ST. PARIS – Sarah Hager is a 5th Grade teacher at Graham elementary. Her colleague, Chasity Oburn, teaches Kindergarten. They are both becoming blended learning specialists, working problem-based learning into a new math curriculum, and launching personalized approaches for their students. These teachers, along with a cadre of colleagues, have been training and observing each other this year to bring blended learning to their classrooms.
Blended learning combines teacher-guided lessons with small station work, and independent student work, to differentiate the classroom for every child. “Schooling has changed, period”, says Superintendent Kirk Koennecke. “Technology use and flexible seating arrangements are only the tip of the iceberg. The teaching skills and planning required to teach this new way takes a highly developed, skilled teacher to deliver for every child.”
For Hager, time for students to use technology while learning content is part of her class, not a standalone activity. “During my 5th Grade class time, learning and computer science skills go hand in hand, no matter the content. Technology is a part of these students’ everyday lives and an integral part of their future. School shouldn’t be the only place they are expected to go without. Some days it seems an hour of blended math isn’t enough to satisfy them.”
Graham’s staff have moved to flexible seating and groups to maximize learning time, especially with their new elementary and middle school math curriculums this year. “This is the first time in over 8 years for new math curriculum at either GES or GMS,” according to Adam Mowery, Secondary Education Coordinator. “We needed to ensure we could deliver it appropriately. So far, our teachers have stepped up in a big way and the growth we are seeing is the return on investment we expect. I invite all of our parents and community to our buildings to see how this generation of learners and their teachers connect.”
Kindergarten students are working in multiple stations on topics of interest that strengthen them as individual learners as well as with the group. Work online for a minimum of one hour each week has become a baseline activity in almost all of the elementary classrooms. Students work on their problem solving skills on multiple levels.
According to Oburn, “There’s no doubt that technology is an integral part of my kindergarten classroom environment now. Math learning happens online, and with me. It only makes sense as it helps students prepare for future careers while still appealing to their interests.” The teachers have encouraged their students to share progress as well. “When students earn points or coins or other incentives as a result of their work, they get to share that hard work with their friends. As a teacher, I get to see their love of learning come alive!”
Graham elementary teachers continue to add Dreambox learning to their routines as technology becomes available to their classrooms. “Technology devices aren’t doing the learning, individuals are. Our teachers and students need these devices and the software they use because it’s become natural to them. This is how they’ll compete”, said Kirk Koennecke, Superintendent of the Graham Local Schools. “From farm equipment to car design, everything runs with computer assistance today. Industry demand for computer science and math skills has only grown. In combination, these skills develop the mathematics leaders of tomorrow, and prepare them for a career of choice.”
Submitted by the Graham Local School District.