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Blended Learning – So What is it?

1st in a series on Blended Learning by Catlin Tucker CUE Member guest bloggerBlended Learning

The term ‘blended learning‘ is catching on in education, but the definition is somewhat vague and many teachers are not exactly sure what the term blended learning means. The lack of clarity about this term is a source of potential anxiety for teachers, especially those in the traditional school setting.

So what is blended learning? Simply said, blended learning is any combination of face-to-face classroom instruction and online learning. Think of it as the merging of two instructional mediums to get the best learning outcomes for students.

I recently found Ben Lenz’s blog post on Edutopia asking “Is Blended Learning Worth the Hype?” I had a knee jerk response to this question. “YES!”

Then I began to think about some the issues addressed in my book: “Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student Centered Classrooms”.  In the book, I talk about many of the “fear factors” associated with blended learning:

  • Less face time with students with the adjusted schedule
  • Loss of control over curriculum delivery and design
  • Time and learning required to facilitate work done online
  • Discourteous communication and exchanges online

These fears are understandable especially for teachers in a district that is adopting a blended learning program. These top-down programs range from:

  • Schools with adjusted schedules where students attend fewer classes and complete a portion of course work online
  • To classes in a computer lab with the computer delivering content to online courses that have a teacher facilitating the course

The blended learning models above are a major departure from traditional classes. Teachers often feel blended learning models devalue the role of teachers as crucial in their student’s learning process.

Many districts are moving towards more extreme blended learning models to save funds, allow inspired students to pace themselves and create new opportunities for make-up credit. However, these are not the only approaches to blended learning.

In my book, I encourage teachers to adopt this term and make it their own. There are millions of teachers who have perfected their teaching methods and this is a significant transition that involves time and professional development. Nevertheless, teachers are far more likely to embrace technology in the classroom if they have input.

Catlin Tucker is a Google Certified Teacher and CUE Lead Learner. She teaches 9th and 10th grade English language arts at Windsor High School in Sonoma County. She spent the 2011-2012 school year on leave while writing her first book titled “BlendedLearning for Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create a Student-Centered Classroom” (Corwin Publishing). Catlin is an advocate for teacher-designed blended learning model that encourages educators to engage students in active learning online.

*Catlin is the Keynote Speaker for the Kickoff Session, Thursday, March 14, 4:30 – 5:30 pm at the CUE 2013 Conference.

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