Implementing Blended Learning Model to Increase Student Learning (APA Format)
The advancements in technology have made learning more accessible than ever before allowing access to high-quality learning resources and communication to peers (Horizon, 30). Educators are challenged with seeking out ways to keep up with these changes while, keeping 21st century learners engaged and increasing the level of student learning. One model that has been widely used in K-12 Education is blended learning. Schools have become interested in blended learning because research has shown that the combination of online learning with instruction is more beneficial together than each concept individually (Eric Werth, 2013). Blended learning provides students with choices, which increases engagement and access to information online both in school and at home. Blended learning can be challenging to implement, but when properly implemented students are able to learn at their own pace, which increases student learning. The following research articles show the significance of blended learning and importance of proper implementation.
Benefits of Blended Learning
Blended learning is a popular innovation taking the place of a traditional classroom. The idea is to combine the best of both concepts of online learning, and traditional teacher teaching (Clayton, Horn, & Staker, 2013). Blended learning allows for teachers to individualize student learning, increase the rigor, and monitor students’ progress. Through this model, students can participate in activities that are differentiated. These activities include; face to face, collaborative practice and online curriculum (Aspire Public Schools). The opportunities that blended learning provides increased student engagement and involvement. In addition, this model provides students access to online resources twenty-four hours a day, which extends the students’ learning to outside the classroom.
Choices Improve Student Engagement
Blended learning allows students to choose how they want to learn a concept. Giving students choices can promote student engagement. Research shows that giving students a sense of control increases happiness and lowers anxiety (Ronan, 2015). Blending learning does just that, it gives students control to take back their learning. Over twenty years ago, Alfie Kohn (1993) stated that when students tune out or act out, it is not a direct cause from burn out, but instead students feel lack of control and feel powerless. When students are given choices, they find the topics more interesting, can improve decision making skills, and are able to learn the material on a deeper level.
At Taylor County School District in Campbellsville, KY at- risk and low income students were in danger of not graduating. The district decided to give the students options and choice in the way they wanted to learn. The students could choose between traditional, online, peer-led, instructional models and project-based learning (Pierce, 2015). Allowing students to choose the way they learned increased student engagement, and in the last few years with these changes, the school had 100% graduation rate.
Technology Needed for 21st Century Students
21st Century students are exposed to technology and real-time communication; no longer do students sit waiting for teachers to respond to questions. Students receive information almost instantaneously through iPads, smartphones, laptops, computers, and video consoles (Cable Impact Foundation, 2015). Schools are starting to recognize that traditional models are not mimicking the way students learn or preparing them for future careers. Student leaders are understanding that students sitting in proper rows, is not beneficial to the learners in the 21st century (Horizon, 10). The times are constantly changing, and schools need to keep up with the demands of the students. Students are expected to not only understand content, but be able to work with peers, problem solve, and think critically. To better serve the changing student population, schools will need to be innovative and proactive to address these changes. Schools need to use current technology to meet the demand of these students. The one-size-fits-all is not effective nor meets the needs of the current student population. The resources that can support these ideas to personalize learning, provide choices, and engage students is technology. (Horizon, 10) If the education system is able to keep up with these demands, the system must make changes in order to be relevant to the current student population.
The blended learning model is both cost effective and easy to implement. The ease of this transition to this model makes it ideal for most classroom teachers. This is because a school can make changes with a small budget and changes don’t require major architecture improvements to transition to blended learning (Staker & Horn, 2015). Schools are not having to completely renovate a school, but can easily move furniture to provide a space for technology and small group instruction. Schools that already have a 1:1 student to computer ratio will not have to purchase any additional resources.
Importance of Proper Implementation
Technology is changing at such a rapid pace that there is a push for schools wanting to make quick adjustments to keep up with the current trends. The fast pace which technology is changing is putting pressure on schools to keep up with these changes regardless of the true student outcome. Schools commonly make the mistake of loving the idea of technology so much that they cram it in the current model, which does not improve learning (Staker, 2015). A statement made by Harvard Professor Porter explains that there is significant risk when putting technology in front of the educational strategy. (Myers, 2014). This shows how much pressure schools are under to keep up with the demands of technology. Schools can not allow technology popularity to deter from the student goals. Classrooms should be designed to benefit students in their learning style and pace, regardless of the implementation level of technology. The purpose is not to chase an idea to prove that a blended classroom has been created, but to create a model that will benefit the school (Toporek, 2015). These changes should be personalized to a specific school, a classroom, and population. The ultimate goal is allow students learning to be flexible and without boundaries.
The way that the shift takes place in blended learning is important, if the school is just trying to add another technology initiate, the plan will fail (Digital Learning Now, 2015). To incorporate a successful application of this model the culture needs to be considered, goals need to be established, decisions on specific technology best suited for the learning environment need to be made, and teachers’ need extensive training (Hochleitner & Lautzenheiser, 2014). The schools culture is significant with Blended learning and will amplify the good in a school with a good culture or amplify the bad in a school with a bad culture. (Staker & Horn, 2014) Schools need to take their time when selecting technology (Hochleitner & Lautzenheiser, 2014). There are many vendors that will attempt to sell software, apps, and other e-content without providing any long-term proof of student success. It is also significant to create a professional development plan, based on specific goals for that school (Darrow, Friend, & Powell, 2013). The school needs to provide initial and ongoing training for both teachers and school leaders. Teachers should be provided time, teacher resources, school support, and an opportunity to share with colleagues.
In Pennsylvania, Spring City Elementary Hybrid Learning School decided to implement a station rotation model in the fall of 2012 (Watson, 2015). The school provided teachers with several days of training and implemented technology slowly into classrooms. The school focused on ensuring this model was another way to provide instruction, not just a way to use technology. This model allowed students to rotate between three models, individual, direct instruction and peer collaboration. The end result of implementation was successful in improving test scores for the Pennsylvania system of school assessment. All grades and subjects improved since the blended model was introduced, the smallest gain was 19% in reading and the most significant increase was science which rose a total of 27% from the previous year.
Blended learning is not just about online tools and electronic resources. This model is about giving students control over their learning (Bailey & Martin, 2013). Blended learning is complicated to implement which requires schools and leaders to make a commitment. This is changing the way students learn and how schools design classrooms. This online movement has shown great gains in education. Educators not willing to make the shift to blended learning are not willing to take advantage of technology to increase student learning.
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Kellerer, E., Werth, E., & Werth, L. (2013, October). Northwest Nazarene University, Transforming K-12 rural education through blended learning. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED561276.pdf
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Pierce, D. (2015, Apri 7). This innovative district lets students choose how to learn. ESchool News. Retrieved from http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/04/07/students-choose-learn-063/3/
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