Image courtesy: Pixaby.com
When the concept of blended learning was first introduced to me in OLTD 502 I was fascinated by it. The concept of merging face-to-face instruction with online instruction was so innovative. I could see the potential. Blended learning is a promising approach with the potential to transform Canadian higher education. To realize its full potential, it now requires strategy, resources and better integration with institutional goals. That’s the conclusion of the Innovative Practices Research Project, prepared by the Collaboration for Online Higher Education Research (COHERE) published in 2010. I did wonder about its applications in early primary with emergent readers still developing the ability to self-regulate and cast it to the back of my mind.
OLTD 511 showed me the scope of blended learning. There were many more models than I had been aware of. Flex. Enriched Virtual. A la carte. Flipped. Station and Lab Rotation. So many options and possibilities! The challenge was how to define such a concept. Clifford Maxwell supplies a definition that corresponds closely to that provided by the Christensen Institute.
Blended learning is any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; the student learns at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience. (Maxwell, 2016)
Of the aforementioned models, station rotation seemed a natural fit in my class given that I already used a station rotation model for Language Arts instruction through Daily Five. Adding online instruction to the rotation was an easy modification, one that I hope assessments will prove results in greater achievement.
I was also struck by the potential for blended learning to service vulnerable learners who might not otherwise receive the benefits of a full education. This might include students who simply don’t function well in the traditional school model or students who have schedules that preclude them from attending class regularly. The Vancouver Learning Network’s Flex model is a successful, Canadian example of blended learning meeting this need. (Vancouver School Board, 2016)
One distinction that I had previously not considered was the difference between blended learning and a technology rich learning environment. Technology-rich instruction shares the features of traditional teacher-led instruction with technological enhancements. (Tucker, 2016). Simply using technology in the classroom does not equate to blended learning. Some instruction must be delivered online with students accessing it at their own pace. Blended learning requires intentional, effective use of technology. The SAMR model (Schrock) is an effective tool to assist educators in incorporating technology effectively.
In the current day and age there is an increasing expectation for educators to include technology in their instruction. In his book Disrupting Class, Michael Horn predicts that by 2019 50 percent of high school courses will be online in some form or fashion. Catlin Tucker (2016) points out that “Even though many of us don't have technology-rich classrooms, the rapidly evolving education landscape increasingly requires us to incorporate technology to customize student learning. Blended learning, with its mix of technology and traditional face-to-face instruction, is a great approach.”
With an increasing amount of screentime, acquiring effective social skills becomes a priority. Creating a positive school culture, online and face-to-face, becomes increasingly important. The glossary of education reform defines school culture as:
The beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions, but the term also encompasses more concrete issues such as the physical and emotional safety of students, the orderliness of classrooms and public spaces, or the degree to which a school embraces and celebrates racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural diversity. (Concepts, 2013)
Blended learning may require educators to shift their role from purveyor of knowledge to mentor, assisting with goal-setting, critical thinking and developing life skills. Some will embrace this....some may be resistant. Leadership will determine how this affects the school culture.
Drafting a mock proposal for the design of my ideal blended learning environment gave me pause to consider to consider the constraints - and possibilities - that exist in my current teaching and learning environment. I had not previously considered the impact that the school calendar, bell schedule and physical structure of a learning environment could have. The project also allowed me to apply my newly acquired knowledge about implementation teams, evaluating blended learning models and creating school culture. It made me assess my own values and priorities.
Perhaps the most valuable (and maybe challenging) aspect of the course was researching and sharing articles related to blended learning. We are most assuredly smarter as a collective. My colleagues discovered articles that covered such as wide range of topics and perspectives within the context of blended learning and provided very insightful comments. It provided a very comprehensive and balanced view of blended learning as a whole.
Incorporating technology into classrooms shouldn’t be a goal. It may, however, be the answer to achieving a broader such as reducing the achievement gap with vulnerable learners or providing a cost-effective solution to delivering more personalized instruction through targeted small group and self-paced online instruction. It may be a disruptive innovation that redifines the delivery of education or it may be a sustaining innovation that works within an existing model. In my case it has definitely solved the problem of how to provide my students with meaningful learning activities while I work with a small group of certains needing reinforcement in certain skills while still working within the traditional school model I am part of. I look forward to seeing blended learning become more prolific as sources of oinline instruction continue to improve. Disruption has taken on a whole new meaning for me. It is now something I look forward to, rather than reprimand my students for.
Concepts, L. (2013). School Culture Definition. The Glossary of Education Reform. Retrieved 9 December 2016, from http://edglossary.org/school-culture/
Christensen, Clayton M and Michael Horn and W. Johnson. (2010) Disrupting Class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. New York. McGraw-Hill.
Maxwell, Clifford. (2016). What blended learning is – and isn’t | Blended Learning Universe. Blendedlearning.org. Retrieved 17 December 2016, from http://www.blendedlearning.org/what-blended-learning-is-and-isnt/
Schrock, Kathy. (nd). Kathy Schrock’s Guie to Everything. SAMR and bloom’s. Retrieved 09 November 2016 from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html
Tucker, Catlin. (2016). Educational Leadership:Technology-Rich Learning:The Basics of Blended Instruction . Ascd.org. Retrieved 17 December 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/ed
Wiggins, Grant and Jay McTighe. (2007) Schooling by Design. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Deelopment. Alexandria, Virginia.
Anggraeni, H. (2013). Blended Learning: promising innovative practice requires strategic approach | BCcampus. Bccampus.ca. Retrieved 17 December 2016, from https://bccampus.ca/2013/10/22/blended-learning-promising-innovative-practice-requires-strategic-approach/
Vancouver School Board (nd) Vancouver Learning Network Features Online and
Blended Learning at its Best. Retrieved 17 December from https://www.vsb.bc.ca/district-news/vancouver-learning-network-features-online-and-blended-learning-its-best.