The Promise of Blended Learning

By Erik Telford, RealClearPolicy website, 11/29/13

If America is to continue to lead the world throughout the 21st century, it must adapt its education system to fit the modern world….

One solution to our country’s stagnant education system is blended learning, which fuses the advantages and innovations of modern technology with a traditional classroom setting to optimize each child’s learning experience. This system maintains the vital teacher/student face-to-face interaction that is missing from purely virtual schools, but reinvigorates the century-old chalkboard model by introducing self-guided online learning to the classroom.

Through blended learning, teachers and technology work together to help students master content at a pace that fits their learning abilities and needs. When computers shoulder some of the burden of instruction — for example, when children interact with a digital learning module at their own speed instead of sitting through a traditional lecture — teachers have more time to work with students one-on-one or in small groups. This allows a teacher to provide levels of support and personalized instruction that would simply be infeasible otherwise.

When teachers have the time to teach to the individual, students can exert greater control over the path and pace of their learning, increasing their level of engagement. In blended learning, square pegs no longer need to worry about fitting into one-size-fits-all round holes. It can also afford children greater opportunities to work in groups with their peers, creating a more social and interactive educational experience.

Online learning will help shape the future of America’s educational system — in fact, 50% of all post-secondary students will take at least one virtual course next year — yet many teachers and policymakers are hesitant to embrace it, because the benefits of face-to-face learning can’t be recreated online. Blended learning captures the best elements of both online and face-to-face instruction, and the product is a highly personalized, student-centric system that fits today’s fast-paced world.

We’re not driving the same cars we did 50 years ago, and we wouldn’t think of taking our children to a doctor who hadn’t updated his practice since Watergate. It’s time we applied the same mentality to education, and created a forward-thinking system that prepares our children for the world they’ll inherit.

Erik Telford is senior vice president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

[Michael’s Note: Watch this five-minute video to see what blended learning looks like. And for a taste of why blended learning can be controversial, see this article from The Hechinger Report.]

See also in ClassWise:  “Teachers Say Tech Is Important but Training Is Too”

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