Technology provides today’s generation of students unlimited learning opportunities. However, it’s not the technology that creates the learning environment, the teachers do. Technology is one of the greatest additions to a teacher’s toolbox. Unfortunately, many teachers are either too overwhelmed or afraid to truly utilize the technology available to them. Because of this, many learning opportunities go untapped.
I have been researching the positive effects that a blended learning environment has on student achievement and engagement. Horn and Staker (2015) define blended learning as “…any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace” (p. 34). As my research deepened, and I formed a clearer picture of what blended learning looked like, I realized that I had been using blended learning in my classroom for years!
The “hat I wear” as an educator looks nothing like that of the traditional teacher you and I grew up listening to. Students in my class benefit from the flipped classroom model. Prior to the junior high being included in the 1:1 mobile learning initiative, the blended learning platform was hit and miss because all students did not own a device they could use at home. Now with Chromebooks in the hands of all the learners and the emergence of G Suite for Education, my blended learning classroom has come to life. For example, I create instructional videos for the kids to watch at home, or any time prior to meeting for my class. The basic instruction takes place at the student’s own pace at a place and time they have control over. The students come to class with a basic knowledge of the task at hand and the majority of class time is spent creating and collaborating instead of lecturing.
Chapter 126 of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Technology Applications, Subchapter B. Middle School (beginning with the school year 2012-2013) states that “districts have the flexibility of offering technology applications in a variety of settings. Districts are encouraged to offer technology applications in all content areas.”
This is my sixteenth year of teaching technology applications as a separate course at the junior high. With the 1:1 MLI in place and stable at McGregor, I am proposing a change. Prior to the 1:1 MLI, offering a separate technology course was appropriate because the class used desktop computers. It was not feasible or practical to haul the computers to individual classes and scheduling to use the lab was a nightmare. Technology exposure for students was basically limited to my classroom. Now that all students have access to a device 24/7, the way we teach our kids needs to progress.
My class is a perfect example of how well-blended learning works. The TEKS encourage districts to offer technology applications in all content areas. My proposal is to eliminate the stand-alone technology course and create blended learning environments in every class. If the individual technology course was phased out, I would be available on a daily basis to facilitate blended learning environments for all the classrooms at the junior high. The technology would be more integrated and would become seamless within the content areas. I foresee this change to be akin to ongoing professional development every day rather than a sit and get that ultimately is forgotten days later.
The teachers would be more comfortable transitioning from the traditional classroom to a blended learning environment with readily available support and collaboration available on the campus every day. I could model blended learning and provide examples in an authentic setting alongside the teacher. With my assistance, teachers can flip their classrooms, introduce rotation stations, and create personalized learning for their students.
Currently, I am working towards my Master’s of Education in Digital Learning and Leading at Lamar University. The common thread in my classes has been that there is no better time to be a learner. Students today have so many amazing opportunities at their fingertips. We are reminded to focus on the learning, not the technology. Student learning stops when teacher learning stops. Moving towards blended learning means utilizing technology to create an educational environment best suited to our 21st-century learners.
Horn, M. and Staker, H. (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
(n.d.). 19 TAC Chapter 126, Subchapter B – Texas Education Agency. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter126/ch126b.html