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Blended Learning – Article

This summer at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) I will present on my experience blending virtual learning with real world classes. As with anything like this I have been scouring resources that might help me in improving my success rate. This weeks ASCD SmartBrief included an article from eSchool News that included an interview with Michael B. Horn, the co-founder of Innosight Institute. The institute recently published a white paper on blended learning which I have been reading.

One of the things they predict is that 50% of all high school courses will be delivered online by 2019. At first I thought the number was a little high but after taking some time to read the article and imagine the continued increase in full-time virtual schools, online classes as a replacement for courses schools can no longer afford to offer due to budget cuts, home schooling, and finally blending learning environments the number seemed fair. Educational technologies will allow this to occur as long as the policies set in place support this mode of learning currently.

The most interesting facet of the white paper in my opinion was the description of current models. According to the models described I am definitely following the Face-to-Face Driver for my current curricular designs. I have taken both “Flex” and “Rotational” style courses, finding them effective is somewhat messy. The ones I struggle with are the “Online Lab” model and the “Self-Blend.” Both require a level of self motivation of the student’s part that I do not always see. Incorporating some kind of check in and humanization to courses following these models is essential to supporting the students I see in high school. While many students have the focus and determination to follow through on their own, others may fall through the cracks if this is the sole model offered by a school in my opinion.

The white paper goes on to describe the policy decisions that need to occur for blended learning models to thrive. I see many of these decisions being held hostage by unions and school boards – unsure as to what move to make. This stagnation is what I see as the true danger to education in general and blended learning specifically. Despite the dangers many school are embracing the policy changes, negotiation with teacher unions to find common ground, and experimenting with blended learning.

In the Portland, Oregon area there are several schools playing with all the models. Fighting through the red tape and technological limitations of their current system in order to become the dynamic schools needed for a 21st century educational institution. Programs like Moshi Moshi, Hola Hola, run by the Portland Public Schools use internet and television broadcast to help children in learning and acquiring new language/culture. Portland State University offers a high school independent study program in self paced courses through the web. Teachers in the Portland public and private schools are also blending their traditional curriculum in simple and complex ways – everything from class blogs to full class management systems where the teachers design online courses – supporting students both in a brick-and-mortar classroom and via the virtual learning environment.

In the end I hope the predictions comes true as I would enjoy working in the educational system described. To that end, wherever I am hired to teach, I will promote and encourage innovation in blending online and classroom learning opportunities. On a side note – anyone with additional articles or thoughts – I would love to hear them.

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About the author: Rurik

Known both as Ru (or as the title suggests, Ru Ru the Ruiner), Rurik studies ways games can designed to improve society, especially in the realm of education.