Is Blended Learning the Next Big Thing in K-12 Education?
Blended learning has been making its way into more and more classrooms over the past decade, as teachers look to integrate technology into their classrooms as a mode of instruction. Yet, while the method is gaining in popularity, it is still relatively new to the educational arena making conclusive results on its true effectiveness difficult to come by. Many teachers and educators, however, believe blended learning offers a swath of benefits for students due to its ability to personalize instruction through a competency based approach.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a teaching style that consists of both traditional instruction combined with online or digital instruction. This blended learning style has been gaining traction in recent years as teachers and educators realize the benefits it can bring to students who are able to learn at their own pace in a more personalized and customized way. As Heather Staker of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation defines it, “Blended learning is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.”
What Are the Benefits?
There are many reasons why blended learning is making its way into classrooms across the country. Teachers, parents and students alike recognize the benefits the mix of online and in classroom, teacher-led learning offers. These benefits include:
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These benefits include:
- Parent involvement – Parents have a greater ability to participate in their children’s education. With online learning, parents are able to interact and view their child’s progress as well as see what is being taught day in and day out.
- Convenience and flexibility – With a blended learning approach students are offered more flexibility. If they are sick, if there is a snow day or if a family takes an extended vacation, online learning can offer a convenient way to learn away from the classroom cutting down on the amount of make-up work or missed instruction a student has to deal with when they return to the classroom.
- Personalization – By far one of the most touted benefits of blended learning is the ability for personalization. Students can learn at their own pace and advance as fast as they want, not having to be held back by others in the classroom that may be at a different level. Similarly, if a student needs extra instruction in a certain area, blended learning ensures that that student is able to gain the extra instruction they require and grasp the concept before moving along to the next level.
- Ability to teach to all learning styles in one classroom – For teachers this is one of the greatest benefits of blended learning, teaching to all students no matter what their learning style.
Shawn Rubin, director of blended learning for the nonprofit Highlander Institute sums it up perfectly in an article in The Hechinger Report,
“When it’s done right, the student is at the center of everything and becomes the driver of his or her own learning. The most difficult job for any teacher is how to differentiate instruction. That means understanding how each student learns best, meeting students where they are and helping them grasp a concept or master a skill at just the right moment.
A smart use of technology and ed-tech tools can help teachers figure out how their students are doing day to day, hour to hour, even minute to minute. Blended learning can provide teachers with crucial feedback that enables them to intervene with greater precision and effectiveness and customize learning for their students.”
Blended Learning Models
There are four primary blended learning models that the majority of teachers rely on. The four models are:
- Rotation model – The rotation model has students rotate from one learning modality to the next. For example, students may rotate from online learning to pen and paper assignments to group work to classroom instruction. There are also sub models of the rotation model that include station rotation, lab rotation, flipped classroom and individual rotation.
- Flex model – A flex model relies heavily on online instruction, although that instruction takes place in a brick and mortar school with a teacher present. This model uses the online platform as the foundation but has a teacher present should questions arise. Teachers in the flex model also lead class discussions and develop projects or any enrichment activities that may be beneficial to student learning.
- A La Carte Model – An a la carte model has a student take a course entirely online to supplement the classes they are taking at a brick and mortar school.
- Enriched Virtual Model – An enriched virtual model uses online learning as the primary place of study. Students learn virtually, online from wherever they wish but are required to have in person learning sessions with their teacher.
For K-12 education, many teachers rely on the rotation model that allows for ample teacher led learning in the classroom but relies heavily on online learning as a part of the teaching method.
Tools for Teachers
For teachers interested in introducing blended learning to their classroom or for teachers already working with a blended learning approach there are many tools that have proven useful with students and that help teachers deliver the highest level of instruction in an online collaborative atmosphere.
Tech tools include:
- Kahn Academy
- Been for Education
For more tools and strategies and in depth information on blending learning in practice plus what to know when getting started with blended learning, Edutopia has put together a comprehensive Resource Roundup, for teachers and educators.
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