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.
Doctopus is a widget you can use in Google to distribute documents. I use Doctopus because it's the only tool that I know of that will allow me to distribute a copy of a document to each student in view only mode (Google Classroom at this point only allows for edit only mode). I use Doctopus to distribute the Quest Contracts to students so that each student has access to the document (please see my "Model Overview" to learn about Quest Contracts). I have viewing and editing privileges, whereas each student only has viewing privileges. This widget allows me to update my students' Quest Contracts on my iPad after they have mastered an activity. The student can then go into the same document and view what they have completed and what they still need to complete. Doctopus also works with Google Classroom to allow me to important Google Classroom rosters.
My classroom space is broken into five distinct areas based on students’ needs. The areas are named in accordance with the storyline in our academic game: (1) presentation area (also known as the shelter), (2) lounge area (the beach), (3) counter area (the lookout), (4) teacher area (crash site), and the (5) table area (the jungle). Each area was set up with a distinct vision in mind. The shelter was set-up with two futons and a coffee table all located around the SmartBoard at the front of the classroom. I envisioned this area as a place where student groups could share their learning and present content using their iPads and our Apple TV. The beach area was created to help those students who do better lounging on a couch or in a non-traditional chair while working. I wanted my room to represent the traditional as well as the “non-traditional” student. The lookout area was specifically set-up for students who enjoy to look outside and see nature as they work. It also works well for those who use scenery as a reset in an environment that is often controlled chaos. The crash site was created as a result of the storyline where all students became Plane Crash Survivors (PCSs). The name makes it okay to have a messy desk! It’s also used as a space to separate distracting students from the attention of others in the classroom. Finally, the table area was made for the more traditional student who likes to work at a table or desk or likes to have a hard surface to work on. Throughout class, students can be seen moving throughout the room in accordance with their needs as a learner at that particular moment. I feel the incorporation of the different areas of the classroom helps to build a culture of learning acceptance and risk. It opens up the classroom to being more than just a sit and get environment. It helps to personalize and shape students’ learning. See also Jessi's Overview Model.
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.