Making Blended Learning Work in Your Classroom
Blended classrooms are on the rise. You’ll know you are witnessing one of the most promising instructional initiatives if you see a scenario like this:
Upon walking into the classroom, you look around for the teacher. She’s not at the traditional location at the front of the room.
The students are collaborating in groups — at tables and in more informal seating areas. They’re already reviewed the material the night before at home, using their own technology. Now they’re using technology to confirm facts and take notes while discussing their projects. Everyone seems to know what to do, and they’re on task. Last night at home, they watched a video about today’s topic in preparation for working together.
At last, you see the teacher, huddled with students in one of the groups. She’s asking the learners questions and marking responses on her handheld tablet.
Hybrid learning scenarios like this one happen in classrooms all over the country. Blended learning combines technology and teacher-led instruction. In doing so, it creates an academic synergy that engages learners and inspires them to dig deeper into the content.
Three characteristics of blended learning
In most classrooms, three characteristics define blended learning:
· Teachers rely on technology to understand students’ strengths and weaknesses.
· Students understand and follow routines seamlessly, allowing little to no interruption to instruction.
· All actions and assignments are purposeful. There is no wasted time or busy work. Every activity has a purpose.
Students review videos or read Internet articles outside the school day, either at home or in the library before school starts. Then their teachers become guides in the blended classroom, orchestrating learning activities. This hybrid approach offers the best of both worlds, combining self-directed learning with teacher support.
Hybrid learning in your classroom
So how can you initiate blended learning in your classroom?
Part of your lesson can be taught through technology. Digital and online media like explainer videos and short clips can offer insight into many of the concepts you teach. You can begin by determining which model bests suits the needs of your students and then establish a blended learning community.
· Rotational – Think of the rotational model as learning centers. Students transition from activity to activity, and one of the centers must be technology-based.
· Flex – In the flex model, online learning makes up most of the instructional delivery.
· A la carte – Students take all their classes online, selecting only the modules they need.
· Enriched virtual – Teachers provide individual instruction, and students complete some of their coursework online.
Acclimate students to your blended learning approach by incorporating technology in phases.
Blended learning phases
If you think of hybrid learning as something to teach your students in stages, everyone will be able to handle to transition to student-led learning.
In Phase One, the teacher talks to the whole class, providing general directions and a to-do list. Students are responsible for completing the items on the list. Begin with simple tasks first, getting students used to accomplishing everything on their lists, regardless of the blended learning model selected.
Phase Two becomes more individualized. Students have developed competence in getting their tasks done, and now the teacher can differentiate the assignments. The customization allows for better pacing and more personalized instruction.
Finally, Phase Three requires that students take ownership of their learning. Students set their own schedules and develop task lists. The learning activities become more collaborative and project-based.
The flexibility of blended learning enables teachers to meet the needs of every student in the classroom. Eventually, students take responsibility for their learning needs. The result is dynamic instruction built around technology.