In honor of Digital Learning Day, Sal Khan from Khan Academy has created a video defining blended learning from his perspective. His model has three broad categories which I did my best to define in a sentence or two. However, his video is worth watching to think about how aspects of blended learning can be used to support your students.
- Supplemental Learning – The simplest form of blended learning uses online learning materials including videos, podcasts, and discussion forums to supplement their traditional face-to-face learning experiences. Students and teachers who are currently using Moodle or their class websites to extend the learning day are already engaged in this type of blended learning.
- Flipped Classrooms – The next level of blended learning involves leveraging digital tools to switch what is traditionally done in the classroom with what is often sent home for homework. Students consume lecture-type materials through videos produced by teachers or outside sources at home. The next day the students might come together andengage in deeper learning around the concepts discussed in the video students watched the previous evening. Using this model, students are able to engage in deep thinking and problem solving with the guidance of a teacher. Additionally, when students sit in a lecture together, everyone is forced to learn at the same pace. Through the use of video and a flipped classroom model, students are able to pause and re-watch lessons or come to class the next day with questions related to specific parts of the lesson.
- Self-Paced Mastery Learning – The third and as Khan describes, the most advanced, model of blended learning is self-paced mastery learning. In traditional teaching models where students are taken through curriculum at the same pace, the time of day learning occurs and the amount of time it takes to learn a concept become fixed variables. However, how well a concept it mastered will be highly variable between students. Leveraging online digital tools, teachers can construct educational environments where time is no longer a fixed variable and ensure all students master concepts. The use of video and online tools frees up time for teachers and students to engage in deeper, open-ended, creative face-to-face learning experiences.
Looking down the road at the adoption of Common Core, along with digital textbooks and the devices that will support them, has me convinced that self-paced mastery-based blended leanring will become a foundational component of teaching and learning. In a technology survey currently being completed by students in our district, almost 90% of respondents have reported having a computer at home with internet access. The students taking this survey are quite diverse – nearly 60% are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Many of them also reported having digital devices, such as iPod Touches, iPhones, and iPads that could be leveraged as personal learning devices through the use of differentiated video and audio content. As a result, each of us can start using digital technology to develop blended learning models today. A place to begin is by watching Sal’s video and then asking yourself, “How could this model help my students?”