Playing Outside of the Lines: Making the Most of Blended Learning

If this were a State of the Union address there would be a concerned undertone to some of what is being said here.  Technology has permeated much of the K-12 educational system, but to this point, there are still misconceptions regarding what blended learning is and isn’t.  As a regular attendee to a local educational technology conference, I have seen first hand that in many cases there is a belief that technology is about the apps and online programs that one uses as the game changer.  Sessions focus on smashing together as many apps as possible to drive engagement and assist in achievement.  Though the use of apps may be engaging, they are not revolutionizing the way we conduct day to day business.

Technology is a tool   

For many years computers have been touted as the solution to many challenges education faces today, but if computers are to be a game changer, there must be a deeper understanding of how computers can be used to effectively change the traditional narrative in our classrooms.  This blog post will attempt to shed some light on how we can maximize our access to new technology and make the most of blended learning.

  • Let’s rethink our pedagogy-  The traditional model of the teacher being the gatekeeper to information is no longer relevant in an age when you can learn just about anything you want as long as you have an internet connected device.  As the classroom teacher, we should be critical in the way that we evaluate our role in the education process.  Digital devices in the classroom provide the teacher a number of ways to move from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side.  By tapping into resources available online we can essentially outsource ourselves in the interest of being able to focus on a much more individual level with our students.  Finding ways to incorporate sustained inquiry, self-reflection, and problem-solving. 

    In the past, the primary focus of education was to produce factory workers capable of a basic, albeit a wide-ranging set of skills.  In such exponential times where change is constant, focusing on compliance is a grave mistake.  Critical to the long-term success of our students is fluid intelligence, in other words being able to adapt their skills and knowledge to fit the context of a challenge.  It is these skills that will provide our youth with the ability to stay relevant professionally in a world that faces profound change.

  • Connecting beyond the walls-Traditionally books have been the main way to connect students to the outside world.  Technology affords teachers and students the ability to connect with other far beyond the walls of the classroom.  Research, experiences, connections, learning is no longer relegated to textbooks and the knowledge of the teacher.  The on-demand age means that students can learn anytime or any place, so long as they are connected to a device.  What kind of skills are required in a connected world?  How are we helping students empathize with the diversity of the world around them?  How are we teaching students to build capacity to structure and connect to their own learning networks?

    The questions above are questions we should be considering as a part of the planning process.  Embedding skills that get our students to connect beyond the borders of the classroom mimic the needs and expectations of a connected workplace where logistics, communication, creativity, and problem-solving rule.

 

  • Modular Design-Relating back to my first point, digital delivery of curriculum allows for a much more modular design to education.  In traditional education models, learning is teacher delivered and centered meaning students had to always keep pace with the middle of the road approach a teacher would decide on.  Flexibility in this scenario is minimal and doesn’t allow for flexible learning options, pathways, or timing.  Online curriculum delivery gives the teacher the opportunity to plug and play learning activities that best support the learner’s needs.  Supports can be delivered in a “just in time” manner providing students the support they need to further their own learning constructions.

    To be fair, modular design is possible without technology, however, technology has the ability to make this process more efficient.  Teachers and students  can use technology to learn, relearn, and demonstrate competency in virtually any order desired making the learning process less linear and more personalized.

The traditional constructs of education, I teach therefore you learn, must be overhauled to support our students.  Technology provides us with the opportunity to break down those traditional barriers.  Let’s end the culture of compliance and begin to let students play outside the lines.

 

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