The hallmark of blended learning success is human interaction paired with technology that augments quality teaching. In an effective blended learning environment, students benefit not only from the flexibility and individualization that edtech can offer, but also from new and varied interactions with adults in the classroom.
Simply put, blended learning combines digital media with traditional classroom methods. Both teacher and student are in the classroom, and students might have some control over their learning path and pace.
Technology in a blended classroom
Most educational experts agree that the best e-learning outcomes result from good teachers using tech tools, not tech replacing quality teacher-led instruction. Teachers using blended learning should identify what is already working well in the classroom, and what might benefit from a digital approach. Embracing digital doesn’t mean abandoning direct instruction in the classroom.
A PBS teacher survey found 81% believe the use of tablets in the classroom enhances learning. McGraw-Hill Education conducted a survey with college-age students that illustrates the power of technology when offered with careful instruction:
- 80% indicated they use mobile devices for studying
- 80% believe the use of technology will improve their employment opportunities upon entering the workforce
- 4/5 students agree digital technology has improved their grades
- 81% note digital learning helps save time and increases efficiency
- 69% agree it helps them retain information
- 79% say it makes them aware of new concepts
Balancing empathy & efficiency
Humans pick up on contextual clues about the emotional states of others. Empathy hasn’t been mastered by technology and automation. Are the kids at the back of the classroom bored because the teacher is talking about something they find too difficult, because they know it already or because the information is not being presented in a meaningful way? Teaching is an art and performance; it’s reading the room and working it. Technology can’t detect emotional states, let alone adapt its behavior to cater accordingly.
However, technology can provide the teacher with a versatile tool to reach the bored student in the back of the room. The student might elect to watch a supplementary video on the topic presented, or read a nonfiction source relating to a class novel set being read in ELA.
Reading is a comfortable entry to technology
Reading eBooks and audiobooks is a perfect introduction to edtech. Building on a traditionally low-tech skill like reading lets students grow as readers, while simultaneously developing skills that will serve them in an increasingly digital world.
As reading literacy grows with eBooks and audiobooks, so does digital literacy. With the help of thoughtful educators, students can explore online responsibility and examine their own digital footprint. Reading, in any form, helps students absorb culture and makes them better global citizens.
Using eBooks and audiobooks in a blended curriculum
eBooks and audiobooks are perfect for introducing new concepts in interesting ways. For example, with a digital scavenger hunt, a teacher can set up an eBook vocabulary search then discuss the findings with the class. This exercise could be used to:
- Create a running vocabulary list for a unit in a nonfiction work
- Introduce a new novel and smooth out the stumbling words ahead of the all-class reading
At its best, edtech should free up the teacher to provide the high-touch instruction students need to succeed. For more curriculum ideas, check out this blended learning lesson plan for a middle school social studies lesson.