Monday, June 8, 2015

Manna Parviainen: Blended Learning in language teaching

What do you get when you mix a full teaching schedule, a new digital learning platform, a course you’ve only taught once before and a Quality in Blended learning (which you really know quite little about) course? An experiment that taught me a lot!

I’ve been blessed with a great collection of colleagues; you know the type who constantly try new things and share their experiences with others. That kind of atmosphere pushes us all to do something different, all in the name of finding better ways to get our message across to the students. But we also want to find new tools that might make teaching more efficient for us as well. We had heard rumors about Edmodo but none of us had really tried it, so when I found the post for the Quality in Blended Learning course, I jumped at the chance.

I chose my Business English course for the simple reason that the national curriculum gives no restraints to the course. In fact, as far as I know, such a course is not offered in other Upper Secondary School in Finland. So it was easy to mold the existing plans into a teaching experiment for the QiBL course. Also, the students who choose this particular course are 2nd graders and have a better skillset to dealing with a new digital learning platform. We used Edmodo for the whole duration of the course (six weeks).

Most of the course took place in the classroom but some assignments the students were supposed to prepare at home. I used Edmodo in different ways. For example, the students had a pre-course assignment about their experiences in SLUSH, which I did as a quiz. I also gave the students a couple of assignments which they then returned in Edmodo.

One function, which I definitely want to use more efficiently in the future, is dividing students into small groups. During my experiment, the students wrote a small learning diary about what they learned during the course. But I see it as a valuable tool for peer learning and peer evaluation and that is what I want to use it for with future groups.

At times it was difficult to motivate students to use Edmodo. This may have something to do with me using Wilma as a communicative tool about contents of individual lessons. This year we have also tried out several different digital tools with our students and some of them were simply too tired to figure out yet another platform. However, when I did get my whole group to join in on the activities, they did admit that Edmodo was quite easy to use.

All in all, I find that Edmodo is definitely a tool worth looking into some more. It served as an easy way to share material and links to the students. Furthermore, being able to gather different types of assignments and their grading into one single platform offers both variety and constant feedback to the students and a valuable tool for the teacher. Edmodo may well be part of the solution to the changing ways of education.

Manna ParvinenEnglish teacherLauttasaaren yhteiskoulu /Lauttasaari Secondary and Upper Secondary school

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