Nicole Krueger
3 critical mindsets for blended learning

The challenge with blended learning is that it can be difficult to pin down. What is it, really? What does it look like? What does it mean to do it effectively?

" "One teacher defines blended learning as the integration of any technology in the classroom," " says Wendy Drexler, ISTE's chief innovation officer. " "Another teacher thinks of flipped learning. Still another takes the typical school week and replaces two days of class time with online learning. It's easy to understand why so many educators are intimidated and confused." "

A 2011 report on the rise of K-12 blended learning defined the term as as " "any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace" "— with the element of student control being the critical factor, said co-author Michael Horn. Another key element to blended learning, he added, is drawing rich connections between the online learning and the face-to-face classroom time.

With that definition in mind, here are three important mindsets teachers need to cultivate for successful blended learning:

1. Putting learning objectives first

The point of blended learning isn't to provide online instruction for the sake of providing online instruction. The point is that something is missing from the traditional learning model. It's failing to either engage students or adequately prepare them for the future. The global marketplace demands new skills and advanced cognitive capabilities that traditional instruction can't deliver. Blended learning has the potential to fill the gap — but only if it's treated as a solution or a means, not the goal itself.

" "Technology is, of course, critical to any virtual learning experience. But when you make it the starting point, instead of using it as a tool to achieve your learning objectives, it often misses the mark," " says virtual learning designer A. Janelle Scharon. Pedagogy must come first. To help teachers avoid the pitfalls commonly associated with online learning, she offers a five-step process for designing engaging virtual learning experiences.

2. Redesigning the classroom and curriculum

Adding an online component to an existing lesson plan is simple. But creating a robust blended learning environment requires a full-on redesign of every aspect of the classroom, from creating flexible workspaces that allow both collaboration and online instruction to rebuilding curriculum from the bottom up. The teacher's role shifts from content disseminator to architect responsible for seamlessly weaving online delivery and rich face-to-face experiences into a coherent whole.

It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it's a deeply creative process that encourages teachers to draw upon the diverse skill sets they've honed in the classroom while developing new digital skills side by side with their students. Fortunately, it's not necessary to start from scratch. Authors Shawn K. Smith, Ann M. Chavez and Garrett W. Seaman provide a blueprint for blended learning implementation in Teacher as Architect: Instructional Design and Delivery for the Modern Teacher. Part guide and part workbook, this volume provides a model for combining digital content with highly effective instruction.

3. Expanding the role of teacher

With a foundation in place for managing and delivering digital content, the teacher no longer has to carry the full burden of instructional delivery. Far from making teachers obsolete, this lightening of the load enables them to step into a new role — in fact, it requires them to do so.

" "To make this new vision for school a reality, we as teachers have to go after one fundamental assumption of how we think of our job as teachers, and that's our core instructional delivery model: letting go of the idea that we always have to teach something in order for students to have learned it," " said Brian Greenberg, CEO of Silicon Schools Fund, which has teamed up with the Clayton Christensen Institute to create a series of free tutorials on blended learning.

They've identified five key shifts teachers experience when successfully transitioning to a blended learning model:

 Lecturer to facilitator
 Fixed student groupings to dynamic groupings
 Explainer of all concepts to intervener
 Teaching content to teaching content, skills and mindsets
 Generalist to specialist

All of these big changes beg the question: What, if any, aspects of teaching should stay the same? Horn's answer: a focus on culture, relationships and " "magical light bulb moments." "

More resources for blended learning

Ready to blend? Here are a few more resources to help you get started:

What's your favorite place to find strategies for blended learning?

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