BLENDED LEARNING: As I discussed in a previous post, I'm a fan of Michael B. Horn and Heather Straker's definition as given in their book Blended: "Blended learning is any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path and/or pace.” One of the reasons I like this definition is that the end of it dovetails nicely into personalized learning itself (which if done in the absence of technology would be very difficult). But it's important to not forget what is actually being blended: online digital tools with human interaction and instruction, usually in a brick and mortar school. Both components, in a good balance, is necessary. Content may be delivered digitally in an innovative way, but it is the teachers' roles in nurturing, nudging, and knowing where their students academically stand that make them an integral face-to-face resource.
Do we sometimes concentrate too much on the digital tool and not on the analog teacher or desired outcomes?
PERSONALIZED LEARNING: This school year, one of Shelby's grass-roots and teacher-led efforts of innovation (encouraged and supported by John Leeper) is happening at several of our elementary and both high schools: 3PT classroom cadres. Pilot groups of students in each building are exerting control over the path, place, pace and/or time of their personalized learning. Ideally, your passions and your post-school plans should affect your educational journey and give you options. Digital tools certainly make it easier to access content, assess mastery, and track progress; with a laptop and wifi, you can do your reading in a school's bean bag chair just as easily as your kitchen table at night. To that end, I have been heavily involved in supporting tool integration to help the program hum along, such as Edgenuity (which contains coursework monitored and customized by teachers to deliver content) and Schoology (a learning management system that contains teacher and district curriculum, folders of links and resources, and assessment tools). In 3PT, bell schedules and even chronological age differences fade away from the real focus: learning that is flexibly paced and about mastery, not compliance or seat-time. (To see pictures and follow tweets about our district's 3PT stories, see #3PTSC; there is some awesome work going on out there.) It should be noted that unlike differentiation or individualization, only personalization is student-centered. However, we again must be vigilant for balance. We risk impersonalized learning if this model leads to teenage cubicle drones, pecking in isolation at their laptops. Students should have a chance for discourse with their peers; teacher conferences and whole/small group instruction still needs to be a vital part of student learning.
How often do we concentrate on content delivery over student dialogue and groupwork? Does technology enable an increase in both the quantity and the quality of teachers conferring face-to-face with students?
PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: Since participating in PD on PBL in the summer of 2015, I have been excited about the ways it can combine personal student interest with relevant work that seeks to elevate or solve real-world problems, publishing or presenting to authentic audiences. It is often collaborative and done by groups of students. The danger is that PBL could be seen as "one more thing" instead of a model that can integrate seamlessly with both personalized and blended learning.
How can PBL be brought more systematically into a personalized, blended learning environment?
Why I won't claim to have solutions to all of these questions, a few resources on the internet might point us in the right direction.
This resource and graphic from The Learning Accelerator is perhaps my favorite visual on blended learning. What I appreciate is how it goes beyond a definition and concentrates on what blended learning can help you enable and accomplish. Most importantly, blended learning should empower educators to make sure every graduate "attains the skills and mindset needed to succeed in college and life (academics + habits/character)."
|Note: this graphic is part of a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.|
|Screen captured from an archived webinar, linked here.|