Why Blended Learning?
Teachers are trying to navigate through this crazy educational world with students that are in a multitude of places at the same time. Teachers are feeling stressed and overworked trying to provide quality instruction to face-2-face, hybrid, and remote learners. They are looking for a one-size fits all approach that will make this situation better. The cold hard truth is that it does not exist, as far as I know. I am sure that is NOT the answer you are looking for, but I want to try and help.
Blended learning seems to be the latest craze in education. There are many definitions and interpretations of what blended learning is. I look at the concept this way….. if your students are spending part of their educational time online and part doing traditional off-line activities , they are in a blended learning situation. I love educational technology and believe that teachers can strategically create lessons and assessments that can be engaging, effective, and efficient with the use of technology.
Before I get into some specific examples of ways we can incorporate blended learning into our classes, lets take a look at the various elements of blended learning. I feel that we can break down these elements into 3 main areas:
1. Online activities 2. Off-line activities 3. Teacher-led activities.
I created the document above to help guide teachers through their blended learning building process. Each column has examples of activities for each of the elements of blended learning. I feel this resource can be a good starting point for teachers to use as a “reminding reference” as they are creating their blended learning plan. Let’s look at each of the elements in more detail.
1. Online Activities
The possibilities are endless for online activities. Do not subscribe to the belief that online activities begin and end with watching a video and completing an online worksheet. The list above provides many options that will aid your students in learning new content. Think outside the box and have your students do a curation activity on Wakelet or Padlet. Allow your students to create materials using Google Apps, Adobe Spark, or Canva. Have your students complete an electronic exit ticket or some other type of formative assessment for quick data and feedback to drive your next steps. Review concepts with your students using interactive platforms like Kahoot, Gimkit, or Quizizz.
Leverage technology to allow students to collaborate online using Google Apps likes Slides or JamBoard. Create a Padlet wall or assign a discussion board in Schoology to foster the collaborative process. Have students create videos or audio files to showcase their learning using Flipgrid, WeVideo, Screencastify, or various Chrome extensions like Record to Slides or Audio Voice Recorder. Don’t forget about giving students voice & choice by creating online Choice Board activities.
2. Off-line Activities
Blended learning is a mix of online and traditional activities. If you are lucky enough to have students in your classroom fulltime or on a hybrid schedule, traditional off-line activities can provide an engaging, well-deserved break from our students being online. Many of the offline activities listed in the document above could be done in a remote or hybrid model setting when the students are learning from home.
Cooperative learning activities like Kagan strategies allow for students to work collaboratively and get them moving around the room. Students can create models and arts/crafts projects using supplies provided by the teacher or themselves. Paper & pencil exit tickets, formative assessments, and student self-reflections can be used to gather important feedback. Sketchnoting, STEM activities, makerspace and Genius Hour time can be assigned to create hands-on opportunities for our students.
We can give students time to read and write independently, work on team building, or brainstorm ideas in groups. Assign a PBL project and create time for them brainstorm, plan, collaborate, and create. Have students lead discussions and Socratic seminars, engage in peer-to-peer collaboration time, or create peer-tutoring opportunities inside of your classroom.
3. Teacher-Led Activities
Teachers that take a leap of faith into the blended learning world will have to be prepared to give up some control. What I mean by this is that we should be striving to help our students become advocates of their own learning and not to try to be in charge of every aspect of the child’s learning. I have heard negative comments about online and blended learning that refer to “the teacher is NOT teaching” and all the students are doing is sitting on their computers. Teachers need to be an integral part of the blended learning process. When we allow our students the opportunities to work on activities online and off-line, the teachers role in the education process may look different.
Teachers in blended learning situations can free-up their time during class to have small group discussions, provide real-time feedback on assignments/assessments/projects, or provide individual tutoring. Teachers can provide small group direct instruction, model a practice or procedure, or offer a questions & answer sessions for student reinforcement.
As students are working on their assigned online and off-line activities, teachers could lead a mini Socratic seminar, do an I Do, We Do, You Do activity, or give an overview of an exemplar. Small groups of students could rotate to a teacher-led station for a mini-lesson, a relationship building activity, an oral assessment, an SEL activity, or a formative assessment.
How Do I Get Started?
The “Elements of Blended Learning” document I created can be used as a guide in your creation of daily or weekly lessons. I am assuming you may have done many of the activities listed on the document, but unfortunately we tend to forgot about some of the great activities we have learned about in the past. Click on the link below to create a copy of the “Elements of Blended Learning” document. This will be your personal guide document to help you create a meaningful blended learning experience. Feel free to add, change, or eliminate any of the activities listed.
Link to Elements of Blended Learning Document: https://bit.ly/2ZxHEMH
Daily Blended Learning Templates
I created two different daily blended learning templates to help you organize the online, off-line, and teacher-led activities for you and your students. Click on the links below to create a copy of the templates. Feel free to customize the templates to add your preferences and personal touch. I feel that both documents could be manipulated into a weekly, unit, learning objective, or skill template. Both templates are using the “Station Rotation” blended learning model approach, but they could be tweaked to fit the “Flipped with a Playlist” or Flex (Self-Paced) blended learning models.
Link for 3-Station Template: https://bit.ly/382cD6Q
Link for 6-Station Template: https://bit.ly/382cD6Q
Daily Blended Learning Examples
I created a couple of examples of how you can use the Elements of Blended Learning document and templates. I was a high school biology teacher for 29 years and biology was my favorite subject to teach. The examples below are related to an evolution unit in biology.
Be Flexible With Blended Learning
There is not one right way to do blended learning. If you allow yourself to be patient and flexible, you will find your niche in the blended learning world. Listen to teachers that have given it a try. Join Twitter and find educators that are experts in blended learning. Mix and match ideas you find and do not be afraid to leave your comfort zone and give them a try. Research for blogs posts and books that go into more detail about the implementation of blended learning. Check out the template & resources tab on The EdTech Workshop website for more blended learning goodness!
Keep building better lessons, assessments, and relationships with your students and I hope this helps!