Sunday, September 17, 2017

Chronicles of a New Course

I know many of you out there have written new curricula, created new materials or even started new schools. For me piloting the first blended course in my school has been interesting and exhilarating so far! With a week of school under our belt, you can bet that I've seen my share of success and hiccups!
My new course, Developmental Psychology is the first official blended course in our school's history.  Students have taken courses that have been completely online but never a combination of both face to face and online instruction.  I'm excited and very optimistic about the impact this type of course can have on students.  It's completely project and inquiry based so I'm finding my way through these big ideas as well.

Some challenges and successes so far.....

1. HUGE Class Size: As with a lot of electives, Developmental Psych has the potential to become the proverbial 'dumping ground.'  Or students take it 'just to fill a slot.'  For whatever reason my numbers grew, I have been left with a big class of 29 students.  My younger self would recoil at such numbers as well as such mindsets for placing students in a course.  This year I welcome it as part of the challenge.  Additionally, ALL students should have the right to take part in a blended learning experience, learning to collaborate, communicate and critically think in an online space.

2.  Management of Space and Time: Ideally I want students to meet twice a week in our face to face classroom and work three times a week on their projects and assignments outside of class. But in order to form connections with students, I want them to stay in the room until we got to know one another.  This posed a management problem of both time and space.  Twenty-nine student Chromebooks on the internet access point all at once is apparently too much for the network to handle! How am I to teach a blended course without reliable internet access?  One of the students suggested we spread out in the school, with each group going to a different area of internet access points.  This solution worked!  Students were able to connect online and in person with their collaboration groups.  (And I got my steps in as I ran around the building checking in and answering questions!)  My supervisor was very supportive of this!

3. Student excitement: Part of the course will focus on partnerships with our elementary school third graders and our local senior citizens.  My students are so excited to hang with the littles and have 'deep' conversations with our seniors.  They've written letters introducing themselves and are beginning the process of writing children's' books to be read to our elementary friends.

4. Diverse personalities and interests: A combination of juniors and seniors, the class is full of different personalities that come through on a daily basis.  I can't wait to see how well they interact with our 3rd graders!

As the year continues I'll add to my list in subsequent posts.  Until then happy teaching and learning!

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