Deeper Learning in Primary Science through Blended Learning

ekids Orbost 2011 #3Sixty five students along with six staff have been involved in an exciting blended learning project that aims to provide high quality science learning for upper primary school students within rural schools while building the capacity of their teachers in the use of blended learning.

Two rural clusters of schools (Alberton PS, Woodside PS, and Devon North PS, along with Bridgewater PS, Inglewood PS and  St Marys PS) provided an exciting science program for their students throughout Term III and into Term IV focusing on “the Body”.

The blended learning project was part of the eKids initiative that encourages teachers to work collaboratively across a number of education settings in providing learning that encompasses:

  • classroom learning in their “home school”
  • a weekly online lesson provided across the six schools.
  • the use of a web based platform (edmodo) as a tool to share resources and learning materials, as well as provide the opportunity for the students to discuss their learning across the schools and also upload their work and assessment tasks.

The students in both the clusters were highly engaged in the program, with the large majority of them undertaking research, and talking to other students across all schools between the lesson presentations, thus deepening their knowledge of the particular unit of learning being explored. Such an approach provided a great student centred learning approach with students often presenting questions, or areas they were keen to explore in greater depth, with other students (along with teachers from all schools) providing information and responses to the questions raised.

eKids Rural Express 2012 #2As one teacher reflected:

“Students were highly engaged with the large majority of them undertaking research and learning through the edmodo web based forum between lessons and in their own time. Through the edmodo platform they were also involved in chats with students from other schools thus deepening their knowledge and understanding of the topics covered – many sharing their learnings at the next online lesson. Students were also presented with a number of teacher styles and approaches during the program, a real asset as they are limited to the number of staff within their smaller schools.”

One of the real strengths of the eKids program was the team teaching approach that was undertaking across the schools – all the teachers across the various schools planned and delivered the science program through a collaborative team approach. They all shared the delivery of specific lessons thus allowing students to have access to a range of expertise that each staff member brought to the program. The team approach undertaken was greatly appreciated by the students involved and provided a real opportunity for students to have access to a range of teachers with expertise and knowledge.

Building the capacity of the teachers involved in the program was critical for its success. A key element of the blended learning approach within the eKids Science was the involvement of a high quality mentor to provide valuable professional learning (both face to face and online) for all the teachers involved as well as providing ongoing support for them all as the program was developed and provided. Andrew Douch, or Douchy as he is affectionately known, was a great support and mentor for the program, and his role was seen as a critical component in ensuring the program was a great success.

In reflecting on the program, teachers highlighted the real value the program provided their students, and as a result saw students gaining a deeper knowledge of the topics covered as well as the ability to explore their learning with students from other schools across the state.

They also reflected that their skills and knowledge in the use of blended learning to enhance and deepen learning for their students has been greatly strengthened, with many of them already exploring other areas they could develop across their cluster of rural clusters in the coming months.