The Blended Learning Puzzle: Having all the pieces to make it work
The decision to adopt a new teaching approach can be both exciting and angst inducing. Blended learning offers a new way to reach students, so it makes sense that districts want to harness its potential. While many school districts are exploring the possibilities of blended learning, they are also faced with challenges that must be acknowledged and planned for at the onset. Beginning a new initiative requires having all the pieces of the puzzle in order for it to have a meaningful impact on not only the students but the teachers as well.
When considering a blended learning initiative districts should plan ahead. Blended learning is not just putting a computer or another piece of technology into a student’s hands. It requires different pedagogical approaches to instruction. Even the most tech savvy teachers will need support. Questions to consider when instituting any new program also hold true for blended learning. What support will teachers be provided? How will you measure success? What technology is required to make it happen?
Recognizing What You Don’t Know
The first piece of the puzzle is probably one of the most important and often underestimated. ‘What support will teachers be provided’ really can’t be answered unless you understand your teachers’ needs. In order for professional development to be significant and engaging, it must closely meet the needs of the individuals. Teachers must feel that their participation will help them achieve their professional goals.
An understanding of where teachers are on the blended learning continuum is necessary before professional development can be prescribed. One can’t assume that because a teacher is an outstanding traditional school teacher means that this will automatically transfer to the blended learning environment. Blended learning requires new pedagogical approaches, an understanding of digital curriculum and tools, and how to incorporate hands on experiences into this learning environment. In fact, according to Riley Justis, a blended learning trainer and writer for Blend My Learning, “As we transition to technology based learning, the interaction between content knowledge, instructional pedagogy and technology based skills development becomes paramount to the success of the individual learner within the blended model.” (Justis, 2012) Given that blended learning is still a fairly new teaching methodology, defining a baseline for each teacher’s readiness in this new model of instruction would be the ideal starting point.
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