Many CTE and elective teachers have heard about blended learning, but it can be intimidating to try a new teaching style when you don’t know how it will impact your classroom. The good thing is there are many benefits of blended learning and it’s easier to get started than you think!
Before we jump right into the advantages of blended learning, let’s take a step back and get a quick refresher on what blended learning means…
Blended learning combines traditional face-to-face instruction with online learning, in-class learning stations, or flipped classroom models.
If you aren’t quite sure what blended learning should look like in your classroom, take a look at this article: What is Blended Learning in CTE and How Does it Work?
Sometimes “old school” thinking can get in the way of giving new teaching methods and resources a try. Have you ever heard (or thought) any of these regarding online or blended learning resources?
These paradigms about blended learning resources can prevent schools and teachers from discovering many useful, inventive, and ground-breaking educational resources. Instead, these resources are disregarded simply because of misconceptions about the term “online.”
Based on paradigms like these, at AES we go so far as to avoid using the term “online” to describe anything that we do. And in some ways, that’s a shame since one of the very useful aspects of blended learning tools is that they are provided online. This means that as long as your students have internet access, they can take advantage of blended learning curriculum resources… in and out of your classroom.
And what about paradigms that suggest online curriculum and other classroom technologies replace teachers?
In short - online blended learning tools do NOT replace teachers, do NOT put teachers on autopilot, and do NOT make teachers stale.
The problem with allowing misconceptions to win the day is that you and your students can ultimately end up losing. Blended learning is unobjectionably beneficial for students. Here are five of the many reasons why blended learning should be a part of your teaching strategy:
For a full explanation of these important benefits, check out this post: 5 Benefits of Blended Learning for CTE and Elective Courses
In interview with health science teacher, Patricia Smith of Fred P. Hamilton Career Center in Oconee County, South Carolina, she wonderfully demonstrated how to implement blended learning in a CTE program:
During the first hour or so of her block class time, Patricia likes to be able to do various things, which supports her blended learning curriculum. She has frequent access to a computer lab where every student has access to a computer. That’s when she uses the HealthCenter21 curriculum. It’s usually incorporated into at least one class per week and sometimes more.
“Some of the modules I depend heavily upon in HealthCenter21, and some of the modules are more like supplements for me. I find, because I’m also a virtual school teacher, that some students just learn better having that time with the computer where they can listen or they can read as much as they want, they could practice and go over the quizzes as much as they want. I think that being able to use an online curriculum really is helping some students out there, and actually me sometimes.”
She goes on to share:
“I never teach the same way twice and that’s after 28 years! I have to weed out and rearrange things because they change. I feel like I’ve always been the type of teacher that pulls from so many different resources. Just trying to get something new and different and something that will spark some interest to keep my kids from dozing off in class.”
Learn more about Patricia’s blended learning teaching style here.
Patricia Smith is doing great with blended learning in her classroom… but what about you?
The only limit to what tools you use to create a blended learning environment is in your own mind. If you can use something unique and unexpected to help students learn in your classroom, then go for it!
That being said, there are a couple of basics that you should cover, the biggest being digital curriculum. Today’s students gravitate toward technology and more than likely most of them are walking into your classroom with one or more devices already in hand. Rather than fighting them to put away their phones and tablets, use them as part of your blended learning toolbox.
The other important thing to keep in mind is that blended learning doesn’t mean throwing away everything you’ve ever done in the classroom and replacing it with something new. Blended learning combines the best of traditional teaching techniques with new ones. In the article “The Power of Blend in Blended Learning,” Adam Holden says this about blended learning:
“For years, we “early adopters” have been advocating the many advantages of blended learning — the predominant one being that it naturally allows for differentiated instruction. Well-designed blended instruction genuinely allows teachers to meet the full gamut of student needs.
Because of the critical need to reach a diversity of learning styles, personal interests, individual goals, intrinsic motivation and especially to connect with real-world and practical applications, we have heralded the potential of this student-centered methodology.”
When you read something like that it begs the question, why isn’t everyone using blended learning in their classroom?
One possible reason could be the idea that blended learning is new and the techniques involved in creating that learning environment require that teachers completely overhaul every aspect of their existing curriculum. That can be pretty intimidating to veteran and newbie teachers alike. And it’s so unnecessary and wasteful!
You don’t have to throw all your lesson plans out the window when you adopt blended learning. Holden points out that the very best blended learning practices include traditional teaching styles as well as new techniques. Holden describes this as a “comprehensive” blend.
While blended learning curriculum provides a great solution to many challenges, it also can require a lot of work from the teacher. Luckily, it can be done. There are many tools and resources out there to help alleviate the workload that can accompany blended learning curriculum. Here are a few ways to get started:
Once you get started, don’t forget: When introducing blended learning into your classroom, it should be a way to improve your class and enhance the way your students learn.
At AES, we design each digital CTE curriculum to work in a blended learning environment.
If you want to engage, educate, and help your students more, we have the answer!
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