The transformation of learning and teaching doesn't happen by chance — nor does it happen by simply providing mobile devices, an internet connection, cool apps or interactive tools. Transformation happens when educators cultivate an environment that is learner centered, collaborative, engaging and meaningful.
Blended learning brings flexibility to the traditional classroom setting by weaving in the online component to extend beyond traditional methods of instruction and support learners in creating their own projects.
One of the most valuable aspects of blended learning is the collaboration that can happen between teachers and learners from diverse communities. Through online tools, learners are able to collaborate with classrooms in other parts of the country and across the globe.
These inter-classroom experiences not only enhance learning and improve instruction, but they help learners increase their social skills through conversations that build relationships. Discussions, strategies, perspectives and mutual respect evolve among teachers and learners, and challenges that arise are resolved through communication and collaboration. Ultimately, the learning environment that was once routine, mundane and even stressful transforms into a happy place that is genuinely filled with enjoyment, excitement and motivation for teaching and learning.
Blended learning is the impetus, the shift that will transform the traditional classroom into a global interface where millennial learners will be educated to the potential they deserve and guided toward successful social, academic and cultural experiences.
Meeting the standards
Blended learning also fosters the ideal conditions for achieving the Common Core and ISTE Standards. In such an environment, learners are encouraged to exhibit creative thinking by designing interactive presentations that help others improve their learning. And digital citizenship becomes front and center when teaching responsibility in multiplayer gaming, simulations, messaging and other collaboration tools.
Here are just a few examples of blended learning in action:
Students innovate by constructing models in Minecraft using math concepts involving geometry and measurement, then share them in multiplayer worlds.
Learners from diverse communities communicate through learning management systems such as Edmodo or Schoology, along with Skype or Google Hangouts, to practice communicating math concepts with precision, as outlined in the Common Core math standards.
Learners collaborate to produce Auras in Aurasma illustrating a variety of models in operations with decimals, then share the video capture with viewers.
Blended learning can bridge the gap between learners who do not have the technology at home and those who do by using applications in the classroom. Learners can form "tech help" teams to troubleshoot problems for others.
Want to learn more about blended learning? Join us for Encore ISTE 2014 Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. PT to experience how learners from diverse communities connect and collaborate through blended learning to enhance cross-curricular experiences. We've designed engaging activities to immerse participants in virtual learning environments through the use of interactive apps and social media.
Lori Roe is a K-12 instructional technology specialist and Apple Distinguished Educator.