“Together, we fill gaps.”−Rocky Balboa, Rocky 7
Effective integration of online learning activities together with in-person teaching approaches is an essential part of the core knowledge and skills of blended teaching. By the end of this chapter you should be able to meet the following objectives:
Both online and in-person learning activities have strengths and weaknesses. As an example, consider the differences between a teacher lecture and a textbook. Both are the source of a large amount of information, and students can learn from either. However, you as the teacher giving a lecture can do many things that a textbook can’t, such as:
There are also several advantages to a student reading a textbook over attending a lecture. A textbook can:
Check out Video 2.1 that describes the latest “technology” discovery by IKEA:
What to Look For: Check out all the new benefits of this technology!
In this high-tech world we sometimes forget how amazing textbooks can be! Now, let’s compare a textbook to modern online technologies.
While books are excellent resources and shouldn’t be completely replaced, there are a multitude of online technologies that students can use to learn. For example, videos allow students to see things they would never be able to otherwise. Virtual worlds and simulations allow students to visit places and do things that would be too expensive or too dangerous to do otherwise. In addition, there are many online programs that continually assess students’ understanding and automatically adapt to better meet students’ needs. Furthermore, online programs allow you and your students to communicate and collaborate in ways never before possible.
“Often teachers don’t have time to do what they do best because they are too busy lecturing and assessing students. Like many of you, I remember as a middle school teacher, giving a lecture to students and then having to repeat that lecture five times throughout the day, using the same examples, stories, and jokes. By the end of the day I was exhausted from the repeated performances and may have only had a handful of meaningful conversations with students. I realized that I wasn’t spending my time doing what I felt I did best, which was providing individual help and encouragement to students. By offloading the presentation of content to technology, I could have spent my time more productively working with students one-on-one and in small groups.
Some worry that machines will replace teachers. I worry that teachers are spending too much time acting like machines.”
- Jered Borup
In this chapter, we share guiding principles that will help you combine the best of both worlds. Our goal is to help you integrate both in-person and online learning in ways that will allow technology to show its greatest strength – the ability to empower teachers to do what they do best.
How ready are you to integrate both online and face-to-face teaching in your classroom? You can use the link above to find out.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, there are many different blended teaching models. These models are structures and patterns that help teachers to organize online and in-person learning activities for a blended classroom. How a course is structured depends on many factors including the physical learning environment, the school’s access to technology, the age and ability of the students, and the length of class time. While there are innumerable ways to structure a blended course, the Clayton Christensen Institute has identified several common organizational models (see Web Resource 2.1). We focus on four models in this book: flipped, station rotation, lab rotation, and flex.
What to Look For: In this Khan Academy resource, you can see video explanations and examples of four different blended learning models: flipped, station rotation, lab rotation, and flex.
Traditionally students receive direct instruction at school and then apply what they learned at home on homework. However, students commonly get stuck on homework and don’t have the resources or support to complete their work, creating a frustrating situation for you, your students, and their parents. TheFigure 2.1 Simplified representation of flipped classroom model.8 reverses that order so that before students come to class, they receive the direct instruction via online videos. Then, when they come to class, students can complete the “homework” and receive one-on-one or small group instruction. This enables them to have the necessary support when they get stuck.
What to Look For: Observe how moving to a flipped classroom has changed the teaching and learning of this classroom!
As implied by the name, a class that uses theFigure 2.2 Simplified representation of station rotation model.9 has stations set up so that students can rotate on a set schedule or at your discretion. At one of the stations, a small group of students works with you, so you can better customize instruction and assessments to meet your students’ needs. This model is not new and has long been used in elementary schools. However, in a blended version of a station rotation, for at least one of the stations, students are learning using technology that collects assessment data that teachers can use to personalize small-group instruction. Another common use of stations is to allow students to discuss class topics or to collaborate on projects.
In schools where every student does not have access to a tablet or laptop,is a popular form of blended learning. However, because you are working with a small group of students, it can be difficult to respond to inquiries from students at other stations. As a result, this model is most effective when students can be self-directed or when there is another facilitator in the room who can assist. Another way to make this model effective is to establish procedures that allow students to assist each other when certain issues arise. Videos 2.3 and 2.4 help show the station rotation model in action.
What to Look For: Notice how the teacher’s station organization and structures direct student learning and behavior.
What to Look For: Listen to the reasons this teacher and her students enjoy the benefits of the station rotation.
The 1-to-1 devices. Your role in this model is also different from the station rotation model. Rather than spending the majority of your time working with students at a small group station, you spend your time working more freely with students throughout the room. Video 2.5 below is a classroom example and further explanation of the lab or whole-group rotation model.is similar to the station rotation model except that students rotate as a whole group on a set schedule or at your discretion. This commonly involves students leaving the classroom to go to a computer lab or you, as the teacher, bringing a mobile lab into the classroom. This model is great for classrooms that have close to
What to Look For: Look to see how the lab or whole group rotation may be easier to manage than the station rotation.
In the ALEKS10 (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces), which is a learning system that helps teach high school math including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc., or SRA FLEX Literacy,11 which is a comprehensive reading and language arts intervention system for struggling readers. Using these adaptive systems, students can move through class content at their own pace, conferencing with you to work through difficult concepts or to receive additional one-on-one or small group instruction.the majority of learning occurs online. Because of this, students have a high level of flexibility to work at their own pace based on their individual needs. You can then use assessment data from the online activities to target where your student needs support through one-on-one or small group sessions. This model takes a high level of planning and preparation. It may occur in conjunction with a content-specific adaptive learning program. Among these are
Some tools such as 12 also have live online tutors that students can conference with when stuck. In some cases, students can also access supports in languages other than the dominant language at the student’s brick-and-mortar school. When implementing this model, you should also carefully consider how to provide the student enough pacing flexibility while also fostering meaningful student-student interactions and teacher support. Watch Video 2.6 to get a better sense of the flex model in action.Figure 2.3 Simplified representation of the flex model.13
What to Look For: How does this teacher decide what to have the students do online and what to have them do in-person?
There is no right or wrong model to use in blended teaching. Therefore, you should select ideas from the various models then combine them in a way that will meet your specific teaching needs. For example, if you are wanting to devote more class time to a specific in-class activity, then you may want to utilize the flipped model. But, if you are wanting more small-group or one-on-one time with students, then you may use elements of the station rotation or lab rotation models. Conversely, if you want students to learn at their own pace online, then you will want to pull from the flex model. You do not need to become loyal to or an ardent devotee of a specific model. Your blended classroom should both use and combine various models to best meet your needs and the needs of your students.
Look for an adaptive learning program for content that you teach. Using the flex model, determine how you would incorporate this program to teach a lesson.
Choose an in-class activity that you would like to have more time for. Find or create instructional tools that would allow you to use the flipped model to prepare students for the activity.
Think about the digital devices you have access to and create a lesson with these devices that uses either a station rotation or lab rotation model.
Now that you’ve reflected on some blended learning models, it’s time to consider strategies for creating the actual learning activities. One way to look at these activities is that they are a collection of the following types of interactions: student-content, student-teacher, and student-student interactions (see Figure 2.4). When designing a blended classroom, we blend the online and in-person versions of each type of interaction.
Figure 2.5 shows a quadrant with student-content interaction on the right and student-human interaction (i.e., instructor and peers) on the left. Traditional classrooms typically teach in the bottom half of the quadrant while fully online courses are more in the top half of the quadrant. Blended classrooms, however, can include interactions in all four quadrants.Figure 2.4 Three common types of learner interaction 14. Figure 2.5 Combinations of human in-person and technology online interactions.15
In fact, “blended” learning implies that we use thewith . Most blended learning will combine digital and physical course content and learning materials. However, for students to have a more meaningful experience, their interactions with you, as the teacher, and with the other students should be also be both on-line and in-person. (Chapter 5 focuses on blending student-teacher and student-student interactions.)
Quality blended teaching will not only have some student-teacher and student-student interactions online, but the use of technology will also make in-person interactions better. For instance, it is often easier for blended teachers to work with students 1-on-1 or in small groups than it is for more traditional teachers because
By working with students in small groups on data driven activities, you are empowered to target your efforts on student needs and misunderstandings. In fact, some of the most powerful learning opportunities that occur in a blended classroom happen offline. As a result, when thinking of the term blended learning you don’t actually need to only picture students on tablets and laptops. Instead Figure 2.6, where a teacher is working with a small group of students, is much more indicative of blended learning. However, it is important to note that digital devices do play an important role in being able to harness the advantages of online learning—a significant element of a blended classroom.Figure 2.6 Teacher working with a small group of students.16
The word “blended” in blended teaching is used intentionally. Blended teaching goes beyond technology integration that simply adds online content or online discussions to an in-person course. The activities should be integrated in such a way that the online activities support the in-person activities and vice versa. It can actually be highly frustrating for students when online components are simply added to a fully in-person class (referred to as the “”) because they feel like they have to complete a course (the in-person activities) and a half (the online activities).
One of the most common mistakes novice blended teachers make is to have students engage in both online and in-person activities, without those activities complementing each other. Read the scenario below and see if you can identify the weakness in the blend.
The following scenarios describe some ways that learning activities can blend online and in-person activities:
Think about an assessment, learning software, or online application that students use to learn in your class. Create a plan that uses data from this source to inform in-person teaching.
Create an outline for a class discussion that starts in-person or online and then continues in the opposite format.
Create a group project that students can either start online (maybe through a brainstorming discussion board) and then finish in-person, or vice versa starting in-person and finishing online (maybe through collaborating on a presentation or a Google Doc).
In Video 2.7, we see a daughter ask her father, in German, “Tell me dad, how do you get along with your new iPad that we gave you for your birthday?” Her father replies, “Fine!” Only then did the daughter realize that her father was using the iPad as a cutting board. The video reminded us of a Tweet we saw where a mom was using an e-reader as a bookmark for a paperback book (see Figure 2.7).
What to Look For: How effective do you think this technology use is?
Ask yourself, “Is using an iPad as a cutting board or an e-reader as a bookmark a good use of technology?” Perhaps these are good uses of technology. The father and the mother in these examples had a need and they used technology to meet that need. That’s a good use of technology, but we can all agree that it’s not the best use of technology. One reason why it’s only a good use of technology is that they only used the technology to make their lives a little better rather than using technology in ways that could open up new possibilities.
While we can laugh at a father using an iPad for a cutting board, if we really examine the history of technology integration, we find that teachers typically tend not to use technology in the best ways either. Teachers tend to use technology to make their current practices a little more efficient without really making meaningful changes to what occurs in their classroom. In fact, the termimplies that teachers use technology to support their current practices.
With a quick look at the history of educational technology, you will find that it has largely been used to supportFigure 2.8 Range of technologies used for teacher-centered learning activities.18 . For instance, all of the technologies in Figure 2.8 (i.e., the blackboard, overhead projector, digital projector, document camera, interactive whiteboard, and screencast video) focus on making it a little easier for teachers to lecture.
For technology to truly have an impact on students’ learning, we have to do more than simply digitize what we’ve always done. If that’s all we do, we will simply achieve the same learning outcomes—only faster. Furthermore, one thing that we have learned from research is that it’s the learning activity—not the technology alone—that impacts learning. For technology to have a meaningful impact on student learning, it has to change how teachers teach and how students learn. One way to examine effective technology use is through thediscussed in the next three sections.
The RAT frameworkis a helpful approach for seeing how the range of technology use can change how teachers teach and students learn (Hughes, Thomas, & Scharber, 2006). The use of technology can either replace (R), amplify (A), or transform (T) traditional teaching practice (see Figure 2.9). Each of these terms are defined below along with examples.
What to Look For: Think of practices in your own classroom that may work best without technology.
A meaningful blend of in-person and online learning activities will do more than only replace or replicate traditional learning activities. That said, using technology to replace or digitize your current practice is still a good use when it makes the activity easier, more efficient, more flexible, or more accessible for students to complete. Furthermore, we don’t want to be so tech centered that everything we do involves technology. That’s the beauty of blended learning! As seen in Video 2.8, sometimes no technology use is actually the best choice.
One advantage of blended learning is that it can make learning more engaging for students. Students tend to enjoy activities more when the exercises are hands-on. You may have heard the phrase “hands-on, minds-on” which emphasizes that hands-on activities help students to learn the material and develop new skills. This is known as engagementwhich describes students’ positive feelings towards an activity. The next section focuses on what students are doing with technology and how it impacts their engagement levels. This is described by the PIC framework. Students relationship to the use of technology can be either passive (P), interactive (I), or creative (C).
All three uses of technology (passive, interactive, and creative) can be good uses of technology. However, technology’s potential is not being realized if students are only using technology in passive ways or if students rarely have the opportunity to create something original.
Now that we’ve discussed the PIC and RAT frameworks separately, let’s bring the two together to form the PICRAT matrix.(See Figure 2.11). By examining the use of technology, we can complete the following statements to better understand how students are engaging with technology and how that use of technology changes our traditional practice.
As teachers we want to ensure that technology is used in a variety of ways that best align with the instructional objectives. Watch Video 2.9 to reflect on how technology being used in your classroom fits within the PICRAT matrix.
What to Look For: As you watch, consider the different uses of technology in your classroom and where they fit on the PICRAT matrix.
We can use the PICRAT matrix to determine if our blended activities are meeting the full potential of our teaching practices and therefore helping students to meet their full potential as students. When you use the PICRAT matrix to gauge your own teaching practices, there are three kinds of evaluation that you must complete.
The first test is to look at the student’s use of technology and determine if it is passive, interactive, or creative. The PIC evaluation is usually the easiest assessment to make. If your students are absorbing information without providing any data input to the technology or manipulation of the technology, then their relationship to the technology is passive. If students are manipulating or using the technology in some way, then the relationship is either interactive or creative.
The RAT analysis, however, can be more difficult. This is because you must use the RAT side of the matrix to make two different evaluations. The first is at the individual student level. Does the use of technology replace, amplify, or transform a traditional activity? For example, if students are watching a lesson online instead of watching you provide a lesson in class then it is a replacement activity.
The second evaluation is at the classroom level. Does the use of technology replace, amplify, or transform your traditional practices? If students are watching a video lesson instead of attending the lesson in class, what is the ultimate goal? Is it because you want to have more class time for some kind of activity—a lab, a group assignment, a role play exercise, etc.? If so, then the use of technology at the activity level is still replacing, but the use of technology at the classroom practices level has either amplified or transformed your classroom practices. You have used the technology to create more time for working with your students, something that would be difficult or impossible without the technology.
Plan a use of technology that is passive and replaces a traditional activity but amplifies or transforms classroom practice.
Create an activity that includes students interacting or creating with technology that also amplifies or transforms your classroom practices.
Create a poster or graphic that communicates student expectations for at least one of the blended teaching routines that you will use in your classroom.
Learning management that includes specific classroom systems, procedures, and guidelines is especially important in blended courses for four reasons:
What to Look For: Think about which of the systems, procedures, and guidelines from this video could be useful in your blended classroom.
Just as a brick-and-mortar classroom holds physical learning materials, student projects, and spaces where students go to discuss, collaborate, and receive feedback, blended courses also need to have an online environment where students can go for online versions of those same materials and activities. Due to this need, most school districts now have learning management systems (LMS) that help you, as the teacher, organize online content, assignments, directions, projects, discussions, announcements, and feedback.
Many LMSs also help with a different aspect of blended teaching: managing digital distractions. In addition to monitoring students’ in-class behavior, teachers need to manage online behavior, which is easier for students to conceal. LMSs typically provide a wealth of tracking data, including login, time in system, and click data, which can be used to monitor online behavior. In fact, some LMS software now provide you with helpful dashboards that display students’ behavioral data in visual ways that help you to quickly recognize patterns and deficits (see Figure 2.12). In some cases, you may also want to look at the browser history for those students who you suspect may have been off task during class. Some school districts have actually disabled incognito modes on the internet browsers to make it more difficult for students to hide their online behavior. Other schools provide teachers with software that allows teachers to see their students’ screens in real time. Figure 2.12 provides examples of data that can be provided by an LMS to monitor and track student actions while in the online environment.Figure 2.12 Examples of analytics tracking student activity in an LMS.22
Two strategies that work very well for helping students stay engaged in the blended environment are theand the .
In addition to monitoring student behavior in the online setting, blended teachers use many strategies for managing students’ locations and movement during various rotations. The following list outlines some of the strategies that teachers commonly use to guide where students should be during a station rotation.
You can view examples of station management for elementary classrooms in Video 2.12.
What to Look For: Consider how you could use some of these teachers’ guidelines in your own classroom.
You probably already have many procedures in your classroom that work well for managing student movement. Many of these can be adapted to fit your blended learning style. In the end, it’s important that you find which strategies work best for you.
What to Look For: Consider how this teacher’s ideas for transition signals could inform your own.
Technology hardware is expensive and needs to last. Managing hardware is an especially new responsibility for many young students, and it can be hard on you, particularly in classrooms where there are one-to-one devices. Proper handling of devices is one thing, but what about updating software and keeping track of student login information? The following list includes some techniques for managing hardware (the actual computer, tablet, etc.) and software (online programs, apps, games on the device, etc.) in the blended classroom.
What to Look For: Look for the ways that the launch approach has helped this teacher and her students prepare for digital learning.
Again, you probably have some procedure for retrieving class materials and getting ready to learn in place already. Many of the procedures you already have can be adapted for blended learning. What matters most is that you find some procedures that work for you, and more importantly, work for your students.
Once appropriate routines are in place, feel free to put rules in place that let students help their peers with devices, questions, and routines. Students can usually follow routines and get answers to simple questions with the help of their peers. If you take time to answer every question, or lead every transition, you will lose valuable instructional time. The following ideas are ways for your students to help each other (and in turn, help you) manage blended learning.
Choose or create a strategy for moving students from station to station. Support your reason for choosing this strategy.
Create a floor plan of your classroom. Decide where you will host different stations to use as part of a station rotation model.
Create a poster that outlines the guidelines for various procedures students must follow when using devices in your classroom.
Check your understanding of the concepts in the chapter by taking this chapter quiz. (http://bit.ly/K12-BTQuiz)
Complete Section 2 of the Blended Teaching Roadmap to plan and evaluate elements of your blended teaching model and blended teaching routines. (http://bit.ly/MyBTRoadMap-Ch2) (See two examples of a completed Roadmap in Appendix C.)