to make it more effective:
a workaround - a way of dealing with a problem or making something work despite the problem, without completely solving it
get to grips - to make an effort to understand and deal with a problem or situation:
Are you an English teacher, or need to teach your subject in English? Did you know that we offer online English Language Teaching and CLIL courses? We can run these for your team, or you can join our group courses as an individual. Get in touch with us for more information on when our next course is, and download our brochure for more information.
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