Blended Learning is one of those buzz words that education loves to throw around, but what exactly does blended learning mean? Blended learning occurs when a piece of the traditional face-to-face instruction is replaced by online learning. Blended Learning is where students spend part of the day using a computing device to access educational resources (websites, simulations, videos, apps) to support educational development. Blended learning can be a successful model because blended learning offers personalized learning experiences for individual students and because it addresses differentiated learning styles.
How much of the classroom experience can be replaced with blended learning? The answer depends on the material, the classroom, the subject, and the learning objectives. A teacher might spend 15 minutes upfront creating web-based instruction, and back in the classroom students watch the instruction on their devices, with ample time to work on the assignment. The teacher, then, is free to assist and support the learners.
When using blended learning strategies, it is helpful to use a collaboration tool, such as Google Apps for Education (GSuite). Blended learning could incorporate the use of a class web site, which would build a sense of community that is important when connecting in-course and online learning. With blended learning, students can work on assignments away from the classroom, giving them more time for actual work. Most importantly, blended learning can be fun and engaging as students learn in different and exciting ways.
What is the one learning tool that stands out above all others? For me, it’s the smartphone. With all the different educational tools to choose from - iPads, Chromebooks, Surface Pros, laptops, I chose the smartphone because it is a product for everyman. You can learn a language, watch a tutorial, read a book, study art, make a movie, learn calculus, publish an e-book, research a topic, all on your smartphone.
As more schools opt for BYOD, smartphones have become an obvious technology tool. While monitoring of smartphones in a school environment is necessary, consider schools with “best practices.” In North Carolina, the Onslow County School District adopted the use of smartphones in the classroom. “Project K-Nect is designed to create a supplemental resource for secondary at-risk students to focus on increasing their math skills through a common and popular technology – mobile smartphones. Ninth graders in several public schools in the State of North Carolina received smartphones to access supplemental math content aligned with their teachers’ lesson plans and course objectives. Students communicate and collaborate with each other and access tutors outside of the school day to help them master math skills and knowledge. The smartphones and service are free of charge to the students and their schools due to a grant provided by Qualcomm, as part of its Wireless Reach™ initiative.” No other product has revolutionized the technology market quite like the smartphone.