|Posted on 8 November, 2015 at 16:40|
There has been much debate lately of how much technology in the classroom is too much technology and at what point does it become unproductive. Unless students are only using technology and devices to play games, they will always learn something skillfully and/or cognitively.
As many schools move towards using Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) and putting an emphasis on using digital resources in the classroom, it is pivotal that Blended Learning pedagogies are used to maximise the learning of all students, and not those that are advantaged (technologically) outside of the classroom.
Blended learning is about effectively integrating ICTs into course design to enhance the teaching and learning experiences for students and teachers by enabling them to engage in ways that would not normally be available or effective in their usual environment. Using Blended Learning simply means that a range of resources are used to complete one task. The resources can range from laminated handouts, to using digital cameras to take photos of tasks to using the Internet to search for and create information.
Blended learning offers many advantages to schools. It can provide more flexible access to programs, increase the amount of in-class participation, enhance students’ sense of connectedness, and potentially be more financially efficient. However in order for blended learning to be successful, schools need to provide appropriate technical support, teaching assistance, professional development, and pre-equipped learning and teaching spaces. Additionally, adequate workload allowance needs to be provided to teachers teaching in blended synchronous mode to account for the extra time commitment it requires during preparation.
Who is Blended Learning suitable for?
Blended Learning pedagogies are suitable for all students in all year groups regardless of KLA. By using a Blended Learning approach, all students are advantaged of developing their cognitive and behavioural skills. In many cases the act of “blending” achieves better student experiences and outcomes, and more efficient teaching and course management practices. It can involve a mix of delivery modes, teaching approaches and learning styles. This is due its flexibility of attaining goals of any level of Bloom’s Taxonomy meaning that all students benefit.
An example of a task that used Blended Learning pedagogies required year 9 students to use traditional resources that support digitalised learning. Once students read newspaper articles, they completed their analysis on their e-portfolio. All images that were taken of their work (their pen and paper sketches) were also uploaded on to their e-portfolio. Students completed short quizzes to reinforce key terms and also used multiple online tools to maximise their learning. In this instance, students worked in many groups (that changed for each task). More information about this task can be accessed at https://sites.google.com/site/minecraftrhhs/minecraft-incursion
How do I design Blended Learning?
Designing for blended learning requires a systematic approach, starting with:
1. Planning for integrating blended learning into your course,
- What so students do when they are learning well in this subject?
- What do they need to support this learning?
- What learning and teaching activities would best support the students’ learning?
- How might the students demonstrate their learning and achievements?
2. Designing and developing the blended learning elements;
- Why do I want to develop it
- What do I want students to do? Is it compulsory?
- How will it help students’ learning?
- Why would a student be bothered to engage in the blended learning elements?
- How will I know/measure if students have achieved the desired outcomes?
3. Implementing the blended learning design;
- Do you feel competent in using these tools and in guiding your students in how to use them?
- Have you noted what some of the common problems or difficulties may be for students in using the tools you have chosen
- Have you prepared (or have sourced) student help guides or training activities in the use of the blended learning tools/technologies you have chosen?
- How can you manage student expectations about learning in the blended environment you have designed?
4. Reviewing (evaluating) the effectiveness of your blended learning design, and finally;
- When should I evaluate?
- What should I evaluate? (pedagogies, resources, delivery strategies)
- How should I evaluate?
Planning for the next delivery of your course then involves improving the blended learning experience for both staff and students.
What are the challenges of Blended Learning?
Although there are a plethora of advantages of using Blended Learning, it is worth noting that some students feel that blended learning has a negative impact on their experience and learning. This is due to the on the teacher’s role in successfully creating these environments. Teachers who are unable to manage students completing different tasks simultaneously could please more effort in one particular component than another which will reduce the effect of the blended learning activity.
Students’ technical skills and familiarity with the communication platform are also issues that warrant consideration before attempting to teach using blended synchronous learning approaches. This requires teachers to spend significant time to explain and model how to use such tools.
However, as for any use of technology in education, it is important to not attribute the success of the learning experience to the technology itself. The teacher and the quality of their pedagogical practice is the main determinant of the student experience. To that extent, teacher practice, development and support should be the primary focus of any blended learning initiatives.