Decoding the different models of blended learning
While teachers have been using technology to augment their instruction for decades – from the abacus of the Ancient Greeks to the graphing calculators of modern day – only recently has an effort been made to truly meld the two, combining face-to-face interaction with online-based learning to help students reach new heights of success in mathematics.
It’s called blended learning, and many school districts have begun to implement this method of instruction in their classrooms in an effort to help students meet the rigorous learning standards that have now become a part of their academic careers.
Blended learning has become popular for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its ability to personalize the learning environment of students. Under the urging of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, many school districts are making the effort to move away from the “factory model” of education that dominated the 20th century toward more student-centered learning environments.
Many school districts have also begun to move toward the blended learning model of education because it gives them the ability to personalize their approach depending on what works best for the structure of their schools and the types of students that they teach. Currently, blended learning is separated into six models from which school administrators and teachers can choose:
Popular among elementary schools, which already use a rotation model of sorts (who doesn’t remember the excitement of switching stations and finally getting to your favorite?), this particular approach to blended learning has students moving on fixed-schedules between online learning and classroom time with traditional teachers.
The rotation model is most effective when students spend their online time working with adaptive learning software because it molds its instruction to each individual student, allowing them to automatically self-pace and make sure that new concepts are really understood.
There are many different sub-categories within the rotation model, including more traditional stations and labs. Some teachers have also taken the flipped classroom approach, which has them completing online learning after school as homework, and then working with their teacher during the school day.
For school districts that want online learning to be the center of their instruction, the flex model can be very effective. With this approach to blended learning, teachers provide on-site support as students move through an individually customized, flexible schedule.
The flex model of blended learning is particularly popular among programs that work with kids who have dropped out of school because online instruction is incredibly adaptive, and they are able to receive the academic support of a teacher through small-group work or a one-on-one basis.
On the more traditional side of education, we have the face-to-face driver. This model of blended learning leaves the degree of online instruction up to the discretion of the teacher, who has the freedom to supplement his or her teaching with online or adaptive learning software as he or she sees fit.
With face-to-face driver, it’s possible that not all students will participate in blended learning. Rather, teachers and school administrators may use it to supplement instruction for students who are struggling in math, or to allow those who are gifted to excel and work ahead without detracting from the teacher’s ability to focus on other learners.
Some forward-thinking schools have made the decision to take some instruction entirely online by using the online lab model of blended learning. This approach requires students to attend school in a physical computer lab, but all of their instruction in a particular subject occurs on the web.
With online lab instruction, supervisors are present in the lab space, but cannot offer much in the way of additional clarification. Instead, students have access to online instructors that can offer subject-matter expertise. Generally, students who participate in online labs have block schedules and also take traditional courses.
An incredibly popular model of blended learning among high schools, self-blend allows students to take an active role in their education by giving them the option to take online courses to supplement those which are already offered in school.
With self-blend, the use of online courses is all about enhancing the learning experiences of students, giving them the option to go above and beyond by taking these additional classes outside of school. Self-blend differs from the online lab model of blended learning in that the online courses are not completed within the physical school building.
For students who do best with a non-traditional approach to education or struggle to stay out of trouble in school, the online driver model of blended learning can be beneficial. With this approach, online programs deliver all material, and physical check-ins with a teacher are optional. Participants in online driver programs generally work remotely.
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Introduction To Blended Learning For Elementary Schools
Blended Learning—the method of using multiple media and methods of instruction to teach—has been around for decades. Only recently, however, has it come to mean combining face-to-face learning with technology-based learning.