Blended & Virtual Learning

*The following post was created as an assignment for graduate school, and was crafted around pre-determined topics of discussion.*

Blended and virtual learning are two buzz words that are overwhelming in education right now. But what do they really mean? Blended learning, according to “The Clayton Christensen Institute breaks it down into three components…”

  1. Online with some element of student control in the form of place, pace, or path.
  2. Physical location takes place away from home.
  3. “Modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.” (p. 99)

Last year was my first year of teaching, and upon starting my career as a teacher, I, like many others, was plagued with the problem of reaching and challenging each one of the minds in my classroom. Essentially, how do I accommodate students that are understanding mathematical content at a 7th-grade level and a 2nd grade level in a 5th-grade classroom? After succumbing to the fact that grade less/ageless classrooms were the solution, I decided to dive into my incredible advantage of working in a 1:1 district, and utilize the technology at my fingertips to create a completely blended and personalized learning model in my classroom. My goals in doing this were extremely similar to that of Mandell School, the institution addressed in UnCommon Learning, in that I wanted to personalize my students learning while providing meaningful collaboration, and identifying areas for activism both within their own educational career and beyond. Below, I’d like to take you through how I set up a day to day learning experience in my classroom within math. As a reminder, I am a 5th-grade general education teacher. Last year, I was in a co-taught room and had 9 students with individualized education plans, with students learning as low as a second-grade level, to students learning as high as a 6-7th grade level. My idea, was very similar to that of Mandell in that I wanted “individualized paths with heterogeneous groups.” (101) Below you’ll find the outlined model of my math classroom. If you’re interested in hearing more about how I personalize learning in a global platform, please consider attending IETC, in Springfield, where I will be presenting on November 18.

Personalized, Blended Math Classroom-

 In order to establish what student receives which level Blendspace, each student is given a pre-test at the beginning of every unit. If students test out of the unit, they move on to the next unit as means on not wasting academic time. Based on these results I then group my students as above level, on level, or below level and let them move throughout the content at their own pace.

At our school, we utilize, Schoology, an LMS platform that allows students to access online content that I curate or generate quickly and easily. Daily, in mathematics, my students log in to Schoology where they find an individually assigned link to access their Blendspace. If you do not have Schoology or a LMS platform that you trust, this differentiting can be super done easily through Google Classroom.


Blendspace is an incredible online tool, also knows as TES, that allows teachers, and students to pull content into a “checklist” of sorts from all different areas of the internet and self-created material. Below are two images that depict what Blendspace can do and is a sample of what my students see every day at the start of math. In the boxes below, I’m able to embed and link content that I want my students to work through on a daily basis in math. Every day, students know what they are expected to complete. Boxes one and two I change daily, boxes three and four I change weekly, and box six is changed with every unit. Box five is Khan Academy in which students are working on specific activities through Khan Academy organized in individualized folders for them, based on their NWEA Map Scores.


The image above is a screenshot of their Blendspace and is what my students see every day, regardless of the level in which they are learning. 


Below is a description with hyperlinks to my lessons as well as the websites that I use to make this come to life.



Students begin each day with box one, which contains their notes.  I create a screen cast of the notes that students need to take. This is done on a plain notebook file and I record my screen with Quicktime. After the screencast of notes is created, I upload that to Youtube and embed that content into the website, Playposit, formerly known as EduCanon. With this tool, I can ask my students metacognitive questions about the notes and monitor their understanding live. Meaning, that if “Nick” is not understanding something, and is answering questions incorrectly, I can go up to him, intervene and ask what specific parts of the notes he is confused about, before he even moves on to any class work. The answers come in live as students are answering and it it is all paced for them so they can move as quickly through the notes or as slowly through the notes as they need to. I’m also able to chat with my students which is great for those kiddos who are shy when it comes to raising their hand, or can’t express verbally what they need. The notes change daily, based on general pacing of the class and overall comprehension of content.


Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 9.24.28 PM.png

This is an image of what I see on my end when students are taking notes every day. I can gauge their overall understanidng quickly and effectively. 


Here’s an example of my screencasts that can be found on my Youtube Channel.


The second box is their in class work, which is on “GoFormative.” GoFormative allows me to see my students answers live as well. I can physically see what they are writing as they are doing it, live on my device. I can also create multiple classes to provide opportunity for differentiation and toggle between class views to see all of my students responses. As I’m noticing that students aren’t understanding the content, I can flex group and pull students based on their understanding. In addition to that, students have the freedom to approach group and leave group at their own will. If they only need to stay for one question to re-direct their thinking, they are free to do that, if they want to work through the class work together, they are welcome to do that as well. Again this Formative is self paced and as students finish and have the correct answers, students can move on to box three.



Here’s what the live view looks like on my end while on Formative. Their answers allow me to flex group and I am able to provide them with immediate feedback from my device, while I’m in group with other students.


You can check out GoFormative’s free library of assignments to help you get started if you’re not sure where to start. This tool has been completely transformative in my classroom.

Box three is their PBL. Every week students are given three PBL’s to choose to solve. They are to pick two PBL’s to solve on their own or with a partner. I pull these PBL’s from MARS Tasks, Illustrative Math Tasks or the GMTTC5 challenge, and place the three choices on a Google Slide for students to copy and then ideally work collaboratively with other students in the class. Students solve two PBL’s throughout the week and get them checked and okayed with me. Once they have the okay they can move on to box four which is their screencast. The GMTTC5- is the global math task twitter challenge in which you challenge another classroom to a PBL from across the United States. If you’d like to learn more about that and see how effective it was in our classroom, read here.


Students are expected to screencast on one pbl per week, by themselves or with a friend delegating the speaking roles evenly. The purpose of the screencast is not to teach the listeners how to complete the task, but why they were able to solve what they did. I want my students to be able to explain their thinking. These screencasts then go through a screening process and once passed, I upload them to our classroom Youtube Channel to share with the world. Here’s some samples from our class. 


Finally, if students finish all of that content, they will move on to 20 minutes of Khan Academy at their level, based on their MAP scores and individually assigned, and then to our unit project consisting of some challenge and themed based content. Here’s a link to some checklists that I created for my students to inform them of what Khan Academy activities align with their MAP RIT score. Feel free to use them if you’d like. Khan Academy also transformed my students learning last year. During their LearnStorm competition, one of my students progresses so heavily through the program that he was actually named number one for “hustle points” for 5th grade in all of Chicagoland. Here he is at celebration! More information about the LearnStorm program can be found in one of my older blog posts.  The unit projects are from Teaching With a Mountain View on TPT. She’s amazing!

Demario LS.jpgScreen Shot 2016-09-28 at 9.35.54 PM.png


Once again, I want to reiterate that this is all personalized and at their own pace. Students visibly look like they are working on the same content, but in reality, they are working on content which is at their own level. An example of this in action would be my kiddos who are on level working on their blendspace and our unit project, but my above level kiddos worked on a project where they took measurements of themselves and scaled themselves down to 1/24 of themselves and created a stop motion animation film when they were finished.


It’s important to me that differentiation happens on all ends of the spectrum and that each child is challenged appropriately. As a means of better articulating this to you from a students perspective, I’ve included a video that a student made last year describing what we do each day in math, and WHY they do it. It’s important to me that all of my students understand the why behind their personalized learning and how important it is to their success in this class. My students were fortunate enough to present about our math classroom at TECH 2016 last year. Here they are presenting at our state capitol. Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 9.38.49 PM.png


I would encourage anyone who is not already, to gradually move toward a personalized learning environment. This pacing, placement and product has completely changed the face of my math classroom, and to be quite honest, I don’t know what I did before this. It has helped so many of my students, in so many ways. It allows students who need additional support to receive that support, and gives students who would typically be bored in class without being challenged, a CHALLENGE! 1:1 technology has the power to provide our students with opportunities that were previous inconceivable.


2 thoughts on “Blended & Virtual Learning

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