iNACOL: iNcredible Blended Learning Opportunities!

In November, a few Barrington 220 District leaders attended the iNACOL (International Association for K-12 Online Learning) Blended and Online Learning Symposium. There were three main points about Blended Learning I'd like to share.
  • Blended Learning Empowers Students to Own Their Learning and Teachers to Coach Them Toward Learning Objectives, and That can be Really Hard
  • Blended Learning Preparation, Practice, and Assessment Maximize Personalized Learning Opportunities for Students
  • Blended Learning Requires Best Practices in Instruction
Blended Learning Empowers Students to Own Their Learning and Teacher to Coach Them Toward Learning Objectives; and That can be Really Hard
The first major step in teaching a blended learning course is releasing control of student learning. We care so much as educators about making sure each student learns the content, that letting go of controlling each step to meet that goal is a potentially gut-wrenching proposition. But, part of our responsibility as educators is to help students take control of their own learning. Students cannot become lifelong learners by only learning under the direction of others. What a great opportunity we have in our Pre-K through 12 district to help guide students toward that end!

Recently, a teacher wanted to incorporate iMovie into a lesson with fifth grade students. Rather than use time in class to give direct instruction using that app, this teacher only supported students with a couple of iMovie training resources to use as necessary. It turned out the students were able to use iMovie rather easily. We need to empower our students to educate themselves even when it's really scary for us to give up that control.

Blended Learning Preparation, Practice, and Assessment Maximize Personalized Learning Opportunities for Students
Teaching students in a blended learning environment will require a major reframing of all three areas of TPACK: technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. Although some teachers have plenty of content uploaded into Learning Management Systems, blended learning goes far beyond completing the same lessons digitally that were done by other means. The core of blended learning rests in the heart of personalizing the learning experience to meet the needs of each learner at their level. It's not easy. It's not clean. It's ever-changing and messy. It requires constant re-evaluation of student competency levels. It requires constant adaptability. Teacher pedagogical practice is constantly challenged to find ways for students to interact with the right content, and perhaps use the right technology at the right moment for each student.

Blended Learning Requires Best Practices in Instruction
As TPACK indicates, technology and the content knowledge must work together with strong pedagogy to maximize student learning. Transforming a class into a blended learning environment requires attention paid to the best practices in instruction, just like any other educational experience.  As much as the role of the teacher may change, and as much as the process of planning, executing, and assessing a lesson may change, the focus of instruction remains on best practice.

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