Blended Learning is Still The Rage
Many learning organizations tout the use of BLENDED LEARNING strategies within their programs today, but what is BLENDED LEARNING, and how can we evaluate its effectiveness?
Blended is not a new concept, but it has become a raging sensation since technological advancements in education, such as the Flipped Classroom and others, have inserted themselves within the traditional classroom. At its core, blended learning is defined as a style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as face-to-face teaching. When implemented well, it can really impact student learning at a high rate; when implemented poorly, it can be a detriment to student achievement. Good teaching is still good teaching, whether a teacher's toolbox consists of all the
technological advancements in the world, or simply some pencils and paper. Arguably, the benefit of technological advancements comes in with helping students learn computing and communication skills.
Those of us who have been educators for a while will know Robert Marzano's work in Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Within this research, Marano and his research team concludes that there are nine high-yield instructional strategies that result in student learning. Those nine strategies are Identifying Similarities and Differences, Summarizing and Note Taking, Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition, Homework and Practice, Non-linguistic Representations, Cooperative Learning, Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback, Generating and Testing Hypotheses, and Cues, Questions, and Advanced Organizers.
Each of those strategies, and more, can be incorporated into a traditional classroom or into a blended learning environment, so is one better than the other? We like to think about it like this: consider the task of building a house. If you were only given a hammer to build it with, it could probably be done, eventually. It may take longer, and the house may not have as much variety as you would like. What if you were given every technologically advanced tool at your fingertips with which to build the house? Electronic levelers, saws, design tools, etc. I don't know about you, but I would rather build a house with all of the most technologically advanced tools at my disposal, but I would not want to throw out the hammer, either. And, I would also want to collaborate with others who have skills in areas besides mine and who would give me feedback on my building skills. My grandfather, who was a lifelong construction worker and contractor would carry his trusty hammer around in his old leather tool belt every day, even when working with some highly advanced technologically advanced equipment. I think he even actually used to say, "there are some problems that can only be solved with a hammer." He also had a team of people who worked for and with him to make sure that each small part of each very big job was done correctly.
Similarly, I would rather teach (and LEARN) in a classroom that had all of the technologically advanced tools at my disposal. But, I would also want the freedom to use the "hammers" (traditional, and perhaps analogue, teaching techniques) when situations called for it. I would also want to make sure that I knew how to use the technologically advanced tools (laptops, learning management systems, applications) properly and correctly so that my house wouldn't fall down (or my lessons wouldn't totally fail). That's where good collaborating, training and professional development come in.
These are all ideas that we used when we developed the Music Technology curriculum facilitated by hip hop legend, Ski Beatz. While the content is delivered on an online learning management system, we have written the curriculum in such a way that is MUST be facilitated by an on-site teacher. It is not designed for a learner to complete it completely independently. As educators, it is our experience that our learners deserve the best of both worlds, traditional and technologically advanced. They want and need a variety of tools to build their houses, too. We've also designed it in such a way that it does not impede on a school or teacher's established processes and procedures. We want you to make it your own, and we want you to make it work for your students.
As far as the training and collaboration goes, we have that covered, too. Once your school decides to purchase this curriculum, we commit to sending an experienced, professional School EYEZ instructional technology facilitator (ITF) to conduct a face-to-face support session with the teacher or classroom facilitator. During these sessions, the ITF coaches the teacher through making sure equipment and software is set up and that he or she is comfortable facilitating the blended learning design. And because we're educators, anyone here at School EYEZ is available and capable of taking your questions as you and your students advance through the course.
Below is a link to an example of how we've created a blended learning curriculum around the content of music production and music technology. While some of the instructional content is delivered through videos, some of it also requires that students read and/or listen to Ski Beatz read information about the music production industry, the chain of music production, and techniques for creating and producing great music.
Here at School EYEZ, we've been in education long enough to have taught in both traditional and blended learning environments. We know that to reach today's audience of learners, we need as many tools as possible. We need to speak their language and find what works for each learner. To benefit our world, we need to encourage a collaborative learning culture in which they interact with, trust, and motivate one another. The arts are a great place to make it happen.
We hope you will check out our curriculum, and we wish you and your students the best on your blended learning journey.
Thanks for reading!
The School EYEZ Team