Sloan Blended Classroom Conference

In the first three sessions I attended at the Sloan Blended Learning conference, it’s obvious that the focus is on the classroom not the school. That’s great for student engagement but there seems to a lack of focus on new learning progressions for students and new ways for learning professionals to work together.  This is blended learning in the broadest sense of multimodal delivery, but I prefer a narrower definition that implies a shift in modality to boost learning and make the school work better for students and instructors.
I think we’re seeing more flimsy flip–bad lectures sent home.  That may be an improvement over a traditional classroom because it may extend the learning day and improves engagement.  But it probably makes a teachers job harder not easier and it maintains the isolated teacher-centric classroom structure.
The predominant theme of the secondary and post-sec sessions I attended was teacher as curriculum and content architect.  A young high school history teacher proudly described her investment of time and resources in a Harlem Renaissance video that she produced.  I love the fact that she’s passionate the subject and about engaging her students, but for most schools this should not be the dominant form of curriculum development.   In general, it will not be high quality, it may not be standards-based, and it’s probably not student-centered (i.e., everybody is experiencing the same mediocre content).
Blended learning has the potential to support a series of customized experiences for each student.  It should support individual progress models based on demonstrated mastery.  It should promote a team-based work environment that leverages the talent of experienced teachers while supporting the development of new teachers.  All of these benefits will be derived from well constructed, engaging, and often adaptive content for at least a portion of the student day.
[more after Mickey Revenuagh and I present on blended schools]

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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