The Sloan workshop I attended online this summer was less helpful than I had hoped (mostly because I was already very familiar with Backwards Design), but I definitely had a few key takeaways:
1) Putting learning online allows students to access it at anytime from anywhere. That means reviewing content before tests, practicing skills not yet mastered, and/or exploring extension activities for students operating at a faster pace than others.
2) Homework assignments that are textbook readings after textbook readings, and course assessments that are unit tests after unit tests after in-class essays, are really boring. The internet and computer technology offer so many innovative and interactive tools that are far more effective and engaging than the “Old School” style — why not make the most of them?!
3) We have a great tool here at St. Mark’s to facilitate Blended classrooms — Canvas. I really need to spend more time figuring out how to maximize its potential for my courses. In particular, I would like to work more with modules and with grading through Speed Grader (so that students and I can always reference past graded work and my feedback). The other cool thing that I have not looked into at all yet is the “outcome mastery” feature. I would love to be able to show my students that they are making progress towards mastery of the key skills of history, and to demonstrate to them which assignments are specifically geared toward teaching them each skill.
Obviously (thankfully!) there are still 4 weeks left before classes start up again, but I already feel like my summer has been very rejuvenating and inspiring. I have been reminded to focus on learning outcomes (both content- and skill-based), and have been prompted to go outside of the box in helping students reach them. I also am newly committed to being transparent with my students about these goals and my path to help them reach them.