Monday, February 29, 2016

What Blended Learning is Not (Part 2 of 6)

When I first started in my role as a Technology Integration Specialist four years ago, I was introduced to the concept of the Flipped Classroom and shortly after, Blended Learning. What I heard and read about each of these ideas piqued my interest and I had to know more. Subsequently, as more teachers and administrators within our district heard about the possibilities with Blended Learning, we began exploring what this model might look like in our classrooms. This six-part series will discuss what we have found Blended Learning to be and lays the foundation for Blended Learning that we use to train our teachers. 

In my last article, we explored What is Blended Learning?  In this article, we will look into what Blended Learning is Not.
Photo Credit: Anonymous
Now, that we have some understanding as to what Blended Learning is, we need to process through what it looks like when we believe we are implementing Blended Learning, but, in reality, are not. Let’s tackle the four largest misconceptions I have come across when working with others to integrate technology into the classroom.

First, we are not replacing teachers with computers. This rumor goes on my "That's just ridiculous" list. Studies have proven that beyond the traditional classroom and beyond online learning, that blended learning impacts student learning to a greater degree. Blended Learning is not about replacing teachers, but about deepening the understanding of the learning for both teacher and student. We are social creatures and we learn communally, meaning we need, at some level, to interact face to face with one another.

Second, Blended Learning and the Flipped Classroom are not interchangeable terms. The Flipped Classroom, up until now, has been the most common form of blending; however, flipping represents one-quarter of one-quarter of the total possible models of blended learning. And, while the flipped model works very well in some educational areas, it does not work as well in all. As a former math teacher, I would suggest, due to the procedural nature of arithmetic, equations, and formulas, that the flipped model may be best suited for that environment, as well as other procedural topics. On the other hand, in a social studies course, where the material must be discussed and perspectives formulated, flipped learning, while useful, should not be used often or exclusively. As you may find when reading this article, Pros and Cons of The Flipped Classroom, the social studies teacher here speaks highly of the flipped model; however, reading closely, though he is using videos as homework, he is also including elements of the broader model of blended learning. It is this misunderstanding or blurring of lines that has led to the need for differentiating between these models.

Third, students are not, or should not be, constantly on a computer or device. Any classroom that requires a student to be on the computer solely is not fostering a healthy learning environment; this includes computer classrooms as well. Some will observe a student, or a class, working diligently on a device and mistakenly conclude that those students are fully engaged in the day’s learning. As stated in this excerpt from UnCommon Learning by Eric Sheninger (provided by MindShift), “Engagement does not always equate to learning.” Devices in the hands of students alone do not guarantee learning. We, as educators, must continue to facilitate the learning process, while allowing for more student control, thereby, increasing student ownership of learning. Learning does not happen in a vortex, which is why we must be mindful of the social engagement of our students by helping them understand their use of screen time. As stated earlier, we learn in community, and must help our students develop the social skills necessary to thrive in society. It is not the screen time itself that is harmful to our students; instead, it is the way in which screen time is utilized. Screen time for entertainment purposes provides limited value and, in some cases, can be harmful. Everyone must take a break. Interacting with others, whether teachers, students, or parents, to digest content and process meaning increases the value of screen time. The passive consumption of content available on devices must be limited during the day. 

The last misconception we will discuss in this article is that using technology in the classroom means we are implementing blended learning. Devices do not equal blending. If that were the case, computer teachers in the 80’s with a set of Apple ][s were blending long before blending was a thing. Not. As teachers begin to “dip their toes” into the blended learning waters, I strongly urge them to TAKE IT SLOW. Blended learning is a large umbrella, and, therefore, may be implemented in a variety of ways. It is going to take time for each teacher to develop the blended style that works for their classroom, students, subject area, and so on. However, as we become more comfortable with using the technology in our classrooms we have to focus on, “How are we meaningfully engaging our students in the learning?” I challenge everyone to read “A Digital Worksheet is Still Just a Worksheet” by Jonathan Wylie. This post does not demonize the worksheet, but rather asks the question, “Are you thoughtful about how you are using technology to impact learning?” After all, technology is merely a tool used in our arsenal as educators to move our students to a deeper understanding of the material and their own learning; in very much the same way as a pencil and paper. I would never suggest that technology will Revolutionize Education, though, I might argue today’s uses may be evolutionary.




“Blended Learning” More Effective than Face-to-Face

Social Learning Theory

Pros and Cons of The Flipped Classroom

How to Determine if Student Engagement is Leading to Learning

Kids And Screen Time: What Does The Research Say?

Digital Device Use Leads to Eye Strain, Even in Kids

Apple II

A Digital Worksheet is Still Just a Worksheet

This Will Revolutionize Education

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