To Blend or Not to Blend and More Questions to Ask About Blended Learning

Blended learning refers to the delivery of formal education through a thoughtful combination of online learning and delivery of content and instruction with varied degree of student control over time, place, pace and with face-to-face encounter done in a brick-and-mortar setup, such as the school (Staker and Horn, 2012).

There are four main models of blended-learning with differences on how much time or of the content or instruction will be delivered online or done via face-to-face interaction in a normal classroom. These models are the enriched-virtual model, self-blend model, flex model, and rotation model (with more types under it – station rotation model, lab-rotation model, flipped-classroom model, and individual rotation model).

 

A number of studies have been done in various K-12 schools around the world which showed how blended learning had impacted student achievement and the improved the quality of instruction. Classrooms have been flipped to enhance learning and to give more time for practicing of skills in the classroom and for giving high quality and meaningful feedback to learners. The setup of chairs, tables, and computers in the classroom has been dramatically modified to accommodate the various learning stations needed for students to fully experience the positive effect of blended learning.

In the Philippines, De La Salle Santiago Zobel has been utilizing the power of blended learning under their successful Next Generation Blended Learning Program. In my school, while blended learning has not been officially adopted, flipped classrooms have gotten some teachers creating their own instructional videos and using apps such as EdPuzzle. Mr. Keith Sy, one of the Ed Tech champions in our school has created some awesome videos for his Social Studies class. He successfully infused a station rotation setup and at the same time, giving more opportunities for differentiated learning activities to happen. Read some of his experiences with flipped classroom in his blog. Watch a one of his flipped videos about Philippine History here.

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One noticeable observation is that a number of schools have chosen to leverage the use of technology tools to enhance self-directed learning and instruction in students and the need for the teachers to interact with students to provide feedback and to build meaningful relationships with the students through face-to-face interaction. And I believe that the beauty behind blended learning is the big possibility to fuse the possibilities of technology integrated lessons and content delivery  while highlighting and dedicating more time to build relationships with students via face-to-face encounter.

So, while schools chew on the question whether to blend or not to blend, I present some more specific questions that can help stakeholders or members of the school community as they explore this form of education.

  • Why do blended learning? What is the “why” of the school? What are the “why’s” of the various stakeholders? Why now?
  • How will blended learning help students achieve the intended learning outcomes?
  • Are the students, teachers, and parents ready for a blended approach?
  • How will student’s age, readiness or even developmental maturity affect the adoption of blended learning?
  • Which blended learning model is appropriate for students?
  • How will blended learning modify or change classroom instruction, assessment, management, and lesson preparation?
  • What kind of support will teachers need in order to be prepared for the adoption?
  • What kind of resources will the students and teachers need for blended learning to happen
  • Are the stakeholders and members of the community capable of acquiring the technology needed? Are there provisions to help those who may encounter problems regarding the technological tool needs?
  • What new policies will be placed to ensure that blended learning is maximized for the good of all members of the school community?

The promise of blended learning has been slowly realized in schools or institutions that have adopted it. Blended learning is far from being a hype among the members of and stakeholders in the education community. It is here to stay.

 

Reference: Staker, H., & Horn, M. B. (2012). Classifying K-12 Blended Learning. Innosight Institute.
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On Curiosity, Creativity, Autonomy, and Failures: 4 Lessons Teachers Can Learn from Genius Hour

Genius Hour or Time has been a buzzword not just in the workplace, but also in schools or educational institutions. Genius time, according to some, can be traced back to Google. Google allows its engineers to work on projects using 20% of their time. It has been said that some of Google’s products were once passion projects created during that 20% time allotment. In school, “Genius Time or Hour” allows learners to explore and work on their passion projects at a given amount of time. Educators around the world have employed and integrated genius time in their classroom because of its positive effect on the students. More specifically, genius time has become a way for teachers to allow innovation to take root and flourish in the classroom.

 

Four Important Lessons from Genius Hour

  1. Curiosity drives the project.

Allowing students to work on passion projects requires the initial steps of researching about the projects. The students may be solving a current problem or may be dreaming of creating something that would make work or any tasks easier or more efficient. Regardless of the reason behind the project, students’ curiosity drives them to explore ideas and research information about their project. That same curiosity fuels the work to be done. When they ask questions, they are driven to look for the best possible answers. Students are naturally curious inquirers. Genius time opens up for more opportunities to naturally integrate inquiry-based learning

  1. Creativity highlights individuality.

Since students work on their own projects and create products or solutions, creativity kicks in as they design and craft their work. More specifically, using tools that are readily available around them, students can create products out of every material on their reach. Creativity in genius hour is not anymore locked in the Arts. Creativity allows the student to design products with the end goal of solving problems. As individuals, students can show creativity in various ways. Creativity allows them to leave their mark on their work. It’s their indelible signature.

  1. Passion sustains autonomy.

Students work on their own, for most of the time. They might collaborate with others as they create shared passion projects. Whether individually or collaboratively, students go through the process of inquiry and project-making with less pressure and strict supervision of a teacher. Autonomy is shown as they demonstrate independence and confidence during the genius hours. Their passion on creating something worthwhile fuels learner-independence. It becomes a source of inner motivation. On the flip side, teacher’s role is modified into becoming a mentor who encourages exploration, questioning, and risking. The teacher allows autonomy to grow and bear fruit.

  1. Genius Time celebrates risking and failure.

The students are on their own. During genius time, students have been observed to be risk-takers because of their eagerness and drive to come up with a great product. Part of this wonderful attitude of risk-taking is being comfortable with committing mistakes or failures. Yes, students should be allowed to celebrate their mistakes and to learn from them. As we all know, most innovations and great discoveries can be traced back to accidents and mistakes in the laboratories or in a garage. Failures should encourage students to move forward and not to give up. Teachers should help students realize their mistakes and to learn from them. It’s about creating something positive from a seemingly negative or unfortunate.

Definitely, More than a Buzzword

Teachers around the world continue to integrate genius hour in their classes. It is definitely a great opportunity to help students learn, practice, and develop 21st century skills that are needed right now. On the other hand, allowing genius time in the classroom also trains the teacher to become a facilitator and mentor to students who are passionate to create products or solutions to problems that they see around them.

Know more about genius hour through these helpful links: