Happy Digital Learning Day! As part of this week, I’ve been writing about blended learning. There are excellent resources available for implementing blended learning. The Christensen Institute has done an excellent job of defining and profiling different blended learning schools across the U.S. The Getting Smart team, with Digital Learning Now and the Learning Accelerator have provided a very useful Blended Learning Implementation Guide (now in v2).
My colleague, Allison Powell from iNACOL, and myself are spending this week visiting blended learning schools in California. I even got a little creative and created a blended learning roadmap for our blended learning road trip via Google maps that I will continue to add to. We are in the process of developing a blended learning roadmap that can be used by schools and teachers across the field in implementing blended learning.
We have visited three schools in two days and will be visiting another five in the next two days. We’ll write more about our observations later. However, it occurs to me that as we look at blended learning implementations, it is important to consider the type of school that is implementing blended learning. There is a difference between implementing a blended learning program in an established traditional school, a new charter school or an established private school. There is also a difference in how a blended learning program looks at an elementary school, a middle school or a high school. Some how, we need to make these distinctions as we continue to discuss the implementation of blended learning across the field.
We know from past experiences in the implementation of ed tech initiatives, such as 1-to1 devices, that it takes time in an established school to implement, sustain and move a program across an entire school. And it takes time to show results on state assessments and to provide the needed professional development so that all teachers understand and implement the innovation. I am often reminded of Everett Roger’s Theory of Diffusion of Innovations and what causes an innovation to become accepted throughout an organization. Overall, helping teachers to transform their teaching and transform their classroom into a more student-centered classroom where students have more control of their learning is often the greatest challenge. Historically in the U.S. we have taught teachers that they are the dispensers of information and the sage on the stage and the keepers of the knowledge to be dispensed to their students on a daily basis. A true blended learning implementation shifts the paradigm and the pedagogy of teaching to something much different than most teachers are used to. Although leadership, technology and other elements are important, the teacher is the key element in any successful and ongoing blended learning implementation.
When I walk into a classroom that has implemented 1-to-1 devices or blended learning, there is a different feeling in the classroom that is often difficult to capture and articulate. Students are engaged in learning in a way that did not exist in just the print world. When a classroom is organized to allow students to have more ownership of their learning, teachers have more time to spend with students individually and to better personalize the learning experience when formative student data is easily available.
I look forward to sharing further observations of blended learning programs as we complete our California Blended Learning Road Trip. As I shared in my blogpost earlier this week, blended learning is messy. However, with many educators and researchers across the U.S. and the world writing about what blended learning looks like, and how it impacts student learning, it will become easier to understand…and for all schools to implement.