A Conversation with Parents: Opportunities of Blended Learning
Last week I was invited to speak with the parents of The Mandell School (New York City) about the benefits of well-implemented Blended Learning. I also had a chance to spend the day at the school to observe some of the great work they are doing with integration of technology in classrooms. Though there are many and this list is not meant to be exhaustive, below I briefly describe four (4) of the key opportunities of Blended Learning. Enjoy!
Opportunity 1: Personalized and Differentiated Learning
The classrooms of the past were dominated primarily by lecture style teaching, the style that most of us likely experienced. A teacher (as owner of knowledge) transferred information to students primarily focused on addressing students at the mid-range skill level. Two major problems with the former model are, one, it doesn’t address all levels of students very effectively. Students that are more advanced typically are not accelerated and students that need extra support typically are not provided the necessary remediation. More advanced classrooms have moved toward increased personalization where students are actually provided instruction at their level. Students’ needs are addressed precisely where they are. Technology has the potential to make this a daily reality through adaptive, personalized instruction and the capacity for multiple levels of instruction to take place simultaneously. Secondly, the historic model generally assumed that student levels remained static. Also, untrue. The student that was zooming yesterday in fraction addition, may need a little more help today in fraction multiplication. Technology helps to better dynamically address student grouping and varying needs over time and skill.
Opportunity 2: More Efficient Feedback to Teachers
The second key benefit is that with good use of technology, teachers are able to receive vital feedback of student progress more rapidly. As students are working on technology-based tools, continuous, real-time data is constantly being funneled back to the teacher. This means less wasted time in the classroom. When students meet hurdles, the teacher can quickly become aware of that hurdle and address it. When students are moving more rapidly, the teacher is able to identify the increased pace and provide the student with accelerated instruction.
Opportunity 3: Increased Modalities of Learning in the Classrooms
As we all know, we are all very different types of learners. Some of us are more auditory, some more visual, some more kinesthetic, etc. Research cites that historically, as much as 80% of instruction in traditional classrooms was delivered through auditory methods. Research also sites that as few as 10% of learners are actually auditory learners. In contrast, as many as 40% of learners are considered visual learners. In classrooms which incorporate technology, the opportunity to tap into various types of learning increases dramatically as classrooms can now be transformed from just hubs of auditory learning to now hubs of various modalities of learning where students are engaged in creating, evaluating, applying and analyzing.
Opportunity 4: Increased Student Engagement and Ownership
Though there are many more, the final one I describe is student engagement and ownership. As we have now entered an educational world occupied by digital natives, we must embrace that technology is an increasingly critical part of every facet of students’ lives. Studies show that student engagement increases dramatically when technology is effectively integrated. With greater engagement comes greater interest and greater ownership. This presents a huge opportunity in the learning process and arguably one of the most transformative; students actually become the agents of their own learning. Ownership in their own learning means students are aware enough of their own needs and goals, that they become self-guiding, self-directing, even self-correcting. This only happens when interest and engagement are high, awareness is present and the tools are available to act on the need. Technology enhanced learning actually provides this opportunity.
The effective integration of technology in classrooms creates the opportunity for truly transformative learning in which personalization increases, teachers become more efficient, learning becomes more dynamic through increased modalities and students take greater ownership in their learning process. As the education landscape rapidly evolves, it is exciting to see models of excellence like the Mandell School, emerge as pillars of innovation, excellence and sound pedagogy. Again, I thank the parents of Mandell for their inquisitiveness and interest and the leadership and staff for inviting to participate in such an important event.