It was a great pleasure getting back into the #edtech mix this past week. In last Monday nights class, I was able to have a great conversation with Raquel, Kelly, and Gerod about blended learning and what this looks like in our classrooms. As we discussed, it seems like blended learning can mean so many different things. Teach thought describes blended learning as:
“An approach to learning that combines face-to-face and online learning experiences. Ideally, each (online and off) will compliment the other by using its particular strengths.”
This definition supports and simplifies my understanding of what blended learning looks like in school. For me, I like this definition because it doesn’t place a greater importance on F2F or online learning. Rather, it’s an optimistic outlook on both types of learning and focuses on the combination of both types to create a better system.
After some thoughtful reflection, I’ve come to realize that a lot of what I do in my classroom could be considered blended learning. As I’ve said before, I feel extremely privileged to be teaching in a 1:1 classroom through RCSD’s Connected Educator Program. This program, which provides my students with their own device for the entire school year, has allowed me to experiment and grow so much as a teacher over the past five years. Aside from the technology, the network of professionals developed through this program provides an incredible amount of professional development and inspiration in the area of educational technology. Why is this important? I think it’s important to acknowledge that I’ve had a very positive experience with technology in the classroom over the past five years. This has definitely influenced my mindset and beliefs, which leads me to have a very positive attitude towards the blended learning model in our schools. Here are two pros and a con regarding blended learning.
Pro: Assessment Opportunities
In a blended learning classroom, there are countless ways that you can integrate a variety of assessment tools into the classroom, both technological and traditional assessment styles. As Evolving Education writes,
“Tried and true strategies like check-ins, exit tickets, and multiple-choice tests can be enhanced with a multitude of technologies.”
For me, the blended learning classroom doesn’t do away with the traditional forms of assessment that can be used to assess students or guide our teaching practice. Rather, teachers can leverage technology and create a variety of meaningful assessments. In my personal experience, I have had a great experience with a variety of formative/assessment tools such as: Quizziz, Go Formative, and Socrative.
For me, using technology to enhance assessment is beneficial in so many different ways. Some benefits include:
- Provides real-time feedback as students work through their assessment.
- Various tools and assessment types allows for a variety of assessments.
- Some tools, such as Classkick, allow peer support for students.
Pro: Personalized Learning Flexibility
One of the great possibilities about blended learning is that it creates a model that can personalize learning to meet the needs of all students. Combining the components of the traditional class, such as writing an essay or giving an oral presentation, the integration of technology allows students to express their understanding in so many different ways. As Imagine Learning writes,
“Blended learning classes offer flexibility for teachers in how they present material and for students in the pace and variety of the learning approaches they experience.”
In my experience, students have been able to leverage technology to show their understanding in many different ways. This include creating videos on Adobe Spark, coding on Micro:bit, and Genius Hour projects.
Overall, I truly think that students are much more engaged with learning when you combine the good aspects of the traditional aspects and the good aspects of technology. Even with 1:1 in the classroom, there are definitely many great things about not using technology and allowing students to express their learning in the more traditional methods.
For me, it’s largely about choice and giving many options for students to express their learning. Without that flexibility, I’m not sure that blended learning is all that beneficial for teachers or students. It’s about going away from the one size fits all mentality and allowing students to be creative and find ways that work for them.
Con: Digital Divide & Technology Access
Lack of access to quality technology is often one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to blended learning. In my experience, learning online has worked the best when all students have the same type of technology at home. For example, when we shifted to remote learning for two weeks, all of my students were able to take their device home for this period. As a teacher, this was incredible beneficial because I could create assignments for students knowing they would have the proper types of technology to complete these activities. Compared to remote learning last year, when students were using all sorts of technology, it was much more challenging for students to complete the same work. There were often technology issues and students couldn’t complete certain activities due to these problems. Not only does the device make a difference, the quality of the internet connection will also have an impact on the learning.
The digital divide is definitely something that needs to be addressed to ensure that blended learning and other uses of technology in school isn’t making things worse for students. In my current teaching situation, the digital divide hardly affects my students. But, I can definitely see this being a major challenge in many different communities and school divisions. If we think that blended learning is the way to go in the future, we must first address the digital divide and find ways to level the playing field in this area.
Conclusion: I’m In!
To conclude, I fully support and see many positive reasons to implement blended learning at all levels. In saying this, I also believe that there must be a lot of professional development and support offered to teachers if this is the way they are going. Throwing technology at teachers with minimal expectations and training will not lead to positive outcomes. I think this would simply lead to a lot of “Substitution” if we were using the SAMR Model. With strong PD and support, there are so many positive possibilities that can come out the blended learning environment. Whether this be collaboration outside of the school walls, increased student engagement, access to a vast resources/information, or improved assessment methods, I believe that the blended learning model can benefit all teachers in on way or another.