Numerous studies have been conducted which show the positive effects of blended learning. I have been using blended learning in my classrooms since 2004, so when Covid-19 started, the transition to a more online environment was very natural and effortless. However, I am well aware that this is not the case for most teachers and put this article together as a guide to help those who are struggling under the current academic climate.
To begin, blended learning is comprised of different models. The most common ones are:
- Face-to-face: Teacher delivers lessons and supplements with digital tools.
- Rotations: Students cycle through independent online study and face-to-face interactions.
- Flex: Most of learning happens online, but teachers are available for face-to-face support.
- Labs: All learning takes place online, but in a consistent physical location.
- Self-blend: Students choose themselves to supplement their traditional learning with online classes.
- Online: Students complete an entire class online with the possibility of teacher interactions.
Most students today are naturally interested in digital technologies. Over the years, I have found that making the classroom environment technology-friendly encourages them to learn even more.
Here are some ways in which I have used blended learning over the years and how it can benefit your students.
- Using online assessment software to track students’ progress and work one-on-one with those who need more help – while those who don’t can continue to advance at their own pace.
- Differentiate instructions more easily and offer extra opportunities for SEN students as well as those with high potential. For example, I have had many students participate in online contests, winning big prizes, which, in turn, encouraged and motivated them even further.
- Some of the resources used include online videos and tutorials. Occasionally, I also arrange video conferences with professional in the field. This way, students are able to use technology to interact with someone in another part of the world and learn from an expert in a very direct way.
- Students use free apps and online software such as PhotoPea, Canva and Google Slides. This has helped tremendously during the lockdown when many of them didn’t have paper/pencils at home. These sites can also be used for modeling!
- When at school, I use a visualizer and the interactive board for modeling.
- Assign real, open-ended projects that require online research and collaboration. For example, this year my year 8 students will be designing and selling t-shirts to support a charity.
- Students who have software at home work on the coursework outside of class which allow them the flexibility to work on more advanced projects in person.
- Students work independently, at their own pace, while coursework is personalized to their individual needs.
- Students take ownership of their own learning as learning is self-directed and child-centered.
- They receive instant feedback and track their own progress using assessment software.
- Students are expected to use digital tools for educational purposes only. Make sure that all online resources are child-friendly and safe for their use.
Now, as you look at your current teaching practices, here are a few questions to ponder:
- Based on the above blended learning models, where does your classroom current fall and where would you like it to fall?
- Identify the model you believe will offer the most potential for your classroom. How will it benefit your students?
- What are some advantages that online activities can offers your students?
- What new skills do you need to learn in order to successfully implement blended learning in your classroom?
- How often should your students read and post to an online discussion and how will you assess their participation?
- Do you have a rubric to assess students’ online learning and participation?
- Do your students know about netiquette and if not, do you have a lesson ready to explain the rules?
- Considering your current face-to-face curriculum, what would need to be different in order for you to be able to teach it online?
- How will online learning enhance your current curriculum?
- Do you have a list of websites, content creation tools or other resources you may need in order to develop the content of your course?
Blended learning is a wonderful way to engage today’s youth. I hope you find this article useful and actionable. Feel free to contact me, Nino, at RainyDaySunnyPlay