Blended Learning Practices

As more teachers in the district are relying upon blended learning strategies, and the state now mentions it in law relating to teacher licensure it seems time to start a thread on this. Blended teaching shouldn’t even be considered its own thing, it’s all part of teaching and learning now.

Here’s a new resources on the topic:
This for context: https://www.digitallearningcollab.com/blog/2019/7/11/k-12-blended-teaching-a-free-guidebook-for-teachers
This for the resource: https://edtechbooks.org/k12blended

I have been thinking about this in relation to internal 287 professional development opportunities. How can we make better use of the little PD time we have? I was thinking specifically about blended learning and wondered if this would be an avenue to more equitably reach more staff who are spread so far and wide across the expanse of the district.

I’m glad you brought this up. It’s something I’ve been an advocate for during my 10 years in the district. I’ll just share some of the things I’ve learned and see if anyone can help kick-start this thing.

  1. Many times people just want to upload slideshows they give in face-to-face workshops and think that’s sufficient. It’s not even close because of the context and discussion around those slides that people give without even knowing it. The PPT or Google Slides isn’t the driving force behind learning.

  2. In an online/blended format we are asking people to do something. This doesn’t align with prior experience, which we know hinders innovation. People are used to “Sit & Get” PD. Show up, sign in, get your CEUs. The few times I tried to use blended formats in PD it bombed massively because people weren’t expecting to do something related for which they were accountable. It had a pretty big impact on how I view and approach this topic.

  3. Most online/blended courses people have taken (especially at the college level) are terrible, so that informs opinions about what they are; what they are like; and how engaging it might be. There is an art to this and we have very few people in the district that understand instructional design in that format. These courses take a lot of time to develop. We can’t just crank them out, we need a plan.

  4. The possibilities are very likely much greater than most people realize. When most people think online/blended PD they might think of things like the Save Your License modules, or the required Essential Training. We can do so much better than this. We can create rich experiences that guide users through information in ways that are interactive and engaging (dare I say fun?) There are things we are doing with course design in Northern Star Online that are amazing. The feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive when we go in and make the kinds of changes we now know are possible.

Content is easy, it’s the experience that’s harder to develop. I would much rather see us develop our own over paying vendors for their products, that frankly, just aren’t all that good either. Better to use that money on our own people; developing materials that we can own, update, and share.