I’m Excited About Blended Learning

There’s a trend in public schools right now.  It goes by many names, but the idea is essentially that students have individual computers in the classroom.  I’m a high school English teacher, and my school is implementing this adventurous endeavor in August.  I couldn’t be more excited about what we’ll call blended learning for the duration of this writing.

Before I go any further, my workplace is actually calling this movement “One To One,” but I’m reading a book at the moment recommended by the folks at Edmentum called Blended.  The authors, Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker,  use the term blended learning because the concept is that educators will blend online learning with brick and mortar education facilities.

I’m so excited about our school implementing this new style because, let’s face it, everything we do as a society anymore occurs online.  When I need information, I go find it on the Internet — I’m talking literally any kind of information.  It seems so odd to me that we don’t use the single greatest information tool available in those buildings dedicated to educating the leaders of tomorrow.

I also believe this will be a great opportunity for students to become active learners.  So often, students receive information from us as we deliver it.  We then see if they can regurgitate it back to us exactly as we gave it to them.  But when this occurs, I always question how much critical thinking is actually taking place.  I wonder if I am teaching more than content, am I also teaching the kinds of skills today’s world demands?  Sure, we infuse concepts like critical thinking, collaboration, deductive reasoning, and so on into the lessons, but I can’t wait to see a student independently synthesizing these skills in order to solve a problem of some sort and therefore reach a conclusion.  My hope is that with easy access to the Internet (and careful planning on the teacher’s part), each and every student can demonstrate these skills on a regular basis and improve with each attempt.

Make no mistake, however, I am a card-carrying book lover.  As an English teacher, I will NEVER abandon books in my classroom.  But just imagine — now, as we talk about Shakespeare, we can actually go find information about the man, the historical basis of his works, what Elizabethan England actually looked like, clips of the plays and poems in question … the possibilities are endless!  And every student can take a different path and investigate those things they personally find most interesting!  They can become active learners determining subsets of the content on their own.

Tomorrow’s world needs students able to gather information, assess and critique that information, and then produce a solution based upon that information.  I personally believe blended learning will help us hone those skills.  Furthermore, I’m excited because the interpersonal aspect of the brick and mortar facility remains.  Our students must still learn to collaborate, to communicate, and to coexist.  These are skills also necessary to the future.

Last but not least, I am ecstatic that they will still have me.  I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I am an invaluable resource to my students.  I am their guide, their mentor, their facilitator, and their advocate.  Most importantly, though, I’m their role model.  I take this part of my job very seriously.  Young adults, even seniors in high school, need adults conducting themselves respectably, intelligently, and compassionately.  They can learn all the information there is online, but they still need to learn by watching their elders.  It is vital their elders are worthy of this incredible responsibility.  This fact has remained true throughout history.

Will this transition be easy?  Certainly not.  It will be incredibly difficult both due to the planning aspects as well as the actual technical troubleshooting.  It will be stressful for everyone involved.  However, we will never learn to teach in a blended school without actually doing it.  I mean, that’s the great truth of teaching, isn’t it?  Experience is the most effective way to learn.  I have no doubt we will figure this out, and I am personally glad to be teaching in a manner consistent with the 21st Century!