Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Pedagogy of Blended Learning

Blended instruction is what the teacher does with technology. Blended learning is where students use tech to have control over path, place, and pace. - Eric Sheninger

I remember back in 2012 when we began to implement blended learning strategies at my former high school.  At the time the flipped approach was all the rage and best suited for the resources we had and the age group of our kids. The goal was to make the learning experience more personal for our students while better meeting their individual needs in the process.  In our case, this meant better using time during the school day to transfer the balance of power from instruction (teacher-centered) to learning (student-centered).  A great deal has changed since 2012 when it comes to blended learning. As technology has evolved so have many of the opportunities inherent in this strategy.  


Image credit: http://www.staloysiusla.org

As I work with more and more schools on blended learning, there is always a focus first and foremost on ensuring that sound pedagogical design serves as a foundation. Herein lies the impetus of the work at Wells Elementary school the past two years. For the purposes of this post, I am going to highlight strategies, elements, models, and supports (tools). Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive or indicative of a be-all or end-all approach.  Since my items are (or should) be common knowledge, there won’t be much elaboration.  Hyperlinks will be used in the cases where I feel additional context and information is beneficial. 

Strategies

Below I identify some strategies that are widely accepted when it comes to sound pedagogy.  As you either create or evaluate blended activities are these included in some form or another?  If not, think about where there is an opportunity for growth. 
  • Small-group instruction while the rest of the class is engaged in other activities
  • Checking for understanding
  • Differentiation 
  • Assessment (formative and summative)
  • Feedback

Elements

The real power of pedagogically-sound blended activities is to empower kids to take more ownership over their learning while making the experience more personal in school. Many of these elements require increasing student agency, incorporating flexible learning spaces, and creating tasks that involve the purposeful use of technology to collaborate, communicate, and create. You will also notice that some are interchangeable. For example, many quality blended activities allow students a certain level of choice over their learning path. Keep in mind that one element might support or enhance another.

Models

There are many mainstream models out there that can be used to blend effectively. HERE are a list and description of 12 that are very popular. In theory, these sound great but implementing them into practice is an entirely different animal. Below are some of the most popular models I see being actively utilized with a high level of efficacy in schools.
Below are some images to provide more insight as to what each of these looks like in practice. 


Station Rotation

Choice Board w/ individual learning targets

Playlist

Flipped classroom


Solutions

There is no shortage of tools available that can be used as part of the models listed above when a sound pedagogical foundation is in place. The key is not to get caught up in the blended instruction piece and move towards blended learning.  Popular tools that I have seen effectively utilized by kids include Go Formative, Flipgrid, Edpuzzle, and PlayPosit. These are all fantastic options that can be aligned with the strategies listed above. If you are looking to spread your wings, check out this list crowdsourced by Tom Murray. When it comes to differentiation and summative assessment I recommend the integration of adaptive learning tools. Yes, there is a cost to these. However, learners can be pushed based on ability level and the data gleaned can be used during small group to provide targeted instruction. 

It is important to remember that technology only has to be a small component of an effective blended learning activity when considering the strategies, elements, and models listed above. Autonomy is emphasized to better democratize the experience where learners explore and demonstrate high levels of understanding related to concepts and constructing new knowledge.  As for the technology part, when it is all said and done it’s what the kids do with tech to learn in ways that they couldn’t without it. Blended makes this a reality. 

5 comments:

  1. Hey Eric! Great post. Do you have examples where the blended learning pedagogy was adapted for professional learning with adults? For example, to meet the personalized needs of teachers and leaders to learn new strategies and for improving student learning in their classroom and schools. Here is one approach to Blended PL:

    https://bit.ly/2Y8lnT9

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    1. I'm also very interested in Eric's answer. Thanks for sharing your approach Nick.

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    2. Professional learning for adults has a long way to go in this area. I can only speak to what I have done in my workshops/coaching and that is the use of a modified flipped approach to introduce content followed by differentiated activities the incorporate path, pace, and place.

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  2. Thanks Eric and "Unknown." This is my current thinking about and 3 strategies for dynamic professional learning that apply the principles of blended learning.

    https://www.classtime.com/blog/dynamic-professional-learning/

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  3. any opinion on usage of content curation to complement blended learning ?

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