Blended learning is one of our new “go to” pieces of educational jargon. It seems everyone is either doing it, thinking about it, or planning to do it. It sports different names – blended education, hybrid learning, flipping the classroom and is being touted as the new way to deliver instruction.
So what is blended learning? It is a model of delivery of instruction that combines classroom and online education. This trend is propelled forward by the reality of the way we live - surrounded by technology. Why only last evening, I asked Siri to wake me up at six; then asked her to send a message to my children and set a reminder to take the potatoes off the stove. I also dictated notes to myself about new ideas for my lesson during my daily walk and had Siri e-mail them to me.
As teachers we incorporate and apply theories; design lessons using varied strategies; and look to meet the needs of students that have different learning styles and requirements. It’s part of the job and the only differences are the tools at our disposal. When I started teaching we relied on mimeograph machines, overhead projectors, and books for research. Now we have wireless printers, smart classrooms, and instant access to information via the internet.
The tools have changed.
What hasn’t changed is the fact that we still need to teach our students to think critically and to evaluate what they read, regardless of where the information comes from.
For our students to be engaged, we need to keep pace with them and embrace the ways they use to communicate. The tools for education and the way we use them must be relevant in order to engage students in the importance of the content. If the way we deliver the message is antiquated, then why would our students think that the subject is any less so.
Tapping into prior knowledge, frontloading, and all the tricks of our trade have just had a face lift. Watching a lecture ahead of time, engaging peers in an online discussion, uploading assignments to the teacher’s website and receiving annotated responses is only the next level of using the tools at our disposal. The need to move our students to higher and deeper levels of thinking hasn’t changed.
So….is blended learning a revolutionary new idea or just the latest trend in our educational pendulum?
Maybe it is either or both. It doesn’t matter. What we do with it is what matters.
And, by the way, the potatoes came out wonderful ! Thank you Siri.