5 Myths about Blended Learning
1. If you use technology in the classroom, you are a blended learning educator.
Blended learning is an instructional model that leverages technology in order to personalize learning experiences. The term “blended learning” is actually a misnomer – this is an instructional model that is driven by the educator, not the learner. The success of a blended learning program hinges on the creativity of lesson design that allows for students to use technology to further their understanding. Technology doesn’t create a blended learning classroom any more than feathers and glitter create a gifted classroom.
2. Blended learning is a program for struggling students.
A noted advantage to the blended learning instructional model is the personalization. Instead of the days when the educator created leveled groups (we all wanted to be a “blue bird”), technology allows for students to all be working on different assignments. The computer/tablet is a mechanism that allows the teacher to create multiple learning experiences and then students can choose or be assigned to those most appropriate to their needs. In an ideal environment, all students are challenged appropriately and move at their own pace through the curriculum. This opens up opportunities ideal for developing talent in gifted learners.
3. Blended learning is easy.
Students of all levels will say that an advantage of blended learning is that they can move at their own pace through the curriculum. While this doesn’t mean that there aren’t due dates, this does mean that one student may finish an assignment in 20 minutes, while it takes another student 40 minutes. This isn’t any different from every other classroom, except that the student who finishes early can start on the next activity without having to wait for everyone else. The pressure immediately dissipates from a blended learning classroom because the pacing is dictated by each student’s needs. In a more traditional model, the student who finishes early waits for the rest of the class in order to move on. Some students love this down time so that they can text, doodle, read, count ceiling tiles, etc., but many do not. Because much of the content and learning experiences are housed online, there is no built-in downtime – there is always something to work on next. Which, in student language, can translate into blended learning being “hard.”
4. The blended learning teacher doesn’t teach.
With individualization of learning experiences comes opportunities for students to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. The blended learning educator purposefully designs experiences that push students to answer their own questions, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and become empowered as individuals invested in their education. While it’s rare to see an instructor in a blended learning classroom lecturing to an entire class for an extended period of time, the teacher still does teach. Oftentimes this is in the form of workshops or mini-lessons designed to reteach or extend the learning to make deeper connections between concepts. These are all based on the needs of the students, not on a set lesson plan.
5. Blended learning is a fad.
The blended instructional model is an umbrella under which old and new educational trends can reside. Trends in education like flipped classrooms and problem based learning often invigorate teachers, which is a good thing, but it can also be exhausting to continue to redesign lessons based on district initiatives. A benefit of blended learning is in its simplicity (i.e. leveraging technology to personalize learning experiences) and in its lack of commitment to any one trend. Some lessons may be flipped or centered around a problem that needs to be solved. Others may be a science experiment that uses the same equipment we used in school. Others may be blogging or writing in an online journal. Students might connect to other classes via Twitter or a discussion board. The umbrella of blended learning is as wide and encompassing as we want to make it.
About Laila Sanguras, by Dallas Price