Tag Archives: blended learning

Imagine K-12 Educator Day

It has become a lovely fall tradition to attend the product kick-off for the most recent round of Imagine K-12 start up companies. I always love this afternoon of events. It is exciting to see the newest in educational innovations, some of which have not even been fully constructed yet. It is also refreshing to see so many educators, from a wide range of backgrounds and settings, rubbing elbows with the product designers and inventors (often the same people).

I also love to sit down and write this blog post. It is a point of pride for me that I am able to provide feedback to the aspiring edtechers on my first impressions of their products, how I plan to integrate them into teaching and learning situations, what potential I see for truly changing education for the better, and sometimes what I feel would make this product more useful to me, the teachers I work with and the students we serve.

First up was EDpuzzle, a group from Barcelona. I had the pleasure of seeing EDpuzzle in more embryonic stages and providing the founder with some comments on feedback, as well as ideas for refining and improving. We had a great discussion about the Flipped Classroom model, about Blended Learning, and about how technology can support learning. It was clear to me from his passionate stories about his students that he truly loved being in the classroom. EDpuzzle is designed so that teachers everywhere can take advantage of the plethora of video tutorials that exist, and make that they can make sure that the video is still perfect for what they are teaching. Many teachers would like to assign a video tutorial for homework, so that students can preview material or get extra help, but finding the exact right video can be tough, and making the video can be time consuming. EDpuzzle allows users to edit existing videos, crop what is not needed, record over the original sound so that movies can be dubbed into any language or students can simply hear the familiarity of their teacher’s voice, and teachers can insert questions along the way. I see great potential in EDpuzzle. For our teachers who are using a blended learning approach I see them being able to easily provide differentiation by inserting different questions into the videos. Additionally, those teachers using mrbarrette.com (for more on this tool read my previous post) to organize their courses online can upload these videos and students can access these whenever they need to and work at their own pace. And lastly, for the past few years students have been using Upside Down Academy to showcase their own video tutorials, a rich project that has connected students learning in mathematics across the years as the new 9th graders get to watch the now 10th and 11th graders videos. I think that using EDpuzzle as one step in the editing process will allows students to really reflect on what helps them learn, and how to recreate this for others.

One of the other groups that caught my attention was netclick. This product presents a very simple concept that I think enhances the educational experience. Now even though I know that using powerpoint slides and the stand-and-deliver method of teaching, there are times when this is most effective and appropriate. Not only that, but our students must learn how to given succinct and powerful presentations, and modeling what this looks like is a part of that process. So, what netclick does is enhance the educational potential of this instructional practice. This is achieved by allowing your audience members to log in from their own web-enabled device and follow along with your slides. Firstly, just this feature is great for any students with visual impairments or attention challenges. And it doesn’t stop there!!! Netclick has developed a system wherein the audience can click on the slides, netclick then aggregates the responses and then reveals a ‘heat map’ of what the group is thinking. For example, we were shown a slide of a cell (at least, I think it was a cell) and we were asked to identify the mitochondria. Once the aggregate of everyone else’s clicks showed up, I actually learned where the mitochondria is! And it doesn’t stop there, because any biology teacher would want to know that I had no clue, right? Well netclick can do this for you too. The back end provides a simple spreadsheet of how your participants responded, if students log in then this is attached to their information, and with a quick scan the teacher can see who the outliers are. Netclick has a fine product, I get the feeling they have been at this start up stage for longer than some of the other teams, so this is not a free product.

Another interesting idea was Class Central. This site proposes to aggregate MOOCs from a variety of sources, including the big providers such as Udacity and Coursera, so that users can find and attend a variety of courses. This seems like a very useful tool and I look forward to its completion.

From down under geddit brought us a unique take on the ‘check-for-understanding.’ Rather than always having kids answer a pretty low level question about the content, really the only type of question that a teacher can ask that can be answered quickly, geddit suggests having the students rate their confidence on the subject matter. While this, of course, got many scoffs from the back of the room about the absurdity of leaving it up to students, the presenter was not naïve about this reticence on the part of adults and he simply stated that kids get better with practice. I like this idea. Of course this would not be the only source of data in the room. The teacher would have to use other ways of checking whether kids are moving along or stuck on a concept. But I really like the idea of involving the students in being metacognitive about their own learning, and instilling the practice of reflection and honest self-assessment. This routine can only lead to more thoughtful learners, learners who think about how they learn and whether they are learning at this moment in time.

Here are my quick mentions:

I also love the idea of Kodable, an app for kids that introduces them to the fundamentals of computer programming. I would like to download it for myself!! As well as our schools ipads, of course, and see if students are interested in learning more.

Classroom IQ was interesting. They tackled the problem of grading, specifically, written answers. This is a challenge for teachers, and will only become more intensive as we move towards Common Core and teachers must prepare students for these types of non-multiple choice questions. However, the solution was a little lack luster. The idea is that teachers scan all of the paper results and upload them to the IQ system. Then the teacher can select the part of the page where the answer is, and the IQ system will replicate this selection across all scanned pages. This produces a number of small screenshot looking boxes where the answers are, and teachers can click and grade. Supposedly it saves time, and I am sure once all the stuff is scanned and uploaded and selected, it would be faster than flipping through paper, but all the scanning and selecting takes time too, not to mention dealing with all the other people who need to use the school’s scanner. What would be great is if they had developed a system that could use handwriting recognition to read and grade the selected answers. That would truly be a time saver!

Finally, Front Row presented a math app the focused on providing differentiated math practice, using Common Core standards. This is built for 1st-5th graders, I believe, so there wont readily be wide spread use in my teaching context. However, there are some students who are really struggling with math and this may be the perfect thing. Additionally, I am very curious to learn what common core math means to them. This is such a nebulous new thing that each new product or assessment, for better or worse, will end up defining what we mean by common core in some way.

In summary, I want to thank Imagine K-12 for bringing us all together, for the tasty snacks and adult beverages. It is not very often that teachers get to feel like experts with other adults, as so much of their days are spent with the students. This is a great way to honor the teacher’s know-how, to build collaborative relationships between the designers and the classroom, and to insist that the newest Edtech products are as relevant as they claim to be. Thank you!

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Chromebook Roll-Out

 

Last week the students at Impact Academy were introduced to their Chromebooks.

The teacher put together a little prezi that ensured students were using them safely and that the routines for starting and ending class were crystal clear.

 

It is Friday

The time is 1:30 pm

The location is hot and sunny Hayward

I hear the soft beep that accompanies a gchat. It is Denise (algebra I teacher)

Imagine my surprise when I read the below message.

Apparently each block spent the day:

 

1. logging in to Chromebook,

2. getting on Khan Academy,

3. setting up their profile with their Algebra I teacher as their coach, and

4. Participating in a little friendly competition.

 

The Challenge:

Which block can get the most energy point!!! Nothing like a little competition between blocks to get students excited. Needless to say, I am excited that the students are happily working away on math problems late on a Friday afternoon, and this makes me hopeful for the success of our blended learning project.

 

 

 

 

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Kick off for 2012-2013 school year

The new school year is officially underway and, despite a delayed start, the Blended Learning programs and my coaching schedule is up and running. I spent the first two weeks of school helping our tech department get our Chromebook carts ready and in classrooms. Due to an overwhelming number of orders (note to self, order Chromebooks in February if possible) our order arrived on the first day of school. To make matters even more complicated they all arrived at our Support Office in Oakland in giant piles.

photo taken with photosynth

So I sifted through them all and organized them into piles for each site, arranged for their transportation, unpacked boxes, charged them, turned them on, enrolled them into our domain, tagged them, inventoried them, carted them etc… All this set up is nothing in comparison to that of a macbook cart, for example, but it is still a significant number of days work.

Envision School is embarking on two new ventures this year. We are expanding the use of Chromebooks in Algebra I classes to all four sites.

Metropolitan Arts and Technology High School – known as Metro, in San Francisco

City Arts and Technology High School – known as CAT, in San Francisco

Impact Academy – known as IA, in Hayward

Envision Academy – known as EA, in Oakland

We are using a Flexlab model at two of our schools (Metro and CAT) for language classes, credit recovery, and extension classes. We are also continuing to work with our highest need students individually to provide blended learning opportunities through integrating technology with the general education curriculum. My role as Blended Learning Coach is to support the teachers in implementing these programs, continue to monitor the effectiveness of the each program and, of course, write about it.

Our efforts are unified in that we are focused on individualized and differentiated pathways to success within the structure of A-G requirements and standards aligned courses. We strongly believe that all students will experiences success when given appropriate opportunities and tools. An important part of this equation is using technology as both a tool and thus an opportunity to access individualized and differentiated learning experiences. I look forward to sharing these experiences with you over the coming school year as I write about what is working and what is difficult. I always welcome suggestions, comments and feedback as I learn from active engagement with my audience.

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Wrapping up the year.

The end of the school year has come and gone and in the calm after the storm I find myself reflecting upon how our projects have faired. I also realized that in the frenzy of the last weeks of school I failed to post my final thoughts about Upside Down Exhibition at Impact Academy. As the student were rapidly prototyping on their lessons and the teachers were prepping for final reflections, I was working on finding funding for next year. The Gates Foundation has kindly extended its interest in Blended Learning and is continuing to support brick and mortar schools, like Envision, find innovative ways to bring Blended Learning into more traditional models. The process of preparing and revising a grant is something that is new to me and I am so grateful to our superintendent and our head of development for the collaboration and persistence that they both displayed. This was by no means an isolated or individual effort. And it is certainly a testament to the power of bringing the different expertise of an organization together in pursuit of one goal.

Thank you Gates for the opportunity to continue what we believe to be transformative work; both for us organizationally and for the students we serve.

And speaking of those student… I went to Impact academy in the last week of school. I was actually there on the day of graduation and saw many of my previous students walk. That is always a tear jerker.

The 9th grade students were busily finishing up their video reflections so they could make it to the hall on time. In conversations with a few of the students and the teacher I could clearly see that the impact of providing and receiving structured peer feedback was turning out to be very positive. The teacher had led the whole class through the process of determining feedback, and then emphasized the difference and importance of warm and cool feedback. These distinctions are ones that the adults at Envision Schools use frequently in our protocols for working on a variety of projects. It is amazing to see how this skill has now been introduced at all levels and connects staff and students as humans and agents of teaching and learning.

After engaging in this process in groups, and filling out rubrics on each others work, the students logged on to Upside Down Academy and publicly reviewed their peers lessons, the evidence of this is something I encourage the readers to check out for themselves.

The project iterations has convinced me that this process is one that provides multiple layers of learning. Students clearly explore their own strengths and challenges as teachers and learners, this process provides new ways to practice and prepare material, and its an authentic avenue for students to practice their multi-media talents. My hope is that next years Algebra I teachers will draw on this years tutorials as part of their instructional tool kits, and that students will continue to share their learnings with each other and the world.

In closing, please stay tuned for our final posts about using ipads. The two week end of year project was exciting and gave us a glimpse of how this tool can change the learning space. And lastly, have a wonderful summer.

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A student reflects on upside down academy

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time at Impact Academy. The students were deeply engrossed in their second round of video productions and their final lessons. The students had the opportunity to do their first video on an Algebra I concept of their choice. This was their chance to play around with the filming and editing techniques. Their teacher, Ms. Sudow reflected that in many cases the final products were well made videos that were lacking in math rigor. In some cases the math was even incorrect. This first round of reflection allowed the students to think about how to balance the draw of making an engaging video with the importance of focusing on actual teaching and learning, and not being seduced by an over emphasis on fun.

The students took this learning into their second round of video production, in which they focused on Functions. Here is an exemplary video:

 

This video demonstrates the students ability to create engaging material, supports a unique way of remembering the definition of a function, and provides examples.

In my visit to Impact Academy I had the opportunity to speak with the student about the process.

student interview

Tomorrow is the last day of the project. I will going to Impact to participate in the round of scoring and reviewing student work. The teachers have invited community members and stakeholders, and along with fellow classmates we will be providing students with feedback on their lessons. Visit UpsideDownAcademy to share your thoughts with the students.

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ipads in math class!

Last week the 9th grade students at City Arts and Technology (fondly known as CAT), which is one of the two Envision Schools in San Francisco, were able to use ipads in their last math classes of the year. Due to the tireless work of our Senior Director of Technology we were able to benefit from  a loan program that Apple has. Their rep just dropped them off and our math teacher was able to start right away (well it was almost that simple). Luckily the math teacher at CAT has been working hard all year to incorporate technology in his teaching practice and was ready to take full advantage of the loan.

When I went to visit the students were working on graphing and exploring how all of the elements of the equation impact the end result. Their first task was to create graphs that looked the same as the samples provided. Once they had visually matched the graphs they then noted the different values for x, y, and a. For this they were using an online graphing calculator called Desmos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this they were asked to use at least three different equations at once. This prompted many of the students creativity and ingenuity. A couple of students used simple line and circle equations to create a picture. ” its a plate, some chopsticks and a…meatball” she exclaimed. I think this got other students thinking outside of the box, I saw kites, flowers, and a baseball. Some students went to the samples to see how other shapes are made, and even copied or changed these equations to better understand how they changed the image. One pair of students wanted to have a filled shape and did so by making multiple lines that seemed to blend together. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This website offered students a more hands on opportunity to engage with the graph, by allowing them to adjust all aspects, by making it possible for them to play and move and experiment. One student called me over because he, and I will use his words ” am lost in my graph”. He had gotten so deep into the manipulation and moving that he could not locate where x and y intersect. Luckily there is a button to bring you home. I asked him what he was working on and he said that he was following the two lines he had created, “they just kept going”. I flippantly said they would keep going forever and never touch, and he looked at me in a way that I am having a hard time describing. I realized that even though he knew this (someone told him, his teacher taught him, he memorized it) he had not experienced it until now. It was made real for him in that moment.

So, apart from testing the ipads in algebra I, we are going to be using them for the next two weeks in what we refer to as “workshops.” This is a time when each teacher creates a larger project that the students can engage with, and students select which project they want to work on. So stay tuned for more exciting stories and more learning.

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Project update

A few days ago I had the pleasure of going to Impact Academy and spending the day with the 9th grade team, students and teachers alike. The project is well under way. The students had spent time reviewing and critiquing other online instructional tutorials, whether on Khan Academy, on UpsideDownAcademy or other web-based lessons. They used cleverly designed graphic organizers to detail their thoughts and keep track of this learning. On the day of my visit they were in the middle of finishing up their scripts and filming their first lessons. These lessons were created in pairs, they also got to choose which Algebra concept they wanted to focus on. Naturally, the outcomes were varied. Students chose very different concepts and different approaches.

In my discussions with students they all seemed interested in the project but not entirely enthusiastic. They were apprehensive about what was being perceived as a lot of work. They did express excitement about uploading their video tutorials and the idea that people all over the world could see them and comment on them.

I captured a small bit of footage that demonstrates a taste of the productive flavor. Students are collaborating, discussing strategies, being creative, and iterating as they go.

In the next few days the fruits of their labor will be uploaded to upsidedownacademy.org, and I hope that you will view them and provide the students with feedback. This will help them immensely as they delve in to their final project of the year, video tutorials about functions.

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Blended learning reaches all student

In thinking about how the landscape of blended learning has progressed in the past years there seem to be several themes that drive the innovation and change. While there are many physical manifestations of blended learning, i.e. flex models, learning Labs, cyber schools, and all other verbage that goes along with it (remixing, flipping, video tutorials, data analytics, personalized learning), the conceptual foundations seem less disparate. Reach all students!

As a teacher who has spent many years working with atypically developing students, this premise resonates loud and prominent, like the tremors I feel in the Berkeley hills from the Hayward fault. Reach All Students!!!

Early pioneers in the blended learning space, as described in tech& learning, were curiousabout the potential gains that could be made by flipping how and when the direct instruction was delivered. Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, authors of  Flip Your Classroom, started creating vodcasts of their lessons in 2006-2007. This instigated alternative approaches to instruction that they felt allowed the in-class activities to “transition [ing] from the old industrial model of education to the learner centered, active class of the future.”

We know that inquiry and authentic learning opportunities, and critical thinking, and group work are all approaches that support learning and prepare students for college and beyond. We want our students to develop 21st century leadership skills and Project-Based Learning is one way that we achieve this goal. In addition, Flip Your Classroom states

Flipping helps students of all abilities to excel. Our special education teachers love this model. Because all the direct instruction is recorded, students with special needs can watch the videos as many times as they need to learn the material.” This establishes skill development as an essential component of a students education and at the same time emphasizes individual pathways to skill mastery.

At Envision Schools we have been exploring these concepts in a couple of ways. One of our math teachers has begun to test the power of having students watch and rewatch instructional tutorials for key algorithms in mathematics. Struggling students in his classroom spend time reviewing the days lesson on educreations while others are working in small groups, and others are doing extension or reach problems. Embracing not only the technique of flipping but reintroducing a station approach has allowed the students and teacher in this algebra I class to have multiple and personalized pathways to success. Stay tuned for more exciting new from this classroom!!!

The other way that we are building our competencies in technology integration in the service of individualized learning is the work that I am doing with Learning Center staff and specific students. Leslie Wilson recently wrote a blog post about the significant role that technology can now play in the educational experience for students with Individualized Education Plans. We have learned that there are many free web-based tools that provide scaffolding to our students so that they can become more independent and successful. There are also a couple of programs that we have invested in that are worth the money we spent.

I will start by describing the tools we paid for. Each Learning Center has what we call the “Assistive Tech” laptop that the Learning Specialists can use with students. These are equipt with Co:writer, Write:Outloud, and Dragon Dictate, among all the other programs that the schools computers have. My favorite is Co:Writer by far. This program has a predictive text feature that supports students with dyslexia or low literacy skills by offering them options based on phonetic spelling information. It also reads the complete sentence back to the writer. Its great. It really helps students engage in writing as though they are having a conversation, and hear when their writing is not what they want it to sound like.

I will now mention a few of the free tools that have been successful and why we like them.

  1. http://freesummarizer.com/. Allows students to summarize readings so that they can ensure comprehension.
  2. Dragon Dictate app. This allows students to access the tool on the go without the laborious set up.
  3. Khan Academy. Students get to work on skills that they may not have mastered.
  4. Bookshare. Free audio books and reader. Allows students to access text.
  5. http://www.paperrater.com/. Allows students to do paper corrections and learn at the same time.

Looking ahead to next year I am certain that we will continue to find innovative ways to meet the learning needs of the diverse student body we serve. I am sure that there are many more tools that others have used, and that students access on their own. I welcome any suggestions and recommendations.

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Tools of the day

In the spirit of open source collaborative design-based experimentation in the service of learning, I want to share the tools I encountered today.

I watched a Webinar about differentiation that discussed how technology can support the need for more individualized approaches, and more specifically what. The presentation was given by two teachers so the suggestions that they make are really practical and you know that they will work.

Some ideas that I have been tossing around recently are using Voicethread for students to create digital stories. This could work well as an alternative assignment in any class. I have most often seen this used with Language Arts, but I also think it can be very powerful in Science and Math.

Googlelittrips has kmz files that can be overlaid into google earth and show the highlights of major works of literature. This seems like a great activity to support the reading of one of the books. Could also be applicable to historical analysis.

Educreations is great for making videos of your lesson, or encouraging students to create videos of their own. This can be used in any classroom and even outside.

animaps is a great way to create interactive informative maps. I love this idea. I have not had a chance to use this much yet and would love to hear how others have used this.

Google search stories is also a fun way for students to engage in a short project that captures the essence of any lesson, story, process. Could be a great way to teach the story arch and have students apply this knowledge.

I also recently found this interactive whiteboard site that is free to use. Although I have yet to really test it.

In the interest of sharing, I would love to hear from others who have used these resources. Also, if there are other tools that people have come across that are useful and you have had success with please feel free to share these as well.

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Travels with Kiera: an educator on the road

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking my work on the road. My first stop was The California Charter School’s Association held its annual conference in Sacramento and I lucky enough to get a last minute invitation. Looking over the Conference schedule the night before it was striking how much emphasis was placed on Blended Learning by the programming board. Perhaps this reflects the demand of their constituency, perhaps this is a local representation or perhaps this is demonstrative of a national wave in digital learning.

I had the pleasure of being a part of many interesting discussions and got an in depth view into some specific examples of blended learning approaches. What is fascinating is to realize how broadly the field of education is defining blended learning approaches. For example, there are charter schools that have built their buildings to accommodate a large learning lab. A new elementary school in rural California, Grimmway Academy, has lab space for up to 70 students or so. A team of learning specialists monitor the students progress through a handful of different software programs, pull small groups off the computers to reinforce or re-teach certain concepts, and this team communicates regularly with the classroom teachers to both share data on the students progress and plan upcoming curriculum. This fledgling school approached its design with an idea of blended learning as a pillar around which other decisions were made. Their model cited the previous example of a similar model, Rocketship Education.

Other schools have embraced different aspects of blended learning. For example, Greendot has pulled together a variety of resources that they use to techno-phy the existing curricular structure. Some examples of these are Google apps for education, edmodo, and dropbox. This is similar to the approach that we are exploring at Envision Schools. When I think of the blended learning that we are working to establish it is one that incorporates the affordances of certain new media into an existing physical and curricular structure. Each approach has pros and cons, and is a response to different condition sets.

There were also a plethora of companies and institutions approaching blended learning from a more historical perspective. From what I know the term ‘blended learning’ was first coined to describe distance learning or online learning opportunities that were primarily computer based. Under this particular umbrella there are a wide variety of programs that offer different levels of curriculum, programs that are designed on different approaches to learning, different levels of scaffolding, different levels of technological support. Making educated decisions about which of these are the right fit for your school can be overwhelming. In fact there was a very interesting presentation that touched on the important areas to consider when constructing a rubric and protocol for making these types of decisions for your school community.

Lastly, even the exhibition hall was all a flutter with the accouterments of blending learning environments. Many booths were holding raffles for free ipads, kindles, laptops etc. All of the poster sessions were organized around blended learning. Overall the conference had some interesting points to ponder and exposed me to many companies and organizations that are building and selling blended learning.

Imagine K12 Educator Day

Later in the same week I was invited to attend a bi-yearly event held in Palo Alto. Imagine K12 is an opportunity for new EdTech companies to partner with educators so that the creators and the stakeholders can co-contribute to the development and refinement of new venture. This was an exciting and interesting experience for me.

Firstly, the event was held in a manner similar to a TED Talk. They were punchy and well prepared and got right to the heart of each product. In most cases the person presenting on behalf of the products were the founders or co-founders. This resulted in a really inspired and heartfelt pitch.

Secondly, there was a wide variety of new products and platforms so there was something there for everyone. Prior to the event I had spent sometime on the phone with the founder of Hapara. This New Zealand based company has designed a platform that organizes and manages google apps for education. Really a great product for administrators to look at if the school is using google apps consistently. There were other companies that presented more data management tools that seem really comprehensive and smart, but that I was less drawn to because they were not directly applicable to my current position. I was able to meet and chat with the creators of educreations. This is an exciting tool that one of our math teachers is using to create short videos of his classroom for students to access after class. I have been using educreations to take notes in my statistics class. I can write what the teacher is saying and record the lecture at the same time! Genius.

Lastly, there were two new resources that I feel everyone should spend sometime looking at, so I want to introduce them here. The first is BrainGenie. This site provides instructional tutorials and practice in a variety of Math and Science topics. It is nicely divided into grade levels and is being aligned with Common Core standards. I had a long conversation with the co-founder and he indicated that while he realizes that their platform is very much like Khan Academy, they hope to develop into a tool that is differentiated by the feedback that teachers can provide. So use the site and let them know what you think. The second resource that I saw a lot of potential in is a search engine tool call InstaGrok. This tool can be used to scaffold web-based research in a number of ways. The site organizes information by identifying key vocabulary, by providing a relationship chart for said vocabulary and concepts, by providing images and audio-visual resources, and the most interesting feature is you can adjust the reading level of the resources provided. I can see this search engine being particularly helpful in late elementary and middle school, but I also see how it can be useful even for adults.

All in all both of these experiences have given me many ideas to take back to my schools. I was reminded that it is important to get outside of the classroom every once in a while, to interact and brainstorm with other educators. This process of rejuvenation is essential to being sustainable in ones role, and I believe it is essential to ensuring that the innovations of blended learning approaches continue to cross pollinate and breed.

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