What is it?
Any time a student learns, at least in part, at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. The modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.
Blended Learning happens inside a traditional school system - that is the 'brick-and-mortar' part of the definition. There is also a component of online learning. It is easy to read that definition and think school + online = what is happening in our classrooms. Because, there are students working on computers - right?
Roles shift in a Blended Learning classroom. Students begin to take control of their learning through time or place or path or pace. And teacher roles shift as well! That may be harder part to implement - the shift of control from teacher to student. This is a HUGE change to the traditional model - where the textbook and the teacher determine the time, place, path and pace of the instruction. For the student to take control means a philosophical shift for teachers.
And just handing students control isn't really Blended Learning. The final sentence in the definition adds one more twist.
The modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.
It takes all three pieces integrated together
to make Blended Learning successful
Why Should I Care?
That is a rather staggering thought.
40% of 55,000 students in 6-12 grade are not engaged in their learning.
Teachers in Blended Learning classrooms are discovering that this pathway to personalization impacts student engagement. That is why we should care.
Where do I start?
But, the best place to start is Station Rotation.
As the drawing shows, in Station Rotation, students are broken into smaller groups and rotate around the room based on specific learning activities. The teacher is meeting with a smaller group of students- so they have the chance to focus on specific student needs. The other stations are parts of that integrated learning approach mentioned earlier.
This is a great entry level step!
What does this really look like in a typical classroom?
I observed Station Rotation in action when I spent time in a middle school Language Arts classroom in a nearby school district. The class of 7th graders were divided into 5 groups of 4-5 students each. The desks in the classroom were arranged into small groups or clusters with large signs of A-E attached to a chair.
- Group A - was reviewing a class created Google Presentation of vocabulary words for a test the next day
- Group B members were working alone, answering teacher posted questions on a class blog - questions of opinion based on the text they were reading
- Group C was also working independently completing character, theme, and chapter summary charts on their own laptop computers
- Group D - a student teacher was in charge of this group and they were discussing stereotypes found in American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang.
- Group E met with the teacher for some direct instruction on reading non-fiction texts and several standards that are part of that requirement.
As I sat and observed - it was a typical middle school class. Meaning, the students were not all perfect, every student was not engaged 100% of the time. But, they were engaged most of the time.
I was especially interested in the conversation going on at the groups with the teachers. Because, by middle school we know that some students are beginning to check out. It's really hard to do that when you are sitting in a small group - and your teacher is talking directly to you.
This was especially evident in the group discussing stereotypes. Each group conversation started rather haltingly. Almost like they didn't want to admit their own stereotype beliefs to the student teacher. But, as they read together and the student teacher gently prodded - the conversations changed to why stereotypes are used in literature and if they are actually funny. And for each of the groups that I observed all the students took part in the discussion.
I walked away from these classrooms nodding my head with a smile on my face - and I know it's cheesy, but some real hope that education can change!
I observed teachers and students working together.
I observed students involved and discussing.
I believe that I observed engagement.
That is why Blended Learning matters!
~Beth Swantz, Technology Consultant @betswan