submitted by Martin Jennings, Instructional Technologist - Genesee Intermediate School District - REMC 14 East
As educational trends come and go there’s one that is likely to be here to stay as educators settle into 21st Century Best Practices: Blended Learning (BLiC). When I was tapped by leadership at the Genesee ISD four years ago to represent the organization for BLiC Training, it was a natural fit from work I had been doing for nearly 20 years.
In Genesee County, we have been fortunate to lead in distance learning, both online and using interactive television on a daily basis. In the late 1990’s, after 18 years in the classroom, I was tapped by the district where I taught to be a GenNET ITV Teacher. With trepidation, skepticism and concern I accepted the charge and “moved into 21st Century Teaching”….”3 years early.” I became an ITV Teacher sharing my passion for educational theatre not just with students in my building, but students around the county. After 10 years, what I feared and didn’t think possible became a way of life for many semesters. Technology many had never heard of was the new normal. A learning management system kept everyone on track even after class ended each day. Student engagement on site and at remote sites increased. Colleagues shook their heads at how students could be learning with such “distractions.”
Fast-forward to 2016 where I’m now an instructional technologist at the Genesee ISD supervising the very program that brought ME into 21st Century Technology and a whole lot more. Now, what people shook their heads at is “old-school.” Today, there are even more ways to connect just about anywhere in the world. In traditional classrooms, collaboration and use of integrated technology is expected by students and administrators. However, in the last several years facilitating as a Blended Learning Instructor for educators in the REMC Blended Learning Project has had even more unexpected rewards to move colleagues into a blended learning environment in new ways.
The winter of 2016 will mark the third year for me as an instructor of a BLiC Cohort, and the rewards of watching both teacher and student engagement have continued to build. Teachers who used to use the excuse that they weren’t “tech-savvy” are now leaders in their buildings! Teachers who held back from change and growth in the ever-changing social and educational environment are catching up. To NOT include BLiC elements in daily routines is not an option. This winter we will once again change lives and take teachers and students away from their comfort zones and allow the way we learn as well as what we learn even more relevant! At the end of the rigorous road to completing participation in the BLiC course, educators are the proof of the success and reason to look at Blended Learning in the Classroom….again. As one teacher has coined a phrase in a final portfolio: “It all about the Blend...No Troubles.” Testimonials below help emphasize, in the end, blending is no trouble at all.
For more information about Blended Learning in the Classroom, go to: http://www.remc.org/projects/blendedlearning/