My experience with blended learning and technology

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.

10 thoughts on “My experience with blended learning and technology

  1. “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.”

    I hear you on this front. Access to devices and devices working as planned is an ongoing factor. A group in my EC&I course in the Fall got burned by Youtube having an extremely rare moment of being shutdown.

    Reinforces the idea, I suppose, that technology can’t be a goal in and of itself, but a way to get there.

    • Hi Joe,

      Yikes!!! That must have been a painful experience. I am constantly being reminded to back up my work, my lessons, everything. It is a great tool, but you certainly can “get burnt”, if you are not being careful.

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey. I admire your risk taking and modeling you are doing for you and your students to provide great experiences for your students. I struggle with some of my students leaving to their country of origin for extended periods of time as well. Many don’t take advantage to the access to materials I provide online as they are either to busy with family or don’t have access to wifi (or some just figure out of sight out of mind). Our EAL teacher at O’Neill is fantastic and does some amazing work with the EAL students here – you can connect with her at @Katerinan03 another great connection would @loliveira55 he’s in the States and a resource he told me called might be something to look at if you want to examine current events but providing different reading levels for same article also @Larryferlazzo is a high profile EAL teacher on Twitter

    • Hi Dean,

      Thank you so much for your kind words and the amazing resources!!! I know how knowledgeable Katie is, I even had a chance to listen to her present on incorporating tech in our classrooms. I was able to find the people you mentioned on Twitter and I am looking forward to learning more from them as well. You are a mindreader!!! Just had a chance to get an account to which sounds similar to

      Thanks a lot!

  3. Hey,

    I liked getting a sneak peek into your classroom with this post. I am disappointed to hear that you only have access to one iPad, unless you book more tech out.

    How can we make technology a priority in the schools? Do you think it starts at admin, or perhaps even further at a government level…?

    It seems like you enjoyed Adobe Spark and it was a success with your students. I wish tech PD was more of a priority and we could get ideas out, like the Sugar Snow one that worked for you and your classes.
    Anyway, keep fighting the good fight! I too believe we need to introduce it to our students because of how important it is.

    • Hi Anne,

      I agree with you that we should have more devices and easier access to devices. I would like to become a connected educator one day, which would give me the opportunity to have my own devices, since they are assigned to teachers, not schools. Becoming a connected educator involves more work though, which I cannot fit into my life at this point.

      Regarding tech PD, I would totally see the benefit of it. I think me having limited tech incorporated in my teaching comes down to my lack of knowledge and experience in this area. I think technology can become a priority in the schools only if teachers can get a base knowledge regarding technology and ideas on how to incorporate it.

  4. Hi Melinda,
    I understand your struggle with finding technology to use in the school. I also don’t always have access to tech because it is in a shorter supply, and sometimes there are so many teachers that want access, finding last minute tech is difficult. I often have to book our computers and labs up to two weeks in advance, which can be frustrating when I accidentally forget. I would like to incorporate a lot more tech but sometimes it does become more time consuming than I thought, like you said.
    I teach a high percentage of EAL students as well and I love the tools that tech gives them and the access to learning and translating! It becomes so much less stressful and more meaningful when they can learn with these tools and I find creates more independence than a couple of years ago when I found they were more reliant on me to help. I can now circulate more and help all my students, instead of focusing too much in one area of the classroom! It is beneficial but the access at home can be a problem. We actually allow students to sign out iPads and laptops to work at home and this can be risky but the payoff is well worth it! Looking forward to hearing more about what you learn this semester!

    • Hi Shelby,

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. It is great to hear that on the long run, putting all the hard work into incorporating technology in my teaching will pay off. I know I have to take baby steps and be super patient with the process. Unfortunately we do not sign out iPads nor laptops for home use, but I do work hard on getting a used device into my newcomer students’ homes with the help of Community Computers.

  5. Melinda,
    I can relate to the lack of technology you describe yourself having in your role as an EAL teacher. I worked as a learning resource teacher for several years and encountered similar challenges as the ones you describe.
    With that being said, I think you should take great pride in facilitating the Adobe Spark and Flipgrid presentations that you worked on with your students. These projects would have, undoubtedly, influenced each one in a positive way. Keep up the great work. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    • Hi Kelsey,
      Thank you so much for your encouragement. The kids were certainly proud of themselves for being able to present a story in English to their family members and peers. Even though incorporating technology in teaching seems to have a number of obstacles, I am here to do the work and make it happen. 🙂

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