Blended Learning is one of those buzz words that education loves to throw around, but what exactly does blended learning mean? Blended learning can be defined by many different scenarios. Blended learning occurs when a piece of traditional face-to-face instruction is replaced by online learning. Blended Learning is when students use a device to access educational resources (websites, simulations, videos, apps) that 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. An instructor might spend 15 minutes creating web-based instruction for the students. The students might watch the instruction at home or in the classroom. With students watching the lesson on their devices, this provides ample time for students to work on the assignment. Additionally, this frees up the instructor 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 website, 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.
Are you a reluctant parent when it comes to video gaming? Whether you allow your child to play video games or not, gaming is one of the most popular forms of entertainment today. As the mother of a teen and a technology educator, I am often fighting the battle of “screen time.” This post is not meant to convert you one way or the other, but to educate you on the pervasiveness of video gaming.
Beyond Pong: Video Gaming Now
Video gaming has come a long way from its nascent stages of the 1970’s arcade game, Pong, to Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG), which allow hundreds of thousands of players to concurrently interact in an online game. An article in the Washington Post reported that in 2014 video gaming grew to an industry totaling over $100 billion in sales worldwide. While the motion picture industry pulled in $10.9 billion at the U.S. box office, and the music industry reported $7 billion in sales, video game sales totaled more than both combined, with $21 billion in US sales.
Although gaming is assumed to be an activity for teenagers, the statistics indicate that what constitutes a gamer is far from this idea. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is 35 years old. Here are some other gaming statistics:
There are certain characteristics that video gaming promotes that can be beneficial in an educational setting. Video games generate conditions that encourage players to “stay in the game,” such as enjoyment, interest, and motivation.
In Minecraft, one of the most popular games on the market, players build in a "sandbox" environment with 3D cubes. Minecraft's educational site has brought a school version of the game to classrooms that allow educators to connect and to use Minecraft as a platform for learning.
Tips for Parents
The world of video gaming grows exponentially each year. As a parent, remember to set guidelines, be informed, and monitor your child. The following tips will help you determine boundaries:
Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” (Clarke Foundations, 2015). Virtual reality is one of those concepts that can suspend belief, like magic. Virtual reality has the ability to transform an experience, and this is where it is poised to broaden the educational experience. The strength of virtual reality is the ability to immerse the individual. While distance learning allows students to connect across large spaces, there is little interaction that is physical, VR can change this. In a traditional classroom, a student can ask a question, talk with a neighbor, or offer feedback. Distance learning students can perform these tasks, but not in real time, and often without social interaction. One possibility of virtual reality could be an avatar with video and voice capabilities that would mimic the professor. The virtual classroom could provide the emotional stimulation that is often missing from an online classroom.
Virtual reality holds much promise for the future; it opens the door to new possibilities in industries such as health care, military, and the scientific fields to name a few. Although the field of education often embraces new technologies, with virtual reality, it has been slow to catch on. Some of the problems with using virtual reality are cost, technical limitations, and the lack of desire to change traditional educational models. As technology improves and virtual reality becomes mainstream, the gap between novelty and commonplace will close.
Arthur C. Clarke Foundation. (2015). Sir Arthur’s quotations. Retrieved from
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.
While this choice might be cliché, Khan Academy is my favorite e-learning website. Many years ago I stumbled upon the Khan Academy website when I was trying to recall algebra rules. Salman Khan first developed his videos for a cousin who was struggling in math, and in 2009, with financial backing from Ann Doerr, Khan quit his full-time job to form the non-profit, Khan Academy. A few years later, both Bill Gates and Google became financial backers, moving Khan Academy into the big leagues. His videos have now reached millions around the globe. Khan Academy videos produce response strengthening where viewers are learning or reinforcing skills. This learning is guided in a step-by-step procedure; students can watch a video to hone a skill, or in some cases, re-watch a video to master content. Some of Khan’s critics are grounded in the Constructivism theory of education - they believe that children should problem-solve from elements of everyday life, instead of watching a video. Khan disagrees, stating that “the more teachers flip their classrooms, the more time students have for creative activities” (Thompson, 2011). I tend to agree with Khan, and I still turn to his videos. Salman Khan is now revamping the traditional brick-and-mortar school model with a lab school in Silicon Valley. What venture will Khan Academy try next?
Education is ever-changing and growing, just like our children. With all of the buzzwords in education, it is difficult to keep up. Do you know the difference between personalized learning, blended learning, and differentiated instruction? If you feel that you are being left out of conversations on education due to the terminology, you are not alone. In able to support and educate you, the following list of terms will provide a foundation from which you can refer.