In my travels through Vietnam and Korea and in my correspondence with educators around the world—from Russia to Brazil to here at home in the United States—I’ve been struck by how hungry people are for good resources on blended learning.
At its simplest, people understand the basic “what”: that blended learning is about combining online learning with traditional schools to create an integrated learning experience, but they too often overlook how important it is to the definition that students have some control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of their learning.
Similarly, too often many people think blended learning is all about the technology and don’t see blended learning as a key driver in changing the education system itself from a factory model that standardizes the way we teach and test to one that puts students at the center of their learning and can personalize for their different learning needs. Misconceptions abound.
But even—or especially—with an understanding in place of what blended learning is and its purpose, how to move to a student-centered, blended-learning environment is tricky. What should school leaders do? What should teachers do? What are the new roles and tricks of the trade for teachers in these environments? One of the reasons this is tricky is that blended learning is relatively new; the field is still learning how best to advise and create these environments.
In our latest effort to provide educators and the public with a meaningful understanding of what blended learning is, what it’s purpose can be, what it looks like, and how to go about designing a robust blended-learning environment that can personalize learning for students, we partnered with the Silicon Schools Fund once again to move the video work we’ve done on blended learning to the Khan Academy platform.
In this “course” on blended learning, we have modularized the video resources; they are now free and discoverable both as part of an integrated sequence as well as in discreet objects organized by topic, so that people can personalize their learning about blended learning to get the resource they need when they need it.
We show real examples of blended learning in K–12 schools so that educators can hear from teachers about what does and doesn’t work in blended learning and to “see” and “feel” the different possibilities for what blended learning can look like when it’s done well.
What’s infused throughout the course is that the technology is critical to creating a blended-learning environment and likely scaling high-quality personalized learning, but the technology is also secondary in the design of those environments. What I hope educators around the world realize is that the key to utilizing technology to transform schooling is to start with what they want the schooling experience to look like for students.
Then focus on designing the teacher experience. The role of the teacher is absolutely critical in blended-learning environments, but it’s also a very different role from that in a traditional teaching environment. The schools we profile with footage of teachers teaching have made some dramatic shifts, and their teachers offer some good advice in the videos on techniques that they have found to be effective in these new environments, as well as how the technology assists and amplifies their impact.
We then focus on how to redesign an entire school around blended learning—a group of resources that speaks to the importance of thinking through such things as the scheduling decisions we make without even knowing it that sacrifice the ability of a school to deliver on those ideal student and teacher experiences.
The course ends with a set of modules on how to make hardware, software, and facility decisions in support of high-quality blended learning. Importantly, the decisions on technology come at the end of a blended-learning design effort and should be in support of the desired learning goals, not the other way around as too often happens.
What has us, along with the folks at the Silicon Schools Fund, excited is the opportunity to place this material on the Khan Academy and learn. Millions of students and teachers are using the Khan Academy every month to blend their learning in a variety of ways. As I’ve written, the basic facilitated network architecture behind the Khan Academy, the power of which goes far beyond the videos in and of themselves, likely represents the future of personalizing content for the majority of students in the majority of their subjects. There will be places where this approach is a bad fit, but for many students, platforms like the Khan Academy will be a critical part of their future learning. And for many teachers as well, platforms like the Khan Academy will be a critical way for them to free up their time so that they can focus on helping students master higher-order skills through projects and rich discussions and playing the role of mentor, facilitator, and tutor—all critical roles that have too often been lost in our factory-model education system that dehumanizes the time that students and teachers spend together.
We hope that through the thoughtful design of new learning environments, blended learning can bring some humanity to education for all students and teachers and boost students’ lifelong outcomes as well.
This first appeared on Forbes.com
Last updated May 2, 2014