Welcome to one of the newest educational philosophies to be successfully increasing student achievement in schools across the world. The basic principles of blended learning have been around for some time but it's on the ground application is starting to pick up momentum with advances in technology and pioneering schools. One of the primary goals of blended learning and education in general, is to develop the skills a student needs to adapt to an ever changing environment. One way to tackle this is to better equip students to be life long learners. It's arguably the goal of all styles of teaching but honest educators world wide will confess that the present exam based, spoon feeding educational system tends to create sheeple more than it does life long learners equipped with the skills to self learn, overcome obstacles, enjoy challenges and create solutions to problems, as they occur. Of course, professional educators the world over will always challenge their students to think. The real question is how often do students leave school with the skills necessary to successfully assess, adapt, progress and overcome challenges in any environment?
If we step back for a moment and think about how we actually learn, there are many different aspects to consider. Here are just a few that come to mind,
What is our motivation to learn?
How do we progress?
How do we know we are progressing?
How do we deal with obstacles?
What do we do when we get stuck on something?
How do we attempt to find the solution?
Where do we find help when we are stuck on a problem?
How do we assess if the information we receive is reliable?
How do we form conclusions from our surroundings?
On the flip side how many of us
look for distractions when we start something new and challenging?
make excuses when we fail?
think we're not good enough?
take the easy way out?
give up as soon as we start?
Reflect on our shortcomings and want to try to improve.
Can handle the emotional rollercoaster as we journey through the learning process because if we're truly learning something new, it's never easy and if it is easy are we really pushing ourselves hard enough?
A lot of skills are required to truly learn. Blended learning sets out to improve a students chances of acquiring the necessary skills. It's not about exams, its about progress. It's not about an A in the short term it's about mastery in the long term. Some may take longer than others but the key is persistence and student agency. "It doesn't matter how slowly you go as long as you don't stop" is still as relevant now as it was when Confucius said it. Learning can be difficult. It is why a lot of us stop learning once we meet the first challenge that presents itself. The necessary skills and mind set are often missing or under developed. School should be the foundation upon which these skills are built and developed over time.
The blended learning environment starts to look at the above educational deficiencies and sets about tackling the issues head on. It's important to realise that blended learning isn't an educational technique, it's a learning environment. To implement in isolation would not be as effective as implementing across the board. This is an environment that is very much greater than the sum of its parts.
The 4 elements of a blended learning environment are
1. Improved student-teacher relationships
2. Student Agency 3. Mastery based learning
4. Personalisation of content
The idea that blended learning is about simply using technology in the classroom exits and is a common misconception. The truth is that technology only helps improve the above aspects if implemented correctly and effectively in conjunction with face-to-face learning. Simply using technology and calling yourself a "blended" school misses the point. Successful implementation requires assessing the needs of the students and choosing the correct tools to meet those needs. Blended learning can be implemented in a primary school, secondary school, higher education, language schools, corporate training and even in libraries but the tools, models and technology used will vary considerably. In part 2 of this blog we will look a little closer at the types of learning strategies and models which can be implemented in a blended classroom.