Are you being super clear about how you want teachers to blend technology into their classrooms?
Because there may be unintentional ambiguity in the messages you’re sending: “We want you to integrate technology as much as you can!” and “Don’t use technology just to use it—make sure it’s purposeful.”
So, use it a lot, but only when it matters? How much is a lot? How do I know if it matters?
Without a well-defined standard for what a successful blended-learning classroom looks like, teachers might shy away from creating one—especially if they feel like they’ll have to defend what “purposeful” means. Here are some guidelines to help school leaders set clear expectations for blended learning in the classroom.
Agree on what “blended learning” means. In the simplest terms, blended learning is a combination of online and traditional learning. But there’s more to it than that.
“Some element of student control is critical,” says Blended Learning Universe, an online hub for technology integration insights and resources. “Technology used for the online learning must shift content and instruction to the control of the student … for it to qualify as blended learning from the student’s perspective, rather than just the use of digital tools from the classroom teacher’s perspective.”
When students control part of their learning process, they decide when and how they’re going to complete part of an assignment. Technology is usually what allows them to do this, because they can access materials on the cloud, for example, on a device and in a place outside of school.
Keep what’s working. Many of your teachers are probably having great results with non-tech tools and resources. Ask them to assess what’s already working well—meaning students are performing at consistently high levels as a result—so they can focus on how to use technology to enhance areas that will benefit most.
Dr. Rueben Pentadura’s SAMR model is a good gauge of technology use at a beneficial level. It distinguishes between merely substituting a non-tech tool or process with a tech-based version and actually redefining the learning process by using technology in a way that allows students to do something they would not be able to do otherwise.
If a student writes an essay on a Chromebook, the device is just taking the place of pen and paper. But if three students log into the same online document from different locations, collaborate to write an essay, and then embed a link in a video they created and uploaded to the internet, that redefines the learning experience.
Trust your teachers. Give them freedom to choose tech tools that fit them and their classroom. (Your support means a lot, too.)
It may not always be practical to offer this flexibility when it comes to device choice—although you should always ask for teacher input and pilot different devices before making a large equipment purchase. But when it comes to online platforms like Google Classroom and Schoology, allow teachers to use what works for them.
Provide ongoing support and professional development. Making the transition to a blended-learning environment will be easier for some teachers than for others. Give them time to plan, experiment, and adjust. And make sure your tech support team is qualified to coach and troubleshoot along the way.
Check your infrastructure. Without a reliable network, technology is not valuable in the classroom. Students and teachers should be able to depend on the tools they have to do the work they’re being asked to do.
An experienced educational technology partner will help you implement a school IT program that eliminates the gray areas and allows teachers and students to focus on quality learning. Give Vartek a call at 800-954-2524 to talk about how to create a strong blended-learning strategy in your school.