As an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, I work with over one hundred students from grades 1-8 who are at different English level proficiency, with CFR (Common Framework of Reference) levels varying between A1.1 and B1.2. Being a resource teacher, I work in small rooms with not a whole lot of access to technology. If I choose to incorporate technology into my lesson, I need to borrow devices from a classroom teacher, having only one Ipad of my own. On previous occasions, many of the laptops were not charged, we had difficulty with student log ins, or Internet access. It seemed that I always had to have a backup plan when technology use was planned. Having the students for half-an-hour sessions doesn’t give a lot of time to work on projects involving technology either.
In order to avoid frustration, as part of my blended learning instruction, I provided my students with accounts to an online reading program consisting of leveled books. Students have the opportunity to listen to native-like reading and pronunciation, read the books and record their reading, as well as answer comprehension questions. This program is a very effective tool since the learners can work at their own pace on books that are at their level. Students can use it independently, even if their parents are at work, or do not understand English. I think this form of blended learning is engaging and motivating since the majority of the students enjoy using technology and they can read about topics they are interested in. At the same time, I have access to the students’ detailed skill report, that shows their performance in all areas. This helps me shape my lessons to better address my students’ needs.
One of the biggest challenges I have experienced regarding blended learning was that some of my families do not have devices, or internet access. There are also parents who believe that anything the child works on the computer is equal to “screen time” which is “bad” for the child.
In the past, with the help of our Edtech person, I had a chance to use Adobe Spark to record the story called “Sugar Snow” that my students read in different languages as part of celebrating diversity. We also did a Flipgrid presentation. Both were interesting and safe ways for students to showcase their experiences and learning without being put on the spot when presenting in front of guests at school functions. For foreign language learners, talking in front of big crowds can be intimidating and scary, always fearing of being judged. Looking back, both projects were very time consuming, but at the same time great learning experiences for both, my students and me. These experiences prove that in order to make blended learning effective, exceptional design and implementation are crucial (Bates & Poole, 2003) which require significant effort and time.
As I reflect on my relationship with technology, honestly, I do not feel that I am knowledgeable enough in this area. I am here to learn more about what the world of blended-, and online learning is offering and how to implement them into my practice to make learning more effective and engaging. Reading about the “unprecedented capabilities” of technology (Oblinger & Hawkins, 2006), I am hoping to find an effective way, to reach my students, especially the ones who travel to their countries of origin missing school for months. I also feel that it is my job to gradually introduce technology and help my students on their journey of becoming independent learners.
Thank you for reading my reflection! Looking forward to hearing your comments and suggestions.