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Blended Bites Blog

Isle of Nosredna and Blended Learning

Jessica Anderson

As we move out of our second full week with iPads, using blended learning methodologies, and immersing ourselves in the Isle of Nosredna (they still don't know it's my name backwards, haha), I'm remembering all of the beginning struggles from last year.

Blended learning, in my opinion, is one of the most quintessential methods for differentiating and giving students' ownership of their learning that's being employed in the classroom. However, it's not a piece of cake. 
"Strawberry Cake" by David - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

It requires routine, classroom structure (chaotic), collaboration, questioning, and facilitation. As a teacher, I must be prepared for those students who quickly advance through the activities (we call them Battles) and work hard to motivate those students who are struggling to keep going. It requires a balance between facilitation and forming relationships, and keeping the curriculum and game motivating enough to drive students to the next level. 

With these ideas in mind, it's interesting to reflect back on the week---What worked? What didn't? How can I make next week run smoother? 

What did we struggle with this week?

1. Password and Username resets...remind me next year to make all of their passwords their student ID! :) Although by the end of the week I eliminated some of the requests by tying password/username resets to -5 HP (health points) in Classcraft.

2. At the beginning of the week we struggled with all of the questions directed only towards me. However, as the week progressed they got better at seeking out information from their peers. This will continue to get better as we move deeper into the curriculum, I begin answering more questions with questions, and students get comfortable collaborating with their peers.

3. I saw a lot of frustration with having to take ownership of their own learning. Yes, yes, it's hard. It requires practice and often this is the first time they've really had to self-manage their learning. However, I've found that if I verbally recognize their frustrations and why they are feeling this way it helps them deal with taking on this new role.

4. Keeping everyone going. As always, I have students that no matter what I do and change it's not going to work for them. However, this gives me a chance to really work on differentiating for students especially when it comes to motivation. I love the challenge!

What's working?

1. The utilization of Classcraft as our behavior game is going very well. Students are working hard to keep their teammates from dying, are collaborating and sharing their learning, and giving positive shout outs for peers that have exhibited positive academic/behavioral attributes. I was also surprised that they were super excited that they could train pets and customize their avatar's gear. Hey, whatever keeps them motivated to keep progressing...

2. Students are becoming more comfortable with Haiku, our learning management site.  The students have almost moved past the "I don't remember my username/password" stage and are getting better at navigating through the levels. This will become second nature by the end of next week.

3. This year I made level posters for a visual representation of students leveling up in our academic game. Currently, this is on my list of one of the best additions I've made. For instance, this week I had students "level-up" from level 1 to 2. Once I indicated that they had mastered their last activity in level 1 they were able to write their name on the level 2 poster. They were super excited to get the marker and display their names. I even had some students ask me when they could write their name on the next level. It's the small things...

4. The zones in our room (shelter, beach, jungle, crash site, and lookout) are really helping visualize the game scenarios. It also gives me a chance to separate students into visual groups. When I say that, I mean distinct areas in the room where I can start my walking progression through the class as students work. I also find that they are useful in order to easily guide students to where I want them to go in the room. For instance, I had a distracting student in class who I directed to the crash site which is behind my desk in an area of the room where he could no longer distract his peers. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

5. And our transition music is the bomb! Seriously, if you haven't programmed your computer to play music at the beginning and end of the periods, it's a must do! I've done it for two years with great success...and you never have to look at a clock again!

All in all, we are learning and getting acquainted with the routine. It's a typical week 2 scenario of what works and what doesn't, which will ebb and flow as we move through the year.  I'm definitely eager to see the changes students make next week!