So, you're finally a blended learning convert! The value provided by a blend of technology and human instruction provides your daily lesson plans and curriculum is just too difficult (and encouraging) to ignore.
Next comes the BIG question: what are the first steps towards an effective blended learning model in my classroom?
Before getting into the logistics and actual technology, you'll want to consider how your instruction style will be altered with the addition of online learning. Here are few preliminary questions to ask before you get started:
- What are my available resources -- tech-related and non-tech related?
- How much interaction do I want with the kids?
- How comfortable am I with allowing software, videos, and apps at lead partially instruct the students?
- What factors will constitute my blended learning grading system?
Ensure the chosen model tailors to your classroom
Okay, so now you have a general understanding of your blended learning comfort levels. Now it's time to put those preferences into the process of building your classroom's model.
First off, the initial shape of your initial model will depend quite a bit on your available resources:
- If each kid has constant access to a device or PC (i.e. a 1:1 device-to-student ratio), you'll have a lot of options, up to and including flipped learning or another technology-intensive model.
- However, don't worry if 1:1 is simply not possible (or some far-fetched pipe dream). There are equally effective blended learning models that optimize smaller numbers of technology to leverage heightened engagement.
- For instance, If you share a technology lab or a cart with other teachers, you may want to consider a Rotation model where students flow between online learning and group-based instruction to develop full understanding and mastery.
*For a deeper explanation and visual representations of the various blended learning models, be sure to check out our free PDF guide, "Finding the Blended Learning Model That's Right for Your School".*
Build a model that fits your preferences and instruction style
As an educator, you most likely want to maintain some sense of autonomy within the school day and instruction, while also ensuring students meet their learning goals. A blended learning model can help you do just that.
When implemented correctly, blended learning models both ensure students are provided with exposure to solid building blocks and afford you more resources to offer instruction, reinforcement, and/or enrichment to students in group or one-on-one learning settings.
Taking account of what resources you have available is just a portion of the process. Next, identify the level of "blend" you want within your daily lesson plans. In a very literal sense, you'll need to decide what skills/content you want students to learn online and what skills/content you want to teach via full-class, group, or individual instruction.
The key is to identify where your strengths as an educator lie and then utilize the correct model that will focus those strengths towards the meeting of student learning needs.
To learn more about maintaining educator autonomy while introducing new educational technology, be sure to check out our previous blog post -- "'Adaptive Learning' and 'Teacher Autonomy' are Not Mutually Exclusive".
Your next step for your model is implementation and execution
Alright, so have settled how you instruction styles and available resources best fit within a blended learning model. The next step is to begin taking a look at your goals and tech infrastructure within the classroom and your school.
This process is far to large to fit into a little blog post, but luckily the good folks at Digital Learning Now! recently published an amazing "Blended Learning Implementation Guide", designed to help you:
- define goals of the school and students
- build a timeline and strategy for implementation
- create and/or enhance tech infrastructure and support
- build avenues and strategies for "continuous improvement"
That last bullet point drives home a great point. Establishing a blended learning model is not the end all be all. The model serves as a continuous process, in which you refine and optimize strategies, methods, and goals.
Additionally, educational technology is constantly improving and growing, so your abilities to meet student needs via a blend of online and offline learning may be significantly enhanced within just a few years. That's very encouraging!