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How NEO helped me work my way into a blended learning environment

Several years ago I decided to flip my classroom.

To get started I read the book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, joined several groups online and followed a couple of entities on Twitter. That spring I took the last term of the year and flipped it. Students brought their own devices to class and together we traversed the objective sheet and the remainder of the curriculum.

One of the most important outcomes of this pilot was that the students liked being in charge of their own learning, even if, as 8th grade students, they were not totally ready for it. This epiphany brought me to the blended learning movement.

Transforming my classroom into a blended learning environment

The following year, our school system purchased several carts of Chromebooks and asked interested teachers to submit applications for their use. I was awarded this new technology and started to rewrite my curriculum for online learning.

My first year into this new teaching model I decided to develop my curriculum as an online learning portal. I tried several web-based learning management systems including Google Classroom and Schoology. Both had great features but lacked what I needed to implement my middle school science blended learning classroom.

So I went back to the computer — and Google — to find a different platform that was more user-friendly for middle school students.

This past summer I found NEO.

I spent summer break creating my science course by dividing it into units and lessons. With NEO I was able to give instructions for lab activities, assign questions for analysis and then ask students to write a lab report uploaded from their Google Drive. Armed with a plan and a new curriculum, my blended learning classroom came alive.

Screenshot of NEO LMS by Therese Valente

When my lesson plan calls for a lab activity, the entire class participates, then students work at their own pace to complete analysis and reports. Students are required to do readings and watch videos outside of the classroom and then respond to formative assessments on NEO in order to check for understanding. Also, I can require lessons to be completed in a specific order and my students know what is expected and meet those expectations.

This year is moving along and I am making adjustments along the way. The objective sheets developed while planning a flipped classroom have evolved into a learning portal that gives the students a “path” to follow for lesson completion.

Over to you

If you are thinking of moving towards a blended learning classroom, I encourage you to jump right in. Reading the book by Bergmann and Sams was a great starting point.

All you need to do next is to find the right learning management system. Remember, not every learning platform is created equal. Take time to try out a couple to find the one that best fits your needs.

Most of all, be patient with yourself and your students. This is a new way to deliver lessons but one you won’t regret.