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Blended Teaching Foundations

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“Combine one flavor with another, and something new was created!” −Remy the Rat, Ratatouille

1.1 What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning involves the strategic combination of online and in-person learning. In K-12 schools, a common definition describes students as learning “at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.” Blended learning is more than just classroom technology integration because it involves online learning as a part of the student experience. Because of this, blended teaching requires a broader set of teaching skills than is required in the typical classroom.  The image at the top of each chapter represents four important blended teaching competencies that you will develop as you progress through this book - Online Integration, Data Practice, Personalization, and Online Interaction.

Definition: Blended Learning

definition icon.pngBlended Learning is the strategic combination of online and in-person learning that needs to provide students with some control over time, place, path, and/or pace.
 

The combination of online and in-person learning activities needs to be strategic because both have different strengths and weaknesses.  Our goal as teachers is to combine “the best of both worlds” to maximize the development and learning of the students in our charge.  In most cases, as blended teachers, we are learning how to effectively combine online learning experiences with existing classroom-based learning activities.  As described in the videos below, this combining of online and in-person experiences should be integrated so that they inform each other and are not isolated from each other.

Blending vs. Tech Integration
Video 1.1 (7:30) http://bit.ly/btb-v092 

Watch on YouTube: http://edtechbooks.org/-Et

What to Look For: How does blended learning differ from classroom technology integration?

There are three main reasons why teachers might choose a blended teaching approach:

  1. Improved Student Learning - blended teaching enables instructional strategies not practical or possible in traditional settings that can lead to improved student engagement and learning outcomes.
  2. Increased Access and Flexibility - blended teaching can provide increased flexibility and access to learning experiences.
  3. Increased Cost Efficiency - blended teaching can lead to some cost efficiencies in terms of time and money for both teacher and student.

High Quality Blending
Video 1.2 (6:25) http://bit.ly/btb-v020 

Watch on YouTube: http://edtechbooks.org/-PQ

What to look for: What are some elements that characterize high quality blended learning?

Each of these reasons is valuable and may be part of your overall rationale for choosing a blended approach for your classroom.  However, for most teachers, improved student learning is the primary motivator for trying new blended teaching approaches.  The video 1.3 outlines six pedagogical challenges (six Ps) that blended teaching can address in the classroom to help improve student learning: pacing, preparation, participation, personal interaction, personalization, and place.

The 6 Ps of Blended Teaching
Video 1.3 (2:40) http://bit.ly/btb-v005 

Watch on YouTube: http://edtechbooks.org/-wN

What to Look For: Which of these six challenges do you experience in your classroom?

We have added a seventh P, practice with feedback. The following is a summary of The Seven P's.

  1. Pacing - Students are allowed to move at their own pace. This is limited in the in-person space where the class is expected to move as a whole when a unit or lesson has concluded. In blended teaching, the online space allows students to work at their own pace, and move on when ready.
  2. Preparation - One of the difficulties teachers often face is having students come to class unprepared. Blending allows students to have access to course materials through the online space, providing students with opportunities to learn even when they don’t have access to school materials.
  3. Participation - During an in-person class discussion, only one person can share his or her ideas at a time. Teachers often try to remedy this difficulty by using small group discussions to increase participation, but even in small groups only one person can share her ideas at a time. Even when everyone gets the opportunity to share, some students may dominate the conversation resulting in groupthink or their ideas getting more attention. Online discussions help to equalize the amount of participation each student gets.
  4. Personal Interaction - In the traditional in-person classroom instruction is often whole-class focused. This practice helps monitor student behavior and manage the flow of classroom activities. In a blended environment, students are engaged in learning online and the teacher can spend more time conferencing and helping individual students.
  5. Personalization - Much like it is difficult to provide individual instruction in a traditional in-person classroom, it is also difficult to personalize learning to every student’s interests, skills, and goals. Online learning programs as well as teacher curated playlists and choice boards can help provide students with more agency in directing their own education.
  6. Place - The online space is much more flexible than the in-person space. Using online instruction allows students to learn where and when is most beneficial to them, whether at school before class, during class, or after class, or at home when they get back from their late night practices, rehearsals, or part-time employment.
  7. Practice with Feedback - All teachers know that feedback is an important part of the learning process; however, it can be difficult to provide students with relevant immediate feedback on all of their work. Online learning systems allow students to receive immediate feedback through responsive assessments and interactive activities or games.

Blended teaching can also provide opportunities for students to develop knowledge and skills, not specifically related to subject areas, that will be essential to their future success. Because professions and society are changing so rapidly, it’s hard to know what skills students will need in 4 or 5 years, much less in 15 or 25 years. The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (http://www.p21.org/) argues that at the time of graduation, all students should possess the The Four C's: Communication, Collaboration, Critical thinking, and Creativity. The 4Cs are not taught in addition to the course content. Rather the skills are developed when students are learning the course content. In order to do that, teachers need to change how they approach teaching and how students approach learning. Blended learning will likely play an important role in this change.

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Figure 1.1 4Cs: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity

In addition to the primary goal of improving student learning, blended teaching is an excellent way to provide access and flexibility to students, which can have a positive impact on their overall learning.  For example, consider students who miss class time because of an illness or participation in an extra-curricular activity.  Integrating online learning options with in-person class activities, could allow these students the flexibility they need without forcing them to choose between health and academics or academics and other activities that are a priority to them.

1.2 What Does Blended Learning Look Like?

It’s important to remember that there is almost an infinite number of ways to blend. That said, there are many different models of blended teaching that are commonly used by teachers.   It is valuable to learn about different models and select the specific approach that fits well with your own teaching philosophy, school culture, and student needs. Figure 1.2 shows a spectrum of blended teaching models with the traditional classroom on the left and a fully-online classroom at the right.  Each model has strengths and limitations and works well for different school contexts and student needs.  See Chapter 2 for a more in-depth description of K-12 blended learning models.

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Figure 1.2 Spectrum of models of blended teaching for K-12 and higher education

Blended Learning Models
Web Resource 1.1 http://bit.ly/btb-v032 

web link.pngWhat to Look For: At this site you can see examples of seven different models of blended learning.  You can also see links to schools across the United States that have adopted blended learning?

 

As a teacher in a blended classroom, your role will likely be different from what you are used to in a traditional classroom. Consider the five core shifts described in video 1.4.

  1. From lecturer to facilitator (starts at 0:52)
  2. From using fixed groupings to dynamic groupings (starts at 2:12)
  3. From explainer to intervener (starts at 4:51)
  4. From content focus to content, skills, and mindset focus (starts at 5:09)
  5. From generalist to specialist (starts at 7:32)

Shifting Teaching Roles
Video 1.4 (16:32) http://bit.ly/btb-v035 

Watch on YouTube: http://edtechbooks.org/-hr

What to Look For: What three things do they suggest that teachers should “let go of” or do less of” as they transition to blended teaching roles?

1.3 What Competencies are Needed?

As illustrated in the image at the beginning of this chapter, this book will address four core competency “pillars” that you will need as you develop your ability to teach in a blended environment.

  1. Competency 1: Integrating online and in-person activities
  2. Competency 2: Using data practices to inform teaching
  3. Competency 3: Facilitating personalized learning for students
  4. Competency 4: Facilitating online learning interactions

Before learning about each of the core competencies of blended teaching, it is best if you have certain foundational dispositions and basic technology skills that will be helpful along your journey.

1.3.1 Foundational Dispositions

Dispositions are your core values, beliefs, and attitudes that influence the way you teach. There has been a lot written about important dispositions for teachers. Important dispositions for effective blended teaching build upon what is already important for successful teaching in the traditional classroom. Table 1.1 contains a few areas that are particularly important for you to consider about your own personal dispositions.

Table 1.1 Important dispositions for blended teachers

Dispositions Description
Student Ownership and Agency Successful blended environments often involve a shift from teacher-led to more student-centered instruction. This means students take on more responsibility for making decisions about the time, place, pace, and path of their learning.
  • I believe most students have better learning outcomes when technology enables them to adjust the pace of their own learning.
  • I believe individual student access to devices in the classroom should enable students to take greater ownership of their learning.
Mastery Learning Orientation Successful blended environments often involve a focus on mastery-based progression rather than time-based progression (see Chapter 3). This means that blended classrooms will likely involve much less whole-class directed instruction.
  • I believe that online technology is critical to implementing a mastery-based approach to learning in the classrooms.
Value of Data-driven decisions Successful blended environments almost always involve a reliance on data to help guide instructional decision-making.
  • I believe that students should use data to guide their own learning progress.
  • I believe that teachers who regularly use data to inform their teaching will be able to help their students more than those who don't.
Growth Orientation Successful blended teaching will require taking risks, sometimes failing, and learning to recover and make improvements after failure.
  • I believe it is important for teachers to explore new teaching strategies that blend in-person and online learning.
Emphasis on Life Skills Successful blended teachers see value in using online technologies to enable the development of cross-curricular life skills such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
  • I believe individual student access to online devices in classrooms enables development of important life skills (e.g., creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication).
  • I believe that students need to gain experience collaborating online with each other on projects.
Value of Online Learning Successful blended teaching requires the careful integration of online and in-person instruction. Online learning activities must be valued as a core, essential part of the blend.
  • I believe online technologies enable valuable activities allow students and teachers to do things that would be difficult or impossible to do otherwise in classrooms without online technologies.
  • I believe that student learning is enriched when teachers and students interact in online discussions.

Your dispositions can change over time. If you find yourself feeling skeptical about some aspects of blended learning presented in this book, we hope that seeing actual classrooms in action will help you to see the possibilities.

1.3.2 Basic Technology Skills

The essential competencies needed for successful blended teaching are ultimately NOT technology skills.  However, successful implementation requires basic technical literacy.  As you develop a greater comfort level with online technologies, the use of the technology will become as transparent to you as using a whiteboard or a book in the classroom.  While it would be impossible to outline all possible technical skills that teachers use, we have highlighted some of the most important elements of technological literacy in Table 1.2.

Table 1.2 Important knowledge and skills related to technology for blended teaching

Technological Literacy How are your abilities in the following areas?
Basic Literacy
  • Master new online technologies on your own.
  • Successfully troubleshoot unfamiliar technological issues that you and students encounter.
  • Find quality online content resources relevant to student learning needs (e.g., media resources, lesson plans, etc.).
Digital Citizenship
  • Model the legal use of instructional materials (e.g. copyright, fair use, creative commons).
  • Ensure student online privacy (e.g., technology use agreements for sharing student data, protection of online data and identities).
  • Model online safety for students (e.g., ensure password protection, protect against cyberbullying, detect scams, use content filters and virus software, etc.).
  • Ensure academic honesty in an online learning environment (e.g., prevent cheating, check for plagiarism, etc.).
  • Ensure access to online learning activities for all students (e.g., low socioeconomic status, English language learners, special education, gifted, etc.).
Learning Management Systems
  • Use the tools commonly found in a learning management system (e.g., gradebook, announcements, content pages, quizzes, discussion boards).
Educational Software
  • Use content-specific educational software outside of the learning management system (e.g., math/literacy/science educational software, educational games).
Media Creation Tools
  • Use tools to create or edit content found online to meet your specific needs.
Communication Tools
  • Use a variety of tools for communication with students, parents and other stakeholders (email, text/sms, video conferencing, etc.).
  • Use student information systems (SIS) to communicate activity and performance data to students, parents, and other stakeholders.

This book may provide you with some help in developing many of these skills, but that is not its purpose. The purpose of this book is to help you use the skills you have already developed to begin blended teaching. If you need help developing some of the skills needed for blended teaching, online tutorials are usually just a search engine click away. The first skill this book will help you develop is integrating online and in-person teaching.

Competency: I understand the foundational dispositions and technology skills I need for blended teaching. (1.1-1.2)

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Challenge 1

Use sections 1.1 & 1.2 of the Blended Teaching Roadmap to do a self-assessment of your basic technology skills and foundational dispositions.  Identify areas of strength and areas where you can work to make improvements.

 

Check your Understanding

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Check your understanding of the concepts in the chapter by taking this chapter quiz. (coming soon)

Go for the Badge

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Complete Section 1 of the Blended Teaching Roadmap to help identify your purposes for blending and areas where you can improve your blended teaching skills and dispositions. (http://bit.ly/BTRoadmap)

Feedback

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Provide us with feedback on the chapter and help improve future iterations of the book. (click the icon)

 

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