As schools become more savvy about blended-learning tactics– the practice of mixing online and in-person instruction -- guidelines and best practices are emerging from lessons learned. Here are four crucial factors to keep in mind as schools plunge in.
1. EVERY SCHOOL NEEDS A VISION.
The single biggest piece of advice offered by most blended learning pioneers is to have a cohesive vision for how the technology will enhance specific learning goals, how it will ease the burden on teachers, and how it can make both teachers and students more creative learners.
A big part of creating that vision is having strong leadership at all levels. A district superintendent who sees the value in a model will help remove old policies that inhibit the work. A strong leader will remove barriers, support professional development for teachers, celebrate successes and help move past challenges. And that person will value the student experience most. “We put students behind the wheel with our guidance, recognizing they will make mistakes, but we’ll be there to get them back on track,” said Eric Williams, Superintendent of York County School Division in Virginia.
Equally important is to have that same kind of visionary leadership from principals and teachers willing to lead by example in the classroom. A shared vision means each tier of a school’s hierarchy must work towards the same goals. Teachers and principals must be given room to try new things, fail, innovate and evolve until they find the right balance. That requires a lot of flexibility, another important feature of implementing this new style of learning that will seem foreign to many parents, students and teachers. Moving to a blended learning model won’t work perfectly just because it’s being done on a tablet or through a new learning management system.
Part of the overall vision needs to include considering how to give students more agency over their learning. If the technology is canned content meant to turn out strong test takers who can’t apply the knowledge they’ve learned, is it meeting the broader learning goals? Similarly, how can the technology help teachers become the most inspired, passionate and creative classroom facilitators possible? How can it encourage them to stay in the profession and offer creative outlets for their passions?