Transferring your classroom from a teaching model to a blended classroom can have an important impact on your students. Read on to learn how to successfully make this transition.
The Benefits of a Blended Classroom Model
If you're looking to move your classroom to a blended model, you're not alone. Blended learning is one of the hottest trends in teaching right now because of the many benefits it brings into the classroom. Educators are finding that blended learning provide students with an environment that makes them more focused and excited about learning, allowing them to develop skills that will guide them to success later in life. Michael B. Horn, an expert on disruptive innovation and online learning, speaks on the importance of transforming the education system into a student-centered one through blended learning. His Amazon best-selling book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools details the benefits of using online learning to create the next generation of K-12 learning environments.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a mix of modern technology and the traditional teaching model, fusing web-based learning with face-to-face instruction. Students receive online lessons that they are free to access on their own, teaching them the important skills of agency and control. Since the lessons are individualized, each student's learning is personalized to his or her needs, allowing them the opportunity to improve academic achievement as well as freeing up the teacher's time for hands-on tutoring where needed.
Making the Transition
Feeling ready to make the transition? Below are a few tips and tricks on how to maximize the success of your new classroom model.
Visit Other Blended Learning Programs
One of the greatest ways we can learn is by studying the work of others. Visit other blended learning programs in your district, and in other districts as well. Find out what is working (and what didn't work) and use that information to craft a goal statement for your own blended learning program. Being able to cite real-life case studies will help you get support from your school or district.
Make a Plan and Understand the Balance
A successful blended learning model relies on a delicate balance of face-to-face time and online media time. In-class assignments and online assignments must build on each other to create an ideal learning environment and maximize success of your program. You may find it effective to link online and in-class assignments by having an open forum at the end of class, allowing students to discuss key points from their online learning. On the flip side, you could have students collaborate about in-class group projects on an online forum.
Making a plan for your students will help everyone to understand what is expected of them in which environment (physical and online), as well as due dates for self-paced online learning assignments. For example, handing out a detailed course outline at the beginning of the semester will clarify the expectations and timeline for learning materials.
Create a Happier Classroom
A few K-12 teachers came together to theorize on ways to create a happier classroom by looking at the successful traits of managers in high-performing, high-employee satisfaction companies. They found that successful managers tend to empower their teams without micromanaging by acting as supportive coaches. These managers motivate their employees by emphasizing the importance of accountability in daily work. The end result is a happy working environment that creates positive business results and encouraged and supported employees. Shouldn't that be the goal of the classroom, too?
They found that similar principles could be applied to teachers. A teacher's goal is to motivate and guide students to learn the necessary skills for a successful life. Teaching students to have a passion for knowledge, and then giving them the resources to access it, gives students ownership over their own learning. An added benefit of the blended learning model is that it frees up extra time for teachers, giving them the ability to further support each student's personal journey.
Don't assume that your students know how to use technology. Sure, they know how to get to social media sites and play video games, but this doesn't mean that they have the wisdom to utilize search engines. Help them understand Boolean search language to get the results they want, as well as understanding reputable sources for information. The FAQ or help section of many websites can teach students to understand how to utilize the information they find there. Show them how posting on discussion boards is similar to posting on social media, except that with message boards they increase communication with their fellow classmates and also contribute to each other's learning.
Open Yourself Up to Learning
One of the major shifts that comes with the blended learning model is that the teacher is no longer the single expert on all matters. This can be a hard transition if you expect yourself to know everything. Use this as an opportunity to embrace a lifelong learning model and teach this behavior to your students. It is perfectly okay to answer 'I don't know, let's do some research and find out' as an answer to any question. This teaches students that they can seek authority through research, a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Review and Measure Success
Just as the technology world is constantly adapting, your blended teaching model should as well. Keep a close eye on student's performance and ask students how connected and supported they feel. Remember, part of creating a happy classroom environment is having encouraged and supported students.