Technology is such a huge part of our lives now, that it is hard to imagine a classroom without at least some use of technology on a semi-regular basis. From tools as simple as a document camera and projector system to schools that have a 1 to 1 student to device ratio, the range of technology used in classrooms is vast and varied. The term blended learning has recently come about to describe the instructional practice of blending technology with traditional learning. However, there are many misconceptions about what true blended learning is.
The first misconception is that any use of technology constitutes blended learning. If your class uses laptops or visits a computer lab once a week for a special skills lesson, or to type up a paper in a word-processing program, that is not considered blended learning. Blended learning involves the use of a variety of tools such as computers, laptops, Chromebooks, Smart Boards, response systems, and iPads that helps students master the course objective. Furthermore, these tools are used for a variety of educational purposes, including specific software programs to enhance learning, word processing, or online games, and activities. To expand on this idea, consider a teacher that uses technology with a specific purpose of supporting a distinct group of students. This may be in the form of a software program to provide intervention for struggling students, or perhaps an enrichment research project assigned to advanced students. Blended learning allows for technology being used for multiple opportunities in the classroom at the same time. These may include intervention, a resource for deepening understandings, or for academic enrichment for advanced students.
Varied Instructional Methods
On the other end of the technology-use spectrum is the second misconception. Some people believe that courses that consist only of online learning, with no physical meeting or any face-to-face interactions constitutes blended learning. However, the term blended implies that technology use is BLENDED with traditional teaching and a genuine face-to-face component. For example, a flipped classroom would be considered blended learning. In this instructional model, students view a teacher-produced video at home, then receive direct follow-up instruction the next day. Another model of blended learning is the rotation model, where students rotate among different stations, at least one of which involves purposeful technology and one involves direct instruction from the teacher. Both of these models provide the two critical elements of blended learning: the incorporation of technology as well as face-to-face interaction between the teacher and students.