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The Force Awakens Your Classroom

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The blended learning team challenged their colleague, David Young (Instructional Design Manager at Michigan Virtual), to channel his excitement for the release of the new Star Wars film into a guest blog post about blended learning. He did not disappoint.

Today I face a challenge that millions of educators and students around the world are struggling with. The problem is real and pervasive. There’s no way to ignore it. It’s reached a tipping point and I think we have to talk about it. I can’t focus on work today, students can’t focus on learning, teachers can’t focus on teaching all because of … Star Wars.

Educators around the country could easily just give up on days like today. We could all spend the day watching the original Star Wars movies (by which of course, I mean episodes IV, V and VI) and trailers for The Force Awakens. But that wouldn’t be the way of the Jedi. A Jedi feels the force around him and uses it to his/her advantage. A Jedi would harness the excitement and anticipation of the day and use it for good. With this in mind, here are five pieces of advice from Star Wars that will help you as you blend your classroom. Follow this advice and the force will be with you. Always.

  1. “Hmph! Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things.” –Yoda
    When dealing with technology there is always going to be an element of excitement over something new. There’s a temptation to run off to the next big thing to create exciting and fun learning experiences. As instructors, we can’t let that excitement overtake the foundational learning experience for our students. Remember to stay focused on what is important. Let your content and instructional strategies drive the technology that you use, not the other way around. Don’t chase excitement and temporary novelty, but stay focused on lasting and sustainable change.
  2. “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
    The blended classroom does not look like the traditional classroom. You won’t see students sitting quietly in rows, listening to a teacher lecturing from the front. You are likely to see students working individually or in small groups. There will be talking. Maybe even arguing. You might see students quietly staring at a computer screen with headphones on. The teacher will likely be roaming around the room rather than teaching in the front. You may not even be able to discern where the front of the room is. It would be easy to look at a blended classroom and think that there’s no way learning could be happening in the midst of the apparent chaos. Don’t trust your eyes with that initial observation. Look closer, ask questions and you will see where learning is taking place.
  3. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” – Darth Vader
    If you are working toward blending your classroom it’s quite likely that you will encounter doubters along the way. Hopefully, your principal and fellow instructors are supportive, but even if they are you may have students and parents with doubts about the way you are running your classroom. Don’t be surprised when you encounter these reactions. Be prepared with examples, evidence and anecdotes to share that show your success. You will probably need to be proactive in recording and sharing student work and documenting what you are doing. When people see how engaged your students are and see evidence of their learning they will believe.
  4. “Travelling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops.” – Han Solo
    No one said that blending learning would be easy. You can’t expect to have success by waking up one day and just doing something different. It takes planning and preparation to ensure success. You wouldn’t jump into hyperspace without making all the correct calculations to ensure that you don’t run into a star or get sucked into a black hole. Similarly, you shouldn’t expect success in teaching in a blended environment without some serious planning. What are some of the traps that you might find in your lesson? What are some of the areas you want to steer clear of? Before you take off, make sure you that you mapped out your plan.
  5. “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” – Luke Skywalker
    Remember that you are not working in isolation. You are part of a large community of educators who have gone before you and are working alongside you. You can learn from their successes and also their failures. Take the time to seek out the advice of fellow teachers. Read blogs, explore Twitter, engage in conversations. Your blended learning family can support you, encourage you and provide fresh ideas as you work toward always improving your practice.
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David Young

David Young

David is the Director of Instructional Product Development at Michigan Virtual where he manages the design and development of a variety of courses for students and teachers. He has been designing and developing online courses for over 10 years. Previously he has worked as a school technology coordinator and a high school math teacher in both face-to-face and online classrooms.

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With many students across the state 100% remote, demand for our online courses is greater than ever before. Because every course we offer is taught by a Michigan-certified teacher, this high volume of enrollments has created capacity issues for our teachers who provide each and every student with individual feedback.

While the Michigan Virtual team anticipated and planned for significant increases in student enrollments this Fall, the increased demand we’ve experienced has been unprecedented. As a result, we are taking steps to hire even more part-and full-time teachers to support larger numbers of student enrollments for Semester 2 as well as for Trimester 2 and 3. 

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