blended


Blended Learning at PRACE

Research Question

Monopoly_graffiti_by_purplejavatroll_at_flickr.jpg Given the need to provide more engaging, practical, hands-on, relevant opportunities to learn and to achieve accredited outcomes, catering for the different levels and needs of the group, will it help to use a range of technological practices?

Who are our learners?

For the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) course, students who have been marginalised from mainstream education,
  • age range: 15 - 65; (mostly between 15-25 but not exclusive;)
  • group size: no more than fourteen enrolled in the course;
  • attending numbers from 1-12, usually around the 7-9 mark.
  • evenly mixed gender;
  • range of abilities in terms of focus, learning skills;

What are they studying?

The group for this project was enrolled in the "VCAL". Most of the learners in this group are studying a range of subjects including literacy, personal development, work-related skills. The course in focus is Adult Numeracy.

Why integrate technology into the course?

Rationale for the Who and What
Many in the VCAL group already prefer working with technology; they are networked people who are used to texting and myspace. It made sense to attempt a stronger integration of technology within the curriculum.

How we went about the trial: First steps

Preliminary planning

First came the process of researching available options for presentation and engaging learners, as well as preparing learning activities and technical options

The first session

Mainstellen_by_Porro.jpg Bringing in a data projector shifted the emphasis of the class, and the energy of the group. There was something to look at, moving pictures and words which leapt across the screen rather than squiggling into a tiny whiteboard space. Over the project, using the data projector had a strong impact on the learning environment, possibly because it fit more closely students' expectations of an interactive environment.

Reflection/ Evaluation

Answer to Research Question
It was definitely helpful to use a range of technological practices, in the process of engaging learners' attention, and catering for the different needs of people within the group. Several people appeared to find technologically-enhanced spaces more welcoming than spaces which are purely paper-based.

Achievements

Reach

  • Some learners preferred to work on screen; many took initiative to leap in and control the large classroom screen, allowing the teacher to stand back and facilitate discussion.
  • We aimed to offer more flexibility in the options for each activity, either on paper, or on screen.
  • This project has played a part in extending the teaching and learning practices within the PRACE community.

Retention

This cohort of learners has plenty of issues in their daily lives: family, finance, housing, employment and basic self-management. While the co-ordinator makes a huge effort to keep people focussed on their learning needs, sometimes the external pressures get too much. No feedback from students suggested that course content or processes had an impact on retention.

Results

  • People took leadership roles on some occasions, and initiated activities on others;
  • People became more willing to take charge within the classroom environment;
  • Some students who were very resistant participants showed that the use of technology increased their ability to participate.

Other: listen to the story of our explorations here:




Future - What next?

Teachers and co-ordinators across the PRACE VCAL program are keen to
  • attempt virtual work placements in an environment such as Second Life;
  • integrate Certificate ii in information technology more closely into the literacy curriculum;

Continuing with the momentum from this year's trial in numeracy, will lead us into exploring more and varied applications, such as Google spreadsheets, floorplan.com, Google Sketch-up (3D model),

Three Tips for Teachers

  1. If you can, get a data projector into every room, and learn how to use it well. The potential for bringing multiple kinds of media and literacies into the classroom this way is huge. Many within this learner group we found to be receptive to information that is screen- and network-based.
  2. Explore the connections between screen-based and portable media, for example Google Earth and the Melways. Learners can compare different kinds of text for different contexts.
  3. Find different ways to present the same material, for example on-screen and on-paper; written and spoken; using a range of images to introduce a theme; use video to record explanations if possible.


(images: thanks for Mainstellen by Porro, and Monopoly graffiti by purplejavatroll at flickr dot com)

Plenty more detail here

More about the project on the AccessACE trials page.