Fuel Education recently asked educators from around the country to offer practical tips on blended learning that others could use in their schools. We narrowed their responses down to six tips to help you jumpstart blended learning in this new school year. Originally published in a convenient downloadable guidebook, Blended Learning Tips from Educators to Jumpstart Learning, we offer a shortened overview here.
Six Blended Learning Tips from Educators
Make personal connections. Unlike a traditional school, in a blended learning model, some of a student's time is spent outside of the classroom, resulting in fewer opportunities to establish relationships with peers and instructors. It's important to quickly make a personal connection with students so they feel engaged and comfortable asking questions to keep them on track with assignments. While blended learning affords a lot of opportunity to engage students in project-based learning (PBL) and provide exposure to real world situations, it's important not to forget that interpersonal connections are an integral part of any learning environment.
Give students choices. Most educators can agree that a one-size-fits-all model is not the best approach to education. Each student learns differently and absorbs information at their own rate. Blended learning provides students with flexibility in terms of path, pace, and schedule. It also gives students expanded opportunities in what courses they can participate in for unique learning experiences in line with their needs and interests. As for administrators, blended learning provides a variety of program options that will improve their school offerings while empowering their students' growth as independent learners.
Offer personalized learning experiences. Just as you can personalize your order at Starbucks, students should be afforded the same opportunity with their learning experiences. Not all students learn the same way; consequently, having a curriculum customized to their needs produces better student outcomes. Tiered lessons and flexible grouping are some of the methods the educators we spoke to suggested as ways to personalize learning experiences.
Integrate technology. Today's technology-savvy generation—from pre-elementary through high school—seek opportunities to use digital tools. In a blended model, technology is incorporated into lessons to enhance learning with real-world visuals to make them more relevant. By incorporating technology into the learning experience, students gain 21st-century skills to help them prepare for the workplace.
Create a collaborative space. The physical environment is one of the noticeable differences in most blended learning schools. By having a "Starbucks meets Google" setting (demonstrated in this video), blended learning promotes an environment of collaboration in stark contrast to traditional schools where students sit in rows with the teacher at the head of the class. From station rotation to flex to flipped, the model you choose will determine how to configure the classroom.
- Develop educators who model learning. While technology continues to change the look of today's schools, one thing remains the same—the need for quality educators. For educators who embrace blended learning, professional development is key to providing effective learning experiences. The teaching style in a blended learning environment is very different from the traditional teaching role. Teachers are facilitators and orchestrators, stepping in where needed as opposed to acting as instructors. And, as the educators we spoke to shared, they must hold a common passion for learning, personal growth, and making a difference in children's lives.
Transitioning to a blended learning model won't happen overnight. It requires rethinking the education experience to create environments, instructional models, and technologies that seamlessly operate to create personalized learning experiences for students. However, incorporating elements of blended learning into your classroom requires less time and effort than you may think.