Futurists predict that those who work in jobs that require lower education and lower skill sets have a higher chance to have their jobs lost or restructured while those that require greater education or are highly skilled will be less affected. There is a growing urgency now because the discussion has moved from the theoretical to the observable. It is in this backdrop that Michael Fullan proposes a rethink of the delivery of education and a retooling of its goals and its measurable outcomes to create a school system that will properly serve Ontario’s students in the years to come. Fullan's main concern is not that the current system can not produce students who will thrive in the new economic structure. His main concern is that the current educational system will never produce enough of these students unless it rethinks its pedagogy and embraces technology to allow increased individualization and relevance of education to today’s learner. He calls this convergence of pedagogy, technology and the necessary skills to enable change as the Stratosphere. The main focus of my catalyst is to explore the benefits and potential transformative instructional properties of blended learning using the Ministry of Education's elearning platform D2L to fulfill Fullan's vision.
The second goal of the catalyst was to build digital instructional capacity in my school. Demonstrating this catalyst to the staff facilitated implementation of blended learning through training in PLC groups, mentoring and peer tutoring. Teachers are particularly interested in D2L's powerful analytical capabilities which creates a powerful pedagogical tool making assessment "for, as and of learning" more efficient. Staff were introduced to the SAMR process and learned how blended learning is more than a digital substitution for traditional methods but represents a revolutionary tool to totally redefine how curriculum is delivered.
Blended learning can be an important tool in fulfilling the goals of the Ministry's Achieving Excellence Document and it is the very embodiment of 21st Century Learning. Blended learning offers the potential of personalize learning for every student in the school. By being able to control some of the pace of instruction as well as the timing and location, students can take control over at least a portion of their learning. The social collaboration tools of D2L can also give voice to students who are inhibited to use theirs in class. Students can receive an one-on-one learning experience when they need it, but also partake in group projects when that would be best for their learning. Studies show the power of this kind of personalized learning. In 1984 Benjamin Bloom's study of just -in-time tutoring showed that the academic performance of the average individualized tutored student was about two standard deviations above the average of a student in a standard high school class.
I heavily modified the existing courses offered by D2L for Grade 9 Academic Science (SNC1D) and Grade 12 Universtity Physics (SPH4U). I broke up the large blocks of learning text into smaller "chunked" lessons. Each lesson had a standard format with the big ideas of the lesson stated first, followed by a short lesson supported by an embedded video either created by myself or downloaded from the web. If possible an interactive activity from the Ontario Educational Resource Bank (OERB) would be downloaded and embeded. At the end of each lesson a word wall would be displayed, formative and summative assignments would be listed, if possible the tie I wore for that listed would be shown (I like nerdy ties) but most importantly of all a small formative quiz of the concept learned in the lesson would be available. The student would have four attempts at the quiz. Feedback was automatically given to the student through D2L either by showing which questions they got wrong or by embedded videos showing how to correctly do the question. The students also got feedback from me after I reviewed the results of the formative quizzes before the unit test and retaught concepts that the statistical analytics of D2L indicated the students were having problems with.
I have had more experience with using D2L with SPH4U and have used it for 3 years in a blended learning role. Each year the students are becoming more comfortable with using the platform and the average mark in the class has risen by six percent in that time period. I have started to use D2L with my grade 9 class and have found that the higher performing students are the ones who use and benefit from D2L the most.
Sample Components of a lesson
A: Big Ideas
The ultimate goal of creating the D2L blended learning platform is to build the infrastructure needed to move away from a lecture oriented teaching system to a more individualized teaching system. To Fullan the marriage of good pedagogy, technology and change leadership will allow students to reach higher levels of curriculum mastery by calibrating not only how a student learns but when a student learns. Fullan envisions a class where individual timing of instruction prevents students from being penalized for taking extra time to review previous material or becoming disengaged because they already have a mastery of material. This individualized instruction would met the students by allowing students to work through a curricula at the appropriate rate.19 Fullan emphasises that throughout the process the role of the teacher is to actively support the student by tailoring the material based on preferences, interests and unique needs of the learner.