What is Blended Learning?
Blended Learning is a buzzword in education nowadays as technology has steadily crept more and more into every facet or our lives — including our schools. Blended Learning occurs when a student learns partially online, within a brick and mortar building, and along an individualized learning pathway (www.blendedlearning.org). It’s no surprise that the desire for personalized and convenient learning pathways has lead the education sector to embrace a new way of providing instruction to match the needs of its learners.
Blended Learning Classrooms — The New Norm
Blended Learning has long been around in higher education and judging by the number of online degrees that have been recently awarded across the United States — it’s safe to say that it’s here to stay. However, educators in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, are left questioning, “How Blended is My Classroom?” Educators in these areas must determine if changes are occurring in their classrooms to meet the needs of today’s learners. Determining how successfully they have “blended” their learning environment and where they can make improvements is crucial to any learning institution’s success.
How “Blended” Am I?
If you’re looking for a way to determine areas for improvement to your blended classroom initiative, look no further. Take a moment to study the vertical alignment of an educator’s journey on the road to a blended learning classroom. Then, your next bet is to make some measurable goals to get you headed on your way.
Traditional Instruction or Non-Blended Learning Instruction
⬥ Teachers infrequently allow students to learn faster or slower than the teacher. All students get the same homework.
⬥ Teachers infrequently plan differentiated activities for students that address personal interests, learning styles, or abilities.
⬥ Teachers tell students where to work in the classroom and infrequently provide access to online resources so students can learn outside the classroom.
⬥ Teachers teach before they assess students and find out what they know or let students explore concepts on their own.
Beginning to Blend Instruction
⬥ Teachers occasionally opt students out of work based on assessment data and they conduct stations or centers.
⬥ Teachers administer surveys to gain information and plan activities that address different learning modalities. Teachers allow students to occasionally choose how to demonstrate their understanding.
⬥ Teachers allow students to work in different places within the classroom and they post assignments online occasionally.
⬥ Teachers assess students, collect data, and teach mini-lessons to students occasionally.
Moderately Blending Instruction
⬥ Teachers do not provide whole-class instruction or non-differentiated homework. Students frequently participate in centers where they move about the classroom by choice.
⬥ Teachers prepare a variety of differentiated tasks based on student information. Students complete curriculum and personal interest projects with the help of rubrics and choice boards.
⬥ Teachers occasionally use a learning management system (LMS) to allow students to access curriculum content anywhere in the classroom or even outside of school.
⬥ Teachers assess students, collect data, and teach mini-lessons to students frequently. Students frequently monitor their own learning.
Heavily Blending Instruction
⬥ Students frequently work with differentiated playlists and are able to choose which tasks they work on and how long they spend on each task.
⬥ Students frequently conference with a teacher to determine which activities will best help them learn and how they will demonstrate their understanding.
⬥ Students frequently use a LMS to access the curriculum and occasionally complete work in a non-homeroom teacher’s classroom.
⬥ Students make learning goals and are systematically monitoring which learning objectives they have mastered.
⬥ Students explore concepts before any teacher instruction (mini-lessons) in grade-level and non-grade-level content areas.
⬥ Students can choose independently how to learn (by themselves, with a peer, or from the teacher) and demonstrate their understanding based on their personal interests, learning styles, or abilities.
⬥ Students frequently work in any grade-level classroom and can access all coursework online.
⬥ Students frequently make learning goals, collect data regarding the learning objectives that they have mastered, and conference with the teacher about their progress.
Conclusion: Blended Learning Takes Patience
After you you are sufficiently overwhelmed from self-assessing how “blended” you really are, just remember that elephants must be eaten one bite at a time and the same could be said for Blended Learning classrooms. No matter where you’re at with your Blended Learning knowledge or implemented strategies, know that it can take upwards of 2-3 years to fully transform your classroom to provide the individualized instruction that learners are craving — and that’s if your community is ready for it! The best advice I can give you is think big, start small, and go slow.
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