Why professional development should be at the top of your list.
Blended learning is a beautiful thing. Mixing the best of technology with the best of the face to face classroom is awesome, right? If that’s the case then why do teachers struggle with this practice? For most teachers, trying something new is exciting. I remember learning an innovative strategy and how eager I would be to try it out. Teachers want their students to be excited about learning, too, and fresh ideas help them achieve that. But blended learning is more than just a strategy. It requires a fundamental change in the way the classroom functions. So, for some teachers, this new methodology takes a back seat.
Work with teachers to develop a plan for PD
A lack of professional development is a big hurdle. I have worked with teachers who are curious and excited about blended learning, but feel that they don’t have the skills to do it. Providing pedagogically sound professional development helps remove this barrier. When teachers are given sound, ongoing professional development, they are empowered to take risks in the classroom. As blended learning is a different methodology, teachers deserve good technology training and professional development. Because simply training on technology is not enough. The technology will come easy with use. The practice itself must be the focus if teachers are going to feel the confidence needed to make the change.
Blended learning requires technology investment
In addition to the lack of professional development, some teachers don’t have the technology needed. Although blended learning doesn’t require any one technology, it can be more readily achieved if the school has a learning management system (LMS) in place. With an LMS, teachers don’t have to piecemeal technology to create an online classroom. Providing an LMS removes a barrier between online and in-class learning and gives teachers a platform to create, deliver and store activities and lessons. School districts should explore the benefit of an LMS when considering implementing blended learning. Taking this road block away might provide a jump start to the program’s rollout.
Take your time and relax
Remember, each school, classroom, teacher, and student is different. Blended learning will look different because of this. Don’t expect it to happen overnight and be patient. Keep in mind to:
- Start small. You don’t have to do everything at once. Try one thing and then add to it when you are ready.
- Ask for help. If you have a trainer assigned to you or a peer that is blending with success, reach out to them for ideas and support.
- Check out free professional development resources online. Watching webinars or videos will give you real world ideas to try out.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. If at first you don’t succeed, try again or scratch it and try something new. Students will appreciate your efforts and you will grow through the experience.
Barriers can be overcome with the right pieces in place. Recognize what’s keeping you from embracing this new methodology, and develop a plan to address it. It can be an awesome way to reach students and once you get started, I’m betting you won’t look back!
For more info, see how the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board began to develop a blended learning strategy.