Blended Learning – A Checklist to Ensure Authentic Implementation in the Classroom
Technology is such a huge part of our lives now, that it is hard to imagine a classroom without at least some use of technology on a semi-regular basis. From tools as simple as a document camera and projector system to schools that have a 1 to 1 student to device ratio, the range of technology used in classrooms is vast and varied. The term blended learning has recently come about to describe the instructional practice of blending technology with traditional learning. However, there are many misconceptions about what true blended learning is.
The first misconception is that any use of technology constitutes blended learning. If your class uses laptops or visits a computer lab once a week for a special skills lesson, or to type up a paper in a word-processing program, that is not considered blended learning. Blended learning involves the use of a variety of tools such as computers, laptops, Chromebooks, Smart Boards, response systems, and iPads that helps students master the course objective. Furthermore, these tools are used for a variety of educational purposes, including specific software programs to enhance learning, word processing, or online games, and activities. To expand on this idea, consider a teacher that uses technology with a specific purpose of supporting a distinct group of students. This may be in the form of a software program to provide intervention for struggling students, or perhaps an enrichment research project assigned to advanced students. Blended learning allows for technology being used for multiple opportunities in the classroom at the same time. These may include intervention, a resource for deepening understandings, or for academic enrichment for advanced students.
Varied Instructional Methods
On the other end of the technology-use spectrum is the second misconception. Some people believe that courses that consist only of online learning, with no physical meeting or any face-to-face interactions constitutes blended learning. However, the term blended implies that technology use is BLENDED with traditional teaching and a genuine face-to-face component. For example, a flipped classroom would be considered blended learning. In this instructional model, students view a teacher-produced video at home, then receive direct follow-up instruction the next day. Another model of blended learning is the rotation model, where students rotate among different stations, at least one of which involves purposeful technology and one involves direct instruction from the teacher. Both of these models provide the two critical elements of blended learning: the incorporation of technology as well as face-to-face interaction between the teacher and students.
Differentiation is Key
A third misconception is that having the entire class participate in a series of technology activities, or working through an online educational program, is blended learning. While it could be if the rationale for this is well aligned to the student needs, often in true blended learning lessons are personalized for each student, or at least differentiated among groups of students. Furthermore, student performance on these tasks should then dictate the next activity, therefore making technology accessible to all students.
Direct Alignment to the Learning Objective
The final misconception about blended learning involves content objectives, goals, and assessments. In true blended learning, technology is directly tied to learning objectives. Lesson plans are backwards planned, beginning with the objectives and with activities carefully aligned to support those objectives that includes the use of technology tools to support the objectives. Technology is never simply inserted as an afterthought, or just added to a lesson plan for the sake of implementing technology. Ultimately, as with any instructional model, the goal of blended learning is to improve student learning in a measurable way and therefore, assessment is a critical piece. Instruction should be driven based on the results of assessments, which is often collected from the technology tool. When technology is just inserted randomly, there is typically no plan for assessment to demonstrate student growth and learning.
As you might imagine, true blended learning combines the convenience and modernization of technology with the always important personal contact of traditional teaching. When implemented well, it is truly the best of both worlds! With the information in this article, you can determine if your teaching practice and technology implementation align with these basic principles. As an additional resource, the information from this article has been compiled in an infographic, available for download below.
- Classroom Management
- Gifted & Talented
- Leadership Development
- Lesson & Curriculum Planning
- Math Instruction
- Parent Involvement
- Reading/ELA Instruction
- Science Instruction
- Social Emotional Learning
- Special Education
- Teaching Strategies
- Technology in the Classroom
- Testing Strategies & Prep
- Writing Instruction
Related Professional Development Courses
Blended Learning: Integrating Technology Into the Classroom
Inquiry Based Learning: Using Inquiry as a Teaching Strategy
DOWNLOADS & RESOURCES
Blended Learning: Can You Identify What Effective Blended Learning Looks Like?
This infographic will help readers distinguish between true Blended Learning and flawed Blended Learning.
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- EdPuzzle- Create a lesson out of a video, like YouTube- where you can add in tasks and questions to check for understanding as students watch the video. https://edpuzzle.com/
- IXL– Online problems in all subjects for students that provide a detailed rationale for any incorrect answers. https://www.ixl.com/
- Flipgrid- Record videos and allow for student discussion and collaboration. https://flipgrid.com/
- Dream360- Virtual reality apps that allow students to learn specifics in different content areas and explore the world. http://www.dream360.com/
- Reflex Math– A math program to improve math fluency. Great addition to an intervention program on your campus. https://www.reflexmath.com/
- MathTV– Video explanations of math problems, taught by multiple teachers. http://www.mathtv.com/
- Mathway– Program that allows you to enter a math equation. It solves the problem and provides the steps to the solution. https://www.mathway.com/BasicMath
- Explore Learning- Virtual math and science labs. https://www.explorelearning.com/
Phet from Univeristy of Colorado- interactive math and science simulations https://phet.colorado.edu/
- Rewordify– Translates a body of text into a simpler format to help students learn difficult vocabulary and sentence structure. https://rewordify.com/
- Readworks– Access articles and curriculum for reading in the classroom https://www.readworks.org/
- Newsela– Leveled articles to allow for differentiation in the classroom https://newsela.com/articles/#/rule/latest
- Slickwrite– Allows for immediate editing of text to aid in revising and editing coursework in your classroom https://www.slickwrite.com/#!edit
- Paperrater– Provides detailed analysis and editing suggestions of text to aid in revising and editing coursework in your classroom. https://www.paperrater.com
- Online Labs– High school level resource that provides virtual labs. http://www.olabs.edu.in/
- Mysteryscience for elementary– Lesson content structured as mystery activities https://mysteryscience.com/
- Go Labz – Online science labs http://www.golabz.eu/
- Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants- Virtual field trips. http://www.exploringbytheseat.com/
- NASA Climate Kids- Games and videos on climate change topics. https://climatekids.nasa.gov/
- Explore Learning- Virtual math and science labs. https://www.explorelearning.com/
- Phet from Univeristy of Colorado- interactive math and science simulations https://phet.colorado.edu/
PEER REVIEWED ARTICLES
Halverson, Lisa R., et al. “Blended learning research in higher education and K-12 settings.” Learning, Design, and Technology. Springer, Cham, 2017. 1-30.
This review summarizes the latest research in Blended Learning and discusses both future steps to be taken in Blended Learning, as well as gaps in research that should be addressed in the future.
Jackson, Brianne, et al. “K12 Online and Blended Learning: Current Research and Challenges into Implementation and Teacher Education.” Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), 2017.
This is another review that discusses the challenges of Blended Learning and explores implementation ideas.
Prescott, Jen Elise, et al. “Elementary school–wide implementation of a blended learning program for reading intervention.” The Journal of Educational Research 111.4 (2018): 497-506.
The research explores a specific study focused on elementary school students that utilized blended learning lesson during reading intervention, and showed a correlation between progress in the online programs and success in standardized assessments.
Mohammed, Sarojani. “Special Issue: Connecting Research and Practice to Understand Efficacy in K-12 Blended Learning.” Journal of Online Learning Research 3.1 (2017): 1-4.
This article summarizes the research in Blended Learning and connects it to practice in the classroom, with information on how, when, and why implementation worked.
About the Author
Wendy Lipe, Project Manager & Instructor
B.S. Interdisciplinary Studies
Southwest Texas State University
Experience & Credentials:
Over 9 Years of Teaching Experience
Current Elementary-Level Teacher
ESL State Certified (Texas), TAG Certified
Experience with Students with Learning Disabilities
STATE CERTIFIED TEACHER
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