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New to Blended Classrooms? Here Is Your Quick Start Guide

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Introducing technology into your modern classroom can offer students access to a world of information and resources, and it's easier than you might think

Easy Steps to a Successful Blended Classroom

The latest trend in learning is the blended classroom. Blended classes combine technology and standard resources to help students gain access to the information they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive economy. For some, the idea of setting up this type of classroom is intimidating, but it doesn't need to be. With a few quick steps and some creative resources, most teachers can incorporate blended learning even in the Pre-K classroom and give students a leg up from the beginning.

Supporting Research

If you're considering a blended classroom approach, you're in good company. According to the NEA, more than 4 million K-12 students take classes or do some type of educational activity online. More than 75-percent of districts nationwide use some form of virtual learning resource, and that number is only expected to increase. Today's tech-savvy students are at home with technology in a way that no generation before them has ever been. As a result, they relate and adapt to new methods fast, allowing them to pick up new tools and run with them - something teachers are learning to take full advantage of.

Who Benefits?

Study

The blended classroom allows teachers to access a wealth of resources from around the web. While this has immense potential to help all students at every grade level, this biggest advantage may be for those students considered nonstandard, like:

  • Overachieving Students. Students who bore quickly and need more stimulation can continue to explore the lesson in more depth on their own, during class or on their own time.
  • Underachieving Students. Some students need more time or more information to make sense of lesson materials. A blended classroom model allows them to get the support they need without disrupting the class.
  • Student Athletes. School athletics can sometimes disrupt classroom learning and athletes to play catch up on their own time. Virtual lessons deliver the same information wherever the student is, ensuring they keep up with the rest of the class - even on the team bus.
  • Special Needs Students. Students with physical or emotional limitations may miss class often, causing them to fall behind. Blended learning allows them to take their class with them, keeping them up to date with what the class is learning; even if they cannot attend.
  • Teachers. Virtual lessons allow teachers to connect their students to a world of knowledge with the click of the mouse. Teachers can customize each experience as the need arises. Instructors who become adept at using online tools can add lectures, videos, and activities easily, providing their students with resources tailored to their learning needs.

The list of those who enjoy a blended classroom is endless, and the lessons themselves are limited only by the technology available and the imagination of the instructor.

What's the Plan?

Plan

There are many ways that teachers have found to incorporate blended learning into their classroom, some of the most useful include:

  • Labs. Students rotate to different learning centers or labs placed throughout the classroom. These labs often include group instruction, online activities, and group or independent work.
  • Flexible or Flipped. Students complete tasks or videos at home and return to the classroom for activities and discussion.
  • Virtual. Classes and activities are completed online with the help of a remote teacher the student can contact via video chat or email.
  • Blended. A combination of virtual and standard learning which allows students to take some classes via online modules, and others in a conventional brick-and-mortar classroom.

Depending on your classroom, and the needs of your students, you may find yourself using one or many of these methods of teaching. The beauty of blended learning combined with a fluid classroom model is that it can change as needed to provide your students with the support they need when they need it.

How to Decide?

Choose

When choosing the right model and plan for your young learners, it's important to ask yourself a few questions to help decide how to approach your blended classroom. Some sample questions might include:

  • What are your learning goals?
  • What platforms are available to you?
  • What equipment do you and your students have access to?
  • What content is available to enhance your lesson?
  • How much money do you have to spend on your new model?
  • How much time can you commit to building your new blended classroom?

It's a good idea to meet with your school administrator to see what they recommend, what regulations allow, and what options are available for your district. Once you have a plan, you can use the abundant resources found at sites like Teachers Pay Teachers, Teach Thought, NASA, The Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, and more to set up your lessons at little or no cost.

Dive In!

Blended learning can help students and teachers alike by enhancing the learning experience and stretching limited resources. This is particularly true in classrooms that adopt a lab-centered approach because it allows students to share expensive equipment. With more and more students using smart devices and computers as part of their daily lives, the learning curve is small enough to allow even the youngest students to join in. This new model also lets teachers move into the role of facilitator, teaching students how to find the information they need, research concepts, and continue the lesson long after the class has ended.

With a wealth of information such as that provided by Study.com and Aspire Public Schools, setting up the blended learning environment has never been easier or more rewarding, you just need to dive in and get started.

By Patricia Willis
January 2017
opinion blended classroom

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