You can read more #DigiLitSunday posts at Margaret Simon’s blog, Reflections on the Teche.
What is blended learning?
One definition is that:
“Blended learning is an education program that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.” Source
I appreciate Beth Holland’s view in the quote that began this piece. . . “not only the opportunity to gain . . . but also an element of authority over this process.” The students are an integral portion of this work. Blended learning, implemented well, has the potential to provide some of the best differentiated instruction. Blended learning done poorly has the potential to provide mind-numbing, electronic worksheet type practice in a “one size fits all environment”. The key is “some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.”
Here’s an example:
“Tracy is a language arts teacher who has posted all of her lesson plans, assignments, and quizzes online so that students can access them at home, as well as at school. Tracy’s school recently implemented a one-to-one program in which each student has access to a personal computing device. To leverage the technology, Tracy has all of her students follow along on their devices during a guided reading exercise, during which the teacher and students examine a piece of text together. After a class discussion on the text, Tracy has the students switch over to Google Docs where they each write their own agreement or disagreement with the central argument of the text. During this time, Tracy roams the classroom making sure students are on task and answering any questions that arise.
Is Tracy using blended learning in her classroom? No. Let’s understand why:
- By posting all class material online, Tracy is using the Internet to merely host information, not to manage the delivery of content or instruction.
- The fact that Tracy’s school is a one-to-one program is irrelevant to whether blended learning is taking place. One-to-one is not synonymous with blended learning, as it doesn’t imply a shift in instructional delivery or an element of student control. Although equipping all students with devices can be a crucial component of creating a blended-learning program, if not implemented correctly, the devices themselves can easily be used to support traditional instruction (as in Tracy’s case).
- Tracy’s students are all using the personal computing devices s to read and write, but they are moving through the content as a single batch doing the same thing at the same time with no element of control over the time, place, path, or pace of learning.
- Tracy’s use of Google Docs for the student writing exercise is no different than if her students were writing with pencil and paper.
Tracy is participating in a “technology-rich” classroom, not a blended one. Technology-rich instruction shares the features of traditional teacher-led instruction with technological enhancements. This includes electronic whiteboards, digital textbooks, online lesson plans, Google Docs, virtual reality, and so forth. These tools may enhance learning experiences, but do not fundamentally shift instruction in a way that gives students some element of control.” Source
Are you providing blended learning environments?
Are you providing technology-rich environments?
How could students have more control over time, place, path or pace?
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum and the #SOLSC that runs from March 1 to the 31st. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.
Fran, thanks for this piece and the example. As I see it, many classrooms are technology rich, but it takes more planning (at least, at first) to create true blended learning opportunities. Your questions are making me think this Sunday morning!
That example was perfect. I’ve never seen it or heard it explained quite that clearly before!
❤ Yay, Sunday!
The example you posted makes me question again if I am truly implementing blended learning. However I believe the blogging and SOLC are. They are communicating by posting for a wider audience and they are able to post anytime from anywhere if they have a device.
Thanks for joining the conversation today. Hugs.
I had to include the quote because it answered so many questions for me. I think it’s okay to have several combinations! Some learning can be blended, some can be technology rich. It’s a journey!
As with almost anything, there is a fine line. It is so important to have training and on going support for anything to be successful. It is also important to know when one kind of teaching/learning is more appropriate than another.
Continued learning is ALWAYS a must!
I wasn’t sure exactly what blended learning was…so glad for this post to learn more about it.
I’ve been working with online classes for quite a bit now and I still feel like a novice. Tech can be so helpful in the right hands but NEVER as an alternative to a high-quality, thoughtful, responsive teacher!
Ooh – your example is convicting. We need to continue to learn the difference between technology-rich instruction and blended learning. Thank you for challenging us!
Excellent post and great starting point for much needed clarification. Great job, Fran.
This was an interesting topic. I hadn’t considered the student control element of blended learning, but I will now!
This is the crux of the matter: “These tools may enhance learning experiences, but do not fundamentally shift instruction in a way that gives students some element of control.” We need to significantly shift instruction so that wondering about content is actively in the students’ hands when in a digital environment. From F2F to digital is more using a tool. It is about making meaning via the tool.