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10/22/14 3:00 AM Rebecca Whittenberger

Blended learning techniques are easier than ever with today's tech tools.

You might be an educator if you’re familiar with these terms: “edtech,” “flipped classrooms,” “formative assessments,” “blended learning” – the education world is full of technology-related jargon these days.

With new technology innovations bursting on the scene regularly, it can be hard to keep up and figure out how to personally harness some of these new ideas. Today, let’s take a closer look at just one of those terms: blended learning.

Many professionals and highly respected individuals in the education field agree that blended learning benefits more than just educators. A report by fueleducation states the following:

“These blended learning programs have resulted in greater productivity for teachers and better outcomes for students because students receive the attention, support, and resources they need — and teachers can spend more time differentiating instruction.”


Defining "blended learning"

Let’s step back a moment though, because I am sure you’re familiar with the previous statement, and define blended learning.

What exactly is blended learning? Blended learning takes technology and traditional learning and… blends them together.

That seems pretty self-explanatory, and understanding why it is successful in the classroom is not a mystery. As technology evolves, it augments traditional learning. The more mysterious question is how to implement blended learning in your traditional classroom.


Implementing blended learning in your classroom

Blended learning doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It can’t be, because educators already have a busy, demanding schedule. Since technology is not leaving the classroom (at least for the present), let us help you embrace it.

Here are five simple ways you can start implementing blended learning in your classroom today even if you have little knowledge about new technology.


#1 - Use what you already have.

How long have you been teaching? Two years? Five years? More than ten? Even if you just recently started teaching, you have already created and perfected lesson plans, probably in a traditional teaching style. Keep them. Do not waste your valued time reinventing all your lesson plans to work with technology.

Instead, sit down with your lesson plans and think about how you can teach part of your lesson plans with technology. Could you add a short video you found on the web that relates to the lesson’s theme? Having students watch a short video in class is a great way to break up a long traditional lecture.


#2 – Turn on the cell phones.

You probably have an anti-cell phone school policy, and there might be three or four signs hanging in your classroom right now that say NO CELLPHONES. Well, today is the day you throw those signs away.

Although cellphones have the potential for distraction, they are also a piece of technology we all know how to use (and students WANT to use) and one that you can easily incorporate into your classroom. Odds are more than 80% of your students have a cell phone.

Break from your lesson for a brainstorming session. Instruct your students to log into their twitter accounts (although at this point they may think you have lost it). Tell them to tweet content relating to today’s lesson with a hashtag so you can keep track of who participated. (Example: something simple like #history4322)


#3 - Send interesting work home.

The school bell rang in the middle of your discussion and you wish you had just a few more minutes. Now you do. Assign a video to watch or a set of questions to do online prior to the next class session. (Tip: check first to see if all of your students have internet access outside of school.)

You can send students the video link or worksheet in an email or Ving, and then your students can be prepped and ready for the class discussion. For example, send a message to your students with the link to an online documentary. Thanks to technology, you can now augment your lessons with additional educational info.


#4 – Create some in-class group work.

Learning to collaborate is a key life skill. Many business teams collaborate on a daily basis and working together effectively is key. You can teach this skill in your class with everything from homework assignments to huge projects. For example, Google Docs works just like Word, and the best part of Docs is that you can view and edit others’ work simultaneously.

This means that whether your students are in class or at home, everyone can stay involved. Try using Docs with a small assignment at first. Have all your students jump on a device and open a document you shared with them. Give them a question and allow them all to respond to the question on the shared Doc.

The result: students will be able to see how easily their work can be shared, and both you and your students will be ready for their next big project.


#5 – Organize some online study sessions.

During my middle school days, I remember having study sessions before a big exam. We would always play Jeopardy. My teachers would cover the chalkboard in construction paper that had a dollar amount on one side and the question on the back. We divided into teams, and one person would go up to the board at a time.

What if you could eliminate the construction board, some prep time, and the slow one-answer-at-a-time system? What if everyone could answer every question and all have the same time prepping for the test?

Now they can. With a program like Kahoot, every student can be involved right from their mobile device. Break out those cell phones again, and let every student review every question for tomorrow’s test.


Getting started with these tips

Implementing blended learning may seem like a lot, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Try one suggestion a week. Make the transition to blended learning a fun and exciting one for both you and your students.


Today's blog post by Karen Bell, Ving Success Representative


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