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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Hack Into the Hybrid: The Café , The Studio, and the Stage

This June I was privileged to present 3 sessions at the Kamehameha Schools’ “Imagine” Conference at the Blaisdell Center, Honolulu. I wanted to blog about my “Hack Into the Hybrid: The Whys, Hows, and Wows of Making Your Course a Blended Experience” (aka: The Café , The Studio, and the Stage). (see all resources on my website)

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I imagined the session (no conference-reference pun intended) as I’ve n increasingly confronted with the necessity to develop a more “blended” or “hybrid” experience for my Theory of Knowledge (IB) course. This is partially due to time constraints but more due to the fact that I want my students to be constantly in “TOK” mode – that is, thinking about the course and curriculum outside of the physical space or time restrictions of “school”. I wanted them to be actively participating in conversation or curation – with each other and with me – in the comfort of their own home, in the evenings, or even at the beach. Mobile tech has facilitated that sort of engagement, and they are quite a few tools and structures out there that can make it seamless.

Is there a magic recipe? Of course not. These are merely some ideas based on personal experience (and I welcome comments and critique).

The great news is that one can experiment with new tools all the time. If one doesn’t work, or becomes costly or inefficient, it’s perfectly ok to chuck it and replace with a new friend.

The more I started thinking about the KINDS of activities and learning my students were doing I decided upon a metaphor : “The Café , The Studio, and the Stage”

Here’s what the conference blurb said:

“It might sound like the Parisian Left Bank but it could be your course. What are the Whys, Hows and Wows of crafting your course into a blended experience? How do we best exploit Web tools and resources to achieve a truly personalized learning environment? How do we decide what the balance of face-to-face, synchronous, and asynchronus learning should be? Let’s examine the structure of such a flexible, student-centric course and the roles of the people, tools, and spaces involved, designing with the analogy of the “Cafe”, the “Studio”, and the “Stage” in mind”.

The main goal is that the learning environment should be:

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My personal view is that the course should be crafted to be Constructivist, Connectivist, and Transparent and as student-centered as possible.

I love this quote from George Siemens, originator of Connectivism theory:

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So what IS the role of the teacher, then?

If you’d break it down into 3 “C’s” (like I did):




What does that look like on a day-to-day basis?

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So let’s start with the first the the 3 learning space metaphors:

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Typically a French café as you see above is a hotbed for conversation – politics, art, religion, sex, you name it. It’s also a venue that encourages such discussion – patrons truly have time to think and relax…to linger in their collaboration.

The first “space” of the Hybrid course I envision is the café – it’s a place to converse, question, communicate, network, offer ideas, and in general connect socially with others while tapping into one’s individual thinking. It can also involve some direct instruction. It is not confined to a physical space, however – the café can be quite virtual and is often necessarily so.

In a hybrid course, one needs to have certain tools. The tools for the “café” experience are as follows:

1. Socially-connected books, blogs, wikis, courses, links : including Diigo, iTunesU, TEDEd, iBooks, WordPress, etc.

2. Networking and Communication tools: including Remind101, Google+, Schoology, Edmodo, CollaborizeClassroom, GoSoapBox, etc.

3. Direct instruction (on and offline) and Face-2-face and digital activities: including Socratic Seminar (with Twitter or TodaysMeet backchannel), and pretty much an endless list of possibilites with all the Google Apps for Education (YouTube, G Docs, etc.)

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My world changed when I started calling “worktime” or “work days” “STUDIO TIME”. I figured since we were basically working on creative projects, my classroom was more of an art or design studio. It may be a euphemism, but it really does the trick.

Students need time to think and work – both independently and collaboratively.  It’s implied that they are artists or craftsmen in some way, and that their work is meaningful and will be shared with a greater audience. Let them know ahead of time when “Studio Hours” will be – and have them plan accordingly so they have everything they need. The teacher then can walk around helping like a master craftsman.

Like any studio, it tends to get messy. What’s going on?





The teacher in this scenario can help






After group and/or individual projects are created, it’s time for the…

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The stage is, of course, the place to share, showcase, and teach. Work may be shared either in class with peers or in the a digital realm to an authentic global audience. Presentations of learning can take many forms – one is only limited by one’s creativity.

You can think of these “-TIONS”:





Some of my favorite presentation tools that are inherently shareable are: Prezi, Vuvox Collage, Projeqt, Themeefy for Education, Mozilla Popcornmaker, Thinglink, Wix websites, and YouTube (for a variety of digital storytelling projects, including vlogging).

Some tips:

1. THINK BIG: Encourage your students to share their knowledge and creations with the world, either online or by involvement in the community. One of my students recently was part of the student-run TEDxHonoluluED 2013, and she talked about establishing and running her jewelry business after she was inspired by a school project.

2. EMBRACE STUDENT VOICE: It’s guaranteed that your students have worthwhile opinions about a lot of things. Offer project choices, like this vlog about 10 ideas to improve school, that allow them to voice those thoughts. Even better, mash them up into a shareable form and spread throughout your PLN on social networking sites. (hint: tag it well in YouTube)

3. ENCOURAGE STUDENT TEACHING/PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Some students at my school self-organized an “iClub” and post tutorials like this one “Darth Vader Tells You How to Replace Macbook RAM” as well as give PD to teachers (mostly on iPads). I love this kind of student empowerment!

4. CELEBRATE: Well, maybe not with champagne necessarily (but this is a French-themed analogy!) Try spicing up presentations of learning by holding a “tea”, having a mini Oscars or Webby Awards (with student-created categories and nominees), or inviting other classes to take part.

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#blendedlearning #theoryofknowledge #constructivist #connectivism #education #hybridcourse #pedagogy

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