The Hybrid Classroom

21st Century Learning

One of the biggest mistakes I made while learning to teach with online resources is to assume that my students knew how to navigate the internet, thus most websites and basically understood what was required of them in this platform....WRONG!!

The truth is that while most "natives" can navigate social and gaming sites, the concept of online learning is totally alien to them. This is a very common mistake made even in the paper/pencil environment. Students have tons of learning experience, but they do not necessarily know how to learn in your individual classroom and with your teaching style.

So after an embarrassing number of embarrassing tech related classroom incidents and after a ridiculous number of disappointing outcomes to what I thought were earth shaking tech aided lessons, I devised a simple technology integration plan that I now use for every incoming class.

  1. I first teach my students how to study and learn in my version of the hybrid class. I take them thru the paces as if they were in an employee training program.
  2. I show them all the course tools up front and try my very best to explain to them why these tools are relevant to them. This has helped me minimize the list of super dazzlingly cool but really pointless Web 2.0 tools in my lessons. Today's teens can see right through "busy work" so if I respect their intelligence, they tend respect the tool in question.
  3. I post an eNewsletter every week to inform parents, students, relevant colleagues and the admin. of weekly expectations and happenings in my class. The eNewsletter opens the door for parents to feel very comfortable about asking email questions about this learning approach they are not familiar with.
  4. Instead of classroom rules, I have a sort of "Employee Character and Conduct" series that I share with students throughout the term. Because my face to face classroom has the feel of a work place or an academic workshop rather than a traditional classroom (at least that is what I am trying to go for), It has been very useful to me to teach students skills needed to succeed in the grown up work place (non academic skills). My fearless leader and respected Department Chair John Mark Ellsworth shared these two very important resources to discuss character and decision making skills with teens, that are neither condescending nor childish:
In a later blog post, I will explain alternative ways to seamlessly use these 2 tools to replace the ubiquitous lists of "do's and don't" that exists in all of our syllabus.

Adding these 4 simple ingredients to my courses, has created a completely surprising atmosphere in my classroom. Once students understand how to learn in my classroom and see the relevance of their positive productive behavior, they are simply more engaged.

It has also greatly minimized the number of students complaints about doing work online and I believe my admin. is breathing a lot easier these days because they do not have to fend off the predictable "what the heck is going on in that classroom...???" phone calls and emails anymore.

I am not even going to lie. this has been a very difficult process (understatement)!! Students use come into my class with tons of skepticism and tons more energy to shut down yet another passing trend. However, the word is slowly spreading and I believe that they are quickly beginning to understand and even accept the benefits of a hybrid classroom.

Please, feel free to share the ingredients you toss into your hybrid mix so that we can all steal your ideas and learn to give more legitimacy to this teaching concept ....hahaha!

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