Grade Contracts are a strategy I use to assess my students' progress towards mastery of defined sets of content and skill objectives and to provide feedback on their development at the end of each level in my blended learning class. Students review the mastery requirements for each level and decide whether they will pursue an "A," "B," "C," or "D" contract; in so doing, they understand and commit to what they must know and be able to do in order to earn the letter grade of the contracts they have chosen. Grade Contracts eliminate the superficiality of number grades on individual assignments and focus my students' attention on authentic demonstrations of mastery over time. This strategy also empowers my students to challenge themselves and to monitor and take responsibility for their own learning, which is an essential mindset shift in my largely self-paced class.
Voxer is an application I use in my classroom to incorporate verbal collaboration. Voxer is a walkie-talkie type app where teachers can assign students to groups, pose questions, and have students verbally discuss the questions with a virtual audience. When Voxer is being used by students, they are switching between verbal and written communication. Most groups will verbally respond to questions and other students' will type their answers. Voxer is a great application for connecting students virtually with students their own age with limited bandwidth use.
Gamification is the process of adding game elements to an environment that is not traditionally a game. I use Gamification as a strategy in my blended learning classroom to motivate my ninth grade students to engage in the curriculum and to buy in to my social and behavioral expectations--all while keeping learning fun! We have two games going on in our classroom---our academic game and our behavioral game. Our academic game is based around the storyline of the Isle of Nosredna and features an island-based theme with a leaderboard ranking based on students' engagement in our self-paced learning environment. Our behavioral game, using the Classcraft online tool, is based on health points, experience points, battles, and powers. Students work as teams to keep each other "alive" and progressing in both games.
It is my goal to help parents and students feel like they are a connected entity in our classroom. To help parents feel connected, I have created a series of videos on our classroom YouTube channel to help parents understand our classroom. The videos describe the procedures in our classroom, what blended learning is, and how we gamify our classroom. Parents also have their own parent portal in Haiku where they can access this information, as well as their students' online course material.