Teachers have tough jobs—lots of kids and lots of responsibility—and budget cuts are making things worse.  They have administrators telling them to boost achievement and personalize learning, but most of them are on their own without tools.  But that is beginning to change as schools are beginning to blend traditional teaching with online learning.

Blended learning is a shift to an online environment for at least a portion of the student day made to improve learning and operating productivity.   In two important ways, this definition is different than layering computers on top of how we’ve always done things.  First, this definition of blended learning means that technology is core to instructional delivery and it incorporates some student choice over time, location, and/or rate.  Second, it requires differentiated (different levels) and distributed (different locations) staffing.

Blending the best of online and onsite learning can work better for students and teachers.  Here’s ten reasons that blended learning makes teaching a better job:

1. You teach students ready for your lesson.  At School of One, when students participate in small group instruction, it’s the right lesson, on the right day, in the right modality for each student—and that’s magical.  Success for All has attempted to do something like this for twenty years with performance grouping.

Competency-based policies, dynamic scheduling, and smart recommendation engines will make it easier for more schools to incorporate these strategies. What a gift to teachers to be able to work with small groups of student that share specific instructional needs.

2. Motivate hard to reach kids.  We all know that kids learn in different ways for different reasons.  Blended learning makes it easier to provide multiple learning strategies.  The new developmental math courses from the National Repository of Open Content feature a variety of strategies for each sub-skill including instructional videos, tutorials, voice-over-text, and games.   More engaging and more personalized content will help more kids learn difficult topics.

Like Big Picture schools have done for more than a decade, blended learning is making it easier to leverage individual student interests through internships and projects.

3. Focus on deeper learning.  At Rocketship Education, students spend about two hours each day doing online skill building exercises.  That allows teachers to spend more class time on critical thinking and problem solving.

Blended learning makes it easier to ‘flip the classroom’ and send home a playlist of instructional resources that deliver content so that class time can be spent solving problems

4. Extend the day.  Rocketship features an eight hour student day—something they could only do by incorporating a two hour learning lab.  Another option is an afterschool blended learning partnership with a community-based organization.

5. Extend the year.  Blended learning can help extend the school calendar.  If a school operates with two less teachers and spreads pay over the other 18 teachers, they may be able to shift to a 195 day school year.  They can also extend the school calendar and add more breaks that become periods for extra academic time and/or enrichment—some of which can be provided by community based organizations.

The After School Consortium (TASC) is hosting a conference in New York on the 27th to explore how community based organizations can help extend the day and the year.  The combination of CBO extensions and blended learning have the potential to double productive learning time for the students that need it most.

6. Achievement analytics.  Teachers that have signed up for MangaHigh can assign free middle grade math games as homework and review a full achievement dashboard in the morning. Students that Write to Learn get instant writing feedback and the teacher gets a standards based gradebook full of evidence.  In addition to extended access and more variety, the shift from print to digital curriculum will includes embedded assessments and powerful dashboards that will allow teachers to more easily monitor student progress.

7. Advanced diagnostics. Adaptive testing, like NWEA’s MAP, can quickly zero in on learning levels.  Scantron can turn a quick math diagnostic into a customized tutorial.  Aided by lots of content-embedded assessment, comprehensive portable learner profiles will share information with everyone involved in promoting an individual student’s growth—providing similar benefits to electronic health record in medicine.

8. Teaching in teams.  Blended learning is a team sport.  It allows an instructional team to work together to support 1000 math students moving at their own pace.  It allows a great physics teacher to reach hundreds, perhaps thousands of students.  Blended learning can make learning more social and more transparent.

9. Earn more.  New staffing patterns, new roles, and extended learning time will allow many teachers to earn more.

10. Work at home.  In some cases, teachers will be able to work remotely.  Blogger Mike Shumake teaches English online to kids in North Carolina and Washington State.  The first online teacher of the year, Teresa Dove lives in Virginia and teaches kids in Florida.  Speech therapists for Connections Academy can live anywhere and work when they want.

Teachers appreciate that blended learning makes a difficult job more doable.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. As excitement mounts about blended learning, it’s critical that we keep our collective eyes on a key fact: The whole point of blended learning is to deliver highly personalized instruction that results in exceptional academic performance, and does so in an environment that supports students, families and staff. Perhaps even trickier: Blended learning programs have to achieve all this while achieving sustainability and scale.  
     
    To the extent that it can do all that, there’s every reason for teachers, reformers, parents, kids, the nonprofit funding community and others to love blended learning. But as we move forward into this exciting terrain, it’s absolutely critical that we work to ensure that we balance teacher benefits like earning more and working from home – something that every single educator in America clearly deserves  – with operational sustainability and quality at scale. It’s terrific that organizations are finding creative ways to partner with community-based organizations or leverage volunteers to extend the day, but we need to do the hard work of figuring out how this strategy becomes a sustainable means for driving improvement across many schools. Moreover, we need to ensure that in each application of blended learning, practitioners have access to hard data about results and the know-how to intervene if initiatives fall short of the mark.
     
    Blended learning offers incredible promise. We all need to work hard to ensure that as the practice scales, students benefit and core academic values remain intact.

  2. This is a very interesting article that focuses on the positive impacts that blended learning has had on the classroom environment. Some of the most interesting reasons I hadn’t thought of was the concept of extending the day and the year. I never thought of the possibility that students could continue to work on a specific skill or concept after the traditional school day has ended. While I have yet to incorporate blended learning into my own classroom, I am excited of the possibilities that will open up for myself and the students I work with. I think the reason about an increase in motivation is also important. Working with young kiddos (1st grade) it is hard motivating and captivating their attention for a significant amount of time. With the blended learning approach, I think it will help students maintain their attention on a task and increase 21st century skills so they can be college and career ready. After implementing blended learning, I am excited about the immediate and specific feedback that will be given to the students and myself to help with academic success. All interesting reasons that make me more excited for this shift in education.

  3. I found this article to be very interesting and compelling when it comes to considering Blended Learning classrooms. The school I work at is at the very beginning stages of the Blended Learning journey. I love the idea of teaching a group of students that are all ready for the lesson on the exact day I am teaching it based on previous data supplied by Blended Learning assignments and assessments. I had never considered the ability of the teacher to be able to focus their attention on critical thinking and problem solving skills while the Blended learning portion can provide students with skill building practice and strategies (which I presently spend a great deal of my school day working on) that they also need. Motivation and engagement is a huge positive when it comes to thinking about the different Blended Learning models. Being able to personalize a students lessons and focus on content and strategies that are relevant to them would be very powerful for both teacher and student.

  4. I found this article very interesting and it helped clarify the true purpose behind blended learning. Before reading this article and being involved in professional development I had some misconceptions around what blended learning was. At first I thought it was just more technology integration. After reading this article I find it very exciting that blended learning is used to help deliver instruction that is personalized to individual student needs at their specific level. It helps students excel at their appropriate level and be successful because they have some choice with how they are receiving their instruction specifically for them. Which will be great when it comes to keeping student engagement high. This will truly allow students who are ready to be accelerated to move more quickly and be challenged while allowing students who need extra support time with the teacher to get the support that they need. I’m excited to be a a part of a school that is going to start piloting blended learning for our district. It will offer many new opportunities for our students. It will also allow my students to work more collaboratively together at their specific level. As a teacher it will allow me to be more effective with my planning helping me have more time to reach all of my students.

  5. 1. The tech revolution has given rise to “Blended Learning,” which has transformed the face of education. Since blended learning is a mix of traditional classroom instruction and instruction via technology, this will imply equipping every child in the classroom with a tablet, laptop or other tech devices. I am therefore concerned about the cost that may be involved. Our students are drawn from different socio-economic background. Some of them would not afford the cost of buying a laptop or other tech devices.
    2. For blended learning to be effective and meaningful may require the participation of all staff; training to be provided (as we normally do at my school) to staff as needed.
    3. When educational programs are designed, the question is not “what to deliver,” the question is “how to deliver.” Since blended learning incorporates traditional and online learning, it is therefore critical to determine the portions to be face-to-face, collaboration and self-directed. If we able to establish, I strongly believe the learning needs of students will be enhanced.
    4. It is also important not to make students overwhelmed by giving them “too much to do” assignment as this may tend to negate the purpose of blended learning.
    5. Effective feedback to students may also be crucial for blended learning to be meaningful.

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