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. 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. Blended learning is also used in professional development and training settings.
A lack of consensus on a definition of blended learning has led to difficulties in research on its effectiveness in the classroom. Blended learning is also highly context-dependent and therefore a universal conception of it is hard to come by.
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: