More resources for blended teachers

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Sep 30, 2015

As teachers move into blended-learning environments, there is a dearth of resources to support them in the transition. As I wrote a few weeks ago, this is a significant challenge for the blended-learning field. Fortunately, resources are beginning to emerge to fill the void. This week I wanted to highlight one such resource, the Blended Master Teacher Project by Better Lesson.

The Blended Master Teacher Project is a collection of videos, images, and documents that capture the practices of 11 blended-learning teachers from various settings across the United States. Together, these resources provide practical guidance on strategies that these teachers use to help them advance their students’ learning. The collection should be a boon for any teacher who is in the middle of figuring out how to do blended learning and eager to learn from pioneers who have forged a path ahead.

There are two ways to find resources on the website. The first is to get to know the 11 teachers whose names and profile photos are featured across the main page. This approach makes the most sense for teachers who have time to just browse around to look for inspiration. The video interviews of the master blended teachers not only showcase the strategies they use, but also give a sense of their personalities, teaching styles, and personal philosophies regarding teaching. By getting to know the master teachers, other teachers should be able to identify a few that they resonate with and whose practices are most likely to fit their own philosophy and approaches.

The other way to find resources is to look for them by topic. In the center of the landing pages is a button labeled “Browse Bended Topics” that takes viewers to a taxonomy that Better Lesson developed to organize its master teachers’ teaching strategies. The taxonomy is organized into three broad topics: design, deliver, and develop. Under each of these topics is a list of subtopics used to organize the blended teachers’ strategies. Visitors to the site should recognize that because the site is a work in progress, some subtopics have more content than others, as Better Lesson is still working to capture and upload resources. Fortunately, many of the subtopics that are most directly related to the demands of daily classroom teaching—such as routines and procedures, feedback systems, and software—already have a wide sample of strategies.

One challenge teachers may face when using the Blended Master Teacher Project website is finding useful resources in a quick and efficient manner. A teacher preparing over the summer for the beginning of the school year may have time to browse through the website to look for inspiration. But once the school year starts, teachers are very busy people, and they typically do not have time to browse casually through collections of resources. During their daily planning time, they often have only a few minutes to spend searching for new resources; and the resources they find must align exactly with their particular teaching needs for the following day or week. As such, the Blended Master Teacher Project would be enhanced greatly if it had a function that allowed users to filter resources not only by master teacher and topic, but also by attributes such as blended model, grade level, subject, required prep-time, user rating, etc. Hopefully, Better Lesson will add such a feature in the near future as it continues to develop the site.

Although the Blended Master Teacher Project is still under development, its current collection of strategies and resources are of great value to teachers who are trying to figure out how to make blended learning work in their classrooms. And for teachers and schools who are interested in additional help and support, Better Lesson also offers a three-day blended learning design workshops and ongoing coaching on blended learning through its Teach Cycle platform. Together, Better Lesson’s combination of free resources additional support offerings are an important step forward in helping fill the need for better teacher professional development on blended learning.

Thomas’ research focuses on the changing roles of teachers in blended-learning environments and other innovative educational models. He also examines how teacher education and professional development are shifting to support the evolving needs of teachers and school systems.