Throughout the world, many public schools still rely heavily on text-based core curriculum. Introducing blended learning experiences in core subjects presents many opportunities over traditional print-heavy classrooms.
These opportunities include more up-to-date, interactive, and engaging content, data capture at the task level that is connected across the curriculum, more standardized instruction delivery, and improvement of teacher and student technology skills.
The benefits of such an approach is more present than ever with results ranging from student motivation and engagement, to student ownership of the educational process and translated furthermore into the real world as adapted and multi skilled adults.
But introducing blended learning in the classroom is not the easiest thing to do. Besides deciding on the right model that perfectly fits the learning needs of the students, there are other challenges to overcome.
Overcoming 3 challenges of introducing blended learning in the classroom
Blended learning, in all its shapes, requires a digital support. Implementing this approach is challenging from various perspectives. One is technology, which is at the core of this approach, another is the shift from traditional teaching to required modern interpretations of instruction and also the necessity to balance innovative content with the cultural and curricular requirements. Let’s explore each of these challenges.
Ensuring high quality technology infrastructure and support exist
One of the reasons for which blended learning is just terminology and not practice is technology — more precisely its poor quality or its complete absence altogether from schools across the U.S. and the world.
Teachers are beginning to understand the need to communicate with their students in their own language as digital citizens. Most educators are aware of the new approaches in teaching, but by and large, they revolve around technology.
Schools have acknowledged these issues and are trying to offer the grounds for teaching advancements. Technology in schools implies not only one computer with Internet connection. To really be able to apply the blended learning approach, teachers need access to multiple devices connected to the Internet, but also tools such as an LMS to create a community working together towards the same goals, both online and offline.
BYOD programs are one solution, but it is not always viable since there are students who come from different social backgrounds, some without having their basic needs covered, like food, shelter, clothing.
Technology is ubiquitous nowadays, so students need to master the skills of this century. As a school, not being able to ensure students develop tech-skills means not getting ready for what society needs, thus putting them at a disadvantage before they can even get a job.
Including in their instruction apps which students are familiar with, creating a space for collaborative learning and for student agency, educators can take a step forward towards what teaching means in the 21st century.
There are schools which, with the use of a robot device, bring the class closer to students, who for whatever reasons cannot attend classes. This gives students a sense of belonging, being able to stay on track and even interact in real time with peers and teachers.
Supporting teachers move away from traditional direct instruction methods
Educators are facing the need of blending modern technology and approaches with the traditional, all too known, way of teaching. For the younger generation of instructors things don’t sound so complicated, but for some, feeling compelled to include technology into their traditional approach can be overwhelming.
To ensure a soft transition from the rigid and simplistic way of teaching towards a more flexible, inclusive and complex approach, schools need to provide access to proper training that focuses on instilling in teachers the confidence to let go of their need to control everything and give students voice and choice to manifest agency over their own education and embrace this process with the required motivation and engagement.
Balancing innovative content with approving bodies‘ cultural and curricular requirements
Blended instruction is not merely a mixture of the old and the new. Teachers face another challenge when it comes to providing information and developing skills: adjusting and adapting the curriculum.
Blended learning facilitates the path to personalized learning. In this way, teachers can adapt the curriculum to meet students’ needs by leveraging their environments, by capitalizing on their experiences and by helping them master objectives.
When educators base the instruction only on the curricular guidelines, they cannot provide students with real life experiences, with innovative content and digital skills.
Using technology, teachers can gradually introduce alternative activities to the traditional ones, like making use of a video or images, an app or an LMS, but they can also create an environment for online communication, feedback, assessment, collaboration, development of digital skills and differentiated content.
Ultimately, this leads to creating a community of motivated learners ready for the real world.
Blended learning comes to show that learning is no longer dependent solely on classroom instruction. When teachers make use of the tools students use on a daily basis, they create a learning environment that mirrors real life. Moreover, blended learning helps expand and customize learning opportunities to meet the needs of a broader group of students, making instruction more individualized.
Schools have to go above and beyond to allow students to grow and acquire all the skills the future adults will need to be active citizens of society, contributing to their continuous development. Education is like a circular mechanism which needs to be balanced in order to move forward and whose parts have to work together to keep it going.
Diana has been a teacher for over 10 years. She writes about finding that perfect balance between the same old teaching strategies and the ever changing tools.