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Clarifying what is #blendedlearning #ce14

The first blended learning connected educator webinar occurred last night. You can listen to the recording via Blackboard Collaborate by clicking on this link. And the slide deck is here.

The first part of the webinar focused on the definition of blended learning.


Christensen Institute Senior Research Fellow Heather Staker was one of the people who developed the first definition of blended learning and continues to be involved in how the definition has evolved. Heather shared that originally, she and her team visited 40 schools or organizations who were involved in blended learning and then developed the definition to include all the schools. She shared that they wrote a definition that is “normative” which would describe blended learning but not necessarily describe what is high quality blended learning. She went on to explain the definition really identifies three areas: first, blended learning is online and students have some control of their path and pace, in both brick-and-mortar and at home, and student modalities are integrated together within the curriculum. She pointed out that the first part of the definition makes it clear that you cannot have a blended learning classroom that does not do some instruction online. They distinguished between full time online courses and blended learning by adding in the phrase “in both brick-and-mortar and at home”. Then she shared how in some schools, students would go to a computer lab and play “math blaster” and then go back to class and work in a math textbook and the computer lab time and the classroom math time were not connected. This was when the final section of the definition was added that “modalities along each student’s path within a course are integrated…” The assembled panel suggested that the definition may change again when the technologies allow more seamless access to networks and technologies that easily deliver real time student data to teachers via a digital dashboard type system.


Heather also clarified the difference between a technology-rich classroom and a blended learning classroom. She shared that “the number one mistake the field makes when talking blended learning is to conflate all instruction that involves digital aspects that any classroom that uses online technologies is blended when in fact that is not the case.” She went on to explain that there has been an incredible amount of money spent on technology in schools over the years with little impact on instruction. Blended learning does impact learning in a much different way than simply a technology rich classroom. Blended learning allows teachers to do more with less which is the way of the future for all schools. She went on to talk about the real promise of blended learning, which comes down to the the “how” and the “why.” One of the main benefits of blended is to personalize and tailor instruction for each student. The “how” of blended learning is how it allows personalized learning at scale, while the “why” is that personalized learning piece and how blended learning can meet each student’s needs just in time.

Allison Powell from iNACOL, who was also a part of the panel, shared that she is hearing a lot of confusion in the field with lots of buzz words such as “blended learning”, “personalized learning”, “competency based learning” and people are starting to use them to mean the same thing when they are not. The Christensen Institute has provided information regarding the definition and models of blended learning. iNACOL has provided a document entitled “Mean What You Say…” that discusses the meaning of personalized learning as well as a document entitled “Re-engineering Information Technology: Design Considerations for Competency Education.”

Overall, listening to the first part of this webinar will provide important information and definitions about what blended learning really is. Take about 20 minutes to listen in when you can.

Join us for the Tuesday night Tweet Ups about blended learning at 8:00 EST / 5:00 PST with the hashtags #ce14 and #blendedlearning. All blended learning strand information for the month of October can be found here.

Comparing the SAMR Model and #BlendedLearning

About six months ago a friend of mine mentioned the importance of the SAMR model as it applies to the use of technology in education today. Because he shared that, it caused me to stop in to a session at ISTE 2014 where the speakers were talking about the SAMR model as applied to coaching teachers. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the session, the doors were closed. Thankfully, the session was broadcasted to a screen outside the door and the speakers used Today’s Meet as a back channel to post various links about the session which included a discussion of the SAMR model (and a link to the session slides). The back channel proved to be more useful in discussing the SAMR model.

The SAMR Model was designed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura who is the founder of Hippasus, an educational consulting firm specializing in transformation applications. Ruben had previously been a teaching fellow at Harvard. For more detailed information about the SAMR model, here is a website and a video.

Here is a diagram of the SAMR Model.


And here is the “From Textbook Enhanced to Online Teaching and Learning” continuum:

Blended Learning Continuum Illustrated

In the SAMR model, Substitution and Augmentation are enhancement stages in the use of technology, while Modification and Redefinition are transformation stages. This is the same in the world of blended learning as I think the continuum illustrates. Textbook enhanced and technology enhanced teaching and learning fit the enhancement stages of the SAMR model, while the web/online enhanced teaching and learning is  the beginning of the transition from enhancement to transformation, and blended and online learning most closely align with the transformation station.

With that being said, there are online learning and blended learning courses that simply enhance the teaching and learning and do not truly transform teaching and learning. It is in this transformation stage when teaching and learning becomes more student centered, teachers better use data to customize student learning, and students become more engaged in their learning. This occurs best through the use of technology in the transformation stages of the SAMR model and in the blended learning section of the continuum.

Connected Educator Month #BlendedLearning: Participate, contribute and lead! #ce14

I am facilitating the Blended Learning Strand for the CUE Organization for Connected Educator’s Month. (#ce14 #blendedlearning)

I hope you will participate, contribute and lead! See the variety of ways you can do this below or linked here.

Participate, Contribute and Lead Activities:

  • Panel Discussion Webinar (Mondays – see topics below) – Looking for panel members
  • Discussion Board Weekly Conversations – Join here via Linked In (All week) – Need discussion board leader
  • Tweet Up as a follow up to the panel discussion – (#ce14 #blendedlearning) (Tuesday from 7:00pm-8:00 EST) – Need Tweet Up leader
  • Weekly blogpost – posted each week in response to the discussion topic. – Create your own blogpost and tag it #ce14 #blendedlearning 
  • Participants and Reflectors – Need people to participate and then provide reflections on October 27
  • Pinterest Board - Help update the board.

Weekly Panel Discussions

Webinar: Oct. 6, 7:00-8:30pm EST / 4:00-5:30 PST.
Blended Learning Panel 1: What is Blended Learning and What are the Best Implementation Strategies?

Webinar: Oct. 13. 7:00-8:30pm EST / 4:00-5:30 PST.
Blended Learning Panel 2: Blended Learning and Teaching. What does it take to be an effective blended teacher?

  • Registration is free, but please register
  • What does it really mean to be a blended learning teacher? This webinar will feature teachers who have transformed into blended learning. They will share best practices regarding classroom management, personalizing learning for every student, ongoing data driven curriculum decision making, and the pedagogy required for a blended learning classroom. Also included will be the types of ongoing support that is needed to be successful in a blended learning classroom.

Webinar: Oct. 20. 7:00-8:30pm EST / 4:00-5:30 PST.
Blended Learning Panel 3: Blended Learning and Leadership. What are the best ways for administrators to support blended learning?

  • Registration is free, but please register
  • This webinar and panel discussion will bring together administrative and teacher leaders who have implemented blended learning in their schools. Various topics for successful implementation including professional development, ongoing support, and structures for support will be shared. Whether you are thinking about blended learning, in your first year of blended learning or a blended learning school, join this webinar to learn and share important leadership principles to sustain and maintain your program.
  • Panel: Blended Learning Leaders, Administrators and Support Teachers

Webinar: Oct. 27. 7:00-8:30 EST / 4:00-5:30 PST.
Blended Learning Panel 4: Reflections and Insights about Blended Learning. 

  • Registration is Free, but please register.
  •  The purpose of this webinar is for participants to share their insights and reflections about blended learning. In particular, reflecting on any of the activities from the Connected Educator Month blended learning strand. Whether you viewed a webinar recording, saw a Tweet, or participated in the discussion forum, join this webinar to share your reflections and insights.

 * Join the Blended Teacher Network – It’s Free! *

The challenge of measuring #blendedlearning schools

In my post last week, I shared that I have visited a variety of schools around California and I was going to identify where they fit on the “Continuum from Textbook to Online Teaching and Learning.” I will eventually dedicate a blogpost to each school and their place on the continuum. But, first I wanted to just list the basics of each school so you can get an idea of the variables involved in determining where a school fits on a continuum from an outsider’s perspective. Categorizing where a teacher or school fits in blended learning can be challenging for a variety of reasons. In May 2011, the Christensen Institute profiled 40 schools that fit a general definition of blended learning. Since then, other organizations have written case studies about various programs. The field continues to better define what is meant by the term blended learning. Hopefully, in the weeks to come, applying the continuum to various schools will help to better define blended learning for you and your schools.

As you look through the basic information of the schools below, note the similarities and differences. What do you notice?

In the weeks ahead, I will apply the continuum to each school.

#BlendedLearning is not…

Previous posts explain how becoming a blended learning teacher is a process over time and can be explained by this continuum.

Often it is easier to understand definitions by identifying what it is not. I offer these ideas to better clarify the meaning of blended learning and blended teaching. Please do add in the comments of other examples of what blended learning is not. There are a variety of resources at the end of the post that may help as well.

Blended learning is not simply:

  • Putting lesson plans or content online
  • Emailing with students or parents.
  • Having students view videos online.
  • Using websites for classroom instruction.
  • Having students write blogposts or post a class newsletter online.
  • Being active on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook or …
  • Integrating technology into lesson planning and curriculum
  • One-to-one tablet or computer initiative
  • Using computers or technology on a daily basis in the classroom
  • Using an online math or reading program for student learning or remediation
  • Taking an online course

What else would you add to this list?

Blended learning resources…


#BlendedLearning IS about Blended Teaching

Peter West, who is the Director of eLearning at St. Stephens College, a K-12 independent school in Australia, recently wrote an article in eSchool News entitled “It’s called blended learning (not blended teaching) for a reason.” He brings forth several important considerations about blended learning. However, he misses several important aspects of blended learning – the most important of which is the way the teacher interacts with the student in a blended learning classroom or the pedagogy of blended teaching. He suggests that there is the teacher-centric and the student-centric aspect of blended learning. In both of these aspects, he focuses on the content from the teacher perspective and the student perspective, but does not discuss blended learning instruction or blended teaching.

I would like to respectfully add that the components of an effective blended learning classroom and school include not just the content, but equally important is the role of the teacher and the student. More importantly the pedagogy and strategies the teacher uses to provide the instruction facilitates learning. Simply having accessible and sequencing of the online curriculum is not enough to cause most students to learn. Secondly, in a blended learning classroom, the student has more control of their own learning and is actively engaged in how they learn best and which modes of learning work best, thus causing more customization in the learning environment. Overall, this means the teacher becomes more of a learning coach rather than the traditional “sage on the stage.”

If the teacher is utilizing a blended learning approach, the teacher is providing curriculum in multiple modes, communicating with students in a variety of ways, utilizing a variety of online tools and using various analytics to inform instruction on a weekly basis. With course management systems and content management systems, teachers today can now provide content in multiple modes including text, audio, visual, gaming and demonstrations. This allows for students to utilize the mode that best works for their learning. As one example, in learning double digit multiplication, one student may find the printed textbook provides what is needed to learn the concept while another may need to watch a video showing the steps while another may need to practice the steps repeatedly via an online math game to be successful. Teachers in a blended learning classroom have the ability to communicate with students in a variety of ways including one-to-one, via email and via online discussion boards, which allows all students to participate in a way that just one strategy, such as just face-to-face instruction, does not. Finally, most content management systems today allow the teacher to view how students are doing on a daily basis and can then adjust instruction for students based on their learning needs. Blended learning technologies allow teachers to customize instruction for students on a daily basis today in a way that face-to-face paper based instruction was not possible in the past.

The student role in a blended learning classroom changes as well. Students take a more active role in their learning. This takes the form of choosing learning activities that work best for them, making weekly decisions in collaboration with a teacher regarding their personal learning plan and then sharing content and ideas back to the classroom that can be used by other students as well. Research has shown that peer learning can improve student achievement and blended learning technologies and blended teaching pedagogy provide a way for this to happen on a daily basis.

Yes, how a teacher organizes content in a course management system is important. But, even more important is how the teacher utilizes a variety of strategies that better empower students to become more involved in their learning. Ultimately, the teacher in the blended learning classroom is the one who makes all of the above happen. Although the term that has become universally accepted is “blended learning”, being an effective “blended teacher” is what causes learning to become more individualized for each student. Effective blended learning encompasses the teacher, the student and the content.

Further resources regarding blended teaching and learning:

How to measure #BlendedLearning and what does it look like?

There are excellent blended learning teachers in most schools across the U.S. When I say “blended learning” I am talking about teachers who use technology to teach with on a daily basis, use a course management system such as Edmodo or Moodle on a daily basis, use ongoing data to inform their instruction and to customize learning on a daily basis, provide a truly student centered classroom where students have some control of their learning, and they are teachers who now function more as learning coaches rather than the traditional “sage on the stage” who imparts information for students to learn.

The challenge becomes how does a whole school become a blended learning school with all of these attributes of teachers. It is easy to start a new school and only hire teachers who have these qualifications. But, transforming a traditional school into what we would term a blended learning school that has blended learning as part of the culture and belief system of the school is the real challenge.

In order to identify schools that are already blended learning or on their way to become a blended learning school, it is important to have some measure that suggests movement in that direction. Blended teaching, just like traditional teaching is complex and involves multiple variables. However, teaching and learning really comes down to the teacher, the student, and the curriculum. In the broad sense, this encompasses teaching strategies, pedagogy and formative and summative assessments.

In an effort to identify schools that are exemplars of blended learning, I designed this simple continuum that I call, “Continuum from Textbook Enhanced to Online Teaching and Learning.” I have written about it before, but here is the quick graphic. A more detailed continuum can be found here.

Blended Learning Continuum Illustrated

Now, having visited many blended learning schools in the past 6 months, I will apply this continuum to a variety of schools to provide the framework by which schools may assess their progress towards blended learning. Follow this blog in the coming days and weeks to learn about how and where the variety of schools fit on the overall continuum.

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