Webinar - April 2021

Student Engagement Strategies for Blended Learning


Student engagement is the key to successful learning and can be a challenge for many teachers. Throw blended learning into the mix, and teachers must be able to bridge the gap with new tools and strategies to create an engaging learning environment. Watch the video or read the transcript below to view our discussion on how to increase student attentiveness and passion for learning during this month’s webinar, where we cover:

  • Student Engagement Best Practices

  • Available FREE Digital Resources for Teachers

  • Teacher Support and Training Tools


Resources:

Webinar Slides with Resource Links

EdTech's Digital Learning Platform Support for Teachers

 

Read the transcript below:

Student Engagement Strategies for Blended Learning

Speaker: Lacey Woolfrey

Hello, and thank you for joining me for today's webinar. My name is Lacey Woolfrey, I'm with EdTech Solutions, and this is our monthly teacher training webinar that focuses on different aspects of digital learning. We really love getting feedback from our participants on the content or take any requests for future topics. We invite you to visit our website at edtechsolutions.com to share your thoughts or request additional information.

Additionally, throughout this webinar, I invite you to add any questions or comments in the chatbox. We'd love to get feedback on things that are working for other teachers. That is really where all of our content comes from on our monthly basis is what is working for teachers in the schools that we work with. And it's you teachers who have been incredible at sharing ideas and really being there for each other during these crazy times.

Now, to introduce you to EdTech Solutions if you're not familiar with us, we really pride ourselves on three uniques. The first being that we take personal responsibility for client success. And for us, that means that schools are ready on day one with access to all of the books, ready to learn, and able to continue that learning throughout the year. We also provide peace of mind through complete support for admins, teachers, and students. And this is just one example of the ways that we support our teachers. And then we also offer digital implementation with the most K12 publishers. So this really allows us to be an advocate for the schools that we work with, and provide training on all major digital platforms.

For today's webinar, we will be talking about student engagement strategies for effective blended learning. And as a follow-up to this webinar, you'll receive access to the recording of this webinar along with links to any of the resources that I'll be sharing today.

Student Engagement is Key to Successful Blended Learning

Now, when we look at student engagement, that really is the key to successful blended learning or any type of learning. The students must be engaged and open to learning, and it really refers to the degree of attention, how much curiosity and interest, optimism, and really getting to inspire that passion that the students have when they're learning or being taught. And that also extends them to the motivation that they have to learn and progress in their own educational journey.

So effectively engaging students in the learning process really comes down to increasing their focus, motivating them to approach lessons using those higher levels of thinking, and encouraging them to take ownership of the learning process. As the instructor you can only take it so far, so really inspiring that engagement is going to allow the learning to take place.

That's difficult in a traditional environment when you're able to use all of those skills that you've honed as a teacher, tackling student engagement in the blended learning environment is so much more difficult. So there are new challenges, but really the basic methods hold true across the board. There really is no magic formula for success, but by sharing what's working for some teachers in different classroom environments and sticking to some of those foundational strategies, we can really help increase student engagement for effective blended learning.

Create a Collaborative Virtual Community

Now, first of all, the success that comes with blended learning comes from fostering a community in the blended classroom. It really is one of the most important strategies to increase and improve student engagement, allowing them to have a part in creating the meaning behind digital citizenship. What does that mean? Taking a look at the tech setup to foster an environment that's going to allow for blended learning. That connection is really critical.

So staying connected to their peers when they're not in a physical classroom allows students to share information that they're learning. They can review and leave feedback on each other's work, collaborate on assignments, and build relationships so they're not just necessarily stuck staring at a screen, listening to lectures. It's using that synchronous class time, whether it's via Zoom or other video conferencing or just a part of it. But there are other resources that are available, whether it's through your learning management system or a publisher platform. Taking advantage of some of those other tech tools that allow that collaboration, whether it's a discussion group, many of the schools that I work with Savvas Realize, which hasn't great discussion feature, you can assign different groups to a discussion question that can be accessed from the platform.

So whether your students are face-to-face or you've got some that are remote, all of the students have access to it via the platforms. And best practice when you do the breakout groups for discussions is to assign an essential role to the remote student, this will help keep them engaged. It's sometimes easy for students in the physical classroom environment to take the lead, sometimes it takes a little bit more encouragement to get participation from the students at home. So anything that you can do to really take that remote student, give them that essential role that's going to really engage them a little bit more, have them step up to be more of that participation.

Again, if any of you are using discussions successfully in the classroom, I would love to hear in the chatbox what format that you're using, if you're using some of the publisher platforms, if you have resources within your LMS, I know Schoology is a great resource. Please drop all of those into the chat and share, we'd love to see what teachers are using and having success with.

So again, taking that virtual community, if a teacher is spending the entire virtual class meeting lecturing, recording it for the students to watch after the fact, that can sometimes be not the best use of time. So if instead, you're using that time that you have with your students during a live virtual class meeting, take that time to work through a problem together, collaborate on projects or any kind of opportunity to really have the students participate in a meaningful way.

Tech Set-up Matters

We'll go through some of the examples of how the collaborative virtual community can be built. The first aspect is in the technical setup of the classroom. So for concurrent instruction, which I think most teachers would agree, is not an ideal [inaudible 00:07:13]. The instructor also has a device where the lessons are being projected so both the students in class can see and the students at home can see and then having some sort of setup at the front of the classroom where all the students can see the remote students as well. So getting that visual face-to-face option there.

One best practice and recommended practice is to have a second device as the instructor. So if you are conducting the class session from your laptop or computer, be launched into the class also from your cell phone so when you do get up and move around the classroom and you're doing some of the in-person activities, you still have access to the classroom on your phone. So you can monitor any kind of chat that's going on, keep an eye on what's happening in the virtual classroom while you're moving about the physical classroom itself. It just gives you a little more controls as the instructor, to know what's going on in both the virtual elements and the physical classroom.

Facilitate Peer to Peer Connections

All right. How do we get that peer to peer connection? How do you get to know your students on a personal level when right now the culture of high fives is not what it used to be? So really taking the opportunity to figure out, "okay, how do I get to know individual things about my students? How do they get to know me, and how do the peers get to know each other?"

There are lots of examples of get to know you activities that can be done, icebreakers that could be done at the beginning of the year, or just a couple of things throughout the week that are kind of icebreakers to start off the class to where students can share something about themselves, one-word activities. There are a lot of ways that you can do this. Jamboard is a great resource to have at up the beginning of class where students can take a moment and answer a question in one word, I have an example later that I'll show. But there are lots of ideas that have been shared on Pinterest and Google, different ideas too if you can't think of any. There are teachers that are extremely creative and have shared lots of really great activities as far as that goes.

The other thing that is recommended is to involve the students, have them collaborate on creating that classroom culture. So what is that going to look like? This is something that face-to-face students can participate in, this is something that remote students can participate in. When the students have an ownership and a part in creating what it looks like that is something that you can refer to throughout the year, when students are checking out, you can refer back to when that was created, "this is what you said would help you learn, let's go back to this."

So there are some really great tools to help with that as well. HyperDocs, I've got some links that I'll share with you here shortly, I have some great templates that you can use for this. Another one I really like is The Norm Form; this is a resource that was shared by Emma Pass. This is a really incredible tool that you can use with Google Forms. And this is something that can be completed at the beginning of the year, but then as you find your students maybe checking out a little bit, you can have them complete this form again as a refresher. Okay, is there a new norm you think you need to adopt for class? Students can enter that in. Any songs or videos that you want to see or hear before class starts. This can be something that as you are just getting started up with the class period, you can have that play while they're getting set up with warm-up activities or anything that they're doing. So this is something that can be included, created by the students and with the expectations of what's appropriate, what's not appropriate, but they really have ownership in this. And then you, as the instructor can then use this in your activities that you're doing. And the students get excited when they see their song choices getting played, so that's a fun way.

There's other community questions. Any things that your students want to know about each other, you can have them recommend some of those. What's a community question that you would like to have your students share the answer? And then any kind of journal prompts or anything like that, another way that you can involve the students in contributing to what the class culture looks like, how it's run, giving them that sense of ownership there.

Shorter is Better!

All Right. The next one is engaging in shorter content. As I mentioned earlier, one really great way to have your students not be engaged is to stare at your camera, have them stare at their screen and lecture for an hour, or record a video lecture of an hour. Chances are your students are not going to remain engaged during that 60 minutes to listen to whatever it is that is being discussed or taught.

Using some of those LMS tools or the publisher tools that you can incorporate right in the online classroom environment to create more engaging content really is going to go a long way in helping keep them engaged in blended learning. So if you've got shorter and lively interactive content, which could include videos or media, a lot of the platforms will allow you to embed YouTube videos that bring the eTexts alive. So rather than sending them to their online classroom environments and have them read the chapters and have them go through the assignments, you can create a dynamic learning environment even if you're not face-to-face with some of these shorter clips to kind of mix it up a little bit.

When it comes to blended learning and engagement, really the trick is 'think outside of the box.' Today, especially since COVID-19, students are really looking to get their information in the fastest, most concise forms. So really looking at how you can chunk out your content, breaking it down into smaller pieces. Students have shorter and shorter attention spans, and so anything that you can do to organize the content in a logical way that guides the learning process, but doesn't complicate it, with some of those smaller segments. So again, it could be shorter videos of you as the instructor lecturing, it can be peer-created videos, it could be links to something that they're researching. So just breaking up that access to the information in shorter pieces.

Smooth Transitions are Huge!

All right. I've got some examples here of transitions. As you're doing some of these shorter chunked-out forms of instruction, transitions are huge. And so whether it's between a class period or between activities within class, it can sometimes create confusion. Chaos can be easy to get off track, and sometimes it takes you a while to get them back on track. So taking a look at those transitions to figure out how to move as smoothly as possible from activity to activity, eliminating distractions so you don't have to try and gather the attention again. Having a slide, something similar to this, this is a Pear Deck documents. If you haven't used Pear Deck in the past, I highly encourage it. There are some outstanding templates that they have available.

This template really allows you to help students know what to expect because you are articulating clear steps for wrapping up one activity, preparing for the next, and if you can keep it to no more than three steps that make your job that much easier. Stop doing this and start doing that. And so step one, step two, step three of what that looks like to help you then transition it to your next activity.

Lesson Plan Templates for Blended Learning

All right. This brings me to the blended learning lesson plan templates. Having a plan for your day is going to be your best friend. And even with the best plans, sometimes those go off track. But the more you can plan for some of those disruptions but still have a plan in place, the better. Within this past year, blended learning has become an essential way of teaching. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources that have been made available.

So this is one example of a blended learning lesson plan template from hotlunchtray.com. This would be for a foreign language, but it takes you through the objectives of the lesson, the plan, and it is really that roadmap to help you as the instructor. We'll go through a couple more here. And again, links to all of these will be included as a follow-up email so you'll have access to all of these that are available. This is another example of how to break up some of the activities. And if you're using something similar to this, again, if you can share it in the chatbox. This is where teachers helping teachers is a huge benefit.

All right. This is another example of a choice board (Non-fiction Reading Response). So really giving the students, again, an ownership in their learning journey. This is a great option. You as the instructor have your learning objective, this is a great way to allow the students to choose how they're going to reach that objective based on their learning style, based on what they're motivated to do. This gives you still the control over what the choices are that will lead to that outcome, but the students can have ownership in what that looks like.

Set and Inspect SMART Goals

All right. The next best practice is set and inspect smart goals. Everyone is similar with a smart goal, students need it in the classroom as well. They need to be aware of what it is they're learning, why are they learning it, and how they're progressing towards meeting the standards. If you as the instructor build in frequent opportunities, both with the individual students and as a class using the smart goals to reflect on what they've learned, help them measure what they're going for, and involve them in the process of the student-centered goals. This will help your students to become more responsible in their own learning, and also be able to see what their progress is as well.

All right. Hopefully you're checking the chat box, some great ideas are being shared there. One idea that was shared is this, their school is using the Understanding by Design, which is awesome. So again, the links of anything that I'm sharing, I'll include at the end, but definitely take note of what teachers are sharing in the chat. I appreciate it. All right. Really, setting the goals, having it be concrete, it's a great way that even though the setting has changed, learning doesn't look like it has in the past, but there's still ways to reach the goals.

All right. Hopefully, you can see my screen now. So with this HyperDoc here, and again, I'll include this link at the end as well.

Provide and Request Constructive and Timely Feeback

The next tip is to provide and request constructive and timely feedback. This is important, not only just for providing feedback to the students but also for getting feedback from your students as well to check in on how that learning is going.

Providing feedback for student performance helps them know if they're on track, it helps them understand if there's anything that they need to change. You can request more participation if it's remote. But again, getting that feedback from the students themselves when you're not there face to face to pick up on different things that you would normally be able to see as far as scanning the room, moving around the room physically to see if the students are engaged but to be able to get that feedback throughout the day for your remote students as well. I'm going to share some great resources for that as well.

This is another Pear Deck, these can be used as just a Google Slide, pretty basic. But if you use the Pear Deck tools, if that's something that your school already has access to, I highly encourage you to use the interactive tools because with that the students can respond to these slides from home on their screen and you'll get the feedback as the instructor immediately. So this is something they can type in. What is easy about the lesson, you can customize what these questions are to gauge the learning and gauge the understanding of the individual students in your class, as well as the class as a whole.

Another question is what was interesting and challenging about the lesson, and then what was hard about the lesson? So this will allow you to see, is there a student that needs additional remediation? Is there something that you need to recover for the class as a whole? If you're getting similar feedback from different students, this is a great way to easily check that.

This is another one to just kind of get a sense of how the students are going. As you're doing those kinds of temperature checks to see how things are going, this is a great one. You can, again, get that direct feedback. Or even have used the chat feature if you are on Zoom, you can find out if the student is ready to move on with the learning, they're stuck on something and need a little bit more help, or they just have a question, or they're completely lost, you need to reset and kind of go from there.

This is another way to get feedback rather than a short answer, they could also insert images depicting what their mood is, what they're feeling. You can have them draw, use pictures if they aren't comfortable drawing, there are lots of different options that you have there for that.

I like this one as well, just a little different format. What did you like, didn't like? What was easy? What was hard? A simple way to gain that understanding as well. Another, just quick temperature check, so too hard, just right, too easy, and then you get that data back as the instructor, which is huge.

Avoiding Tech Fatigue

All right. This one is big. I'm sure everyone, teachers, students, everybody has experienced some form of tech fatigue. It's been a lot in the past year. So some ideas on how to just kind of take a break from the screen time, you can incorporate types of activities. And so whether it's just a journal assignment or you go old school and print off some PDFs to have them complete, just breaking it up a little bit to avoid some of that tech fatigue, being in front of it for that long. Some other peer-to-peer activities, just to break up the 'sitting front of the screen burn out.'

Another important thing is to step away from the computer. Even if you are in a 90-minute class, it's not really an option to step away from the computer because that is your instruction time. Just taking a quick, even if it's 30 seconds, stand up, stretch, walk around your chair three times, anything that you can do to break it up. Have them step away from the screen for just a minute, just to take some deep breaths, which is another... Some breathing exercises. There are some great GIFs that simulate a 10 seconds breath in, 10 seconds breath out. Just some simple things like that can clear the mind, take a reset to be able to allow you to continue in your instruction as well.

So take advantage of those, make sure to build those in as a part of your plan, and use them as you see fit either on a schedule or if you see heads starting to nod or you're starting to lose your crowd, take a quick stretch break.

All right. Here's another one that really is good to use at the beginning of class.

Okay, technical difficulties again. We are just about out of time, but I wanted to make sure that you all have access to the resources that I've covered just briefly today. Some of the things that I will be sending out are the digital choice boards. These are all free resources, learning menus, the Pear Deck links, blended learning plan templates. And then the Jamboard one-word activity, I'll share that if any teachers have not started using Jamboard. It's a really easy way to engage the class, and there are lots of different ideas that are shared online as well.

And then the last thing that I wanted to just finish up with is the EdTech Solutions website, it's edtechsolutions.com. We've got a lot of free teacher resources that are available here. If there is anything that you're interested in finding out more about, there's a form on there that you can request some digital platform training. I encourage you to use that.

Reach out to us if there are any questions that you have, and I hope that you join us for a future webinar. I really appreciate your time, and I hope you have a great rest of your day.