DRAFT: ELA: Why Blend?
4-1.1 Blending in ELA Teaching
The first question you should ask yourself before embarking on the journey of blended teaching is “Why blend?” Teachers who are still searching for their answer to this question may end up spending a lot of time and energy implementing changes that do not serve any larger goal or purpose.
Guiding Question: Why Blend?
Teachers must answer the question “Why blend?” It is not sufficient to blend just because it is popular or because others are doing it.
Teachers Talk: Blending for Creativity
Reflection Question: How did Mr. Lee use blended learning to increase student ability and creativity? How might you do something similar?
Teachers Talk: Why I Chose to Blend
Reflection Question: How can you use technology to help your students be more engaged in learning in your classroom?
4-1.2 Reasons for Blending
There are three primary reasons why teachers choose blended teaching:
- Improved learning outcomes—Blended classrooms can increase personalization, allow for more individual and small group instruction, and make better use of classroom time.
- Increased access and flexibility—In blended classrooms students have access to materials anywhere and anytime. In addition, they have access to resources and activities that are unavailable to them without an online component.
- Increased efficiency/cost—Blended classrooms can help students complete learning activities in less time and with less energy, reduce printing costs, and help students stay more organized (less likely to lose assignments).
Teachers Talk: Efficiency and Creativity
I had been working to create things online long before I began to blend my class. My main motivation was a little selfish at first. It was honestly to make my content easy to create and reuse. It had become a huge task and chore for me to simply provide the physical assignments, assessments, and materials for these students. So many resources: paper, ink, copy machines breaking constantly, long lines, having to get to school early. I found that when I was freed from those things, I was spending more time on my content. I was becoming more creative, because suddenly I didn't have to rush to school every morning to make copies. That 30 or 45 minutes I would stand in line waiting or fixing the copier for the hundredth time I was using to find new ideas and things for students to research and look into.
Also, students learn at a faster pace when things are blended. Using technology saved the time it would have taken to do things the old-fashioned way. When students missed class because of extra-curricular activities or some other reason, I didn’t have to explain to them what we had done in class. I could post recordings and show them exactly how to do the assignment. Just hearing the tone of my voice in the explanations eliminated some of the confusion. I had many fewer students turning in late work and there was a lot less confusion because they could access assignments and resources online.
Table 1. Examples of multiple purposes for a blended ELA activity
|Blended Example||Blended Purpose|
|Facilitates student collaboration and feedback during the writing process.||Learning Effectiveness: Sharing online writing eliminates the need for students or teachers to create hard copies of student writing to receive feedback. Because feedback is easier to provide, students can receive more detailed feedback. Students learn collaboration skills as well as the ability to rethink, rewrite, and revise their writing.|
|Access & Flexibility: It is also easier for students to respond to recommendations and revise their papers online.|
|Increased Efficiency/Cost: It saves the effort and cost to make physical copies of student papers. Using collaborative online documents can also make the collaborative process and providing feedback more efficient.|
|Creates a space for discussions that involve all class members.||Learning Effectiveness: Many students struggle to fully participate in class discussions for a varieity of reasons, and others dominate these conversations. Online discussions give everyone the opportunity to participate (meaning they have time to discover what they think and write about it), creating more robust, reflective, and divergent discussions.|
|Access & Flexibility: Online discussions allow all students to voice their ideas.|
|Increased Efficiency/Cost: Online discussions efficiently give every student a voice. They also free up classroom time for other activities.|
|Promotes differentiated instruction in grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, reading fluency, and reading comprehension.||Learning Effectiveness: Based on student data, students can be assigned learning activities specific to their weaknesses in the different areas of language arts. Students who don’t need to work on capitalization don’t have to. Students who don’t understand how to use possessives can receive instruction and activities designed to help them learn this concept.|
|Access & Flexibility: Students have access to instruction specifically targeted to their needs. They have the flexibility to access the content they need and which they have not already mastered.|
|Increased Efficiency/Cost: Students don’t waste time where they are already proficient. They don’t have to wait for other students to catch up or worry about being behind.|
As you go through the ELA chapters, you will be able to reflect on what you have learned and design your own activities and classroom in a Blended Teaching Workbook. Click on the "Blended Teaching Workbook" button to access your workbook.
Write a brief statement about why you want to blend your classroom. Which purposes and outcomes are you most interested in for your blend? Access your Workbook here. Make sure you save your copy where you can access it as you go through the ELA chapters.
4-1.3 Common Challenges to Teaching/Learning English: Problems of Practice
Teachers Talk: Challenges Blended Learning Helps Me Address
Your choice to blend will be more meaningful to you and your students if it helps to address challenges that you and your students face in the traditional non-blended classroom. We refer to these challenges as “problems of practice.”
Definition: Problem of Practice
A problem of practice is a current problem or challenge that you believe could be improved through blended teaching.
Problems of practice can fall under any of the three purposes outlined in section 1.1. However, the most meaningful and powerful problems of practice for teachers deal directly with improving learning outcomes for their students.
Fig. 1 Problems of Practice in English Language Arts
These five pathways are a powerful tool to help you think deeply about problems of practice that are relevant to you. Once you identify specific challenges in your current approach to teaching, you will be able to begin to explore what online approaches may be combined with your in-person approaches to make a better experience for your students and you alike.
Teachers Talk: Burnout
Teacher burnout is a real thing! One benefit we have seen for teachers who have chosen to blend their classroom is a renewed energy and enthusiasm for teaching. This benefit doesn’t extend to teachers who are forced to blend against their wills, but is reserved for teachers who begin to see possibilities for addressing persistent challenges and choose for themselves to innovate their classrooms.
I believe my classroom is a petri dish, a place of experimentation and discovery. So I always try new things every year. I get very bored if things are stagnant. So even if I'm teaching the same subject, I won't teach the same materials year to year. Blended teaching just naturally lends itself to constant development and change, and I love that process!
Blended teaching magnifies and improves my ability as a teacher. Because I am learning to personalize instruction and step out of the way of my students’ learning, I am constantly revising my approach to teaching. I am constantly learning, and that is exciting!
Finding Your Problems of Practice
Now that you have reviewed the five pathways to identifying problems of practice, it is your turn to look at your own practice and try to identify a couple of challenges that you can consider as you continue throughout these ELA chapters. What student outcomes and teaching practices would you like to improve? What stands in the way of your teaching having the impact you would like it to have?
Identify 2-3 problems of practice (PoP) that you can use as you consider blended options for your classroom.
Note: You should identify several problems of practice (PoP) because not every PoP has a good blended learning solution.
In the next chapter you will begin to explore online integration and management in your blended teaching.
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