In November, I had the opportunity to attend the iNACOL Blended Learning Symposium. My goal in attending this conference was to deepen my understanding of Blended Learning and find real-life success stories in districts with similar demographics to ours. In my rose-tinted lens kind of world, I thought I would leave the conference with a full understanding of what blended looked like in a classroom setting and step-by-step instructions on how to get it started. At the time, my expectations were completely unrealistic, and I had no background knowledge to fully understand the scope of that task. I left the conference with more questions than I came with and a feeling of defeat. No one could tell me how to do it! However, I am not one to just give up when the going gets tough, so I plan to continue to find ways to learn more about blended learning and am excited about where the journey will take me.
In the months since the conference, I have continued to address my misconceptions and build a deeper understanding of the blended learning models, classroom barriers/needs, and situational factors that can help and hinder an effective blended environment. I have learned that blended learning isn't simply putting technology in the hands of students and seeing them engaged. It is incorporating several different types of purposeful instructional modalities, with aspects of technology integration, in conjunction with really good teaching, intentional data collection/interpretation, and student participation in selecting learning content. It is giving students choice in the pace, place, or path of their learning. It is PERSONALIZATION for students!
Blended Learning is a student-focused type of instruction that addresses each students needs individually, not necessarily based on a set of grade-level expectations. It is building upon what students already know and allowing them to move on when they are ready, not when the basal says its time to move to the next chapter or lesson. It is for all levels of students, those who are behind, those who are right on pace, and those who are ahead. Just sitting here reflecting on my new knowledge gets me really excited about what this means for our district.
What if we could have blended learning classrooms???? Think of the power we could have to really give our students choice in their learning. We could build motivation through mastery, help students face challenges, and see to it that students succeed and feel confident in their learning. Of course, we can't just wave a magic wand and poof have blended classrooms up and running, but we can at least get the movement started. Its going to take a village, a lot of planning, and LOTS of hard work, but I know it can be done. We've got a plan, stay tuned to see where this journey takes us!
(If you are interested in learning more about Blended Learning, I strongly recommend reading the book Blended by Michael Horn and Heather Staker.)