Two summers ago, our school was approached with an intriguing proposition: Would we be interested in implementing a blended learning model in our classrooms? Our district had recently purchased curricula for several blended learning courses and they were seeking brave souls to adventure into the unknown of online learning.
As per the lingo of experts, I (Liz) was born right on the cusp of the era that spawned our current generation of so called “digital natives”. Yes, we always had a PC in my house (though we didn’t actually get the internet until sometime during my 8th grade year) but never during my high school and college years would I have claimed to be terribly tech savvy. Tech passable? Yes. But it was never really my area of expertise. I fought the tide of cell phones until I was out of college and didn’t own a smart phone until I started teaching.
Technology was not something I easily embraced.
Until 3 years ago when I found myself starting the 1st day of my 6th year of teaching in the RCSD. As a special education teacher, I found myself working with 4 gifted colleagues whose students used Chromebooks nearly every day! Google what?
I knew nothing about the world of Google apps for education and I quickly realized that my ignorance was preventing me from doing what I loved: fully participating in the teaching and learning going on in our classrooms.
While my coteachers will claim that I was AMAZING that first year with them, the truth is that I was treading water and I didn’t like it!
When Yelena (one of my coteachers that year) shared with me the proposal for blended learning (because, let’s face it- Yelena has a habit of pulling me into things), I knew I had to get on board. If I (or any special education teacher) was going to share full responsibility in a blended classroom, I needed to have the same training as my general education coteachers. Furthermore, I had concerns for special education students in a blended setting. The research on the model was (and still is) in its developmental stages and I suspected that there would be particular challenges for our students with disabilities that no one was even considering.
Come September, not only was I coteaching in these official blended learning classes, but my other coteacher in living environment- my passion, my joy, the subject that inspires me and, in turn, inspires my students!- was hosting his class through Google classroom. If I wanted to have any instructional role in the classroom, I was going to have to figure out Google apps for education ASAP.
Here we are 2 years later. Yelena remains a techie powerhouse unearthing and sharing all kinds of apps for us to use and innovate with in the classroom. I have learned from the best (read the previous sentence) and now integrate many of those same apps into my classes (hosted through Google- of course). From struggling to figure out how to right-click on a chromebook, Yelena has pushed me into running tech PDs with her to share our innovations with our colleagues.
And now we want to share our experiences with whomever wants to read, question, dialogue, and grow.
We are two urban teachers with a passion for transformative math and science instruction, innovative integration of technology, educational equity, and the need to have some fun in the classroom.
Come join us for the ride!