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Blended Learning – A Checklist to Ensure Authentic Implementation in the Classroom

by | Jan 1, 2020 | Lesson & Curriculum Planning, Teaching Strategies, Technology in the Classroom | 1 comment

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.

Technology Uses

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.

Related Professional Development Courses

Blended Learning: Integrating Technology Into the Classroom

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Inquiry Based Learning: Using Inquiry as a Teaching Strategy

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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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