Blended Learning: It's Found Its Time
Clay Christensen said it best in his book “Disrupting Class.” Education needs an immediate, abrupt infusion of technology in public education that will do just that - disrupt the system (2008). Disruptive innovation is that which brings about non-traditional changes to improve a system. And some may say that system improvements are needed in public education and in teaching and learning.
In the pre-digital age, combinations of differing learning contexts were used for teaching. In today’s classrooms, learning environments more frequently incorporate “e-elements” into varied instructional contexts. We are immersed in a paradigm shift in learning whereby blended learning has emerged as a flexible, differentiated, updated approach to learning.
Simply put, “blended learning” is learning facilitated by the effective combination of different modes of delivery, models of teaching and styles of learning, and applying them in an interactively meaningful learning environment. Think of it like this:
Mobile learning + eLearning + Classroom Learning = Blended learning
What exactly is “blended learning?” The Innosight Institute released its report, “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning,” in May 2011 that outlined the different models of blended learning. They define blended learning as:
any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path and/or pace. (p5)
However, there are six standard modes of blended learning that have proven to meet student academic needs and provide flexibility with instructional settings. The six types of blended learning approaches include:
a. teachers teach using online programs for remediation or supplemental learning
b. students rotate between teacher-led instruction and online learning
c. flexible approach where students experience most learning online while teachers provide a personal approach and touch
d.online labs are established where students go to take online courses
e. self-blend is that whereby students choose their courses from a menu to supplement their regular non-technical school offerings
f. online driver consists of all courses for extra-curriculars offered online with teachers as the facility manager
Fortunately, it does not require a massive investment to take steps in the direction of blended learning. The following resources are free, relatively easy to use, and very beneficial in terms of increasing options for student learning.
In terms of content, the most notable free provider of instructional resources is The Khan Academy. The Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) is a website with more than 3300 academic and real-world videos from basic arithmetic to quantum physics, introductory science to art history, and American civics to the basics of computer programming. These low-tech conversational tutorials last a few minutes and provide an introduction or a reinforcement of concepts and topics for students.
The Khan Academy also has an exercise system that generates problems based on a student’s grade and skill level, all of which can be monitored by the teacher. What makes The Khan Academy the poster-child for blended learning is in its ability to assist with the delivery of small chunks of content that can assist students needing reinforcement from a differing perspective or those interested in higher-level skills.
Honorable Mention: www.knowmia.com/
Knowmia boasts more than 7,000 teacher and student-created videos in topics ranging from math to science, world langages to English, social studies, and technology.
During classroom learning, technology resources can be used to promote higher levels of engagement and interaction. One such approach is the use of a backchannel, which provides opportunities for students to use devices such as their own mobile phones, laptops, or iPads to ask questions, provide input, and share reflections about what is happening around them.
Today’s Meet (todaysmeet.com) is a free, simple option that works with just about anything that can get to the web. Today’s Meet allows for real-time conversations and connections with a live stream to make comments, ask questions, and provide clarification. Even without web access, twitter integration allows participants to use text messaging and interact with one another through this resource. In a classroom, a 9th grade teacher might pose a prompt such as “what is your interpretation of ‘walking in someone else’s shoes” from To Kill A Mockingbird?” Students can then respond to the question during a classroom discussion, with the backchannel becoming the discussion platform. Students respond to the prompt, to the comments of others, and reflect on other applications of the concept or topic.