New BLTs – where to begin?

[Note: I tried to add an audio clip of me reading this post, but WordPress apparently wants me to get a “Space Upgrade” to enable that feature. Didn’t realize that. I’ve posted it to my Google Drive for now, and here’s a link. I’ll work out something better (and also free) soon.]

Click here to access the audio version.

I had a couple of good meetings this week with new BLTs (Blended Learning Teachers) who had attended eSymposium last week. They’ve clearly been thinking about the impact of technology on learning. Our conversations ranged from avoiding the filter bubble to engaging students who don’t have access to technology at home, and everything in between. I was struck by the careful consideration that teachers were giving to the use of technology in their classes (what’s efficient? what’s helpful? what’s optional?) and the decisions that resulted from that thinking. It was very encouraging, and although I finished the day exhausted from our efforts, I was also energized by the enthusiasm I saw (which explains the midnight-on-a-Friday blog post). I’ve been pondering for a couple of days, and I decided it might be worthwhile trying to consolidate our discussions into some recommendations that I can pass along. I don’t imagine that these are new, but perhaps they’ll help an interested-but-terrified new BLT somewhere.

(I mostly talk about Blended Learning in the context of using Desire2Learn, the Learning Management System funded by e-Learning Ontario, in a public school in Ontario.)

Start

Get your e-Learning Contact to make a course (or a bunch of courses) for you. Log in. Poke around. Srsly. Until you have access, you’re mostly stuck. In my board at least, this is a zero-commitment step. If you’re not happy with what you see, no hard feelings.

Define A Goal

Why are you doing this? Because you believe students need the skills that Blended Learning helps to develop? Because you want to share with students in a way they’ll find relevant? Because you need to overcome geographical barriers? These are all great reasons; which is important to you and your students? Once you’ve thought about the goal, it will frame and define your decision-making about how to proceed and where to spend your energy.

Try One Tool

It’s not good to try everything at once. If you’re the rare wizard who can leap into the environment with utter success, that’s great; however, you’re likely working with a group of students who need to get used to the water a bit. Take it easy. Try one thing first (I suggest using the Discussion tool). Branch out when your learners are ready.

Try Something That Isn’t Academic

Post some news about your dog. Have a discussion about the Blue Jays. Collect school spirit photos in a dropbox. Ask for a haiku related to technology. Less pressure on students is usually a good idea.

Look Around For Ideas

The groups I worked with had a list of ways to use different tools in D2LTake a look if you want, then head to Twitter, e-Community, or your favourite research site for more.

Get Help

You have an e-Learning Contact. They can help. Honestly, you should email them. They can help you technically, connect you with other people, and show you some possibilities you maybe hadn’t considered. Also, they’re nice people. (Full disclosure: I’m an eLC, so I’m nice too.)

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