‘Defining’ blended Learning

Very shortly after determining what our group project was about this semester, Nicole and I determined that ours would be a blended course.

I mean, I know what blended learning is, I took a blended course in University so I know what it looks like- or do I?

I came across an article Alec had tweeted, and as I read through, I realized that perhaps my experience as an adult in a blended learning setting, might not be the only way to ‘do’ blended learning.  Perhaps there is more than one way to approach blended learning – and maybe it has more to do with the learners then it does a rigid format…

Unfortunately, my request for assistance from the Twitter-verse yielded no responses, so I had to try other avenues to gain some understanding!

When I am trying to gain an understanding of something, I always first turn to the definition.  Wikipedia defines blended learning as:

Blended learning is an education program (formal or informal) that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.[1][2][3][4] While students still attend “brick-and-mortar” schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices are combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery.[5][6] Blended learning is also used in professional development and training settings.[7]

A lack of consensus on a definition of blended learning has led to difficulties in research on its effectiveness in the classroom.[8] Blended learning is also highly context-dependent and therefore a universal conception of it is hard to come by.[9]

That last part… the “lack of consensus on a definition…” part, has got me feeling pretty good, because, to me, that means that my inkling about blended learning not being rigid and prescribed (done in a set format) means that it can look different in a grade 2 setting!

Next, I revisited some of what Bates discussed in Chapter 9.  It seems, while there is a lack of theory surrounding why blended learning is beneficial, it is important to circle back to student needs, and teaching preference.

Additionally, Bates mentions that there are a variety of designs for blended learning to take place which range from technology as a classroom aid (which I would argue fits in the ‘S’ category of the SAMR model), incorporating a LMS (which I think could fall under the ‘A’ or ‘M’ category, depending on how it is implemented), and lastly a combination of hands on learning followed by virtual learning/discussion in an online format (which you guessed it – seems to fit in nicely with the ‘M’ or ‘R’ category).

So, now that I have a clearer idea of what I have gotten myself into with saying I am going to develop a blended learning course, the question remains:  What is the best approach and application for incorporating blended learning in a grade 2 setting?

I have to ask that question, because when I first started this course and we settled on blended learning, I had visions of creating a completely online module that students would independently interact with at home, and would respond to online either at home or in class (because that was my experience as a student with blended learning).

I know blended learning in Grade 2 is possible, people like Kathy Cassidy, Erin Benjamin, Nicole Reeve (to name a few), do it all of the time!  However, all of my reading and defining has got me wondering, in grade 2, is it fair to expect all learners to jump in at the ‘Redefinition‘ phase, or does it make more sense to start with ‘Augmentation‘, and build from there?  To me, it seems as though Bates would argue the latter:

The research also suggests that these skills of independent learning need to be developed while students are on campus. In other words, online learning, in the form of blended learning, should be deliberately introduced and gradually increased as students work through a program, so by the time they graduate, they have the skills to continue to learn independently – a critical skill for the digital age – Tony Bates

I also found this great video outlining the benefits of blended learning, which nicely details the opportunities of moving further along the SAMR continuum:

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6 thoughts on “‘Defining’ blended Learning

  1. Amy! So it’s still ok to not have a definition this far into the course? PHEW! I too struggled with understanding what a blended learning course would look like in elementary because my experience also existed in the University setting. I like how you questioned the value of jumping to the redefinition phase in grade two. Is it ok to stay at the augmented learning stage?
    This parallels my experience with Genius Hour in grade one/two. A key feature of Genius Hour in the older grades is to ask good questions. A Genius Hour question should be “unGoogleable.” I actually didn’t follow this advice for grade ones/twos for that very reason. I let my students just pick a topic and start there. They were going to do as much research and ask questions (likely Googleable ones) on that topic as they could. I didn’t feel I was ready to “redefine” their questioning skills yet, as they hadn’t yet learned how to even ask regular topical questions!
    I also wonder about copyright at that age. It was hard enough for me to teach students how to find images and then right click and save it to the camera roll or desktop to use for later. What do you think about teaching the young ones how to choose creative commons images? Have you done this? Or do you think this skill should/can come later?

    1. Thanks for sharing your connections Danielle!

      I hope it is ok to still be unsure and questioning – because I am definitely still sorting these things out!

      I think Genius hour is a great example of how we can meet our students where they are and help guide and support them to build their skills.

      As far as copyright goes, I have taught students about Creative commons and copyright as young as grade 2, and they have been successful in obtaining images with creative commons. I have the module set up so this lesson can be taught Kindergarten to grade 2, but I have yet to execute the lesson that young.

      That being said, I think if we are allowing students to access devices at these ages, that it is important they are being taught these things as young as possible!

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  2. Great thorough thinking throughout your post, Amy. I like how you showed your process of thinking about what blended learning should look like in grade two. I have similar questions for grade 7/8 despite the older age group. I feel like my idea that everything should be achievable and attainable online conflicts with how I would actually teach. Since Alec & Katia are encouraging us to create prototypes that are useful to us, I’m trying to think about what type of blended learning would be best with how I actually teach. The tricky part for me is figuring out what needs to be available online and what I would actually be doing face to face. Trying to find the balance is the part that elludes me right now. Thanks for your post!

    1. I think these are absolutely valid questions and all part of the process. How does being a blended educator fit with my pedagogy?

      For me, I am finding developing this prototype out of my comfort zone, not because I am uncomfortable with technology, but more because I have never considered teaching in an ‘online space’ with elementary students.
      That being said, as I become more comfortable with what ‘blended’ learning means, I am starting to see that it is not a huge leap from how I currently teach.
      Reconciling these two items did not happen until I really dug into what ‘blended learning’ can be this week!

      Perhaps a post reflecting on what you currently incorporate for tech in your class will lead you to how and where tech would be best suited for your chosen module?

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

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