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Shake things up with blended learning

4 min read

Voice of the Educator

This month, SmartBlog on Education shines a light on reader trends, content roundups and expert forecasts for 2016.

As we look ahead for what’s in store for 2016, sometimes we first need to look back. As a new teacher in the 90s, I was intrigued with simple technology advancements. I recall being both amazed and thrilled with the creation of the dry erase board, when I no longer had to sneeze my way through lessons. While it was simplistic in nature, I thought it was one of the greatest innovations ever. So much has transpired since then. The integration of technology into schools has opened an entire new world for learners — both for those sitting in the desks and those in front of the dry erase board.

New teachers face some very clear challenges such as developing strong lessons, mastering content and delivery, creating positive and engaging learning environment. Mastering the use of technology tools to support instruction is a new challenge.

The trend is moving toward new teachers incorporating technology to support instruction with students. It’s critical for them to stay on course with all the reforms in education. Strategies which combine the use of face-to-face classroom methods with computer activities are the latest trend in education, and seem to be gathering steam. The advent of the blended learning model is here to stay.

There are many definitions of blended learning, but for the purposes of this reading let’s use this one: Blended learning is an education program in which a portion of the student learning is provided through an online delivery system, with the student having a level of control over the pace and location of the lesson.

Sending students a lecture or video before a class discussion gives the teacher the opportunity to use the class time for valuable discussion or experiments. As a middle-school teacher, I equate it to having seventh-graders loop with the same teacher over the course of 2 years. Teachers can use that second to begin teaching right away, as they know their students. They do not have to use the first 10 weeks to learn about the nuances of their kids. They know their strengths and weakness and can right to the core of teaching on day one. The same idea holds true in the blended learning environment. Teachers can somewhat possess an expectation that their kids have a preliminary understanding of what is about to be taught. This also helps every stakeholder in the school community, especially parents as they have the opportunity to understand why and what they are learning.

Before educators begin a blended learning environment, I would advise them to make certain they have clear learning objectives. Regardless of the technique used in teaching, educators should always begin by knowing where they are going and why they are going there. In an effective blended learning environment, learning objectives must be clear so that kids can see where they are going and the process is visible to everyone involved. In an environment such as that, everybody wins.

The blended environment in a lot of ways is really nothing new. We, as educators, have long used technology in our classrooms. Many of my colleagues no longer look at technology as something they have to learn how to use, but rather a natural part of the day. The environment allows opportunities for a more individualized learning model for their students. Kids can watch the lesson at home and at school, ask questions, and have better conversations. Educators need to understand that just like being in front of the kids, it’s not always perfect and they should continue to fine-tune the process. After all, being reflective is one of the best qualities a teacher can have.

Blended learning offers a student centered approach to learning, but it also gives the teacher the chance to break out of the rut and routine of teaching the same thing the same way day in and day out. It forces teachers to step outside of their comfort zone, and all students benefit from that approach.

Ed Bates has over 25 years experience in the classroom teaching young adults. As a certified National Trainer, he presents concepts to various school districts and universities throughout the country. He has extensive experience in implementation of NYS Common Core Mathematics Curriculum Modules, Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), and Integration of Technology into the Classroom.

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