Blended Learning

Free Planning Tool Guides Teachers to Optimal Device Usage

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An education technology company with literacy products has launched a free online tool to help teachers apply a blended learning model in their classrooms, whether they're running a 1-to-1 program or having students share devices. ThinkCERCA released the "Classroom Planning Tool" specifically to help users figure out how to implement its own software, but the models provided in the tool could really be used with other curricula as well.

ThinkCERCA's online lessons focus on teaching critical thinking skills through close reading and academic writing. The service can be used for English language arts, science, social studies or math. Users can filter "CERCA" lesson sets by subject, type of lesson, grade level (3 through 12) and scope and sequence. The lessons follow 10 levels of scaffolding and include benchmark assessments in reading and writing, along with extra downloadable resources to help teachers working with English language learners. Content includes informational text as well as short stories, poetry and narratives. Educators can create their own lessons based on individually chosen texts and track student progress through dashboards.

The new planning tool helps teachers set up blended implementations that fit with their own level of technology access, schedule and instructional plan.

The user begins the plan by choosing the appropriate model — 1-to-1 or shared device — and time constraints. For example, in a shared device model in which students have between 75 to 90 minutes on technology each week, the instructors could follow a plan for station-based rotation, a plan with a daily literacy block with offline activities or four other plans. Each model comes with a suggested schedule, a visual of the classroom setup and student tasks along with advice on successful working conditions, guidance on best practices and links to additional resources.

"Technology alone cannot ensure that our students are engaging in complex cognitive tasks, receiving personalized feedback from teachers and discussing and debating with their peers. The spaces we create inside schools play a critical role in student achievement," said CEO, Eileen Murphy Buckley, in a prepared statement. "With this planning tool, teachers can easily create environments that help them facilitate true learning and critical thinking inside the classroom with ThinkCERCA."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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