This MALAT assignment couldn’t have come at a better time. I teach in a grade 8-12 high school, and as I review the beginning-of-the-year memo, one of the suggestions is to spend time in our advisory block building community. But what about those students who are unable to attend the first day? Our local businesses are now reporting COVID-19 exposures; surely, some students will need to begin the year at home due to exposures. This year, more than ever, a blended learning model in K-12 schools is the best option, especially when trying to build community with nonattenders.
The infographic presented above starts with a rotating old-fashioned record representing the music playlist metaphor I introduced in my previous blog post. Digital facilitation is much like creating a music playlist to help a workout move along—choosing the right tempo at the right time is crucial. In the same way, facilitating a blended learning model sets the pace and ensures all students feel included and part of the community, even when not physically present. Adjustments are made as the year unfolds.
But how can K-12 teachers build a community of inquiry within a blended learning environment? The first step is to establish a teaching presence. In a K-12 blended learning environment:
- Begin with digital contact by setting up an Office 365 Team (with chat messaging) and emailing all students and parents. Daily course agendas and materials will be accessible to all students, and the ability to chat is easy.
- Share a welcome photo or video in Teams. Next, create a shared PowerPoint in Teams with a slide reserved for each student to do the same.
- Meet the students face-to-face and discuss the routines, procedures, and expectations.
The second step to building a community of inquiry is to foster and manage social presence using some of the traditional face-to-face methods and digital tools.
- Play traditional card/dice games (begin in pairs, small groups, and move to full-group depending on students).
- Use tech to play games (eg: Kahoot).
- Go outside (walk, talk, play).
The third step to building a community of inquiry is to support cognitive presence by finding ways for students to relate to the content. Researching and discussing real-world problems are great places to start.
By following the community of inquiry model using the above strategies, a K-12 blended learning environment is more effective for building community than just face-to-face or digital alone.