MET:Blended Learning in Grade 7-10 Classrooms

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Created by Brenda Courey and Sharon Korpan, February, 2011; edited by Paul Quinlan June 2011

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“Blended learning, combining the best elements of online and face-to-face education, is likely to emerge as the predominant teaching model of the future.” (Watson, J., 2008).


Junior High students will know that blended learning (also called “hybrid” and/or “multi-modal”) refers to the best of both worlds; using face to face (f2f) and online instruction, to create the best possible learning opportunities and experiences for students. In a 2004 EDUCAUSE article [1] a view of blended learning states that it is a “fundamental redesign of the instructional model.” This shift in pedagogy highlights a more active student-centered approach, providing engagement with teacher, content, resources and other students. It is more student-driven learning and has many opportunities for teachers to expand their teaching repertoire beyond the walls of the traditional classroom.


"Just as we don't think about the existence of air, kids don't question the existence of technology and media." Larry Rosen.


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What is Blended Learning?

Blended Learning is a combination of online learning and face-to-face interactions. It requires a shift in the focus of instruction as students become self-learners in an environment that promotes a greater sense of community than either face-to-face or fully online courses can provide on their own. The use of the blended model transforms teaching and learning as students can take control of their own learning. The environment becomes one of learner-centred, knowledge-centred, community-centered, and assessment-centred [2] activity. Through the use of scaffolding, coaching, and modeling [3] with authentic tasks, teachers can assist students in developing multiliteracies, transforming learning. [4]. Blended learning provides opportunities for teachers to employ Constructivism as an approach to learning as students build their knowledge through Collaborative Learning and inquiry. Because of the shift needed in planning instruction, implementing technology, and assessing online learning, teachers need support in their own professional learning. They too benefit from communities of practice [5] with other professionals as they develop their own skills in using the ever-changing technology tools.

Why Blended Learning for Adolescents?

Adolescents are digital natives and use a variety of internet tools with a connected seamless ease. They experience a strong need for socialization with their peers and prefer active over passive learning experiences. They have a curiousity about the world around them and can be self-reflective and analytical about their thinking.[6] They are capable of high achievement when challenged and engaged in authentic activities. However, they still need the guidance provided by a teacher and can be unwilling to complete tasks that do not engage their interest or learning style.

Tapscott (2004) describes todays adolescents:

“They are not viewers; they are users and they are active. They do not just observe; they participate. They inquire, discuss, argue, play, shop, critique, investigate, ridicule, fantasize, seek, and inform.”

Not always willing to share their opinions and ideas in large groups, adolescents are sometimes more apt to do so online. Therefore, by engaging students in a blended learning environment, students are able to share their ideas using a variety of media, while guided by face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers.

Blended learning supports the concept of connectivism in which students participate in reflection, publication and independent thought, as they are responsible for contributing to the community of learners with technology tools providing various entry points for their age and ability.[7].

Creating Blended Learning Environments

Blended learning combines the best of face-to-face and online learning. In a blended classroom teachers have the choice of including live face-to-face instruction/interaction along with synchronous and asynchronous communication tools for collaboration such as discussions, emails, or dropboxes or Learning Management Systems; Web 2.0; as well as, interactive learning objects or multimedia objects to enhance, reinforce, and support key concepts or taught during face-to-face instruction.

Online Access

In order for the online learning to occur students need internet access. In a classroom, computer usage may be fixed, flexible or some combination. A blended classroom may have access to desktops, virtual desktops, laptops, or mobile wireless devices. In blended learning, students also have access to the online learning environments from home which helps to make the classroom more transparent and improve home/school communication. Computers can be used for collaborative group work, pairs, and individually. Even now students are accessing mobile options of learning using their smart phones to access sites.

Online Software Options

There are lots of ways to get things started online. For instance:

blogs, wikis, podcasts, and learning objectsto name a few and then, there is the LMS...


File:Vistaimg.jpg
alt Ubc's WebCT Vista

Learning Management Systems to the Rescue

The cadillac of online teaching has to be the Learning Management System (LMS). It can run fully online courses or house the environment for the blended courses just as easily. It comes from the Course Management Systems (CMS) of the early online days, which functioned mainly as a repository for course direction and content and definitely lacked interactive online collaboration [8]. However, todays LMS offers content, interactivity, assessment and collaboration in one webadress.

LMSs provide easy-to-use teacher interfaces to setup and deliver course material asynchronously. Features like online tests, polls can provide instant student feedback, while collaborative tools like forums or wikis can allow students to work together in-class or from home. LMSs have been developed to empower both teacher and student using more social constructivist methods.

Types of LMS

Software examples of LMS can be commercially purchased, such as Blackboard’s Vista WebCT (UBC's current LMS) or Desire2Learn. Also, there are free Open Source projects like, Moodle and Sakai and Atutor. Atutor, developed at the University of Toronto, features incorporated accessible technologies.

Effective Pedagogy in-class and on-line

Pedagogically sound teaching practises in face-to-face instruction are effective in online learning environments, as well. Adolescent learners benefit from authentic real world tasks that include: modelling, scaffolding, differentiated instruction,assessment for learning, timely feedback, and opportunities for peer assessment and self-reflection.

Challenges

Of course there are challenges to creating a blended course, specifically: time and the constructivist three. Time is needed mostly for the facilitator: to learn and implement new pedagogies, to build skills online, to design appropriate content and engaging activities, to respond to discussions and questions, and to assess, formative and summative.

Any blended or online instructor should also be aware of the research that demonstrates that teaching online takes more time and more effort, especially due to the need to provide individualized attention (Cavanaugh, 2005; Stern, 2004 in Akin, 2007). Online students have been found attempting to contact their instructors twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, at least every fourteen hours. (McLain, 2005 in Akin, 2007)

ThirteenEd online (2011) found three other concerns with a constructivist approach, first around elitism; that only the privileged have had success, due to advantages at home and with resources available. Second, that “group think” becomes the outcome as everyone buys into the same common thought and consensus stays pushing out individual thought. Finally, that the results of success are unfounded and students from constructivist classrooms lack basic skills in some areas. While good points, I could easily argue that these criticisms could be remedied with teacher support; helping teachers build skills and find time to make these criticisms the exception and not the rule.

Feedback from Teachers and Students

Teacher and students, grade 7-10, at St. Clair Catholic have been part of a provincial Blended Learning pilot project

Teacher feedback: collected from various classrooms (personal communication, September, 2010 to January, 2011.)

The discussion tool has had the most profound effect on my instruction. This tool has allowed many students, who would not usually volunteer their ideas, to share what they think with their peers. Moreover, by having the students evaluate and provide constructive criticism to others, they are made to think critically and judge the information they are taking in.

There are also questions in the online environment that don't occur in a face‐to‐face environment. In this environment students are more forthcoming about difficulties.”

Student Feedback: collected from various classrooms (personal communication, September, 2010 to January, 2011.)

Grade 7 male:I think that Blended Learning should be offered to all 7/8 classrooms, because it gives them an opportunity to see the future of learning. Also to experience technology in a new, and intelligent way. The next reason why it should be offered to all 7/8 classrooms is because, since it is online, you have all the resources you need to complete tasks.

Grade 8 male:Blended learning has made a big impact on learning. Blended learning should be offered to all grade 7/8 classes in our board because of the future. Most of the jobs, require computer skills in some way. Blended will help us develop these skills for jobs in the future. Plus Blended gives us a break from just pencil and paper work.

Grade 8 female:I do not like the Blended Learning because I do not learn as much as I could if the teacher was teaching me. I like it a lot more when Mr. X is teaching us a lesson over working by ourselves. If I don't understand something I can not just put up my hand and get the answer and now I have to try and find the answer by myself.

Grade 8 male:I think that all 7/8s should be allowed to use blended learning because it will give them more experience with technology in a world constantly becoming more technical. It will allow them to have a chance to become more technologically experienced which will help them in later years. Of course, blended learning is also a very interesting way of learning and it allows students to experience a different form of learning.

Grade 7 female:Blended Learning has been a pretty great thing. It has helped me become a better writer. I like doing the discussions because you get to hear what everyone has to say!


See Also

Footnotes

  1. Dziuban, Hartman and Moskal, 2004
  2. Anderson, 2008
  3. Jonassen, 1999
  4. New London Group, 1996
  5. Barab & Duffy, 2000
  6. Turning Points, 2001
  7. Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994
  8. Kunz, 2004

References

Akin, L. & D. Neal (2007). CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Questions. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Vol 3., No. 2, June 2007. Retrieved online July 1st, 2011 from: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no2/akin.htm

Anderson, T. (2008). Toward a theory of online learning. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.)Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 45-73. Retrieved from http://aupress.ca/index.php/books/120146

Barab, S., & Duffy, T. (2000). From practice fields to communities of practice. In D. Jonassen and S. Land (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan. 80(2), 139-149.

Dziuban, C., Hartman, J., Moskal, P.(2004). Blended Learning. EDUCAUSE Review, Volume 2004, Issue 7.

Heide, A., & Henderson, D. (2001). Active Learning in the Digital Age Classroom. Toronto: Trifolium Books.

Jonassen, D. (1999). Designing constructivist learning environments. In C. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: Volume II.Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kunz, P. (2004). The Next Generation of Learning Management System (LMS): Requirements from a Constructivist Perspective. In L. Cantoni & C. McLoughlin (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2004 (pp. 300-307). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review.66(1), 60-92.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5). 2-6.

Rosen, L. (2011). Teaching the iGeneration. Educational Leadership. ASCD. 68(5), 10-15.

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences,3(3), 265-283.

Tapscott, D. (2004). The Net Generation and the School. Milken Family Foundation. Retrieved July 1st, 2011 from: http://www.mff.org/edtech/article.taf?_function=detail&Content_uid1=109

Thirteen Ed Online (2008) Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning Retrieved July 1st, 2011 from: http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index_sub5.html

Turning Points: Transforming Middle Schools. (2001). Centre for Collaborative Education. Boston: MA. Retrieved from http://www.turningpts.org/pdf/YALGuide2.pdf.

Watson, J. (2008). Promising practices in online learning. Blending learning: The convergence of online and face-to-face education. Retrieved July 1st, 2011 from http://www.inacol.org/research/promisingpractices/NACOL_PP-BlendedLearning-lr.pdf.