In the olden days—really not that long ago—technology in the classroom was an intercom connection with the office and a 16mm projector that showed black-and-white documentaries. When film strip projectors arrived on the scene, they represented real innovation; a film strip machine with audio and auto advance was cutting edge. The term “blended learning” didn’t exist because there was nothing to blend.
The concept of blended learning didn’t enter the mainstream of education until the 1990’s as the internet continued to expand and schools began investing in classroom computers and software. Since then, the idea of “blending” internet and digital media resources with traditional classroom instruction has become the prevailing force in determining how instruction is delivered.
Laptops and tablets are quickly replacing textbooks, and blended learning has become the focus of professional development. Teachers now race to keep up with the explosion of new technology resources and the myriad ways they can be used in instruction.
There are six models of blended learning. For an overview and a description of each model, check out this Web site. Based on the descriptions, the “Face-to-Face Driver” model seems to be most representative of how blended learning is being implemented in the majority of our classrooms. The teacher delivers most of the curriculum and employs online resources to supplement instruction and promote learning. Sounds easy enough, but keeping up with the increasing number of technology resources at hand and using them most effectively have become daily challenges. Here are some ideas to help sort things out.
Kids & the Internet
With laptops, tablets, or shared classroom computers, students have immediate access to a world of information. Sometimes, though, they lack the skills and experience to trek through the blizzard of articles they find online. For younger students and those whose reading levels make it difficult to use online resources, here are a couple of good Web sites:
- Factmonster is an online general encyclopedia that’s not hard to navigate, and it’s filled with information in easy-to-read articles.
- Ducksters is designed for students K-8, and offers information and activities in history, biography, geography, and science, along with homework help, games, and sports.
Kids & Computer Games
Using interactive games and activities can be effective in supplementing instruction in every subject and grade level. They’re also useful in differentiated instruction and remediation. There are thousands to choose from on the net, but finding the right ones takes time, and time is always in short supply. To narrow your search, look at these:
- For students K-12, check out the interactive games and activities at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page. They cover many subjects, including engineering, physics, space, and astronomy.
- At Interactive Sites for Education you will find lots of good interactive games and activities, K-5, in math, science, language arts, social studies, music, art, and even typing. The brainteasers are worthwhile, too.
Other Ways to Blend Learning
In making blended learning effective and engaging, consider some of these ways to implement it:
- Tap into social media. Write some lessons that incorporate Skype, Twitter, and Facebook. Here’s a site that features 100 ways to use social media in developing classroom projects and activities.
- Read books online, free of charge. Create a virtual classroom library filled with new books and stories. At www.enotes.com, you’ll find eTexts of hundreds of works of literature that can be read in their entirety online, free. Also free are the children’s books that can be read online at Children’s Books Online. It’s an amazing collection. Project Gutenberg offers free ebooks in the public domain and features titles from world literature.
- Supplement and enhance lessons with instructional videos, movies, and film clips. Save time in locating what you need by visiting this article. It features The 100 Best Video Sites for Educators and describes what you can find at each one.
- Whatever subject or grade you teach, take your students on virtual field trips. A great collection of virtual tours can be found at here. Among them are some virtual reality tours of famous places as they existed in the past.
- Design lesson-related activities that allow students to use technology in creative ways—drawing pictures, completing DIY projects, and making music or their own movies. You’ll find top-rated apps for students K-12 at Graphite. Many of the apps are free.
Every resource that can be tapped through technology isn’t necessarily valuable in the classroom. For blended learning to be effective, it must be orchestrated by teachers who understand their students and who recognize what can be achieved by connecting them with the right resources at the right time. As always, kids need their teachers. Without them, the newest, most sophisticated technology is just an improvement on the film strip machine.
Have a great spring break! See you in April.
This is a guest post from eNotes Staff Writer, Susan Hurn. Susan is a former high school English teacher and college instructor. She loves writing for eNotes and also enjoys good books, creative writing, and all things related to history.
Let us know if you’re interested in contributing to the eNotes blog.