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Welcome back to another Educator Spotlight! Today we are thrilled to share with you some insights from Kandise Gilbertson, a Language Arts and American History teacher for eighth graders at Steamboat Springs middle school. Ms. Gilbertson has a lot of wonderful experience working with students and incorporating technology into the classroom, and we hope that you benefit from her knowledge as well.

Ms. Gilbertson described herself as having always been passionate about technology and about being an early adopter—she got her master’s degree in information and learning technology, and she commented on how much things have changed since that time. She originally spent time learning how to incorporate new gradebook technology into her classroom during her master’s degree, and now the technology is no longer restricted to gradebooks but instead reaches almost every element of the classroom. Ms. Gilbertson loved learning about new forms of technology so much that she became a certified tech integration specialist, and she was able to work with teachers on how to implement new programs into their classrooms as well as work to vet programs for the teachers to include.

What’s more, she also dedicated time to helping teachers create an online presence and write grants for specific new technologies that they wanted for their classrooms. More recently, Ms. Gilbertson completed iLC’s Fast Track courses on blended learning along with several other teachers in her district, and they now work together to share their learning with the other teachers in a “train the trainer” type of method.

When asked what the most beneficial part of the iLC Fast Track program was, Ms. Gilbertson commented on how it was helpful to be able to utilize the provided course templates to develop more of a cohesive curriculum that could be reflective of what was going on in the classroom and online (when the district was in a hybrid environment). She also mentioned how the program made it clear that with blended learning it becomes evident whether you have an end goal in mind for what key points you want your students to learn or get out of a unit. Through this program, Ms. Gilbertson reported that she became even more skilled at making sure that the online work provided to students was purposeful and meaningful, self-guided, and that there was a solid amount of interactive components to encourage engagement among the students.

One of the greatest challenges for Ms. Gilbertson in this remote environment was the way that it made it really difficult to gauge how kids were doing, connect with them, and support them if they were struggling or having a bad day. It was also challenging to learn how to incorporate the same level of personalization and customization for each student that was present in the all-online model once the school returned to hybrid mode—Ms. Gilbertson used to be able to assign specific students specific assignments online based on what concepts they were struggling with, but being back in a classroom environment rendered it more difficult to be aware of those nuances.

On the flip side, one of the big takeaways from this whole experience for Ms. Gilbertson has been the way that she is able to incorporate the idea of rotations into a blended learning model and create individualized stations for students online, as well as in person when in hybrid mode. Her district was also able to implement 1:1 Chromebooks for students to take home, which proved instrumental in opening up a world of possibilities for new blended learning programs and tactics to be used.

Another learning experience for her was realizing the importance of organizational structure and having a framework for blended learning prior to starting—since the pandemic became a reality so suddenly, everyone was forced to pivot to an online format without much preparation, but luckily her administration was able to provide the staff with a cohesive framework across the board in terms of grading policies and other aspects of the blended learning environment that would be difficult to have each teacher determine by themselves. She also emphasized the importance of being gentle with yourself and being okay with changing things and redoing systems when they aren’t working for your classroom—after all, we’re all still learning!

We are so thankful that Ms. Gilbertson took the time to chat with us, and we hope that you enjoyed hearing about her experience as well!

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