Monday, May 18, 2015

Preparing Teaching Candidates for Blended and Online Environments

This post was originally written by Jayme Linton for Fractus Learning. Read the original post here.
There is a growing need for today’s pre-service teachers to be equipped with skills and competencies for blended, online, and technology-rich teaching and learning environments. As teaching candidates progress through teacher education programs, they should be exploring,evaluating, and applying methods and tools for effective instruction in the dynamic learning environments that exist in today’s K-12 schools.
At Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, faculty in the School of Education have developed pathways to help teaching candidates gain experience exploring, evaluating, and applying methods for online and blended instruction. Elementary, middle grades, and secondary teaching candidates at Lenoir-Rhyne University have the option of pursuing a track in blended or online learning as part of their teacher preparation program. We believe that graduates from these programs are better equipped to meet the needs of today’s learners and adapt to changing teaching and learning environments.
There are multiple opportunities to assist pre-service teachers in developing competencies for blended and online instruction, including modeling, coursework, and field experiences. In this post, I share the pathways we have developed at Lenoir-Rhyne University to prepare our teaching candidates for the field in the hopes that these structures and methods can be adapted by other teacher education programs.

Purposeful Modeling

Secondary education majors in Lenoir-Rhyne’s Master of Arts in Teaching program are presented with the opportunity to obtain a graduate certificate in online teaching and instructional design through a combination of coursework and field experiences. Students pursuing the online teaching track complete coursework in online methodsinstructional design, technologies for online learning environments, and foundations in distance education. Undergraduate elementary and middle grades education majors have the opportunity to begin graduate coursework in blended learning during their senior year. These courses include blended methods and technologies for blended learning environments.
Courses in blended and online learning, instructional design, and technologies for blended and online learning are taught by full-time faculty who model effective blended and online methods in their courses. This purposeful modeling is designed to help teaching candidates bridge theory and practice. Teaching candidates graduating from a blended or online teaching track will have experienced effective blended and online methods from both a student and teacher perspective.

Experience and Mentoring

In addition to coursework in blended and online methods, Lenoir-Rhyne University teaching candidates also have the opportunity to complete a blended or virtual student teaching experience, allowing them to apply methods from their coursework in authentic K-12 settings. This opportunity is made available due to collaborative partnerships with local school districts and the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). These partnerships allow Lenoir-Rhyne University School of Education faculty to match teaching candidates with mentor teacherswho are currently teaching in blended and online settings.
Elementary and middle grades teaching candidates pursuing the blended learning pathway complete a blended practicum in a local school district, designing and facilitating face-to-face and online instruction under the supervision of a mentor teacher and university supervisor. The blended practicum allows teaching candidates to develop flexibility and fluency with methods for diverse teaching and learning environments.

In The Field

Teaching candidates pursuing the online teaching track at the secondary level complete a year-long traditional, brick-and-mortar residency in a local classroom as well as a semester-long virtual practicum with an online course through NCVPS. In the virtual practicum, teaching candidates complete an online student teaching experience similar to traditional student teaching, whereby candidates take on teaching responsibilities for a specific period of time. The virtual practicum allows future secondary teachers to gain real experience designing and facilitating online learning experiences for diverse students from across the state. These blended and online field experiences are essential for today’s future educators.
Research on preparation for blended and online instruction advocates for coursework and practica focused on effective methods for designing and facilitating instruction in such environments (Journell et al., 2013; Kennedy & Archambault, 2012a). However, most teacher education programs have yet to provide these learning experiences for teaching candidates, thereby failing to adequately prepare them for their futures in the profession (Barbour et al., 2013). At Lenoir-Rhyne University, we have designed and implemented learning pathways to prepare teaching candidates for effective blended and online instruction. It is my hope that bysharing our approach to teacher preparation for blended and online instruction, other teacher educators will envision possibilities for incorporating components of blended and online learning into their courses and programs to better prepare teaching candidates for their futures.
To learn more about the blended and online teaching pathways at Lenoir-Rhyne University, contact Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator Dr. Jayme Linton at


Barbour, M. K., Siko, J., Gross, E., & Waddell, K. (2013). Virtually unprepared: Examining the preparation of K-12 online teachers. In R. Hartshorne, T. L. Heafner, & T. M. Petty, (Eds.), Teacher education programs and online learning tools: Innovations in teacher preparation (pp. 120-143). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Davis, N. E. & Roblyer, M. D. (2005). Preparing teachers for the “schools that technology built”: Evaluation of a program to train teachers for virtual schooling. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(4), 399-409.
Duncan, H. E., & Barnett, J. (2009). Experiencing online pedagogy: A Canadian case study. Teaching Education, 21(3), 247-262.
Ferdig, R. E., Cavanaugh, C., Dipietro, M., Black, E. W., & Dawson, K. (2009). Virtual schooling standards and best practices for teacher education. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 17(4), 203-226.
Journell, W., Beeson, M. W., Crave, J. J., Gomez, M., Linton, J. N., Taylor, M. O. (2013). Training teachers for virtual classrooms: A description of an experimental course in online pedagogy. In R. Hartshorne, T. L. Heafner, & T. M. Petty, (Eds.), Teacher education programs and online learning tools: Innovations in teacher preparation (pp. 120-143). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Kennedy, K. & Archambault, L. (2012a). Design and development of field experiences in K-12 online learning environments. The Journal of Applied Instructional Design, 2(1), 35-49.
Kennedy, K. & Archambault, L. (2012b). Offering preservice teachers field experiences in K-12 online learning: A national survey of teacher education programs. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(3), 185-200.
Malin, G. G. (2010). 21st century fieldwork: How pre-service teachers connected theory and practice in a hybrid high school setting. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(4), 812-819.
National Education Association. (2006). Guide to teaching online courses. Retrieved from

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tips for NCTIES Newbies

This week, over two thousand educators from across North Carolina will gather in Raleigh for the annual conference of the NC Technology in Education Society (NCTIES). This gathering gives geeks like me a chance to play with new ideas and connect with awesome people. I look forward to NCTIES all year, and I'm excited that this year's conference is finally here!

If you are attending NCTIES this year for the first time, or if you are wondering how you can make the most of your experience, check out my tips for NCTIES newbies below. Have additional tips to add? Please leave a comment!

Make it Personal

This year's conference theme is Make it Personal. The best advice I can give NCTIES participants is to do just that. The next two days are designed to give you time, space and resources to explore ideas that interest you. This is your time to be selfish.

Get Connected

Lots of lots of NCTIES participants will be sharing ideas and resources via Twitter, Google+ and other networks. Even folks who are #NotatNCTIES will be active in these networks. Get connected with folks in these spaces to keep the conversation going beyond the sessions. A huge benefit of engaging in the conference backchannel conversations is that you can learn from multiple sessions at once. I encourage you to set up an #ncties15 column in Tweetdeck to make it easier to join in the conversation. Meet some great NC educators at the #NCed meet-up Thursday morning at 7:30 am (location TBD). Check the #ncties15 hashtag for a location announcement Wednesday evening.

Don't Just Focus on the Sessions

Don't get me wrong.... NCTIES sessions are great. The conference schedule is filled with some amazing presenters with incredible ideas and resources to share. Some of my favorite learning, however, takes place before, after and in-between sessions. Take advantage of opportunities to sit and chat with old or new friends and play with your new ideas.

Have Fun

There are plenty of opportunities to have fun at NCTIES. Get your karaoke on at the Digital Jam Thursday evening at 7:30 pm, get your game on in the Coding and Gaming Playground, play Lucas Gillispie's Conference Quest and chat with students during the Student Showcase.

What are your tips for making the most of the NCTIES experience? Please share them below.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Be Intentional About Time and Learning

In today's schools, time is a constant. That is, all students are given the same amount of time (7 hours a day, 180 days a year) to master skills and concepts. However, students are quite different, and they learn in different ways. Since these students, who learn differently, have the same instruction and the same amount of time to master skills and concepts, the result is that learning is a variable. Learning varies by student. Given the same amount of time and instruction, students progress at varying rates. 

Educators must find a way to make time the variable so that learning can become constant for all students. In order for all students to make equitable progress, some students will need more time and instruction while others need less. Ten years ago, in a typical classroom, it would have been extremely difficult to provide this type of learning environment, in which all students progress at their own rates and each student receives the time and instruction he/she needs.

However, with today's technologies, it is not only possible but quite easy to create a learning environment that uses time as a variable in order to make learning a constant for all students. So why aren't more schools doing that?

The answer is that it requires teachers and school and district leaders to rethink teaching and learning. To rethink how we use time. To rethink how and why we use technology. To rethink the role of the teacher and the role of the learner. 

A great example of the use of technology to make time a variable so that learning is a constant can be found at Ranson IB Middle School in Charlotte, NC, where my friend Romain Bertrand serves as a multi-classroom leader. Read here and here about Ranson's use of blended learning models to meet the learning needs of all students. 

Please leave a comment to share your own examples of teachers and schools that are rethinking time and learning.