"Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path or pace. While still attending a “brick-and-mortar” school structure, face-to-face classroom methods are combined with computer-mediated activities. Proponents of blending learning cite the opportunity for data collection and customization of instruction and assessment as two major benefits of this approach. Schools with blended learning models may also choose to reallocate resources to boost student achievement outcomes."
Since Blended Learning requires a mixture of online instructional delivery and face-to-face instruction, it only seems natural that students growing up in a traditional classroom may find that model a bit difficult to adjust to. After all, they've been used to a constant teacher presence with peers nearby! Therefore, I have been slowly introducing my students to a Quasi-Blended Learning Environment over the course of the school year where some directions are posted online and some of their work needs to be done online!
I've used a gradual release of responsibility model with my students to get started in Blended Learning:
At the left is a sample lesson I did towards the beginning of the year to help my students become more comfortable with blended learning. In this lesson, my students are given some directions that are posted online (All images on the left will enlarge if clicked on). (Here is the link to the original post, as well.) I go over the directions with them so they understand everything before starting. I do a few tasks for them, they help me do a couple more, and then they do some tasks while I give feedback. The rest of the steps are done on their own or with peer support.
Based on the successes and challenges of this lesson, I adjust the next quasi-blended learning lesson accordingly.
By the end of the year, students should be able to read the directions online, and follow all the steps successfully without adult support. This is preparing them for a more literal interpretation of Blended Learning!
Notice that in the example to the left, I use a combination of screen shots, step-by-step instructions, and forms for my students. Just like a checklist, students can successfully complete an assignment by following the directions closely and mentally checking off tasks as they are completed.
Some students struggle with this at first and need teacher guidance to be successful in this style of instruction. By doing these in class before they are expected to be able to do this from home (or in class independently), you are building their schema to be successful.
Some would look at this sample lesson as a lesson on technology, but I look at it as so much more. Students are synthesizing their knowledge of their Revolutionary War Hero after spending weeks researching and creating small pieces of evidence to show knowledge and understanding.
Since students have to follow written directions somewhat independently and manage their time, they are also working on their executive functioning skills.
By the end of an assignment like this, I have a better understanding of what support each of my students needs going forward. If we did this assignment step-by-step together as a whole class, I would not know which students were able to do this independently and which students needed support.
Since I do not spend a ton of time presenting content to my students (I prefer they experience content through simulations or PBL), I do not have my students watch videos of me or others teaching. When I choose to lecture, I prefer that my students are with me so it can be a whole-class discussion rather than a "sit and git" session. One exception is math, where I always have about a 15-30 minute lesson, but again, having my students be a part of the lesson "live" is still important to me so I can immediately check for understanding, ask questions before moving on, have them do sample problems with their peers, etc.
OK, so some of our directions are posted online. What about student work? Well, I have my students post their work online as well. Each student maintains their own personal ePortfolio of their work. Once they are finished creating something from their directions, they post it online, possibly answer some pre-assigned questions about it, and write a reflection statement. Ideally, the teacher would give 1-on-1 feedback in the next couple of days to further assess the student's understanding of the content or skill, as well as to extract more information than the child's summary contains. (I crave the opportunity to do this, but haven't figured out a way to create the time just yet.)
Below is a sample activity that shows where we are at today (mid-year) in the process of getting my students ready for a blended learning environment. We are learning about the human body in science - I have a blog dedicated to those lessons that my students have 24/7 access to. I show them a sample blog entry for them to model their own. When the lesson is complete, students will have a blog entry associated with each lesson (click each image to enlarge them):
Sample Blog Entry:
Student Blog Entry: