Blended Learning and the Value of the Teacher

Nick Grantham is an Australian educator living and working in Ireland. With a background in education, engineering and e-learning, he founded Fractus Learning to connect people with a shared passion for technology and how it can bring education to life.

Monique Markoff is an educator currently teaching in the Education Department at Ithaca College. Speaking at TEDxIthacaCollege, Monique shared her experiences as part of the founding team at ‘Alpha: Blanca Alvarado Middle School’, a blended learning charter school in San Jose which is integrating technology to innovate on the middle school curriculum.

Using a number of examples to illustrate the benefits of blended learning, Monique references a program run by a school in Fresno, California. In the early stages of the program, students were simply offered online course material to complement their learning. This non-blended approach saw pass rates of just 23%. In a follow up program, students were given the same online material, but also the opportunity to spend a full day with teachers to discuss and assist with the work. Pass rates leapt to 95%!

The computer is just a tool. The same way we wouldn’t hand a student a textbook and say, ‘great, educate yourself’. We can’t expect to hand them a computer and say the same thing.

Blended learning takes the focus off the technology alone, and puts the emphasis back on the best ways to teach and learn. In this model, the role of the educator is more important than ever.

Some would say in this model the teachers matter less since computers are taking over some of the instruction. But I actually think teachers matter more in this model. They are now the orchestrators of these complex learning paths, picking which program should go for which student. They have to now target all the skills that the computer can’t do.  How to motivate that child. How to connect what they’re doing to their home life.

This is one of the biggest challenges we face integrating technology into the classroom. The emphasis needs to be on good pedagogy, practice and people. Tools, whether they are classed as technology or not, are just another platform to help us get there.

When people are telling you that we need to have computers in classrooms because they’re cost-efficient. Because we need 21st century skills. They’re right. Those things are true. But that’s not why we engage in blended learning.

 

Do you feel blended learning is being embraced in your school? Do you see it as fashionable buzzword or a valued practice? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Feature image Blender icon designed by Simon Child for The Noun Project.