When talking to teachers about blended learning I have found general agreement about the foundational ingredients to blended learning. Ingredients such as giving students control of their learning by allowing them to learn at their own pace, place, and path doesn’t seem to scare away educators.
Factors such as placing the student at the center of the learning experience brings no stop to the conversation, in fact, I found this to bring excitement to the dialogue. Instructors seem open-minded to relinquishing elements of control to the student, progressing towards a facilitator and partner in learning as the ISTE Standards for Educators suggest. Staff members are even willing to build upon their technological and pedagogical knowledge, and I couldn’t be happier.
There are a few ingredients however that I found curb the excitement and possibilities to blended learning, similar to how one turns the speed dial on the blender to the slow, if not off position. These ingredients are: (a) the high stakes assessment such as the end of course assessment, or more familiar traditional end of year state assessment; (b) an assumption that teachers have to teach their content in the same manner that they always have, replicating their face-to-face classroom in an online environment; and (c) that teachers must follow a highly regimented sequence of learning because of how their content area or subject matter builds upon itself. While the assessment additives are important to our fusion for learning, I don’t believe they are strong enough on their own to slow down or shut off the blender, albeit, some of these ingredients do bring required nutritional and educational value to our learning smoothie.
So what should we do? Let a few questionable ingredients prevent us from making our learning smoothie? I don’t think so...I say blend them together. Look past the obvious and challenge yourself not to get stuck on foul-smelling ingredients such as assumptions and high-stakes assessments that limit you and your students from the many possibilities that a blended environment brings.
For those of us with more of a bland educational palate, we can always camouflage the kale and spinach high stakes assessment aftertaste by adding blueberries, mangoes, and orange juice to the mix...ultimately creating a fruity smoothie with the delectable taste of knowledge and the flavorful reward of applied skills.
To learn more about going blended, including a thorough critique of this subject, watch this #silverliningforlearning YouTube episode led by a panel of experts including Dr. Catlin Tucker, one of the leading researchers and experts on this topic. Dr. Tucker can be found at catlintucker.com and I also invite you to explore the works of Scott McLeod, @mcleod; Yong Zhao, @yongzhaoed; and Punya Mishra, @punyamishra.
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