How can you use blended learning with limited technology?


It has been so long since I’ve done a written reflection on a chat. The last time I did one was almost a year ago but I’m excited to dig into this week’s edition of #worldgeochat. What’s so exciting is that the topic of blended/flipped learning is currently at the forefront of pedagogy as more and more teachers are using blended/flipped instruction to maximize contact time with students.

#worldgeochat, The Little Chat That Could. has been steadily building a bit of a following over the past few months and this chat was no different. The moderator of the night was @jmgarner2003, who started the evening off by posing the following question:

How can you use blended learning with limited technology?

It is a reality that every teacher faces. There is simply not enough technology in most school districts to allow for each and every student to take home a laptop or tablet. It forces us to reimagine the process of flipped learning and push the boundaries of what is technically allowable by our districts. Some ‘creative’ implementation is needed.

As the responses started to fill my feed I noticed that a few other teachers were thinking what I was. To me, I believe that just like any project or unit in our instruction you need to start with the end in mind. Having a clear idea of what you want the experience to be and, more importantly, how the students will get there.

“Setting the stage + expectations early, even with limited tech, will make the transition to blended learning easier” @GeoSpiegs

@Ms_Mielke was thinking something similar (I believe) when she mentioned that you need to have the right materials for students to come back from their flipped learning into class with an idea of what discussion/debriefing would look like:

“I think finding the best resources needed for Ss, also working with what the students are at / used to.”

What I really liked though was when @flipping_A_tchr mentioned that you also have to consider a time component to the flipped experience:

“for limited student access, give 2-3 nights per video, facilitate cell phone usage, and maybe burn DVDs”

He reminded me that when technology, access to technology, or limited access is an issue for students, you need to design your lesson with that in mind. What are students who finish early going to do for two days? What kinds of preparation, extension, reflection, or synthesis of the information will be done and ALSO what purpose will it serve?

As more responses rolled in it became obvious that most teachers have to juggle some form or combination of  BYOD (Bring Your Own Device for those of you keeping score at home), pairing-up students, computer lab or cart, or station rotation.

“Maximize student devices. Pair students in groups. BYOD has worked really well here in Rural TX.” @MrsC_Will  

“We are no BYOD, I have to infuse laptops and lab time strategically. Started Friday MapLab for map exploration and creation” @CoachHenkel

“Ss work in groups share devices, allow them to BOD, use local library (FT) longer deadlines & always have plan B,C etc..” @WeirMB

We are miracle workers. We can take whatever the district throws at us and somehow find a way to make flipped/blended instruction work. It’s not easy work and honestly it should be this way but this is the hard reality for so many teachers out there. We just have to cobble ‘something’ together and hope it works as well as if all students were 1:1 laptops or tablets. This led me to my last observation. There’s always one participant in every chat that reminds the rest of us to remember the simple things in life are often the most effective.  @TheShoe_CMS did that for me with this tweet:

“Can’t diminish the impact of low-tech/no-tech options. Ss are connected so much, often they like material tools”. Spot on!

My big takeaways from this question were:

  • Have a plan (and a back up plan, and a back-back up plan, and a ba….).
  • Be aware of the scope and sequence and how much time you need to make sure all students can access the information. It might be longer than you realize and students who complete the flipped part of the activity need to be attended to as well as the learners who need more time. It’s a balancing act.
  • Be aware of all the possible options available to you and your district for using technology. This could vary from using a computer lab/cart, group collaboration, student devices (if allowed by your district), or rotating students through stations. The key is to utilize ALL options and give students as many points of access as you can

What is your approach to getting all students involved in a flipped lesson when you have technology challenges?

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