The other day one of my friends told me about an experience with his son. They were out in the woods doing some hiking and hunting. As the sun rose and lit the trees with its rays, his son said about the vibrant fall colors practically leaping off of the leaves, “This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in nature.” This ten-year-old was focused on the incredible beautiful ever changing colors of the leaves.
As I rush out the door every morning, I take a minute to focus on the beautiful colors of the changing leaves and the rays of the warming sun. Recently as I gazed up at the bright oranges, yellows, reds and greens of the trees, it made me think about how education has changed over the past several years.
Technology is one of the most brightest and colorful ever changing areas of education, much like the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. These days we hear a lot of changing ideas about educating our children. One phrase we have heard a lot about is “Blended Learning.” What exactly is blended learning and does it have positive results for our students?
Blended learning uses both digital learning strategies through online media and traditional classroom instruction. Students are able to complete the online portion of the learning, decide on the place they access the online content and set an appropriate pace. Columbia Central High School students use blended learning strategies in quite a few of their classrooms. In Advanced Placement Biology, Mr. Dickens uses blended learning techniques to enhance the time the students have in their classroom. He uses a strategy called “Flipped Classroom.” In this strategy students choose the time and place that they review the material in the lesson before coming to class. This material may include research, specific online sites or a Podcast. Once the students arrive in class they begin with activities based upon the material they covered online and may follow up with an assessment covering their assignment and activities.
Blended learning activities also are taking place at Columbia Upper Elementary School. Many teachers are using strategies that integrate technology both at home and during school. Recently I spoke to several students who were working on a blended learning technique that included doing online research, creating a graphic organizer and translating that into a multipage website. This strategy gave the students an opportunity to work in their own time, at their own pace, using a learning-path they chose and a place that worked for them.
In some of our Columbia Elementary School classrooms teachers are having students write in their blogs online and then classmates, parents, and other relatives, in addition to the teacher, read and write reviews. This partnership between parents, students and the teacher is made possible through the online techniques of blended learning.
At Columbia Options High School students use online applications during their traditional classes as well as during their virtual classes. We support students as they complete their virtual classes with a drop-in center and a resource teacher. Many students find the virtual portion to be better suited to their learning needs, but they also find the resource teacher very important to assist them with questions.
By integrating technology and blended learning into the curriculum teachers must reinvent their teaching techniques. To adapt the learning activities into this innovative way of teaching and learning, teachers collaborate together and experience a sustainable, transformation that results in meaningful student growth.