I’ve been officially blending learning for five years now and have grown in my understanding and preparation for the next years. Blended learning is part face to face and online learning. There are several models of blended learning; which is evolving daily in definition and practice. Currently, many schools are moving to blended learning whether they are opening new schools, starting a program within a school or are introducing blended as a pilot. Blended is catching fire.
Here we go, in no certain order…
- Even if the student has chosen the blended path, he or she will at some point want out of blended and may even voice this kicking and screaming! Blended is a hard transition for learners that have been trained to sit at a desk and learn the same way as everyone else in the room. They are used to “spoon-feeding,” getting information given to them and regurgitating said information at a later date. It is hard to go from this format to a format where a teacher is giving them to choice in how they want to learn allowing self-starting and self-pacing. Many need a lot of structure and scaffolding early on in their blended journey.
- Share #1 with parents when talking blended and establishing your classroom or program. My team tells parents that sometime in the first to second grading period, their child will come home and cry that they want out. We share that it will be okay. They will make it passed this hump and will excel. We give them the words to say and are partners with the parents in the learning. In some cases, the whole first semester can be hard.
- “Blended” is hard to understand and explain. It is a very fluid type of instructional design and parents will compare it to the way they learned. It is very hard for them to grasp the transformation in learning. I don’t have the answer to the best way to go about this explanation as I and my colleagues are still trying to figure out what these special words may be. I do know that some new programs are foregoing the “blended” in their title and using “personalized” or “challenge-based” to decrease the confusion, but are using the blended instructional design. Who would say no to personalized learning?!
- Within your campus, program, classroom define for yourself or as a group your style or model of blended learning. This is your foundation. You must have buy-in and agreement on how blended will work and be a cohesive group. One, you can explain it better when called upon to do so and two, you will refer to this definition often as you design instruction and your program’s mission. This is paramount to a successful blended program.
- You (facilitator) will fail and it’s ok. You will not get it right the first time or all the time. Just like any other lesson, it doesn’t always go as planned and you will regroup. Just expect it. Our ideas don’t always translate with the students. And if it’s not lesson design, it’s wifi crashing, slowness of connection that doesn’t allow all students to “get in,” the website is down, you crash the website as it can’t handle all your students at once, the free App now costs money, etc. I could go on and on. Be gracious to yourself.
- Blended Learning is the only way to truly differentiate in a full classroom. Blended allows for more individual interaction with learners and small group workshops. In a class of 30 or more, one teacher cannot connect with every learner on a daily basis in an hour. It is just physically not possible; while teaching. We can wax poetic about differentiation all we want. This is an expectation that is humanly impossible of the best educators. The rotational model and flex model of blended learning allow for students to use learning lab spaces for independent work. The classroom teacher is then able to work in small groups or individually with struggling or advanced learners. Moreover, moving from teacher-driven to student-driven allows the teacher to evolve into more of a facilitator moving about the room with learners; helping each individual learner.
- It is very hard work in the beginning. If you are an experienced teacher, you will feel like you just started. It is a lot front-loading and lesson planning as blended instruction allows for voice and choice of students in their education. You now have options for an activity instead of one activity for everyone. That is a lot to do. It’s a lot to plan one lesson; let alone, one lesson with multiple options for completion.
I advocate for blended learning and I feel it is the best style of instruction for learners. Of all the educators I know that have taken on the challenge of blended learning, none would ever go back to the way they taught before the move. You will see challenges, but also great benefits from blending your learning.