Instructional technology integration

(Virtual/Blended Learning Environments)

"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." - John Dewey

For the past decade, schools have increased the level, effectiveness, and efficiency of instructional technology integration. Educators have learned that blending learning through integration of technology can be a powerful tool to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning if utilized properly. One of the greatest keys is a student-centered focus with high levels of engagement. Too many times, instructional technology ends up serving the same peurpose as a piece of paper and pencil, typewriter, or traditional instructional tool. In short, instructional technology ends up being a “digital pacifier” when it isn’t utilized properly. However, this is a great tool when utilized properly, it’s the way education is moving, and there are no signs of turning back in the digital age of education. The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the push for technology integration to models of blended learning.

Some related practices and phrases include blended education, remote learning, eLearning, flipped classroom, and hybrid learning. The similarities in these terms are that they all involve learning from a distance, integration of technology, and learning at the foundation of practice. It gives us ways to teach students from anywhere and at any time. The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of blended learning is “a style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching. The meaning of “blended learning” has multiple meanings to different people in what they envision. Most people understand the basic premise that it integrates online learning and technology of some type with traditional face-to-face learning in an instructional aligned manner utilizing best-practice research-based instructional strategies. For many teachers and students this can be a game-changer in customizing learning to reach and engage students.

Hybrid Classrooms are Redefining Education

The blended learning models and hybridized classrooms give educators and students the ability to utilize the best components of both traditional face-to-face instruction with facets of technology that increase student engagement. Flipped classrooms have been one example of hybrid classrooms, where front-loaded content is put online for students prior to class and face-to-face classroom time is used for application of content and to take the learning into great depth through hands-on activities, project or problem based learning, enrichment activities, etc. This model reinforces a student-centered approach that allows students to individualize the way they master content. The U. S. Department of Education conducted a meta-analysis in 2010 that reported students exposed to both online learning and instructional technology integration and face-to-face instruction were more successful than student that only did one or the other. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to education, but hybrid or blended learning studies support this model as an effective approach to teaching and learning that yields positive results.

The Most Common Types of Blended Learning

1. Self-directed – this blended model uses a combination of online and face-to-face learning to guide personal inquiry, attain learning goals, connect with support digitally and in-person. The learning is self-directed so students are in control of their own learning. The assessment used for evaluation is generally authentic in nature.

2. Project-based – this type of blended learning uses face-to-face and online learning for instruction and collaboration to design or publish project-based products or assignments.

3. Remote – this is not the same as a flipped classroom. The remote model of blended learning is where the student only meets with the teacher intermittently or as-needed while completing online coursework.

4. Flipped classroom – probably the most popular and recognized form of blended learning. In this model students front-load content online prior to coming to class and practice or do application activities and reinforcements in class. The term “flipped” refers to the traditional roles of the classroom and home.

5. Station rotations of blended learning- – this model allows students to rotate through stations on a set schedule and specific intervals where at least one of the stations is an online learning station. This works well for small-group time and station activities, especially in elementary school, where teacher works with a small-group as a station, there are multiple hands-on or review stations, and an online station utilizing technology.

6. Flex – the online portion of the course is the backbone of teaching and student learning, the instructor is on-site and available, there are off-line or supplemental enrichment activities to reinforce learning and make connections.

7. Lab rotation of blended learning – this helps schools make use of existing computer labs and infrastructure through rotating students through a computer lab as one part of their class or day. This computer-based instruction also helps principals/teachers to reduce the student-teacher ratio and reduces class size.

8. Individual rotation – in this model students rotate through stations, but the schedules are individualized for each student and they don’t rotate to every station, only the stations individualized on their schedule.

9. Outside-in – these types of learning experiences start in the non-academic either physical or digital environments and end up finishing in a classroom.

10. Supplemental – in this model of blended learning, instructional technology is used to supplement face-to-face instruction or this could also be where face-to-face instruction supplements online coursework or learning.

11. Mastery-based – in this model students go between online and face-to-face learning activities that are based on mastery-based learning objectives.

12. Inside-out – this type of blended learning model starts learning in the classroom and finishes up learning outside of the classroom. This utilizes the benefits and advantages of both digital and physical spaces.

Advantages of Blended Learning

* Costs – this can be less expensive to deliver and saves time

* Access to resources globally

* Self-paced for slow or advanced learners, which differentiates instruction

* E-learning allow for effective interactions between teachers and students such as discussion boards, emails, chat rooms, etc.

* Blended learning offers increase flexibility for instruction and availability so you can learn from anywhere any time

* More engaged student learning activities

* The ability to team teach from anywhere any time

* Can support face-to-face instruction

* Students can track their progress and assess their own learning

* Extended instructional times

* Options to teach and/or learn from home or anywhere

* Authentic assessments and a focus on deeper learning

* Reduces isolation

* More opportunities for collaboration

* Instant diagnostic information and feedback for students

* Self-paced learning opportunities

* Real-world skills students will need in the future

School-based Models of Blended/Virtual Learning

1. Online – instruction occurs almost exclusively in and online platform or LMS with minimal or no face-to-face support

2. Online Lab – this is common to many schools where instruction takes place in the physical school, but the instructor is online or remote and a paraprofessional supervises the classroom for management purposes

3. Face-to-Face Online – this is primarily face-to-face instruction through an online system that allows for instructional delivery and assessment and can be supplemented through technology

4. Personalized Blended Model – The teacher designs instruction that can take place face-to-face between a classroom and virtual setting so that the learning is constant and time is the variable.

5. Flex – This is very common where instruction can be through online methods and teachers can provide support as needed in small groups or individually

6. Rotational – this type of blended learning is fixed but flexible with students rotating between online and face-to-face instruction

Educators today must use every tool at their disposal to meet the individual learning needs of all students. Blended learning has many advantages if utilized correctly. The multiple models and types of blended learning give educators a wide arrange of blended learning opportunities to use for teaching and learning.

“Technology will not replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.” – George Couros