Previously I wrote about taking part in a district-wide high school blended learning pilot. You can read about it here. I received my Chromebook cart near the end of February/beginning of March. A little late but just in time for the periodicity unit I was planning as a blended unit. The following is a breakdown of how I designed the unit.
Day 1: Vocab self-awareness followed by a lab to classify unknown elements as metal/nonmetal. I had already done this lab in other semesters and usually I would do the lab after we defined everything. This time we did it as an explore activity that allowed for students to define terms after the fact.
Day 2-3: Students worked with their assigned Chromebooks to start on 4 EdPuzzle videos with quiz questions. It was self-paced so some students went back to lab to finish data collection while others got through all 4 videos and started on the next activity. All in all, it went well. Each class ranked the second day as a 8-9 out of 10 for liking the style of learning as opposed to straight up lecture.
Day 4: The great thing about blended learning and utilizing technology - students could continue working at their own pace while I was home sick. On the 4th day students continued on and worked through FLINN’s Periodic Table March Madness activity.
Day 5: I reviewed and explained concepts and had students work through a Periodicity Graphing Activity (students are given 4 sets of data, including electronegativity, first ionization energy, atomic radius and valence electrons, to graph separately with the periodic trend on y-axis and the atomic number on x-axis. Then, they answer some questions about the trends they see being demonstrated on their graphs.). Some students continued to finish EdPuzzle work on Chromebooks if they were absent.
Day 6: Rarely do I use a multiple choice assessment in chemistry (aside from a portion of the final exam) except during the periodicity unit. I took my multiple choice assessment and created a Google Form assessment where the question order was shuffled as was the answer order within the question. Why? To dissuade cheating.
All in all the students preferred testing on Chromebooks. One student stated that it was easier for him to focus on the computer screen during the test since he spends a lot of time outside of class looking at a computer screen. Meet them where they’re at, right?
What was interesting in this pilot experiment was entrusting students to take responsibility for their own learning while I served as a facilitator. I was able to answer questions and was on my feet more walking around helping students than I would have been lecturing from a powerpoint at the front of the room. My students are not used to learning in this way, however. Some students struggled with motivation to get things done, especially in my regular classes. At the same time, many of my students thoroughly enjoyed the freedom they had to go work in the lab next door if they were crunched for time the first day.
In the end, I’d do this again but I’d have to tweak some things. For example, test averages were lower across the board (honors and regular chemistry) with the blended unit and Google Form test than they were with my old method of teaching periodicity/periodic table and utilizing a paper test. The regular chemistry average was down about 20% while honors average was only down about 3%. This is in comparison with last semester's scores. As the averages demonstrate, my regular students really struggled. There are a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here but it certainly is concerning and may require some retooling next year.