Preparing the Classroom for Blended Learning

Blended learning holds much promise for the future of teaching and learning.  As we begin to approach critical mass in terms of the convergence of technology and education, it is crucial that we view the “classroom” with a new lens as the tools now at are disposal have changed the rules of engagement.  In this blog post I am going to highlight a few key areas that should be addressed when preparing the classroom for blended learning.

  • The Physical Learning Space-  Simply put, blended learning is a combination of content delivery that occurs online and face to face.  In a previous post I talked about each model and how each leverages digital learning to accommodate different outcomes, you can check it out here.  Regardless of the model all blended learning classrooms can include a component of face to face instruction and a component on online instruction.  So in this section I have broken down my thoughts into two parts, first, for the physical environment you may want to consider:
    • Seating arrangement-  Maximizing the collaborative and creative potential of technology means students shouldn’t constantly be stuck in rows facing the front of the room.
    • Functionality- Is the classroom environment full of functional supports that can aid student growth where anytime any where learning is the norm?
    • Flexibility- Can the environment be changed and adapted to meet the needs of the learning outcomes?
    • Tools- Digital devices are a necessity for any blended learning environment, but they are not always the tool needed for instruction.  Other tools may be necessary and creating access to them in the classroom environment can help encourage student agency.  Are there other digital tools such as cameras, monitors, and other related devices available, should they be available?  Do you have whiteboards, chalkboards, markers, maps, construction paper etc.?  Remember high tech isn’t always the best option.
  • The Virtual Learning Space- Worth noting is that this area is far more complex than the physical space, as teachers and administrators working within a BYOD school will need to consider the wide variety of devices that can and will be used by students.
    • Device- What devices are you and your students using?  The virtual space and the way that content is delivered needs to be easily accessible to students.  Laptops, tablets, and smartphones each carry advantages and disadvantages
    • Organization- Is content available to students in an easy to understand and organized format.  Content organization is critical particularly with younger students and can make or break the effectiveness of an online learning environment.  Also worth noting is that content delivery can vary depending on the type of device a student has access to.
    • Tools- Much like the platform it is important to consider the digital tools that you use carefully.  When students are being asked to engage in a learning environment that transcends time and space, it is important the tools they require are accessible on any device.  Consider using web based tools as they are more readily used regardless of device being used.  Check out my curated content available on Youtube for some ideas.
    • Data-  As more of our time and work are sent out to the web, we must aware of the rights of our students so far as their personal data is concerned.  Websites that require students to sign up for an account will often collect sensitive data.  Always be sure to consult the policies in your district pertaining to acceptable usage.
  • Classroom Management
    • Time- Leveraging digital tools like a laptop, tablet, etc. the teacher can effectively replicate themselves by using the digital device to deliver on demand teaching.  In a traditional classroom the teacher is tied very closely to all parts of the instructional process, however in a blended learning environment the teacher has time to work on a more personal level with students.  Think about what you can outsource to digital content and what must be taught face to face.  This can help determine how best to plan the organization of your content delivery.
    • Device Management-  Managing  any number of different types of devices can be particularly challenging for even the most experienced teacher. There is no fool-proof recipe for managing devices, as there will always be challenge, but my view is active students are productive students.  If students are actively engaged in learning content that is appropriate for their needs then they are much more likely to be focused on the learning than not.  Seating, content delivery, organization, time, and types of tools are just some of the things to consider.  More work isn’t necessarily better, it is the meaning of the work that matters most.  Student voice and choice, made easier by the use of blended learning, usually means you will have much better buy in.

Blended learning has tremendous potential if leveraged in the right way.  Simply adding computers to the traditional method of I teach you learn, does little to provide students with learning opportunities available with the use of technology.  Considering some of the items above can help guide you to finding the method of blended learning that empowers your students to take control of their own learning.

 

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