Teaching teachers to provide the best blended learning experience to their students.
The decision to adopt a new program, technology, or methodology is exciting and at times terrifying. Many districts are exploring the benefits of technology by implementing a blended learning methodology in their classrooms. Blended learning offers a new way to not only reach students, but also prepare them for college and careers in the 21st century. While many school districts are exploring the possibilities of blended learning, they are also faced with challenges that must be acknowledged at the onset. Beginning a new initiative requires planning, preparing, and initiating the program effectively for a meaningful impact on not only the students but the teachers as well.
Blended learning isn’t putting a computer or another piece of technology into a student’s hands. It requires different pedagogical approaches to instruction. Even the most tech savvy teachers will need support. Planning is key to success. Ongoing professional development (PD) and a stakeholder buy-in are critical to rolling out blended learning.
Blended learning for professional development
Just as there is a push for students to have a personalized, blended learning approach to their education, teachers should also be immersed in personalized PD. Too often PD is disconnected from the expectations of the reimagined classroom. According to Heather Hill, Harvard University professor, “The professional development ‘system’ for teachers is, by all accounts, broken” and PD tends to be “short-term, episodic, and disconnected” from “teachers’ in-class practice.” (Hill, 2009) Teachers are charged with implementing blended learning in a learning management system (LMS), therefore, they should be using the LMS as part of their professional learning experience.
Training should reflect the method that teachers will be expected to implement. Modeling expectations and best practices encourages success. If teachers can navigate their own professional learning in the LMS, then higher adoption in the classroom should follow.
Teachers can practice what they teach
Real world scenarios of “how to ‘blend’” instruction in a pedagogically sound way empowers teachers and strengthens implementation. Professional development should involve creating choice in student learning, adopting the role of facilitator instead of the sage on the stage, and utilizing technology to support learning. Creating an environment that encourages teachers to take chances will instill confidence in the program as well.
Beyond the strategies and methodologies, teachers should have practice using the various tools of the LMS as part of their learning experience. Online discussions, blogs, journals, quizzing, etc. should be incorporated into the PD program. Teachers should have practice creating content and activities to build confidence in the platform and encourage use in the classroom. With all that technology has to offer, it will be useless if teachers don’t understand how to use it with their students.
Gaining buy-in begins with selection
Selecting the right LMS is an important decision as it will provide the platform for various forms of learning to take place. The selection process should allow for teacher participation, and encourage teachers to share their concerns and needs. Teachers will be charged with implementing the new technology, so having a voice in the process encourages buy-in later.
The LMS should meet the needs of both teachers and students and designed with the K12 environment in mind. This perception of the LMS can stand in the way of implementation as teachers might not embrace the technology and thus not adopt its use in the classroom.
When the LMS is designed with K12 in mind, implementing blended learning becomes more appealing. Gaining teacher buy-in to new initiatives and technology plays a big part in the success of any new program, so removing any barriers to implementation is vital. Choosing the right LMS can make the difference between the success and failure of blended learning. Thus, adopting a LMS with K12 in mind, might help school districts overcome barriers and encourage more immediate program success.
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Fixing Teacher Professional Development [Journal] / auth. Hill Heather C. // The Leading Edge: Professional Learning Vol 90, No 7. – 2009. – pp. 470-477.
Olivers’s Framework for Blended and Online Instruction [Online] / auth. Oliver Wendy // The Blended Practice Profile. – 2014. – http://blendedpractice.com/framework/.
The Effectiveness Of Tin Can API – A New Paradigm Shift In Measuring Learning Effectiveness In Technology Aided Learning [Online] / auth. Majumdar Arunima // eLearning Industry. – October 12, 2015. – http://elearningindustry.com/tin-can-api-compliant-learning-management-system-can-help-organization.
Why Should We Use Classroom Observation [Report] / auth. Megan W. Stuhlman Bridget K. Hamre, Jason T. Downer, & Robert C. Pianta. – Charlottesville : University of Virginia, 2015.