The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released a report stating that while moderate technology in the classroom created learning gains, too much technology time correlated with a decrease in overall performance. This demonstrates the importance of moderation in blended learning.
The report also indicates the importance of reading and math skills for academic success. A Master of Education in Teacher Leadership can help educators learn to blend technology into the classroom environment in ways that optimize advantages without allowing the technology to become detrimental.
Blended Learning Models
Blended learning is the combination of the traditional teacher-to-student model blended with technology-based instruction. There are many ways to implement a blended model.
- Face-to-Face — Teachers provide instruction for the majority of the curriculum in a computer lab or classroom in conjunction with online learning.
- Flex — Content is primarily available through an online platform. A teacher provides support in person as needed with small group sessions or individual tutoring.
- Online Driver — Content is available entirely through an online platform. Students work remotely but have the option of in-person meetings.
- Online Lab — Content is available entirely online but also in a classroom or lab. The lab often complements a traditional course.
- Rotation — Students rotate between a self-paced online platform and time in a classroom with a teacher.
- Self-Blend — Students opt to participate in a remote online learning environment to supplement the traditional instruction they receive in school.
Regardless of the method, one of the most important components of successful implementation is ensuring all technological components connect directly to teachers’ instruction.
Benefits of Blended Learning
One of the most obvious benefits of the blended approach is the flexibility it affords students and teachers. Students can access content from anywhere, which makes it easier to review concepts they find challenging. They can devote extra time to studying from home, and they can also use the online environment to keep up if they have to miss class.
Including online course material can give schools more options regarding the variety of courses they can offer. In rural schools, it can be challenging to find teachers to cover essential courses and nearly impossible to find the funding or educators to teach more specialized classes. Offering classes from remote instructors offers greater flexibility.
Integrating modular technological learning opportunities into the classroom also allows students to receive help in specific areas they have yet to master. In a traditional classroom setting, it is very difficult for a teacher to interrupt class-wide instruction to remediate an individual student. With self-directed computer instruction, students can spend more time on the concepts they are struggling with before moving on to the next concept. This can be an invaluable intervention tool that gives students access to personalized instruction so often missing in public schools.
Risks of Technology in the Classroom
Many school districts spend significant portions of their budgets on improving the technology in their schools. While it is clear that technology in the classroom does have many benefits, there are also significant challenges. One of these is cost. Schools must pay for licensing, infrastructure, maintenance and professional development. In many cases the funding for new technology comes from other areas of traditional instruction, limiting the resources available to teachers. It is risky for schools to spend this money on unproven technology that will need regular updates or replacements at the expense of proven materials and techniques.
The quality of instruction is another concern. Many new companies make promises that are unsupported by thorough research. One of the skills educators focus on in a Master of Education in Teacher Leadership program is the ability to analyze research and determine the validity of its findings. This is incredibly important when choosing new curriculum to introduce to students, regardless of the instructional delivery method.
There are even more concerns about the incorporation of unstructured technology in the classroom. With access to the internet, students can potentially encounter inappropriate or objectionable material, cyberbullying, online predators, invasion of privacy, biased or inaccurate material, and information overload. While proper security protocols can address most of these, many students still find inappropriate content when they access the internet.
One of the biggest challenges facing educators who have begun to blend their classrooms is optimizing instructional time. If the teachers are not prepared for the integration process, students may end up with free time that would be better spent on academic pursuits.
Impact of Technology on Student Performance
The latest data show a negative correlation between increased technology integration and student achievement. However, it is important to note that this depends on the technology and its implementation. While the overall trend is concerning, there is still potential for improved academic performance through technology.
Technology can complement the acquisition of new skills. However, it should not replace traditional methods of instruction. As technology use increases in the classroom, workplace and daily life, people need reading and writing skills more than ever. Without these skills, technology is far less accessible. The most recent research indicates that blending technology into the classroom successfully depends on students with strong reading and writing skills, reasoning, and higher-order thinking.
The other component for successful integration is clear standards and expectations for student achievement. This allows teachers to plan lessons and evaluate performance, which reduces confusion, inconsistency and student downtime. Further, it helps resource providers create content that is appropriate to the skill level and developmental needs of the students.
Blending technology with classroom instruction is more art than science. While promising, some technology has found its way into the classroom too quickly for appropriate evaluation. Educators must rely on their experience to determine for themselves if technology is appropriate for their students.
By integrating new technology slowly, without sacrificing valuable instructional time, it is possible to successfully blend the new and old to create a dynamic learning environment that helps students succeed.
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