So I had the fortunate opportunity to be asked to attend the School of the Future Symposium that was sponsored by Acchieve3000 out in San Diego, California.
The goal of the symposium was to bring together numerous school districts from across the country to discuss the merits, progress, and future of using blended learning to better enhance the teaching and learning process. Most the invited guests were superintendents or high school principals. The conversation mostly revolved around the use of digital content to enhance and extend what the teacher can do. But utilizing the adaptive nature of programs and collection of data the technology can allow for teachers to begin the process of personalized instruction.
There were, in my mind, lots of missing pieces when we truly start talking about blended learning. Most people define blended learning as the inclusion of technology and digital content into the classroom. Sometimes the students are on the devices and sometimes there are not.
In addition to the use of devices and digital content, we also need to have discussions about different rotation models, the setup of the room (blended learning does not work with students in rows or custodial arrangement of seats), what the other stations look like (teachers could have 2-6 stations), class management strategies and the shift in mindset of the teachers from a teacher-led classroom to this active learning environment where students move in and out of activities.
So in addition to the increased use of technology and the digital content, there are a lot of other aspects that leaders and teachers need to think about. Just adding the technology and the digital content will not make the difference that is desired, without the inclusion of the other pieces.
I am planning on writing a book titled: “Tradigital Learning: How to Integrate Blended Learning into your Current Successful Teaching Practices” in which I will discuss how to keep your current best teaching practices from a traditional classroom and integrate those with the best teaching practices of the digital classroom. Too many times when a new model is given to educators it is expected that everything is scrapped and we start over from scratch. What kind of a message does that give teachers? Basically, it says everything you have been doing does not work and we need to throw it all away and start over. Of course, that is NOT the message that should ever be given. Every teacher has good strategies and ideas that can be continued to be used. But some of the weaker or less thought out strategies, probably need to go and be replaced by ones from the digital world.
There were a few other bits that I felt were impactful:
We briefly talked about the structure of the classroom and how a lot of our classrooms still look like this 13th-century picture. Everything else has changed so dramatically why are we stuck in past for education.
In the past world of education (not so long ago) the smartest person in the room was the one that had the most stuff memorized. With the invention of the smartphone and the Internet being almost everywhere, do we need to reframe that answer? Is it now the smartest person in the room is the one that knows what to do with all of that information?
Anthony Kim, CEO of Education Elements talked about how our educational plans, daily and big scale plans, should be view more like a farmers market and less like a cathedral. Cathedrals are created to be large, unmoving bodies that once they are built there is little way to make any changes or enhancements to it. Whereas, a farmers market is constantly changing and moving to meet the current needs of the clients (shoppers). Education is definitely a cathedral as standards and assessments are created and exist for long periods of time. But how can we as educators help to support our students by thinking more like the farmers market?
The other thing that Anthony Kim mentioned was the difference in how generations exist, communicate and interact with each other. The baby-boomer generation (for which my parents are a part of) believes in more face to face direct content. As you move toward the more modern day generation, technology has a bigger aspect in all of these areas.
So many times, I hear teachers talking about smartphones and how they are a distraction and how they detract from the teaching and learning process. But I disagree. The younger generations are so engrained with technology that is like removing a part of their body. How can we start to use these devices as a tool for instruction instead of a tool for distraction?
All in all a good conference, but let’s all make sure that we remember there in far more into Blended Learning then just handing a student a device and DO this app or DO that app.