Blended Learning in K-12/Evolution of Blended Learning
Although the term blended learning has moved to the forefront of educational jargon in the past few years, blended learning has been used for decades by educators at every level. In the pure sense of the term, blended learning simply means using more than one method of delivering a lesson to a student. But , in recent years, blended learning has been viewed as the combination of traditional face to face learning and technology, using whatever technology was prevelent at the time. This can include everything from calculators to televisions to computers and the Internet with all its advantages or disadvantages.
During the course of the last fifteen years blended learning has evolved dramatically. Both the number of educators teaching blended curriculums and the many different kinds of blends being used are a testament to the viability of these types of programs. In this section of the wikibook we will examine the history and evolution of blended learning and its subsequent consequences.
Evolution of Blended Learning
"We learn anywhere, anytime, anyplace; there are opportunities to learn all around us everyday. We learn in the home, office, on the road. Likewise, educational content can be shaped to fit all kinds of useful delivery media that is convenient, user-friendly, and (most important) serves the educational need of members without the content being shortchanged or trivialized." Smith,J.(2001)
Elliot Masie, in an Epic White Paper, answered the question What is Blended Learning? as follows: "It [Blended Learning] is the use of two or more distinct methods of training. This may include combinations such as: blending classroom instruction with online instruction, blending online instruction with access to a coach or faculty member, blending simulations with structured courses, blending on-the-job training with brown bag informal sessions, blending managerial coaching with e-learning activities."
So many of the commodities we take for granted today (telephones, washing machines, refrigerators) were new technologies not fifty years ago. Similarly, according to Elliot Masie, we are almost "lulled" into thinking that e-learning is the first time that technology has influenced learning in any significant way. "That is a big mistake, as the internet is merely the culmination of wave after wave of technological innovation in learning." (Masie, 2003)
The first major innovation in learning technology was the advent of written language and the use of paper. Many years later education was again revolutionized with the invention of the printing press. Books became significantly less expensive and instructors no longer had to read the textbooks aloud to the students. Broadcast media further changed the way educators taught by shrinking the planet and bringing diverse peoples closer together. Consumer storage media such as the Audio-cassette, video-tape, and compact-disc allowed people to save more and more information while the PC and CD-rom brought a world of new software into the home and classroom. Internet technology is simply the last component of a long line of technological innovation in education. (Masie, 2003)
Can one imagine teaching- or living- without printed books or written language? When the printing press was invented, did educators regard the printed word as a passing fad or did they lovingly embrace the new technology as something that could revolutionalize education?
Blended learning, especially that which involves technology use, was previously viewed as an adult learning environment. As more and more younger students are gaining access to computers and the Internet, this view is changing. We see blended learning at every level of education. The higher the level of education, the less face-to-face interaction seems to be required.
We think it is the introduction of new technologies to the teaching and learning process that has brought blended learning into the limelight, and generated a recent, and growing literature base. Blended learning is also a term that has been used to differentiate some programs from the backlash against the sometimes inappropriate use of too much technology. (Cross, 2003:Driscoll, 2002)" (Dewar, 2004)
A comprehensive history of current practices, those involving technology can be found at http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/67/07879729/0787972967.pdf.
Figure 1.2 of this document (Bersin, 2004) outlines the evolution of learning from the traditional classrooms of the 1950's through today's blended learning environment by displaying it in the following manner:
1. Instruction-Led Training: through the 1950"s
2. Main-Framed Based Computer-Based Training: 1960's -1970's
3. Satellite of Ground Based Video or "Distance Learning:" 1980's-1990's
4. PC-Based ,CD ROM, "CBT:" 1980's-1990"s
5. First Generation Web-based Training: 1998-Present
6. Integrated Blended Learning: 2000-...
Web, Video, Audio, Simulation,ILT, and more
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"Obviously technology is going to be one of the major venues through which people will be learning in the future. This translates to how an association builds and reinforces its members’ professional needs as our society evolves into a knowledge management economy. People need survival skills to interact within the culture and society, in addition to the core needs. Training and education that involves technology (note — the word is "involves," meaning includes — but not to the exclusion of all other kinds of learning) will need to be flexible as far as when and where it is taught, and the methods used. Blended learning offers associations that kind of flexibility.
Blended learning takes advantage of the power of technology to deliver training "just in time," anywhere and anytime. However, in blended learning, technology (and in particular, online education) is not used as an isolated tool, but as a key part of a comprehensive workplace performance solution. Online education, therefore, is not considered the only means to educate, but it should be considered an adjunct to the overall education process.
If you are interested in seeing an example of a blended learning classroom scenario, check out the model at http://online.matc.edu/mktg-104/orientation.htm."(Smith,J., 2001)
For a comprehensive guide on how to integrate face to face teaching and technology visit the website listed below: http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/yrk12focusareas/learntech/blended/index.php. ( New South Wales, 2005)
Blended learning has traditionally been a part of the K-12 school experience. Business and industry has recognized that employees learn in different ways and schools move more in that direction each year. Mixing teaching methods and varying the tools used is what allows a greater number of students to be successful. Most institutions of higher learning are offering online courses or courses that offer a combination of face to face interaction combined with technological components.
Blended learning is not a passing fad. Nor is it a new name for something that's been around for a while. Rather, e-learning is a technological innovation that, when successfully incorporated into the k-12 classroom, will forever change the way teachers teach and students learn. E-learning has the capability to alter education in the same way the innovations of printing and televised media have.
K-12 schools are never the pioneers when it comes to such learning; they are the recipients of the trickle down effect. K-12 programs will be the last members of the education world to incorporate online education. Classes below the high school level require the largest amount of learning time with face to face instruction. To be successful, students need to work from previous knowledge and the lower the grade, the more directed activities a student requires.Using technology, such as e-mail, Yahoo Groups, the Internet, a myriad of software programs are the latest tools K-12 teachers can add to a long list of blended learning venues they have always used.
A major stumbling block in incorporating e-learning in the K-12 curriculum has been the security issues surrounding the use of the Internet. Many parents still refuse to sign off on allowing their child unrestricted use of computers while they are at school. Schools spend a considerable amount of their funds to install filters and firewalls that attempt to block unsuitable sites, but they are not always successful.
Universities and colleges that grant teaching degrees are investing more and more time in training new teachers to use the most up-to-date technology- "teach the teachers", in an effort to advance technology training coupled with face-to-face instruction for K-12 students. For technology aspects of blended learning to expand, teachers, both new and experienced, must be prepared to change the way they have traditionally taught.
Despite the fact that K-12 blended learning has endless possibilities, more and more schools are being strapped with No Child Left Behind mandates and are finding funding shifted from expanding computer access for students to needing more computers for bookkeeping purposes.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has led to major changes in blended learning in K-12 classrooms in the areas most affected by this catastophic situation. With the displacement of many teachers and schools struggling to reopen, the quickest and most effective way to get schools up and running, with minimum staff,has been to create classroom and learning situations that include a greater amount of computer assisted learning. Industry has often partnered with school districts to provide complete computer labs or smart boards for individual classrooms. Some industries have been involved in creating prep materials for standardized testing, often getting these contracts by providing needed computer hardware and software to school districts. Katrina presents a very different situation, where educators are forced to start anew and they are finding that the most cost effective means of reaching the most students in the best way is by incorporating technology into classrooms at every level (K-12).
Just working in an elementary school in the computer lab has allowed me to see a side of blended learning that maybe not all teachers or scholars have seen. In today’s fast paced world it is absolutely necessary for children (K-12) to be exposed to as many technologies as possible. I am confident that time will make it more and more convenient for teachers to utilize technology in the traditional classroom setting, but it is certainly not going to happen over night. When looking at the “Evolution of Blended Learning”, there is clearly not much research or years of study on the topic. This is primarily because it is a new topic! There is not a plethora of books and articles on the subject. Since it is a new field of study, it will probably be several more years before the “evolution” is actually precise with any sort of factual timeline. Therefore, we can only go with how it all began, and how far we have come.
Of course there has always been technology. And over time, it has become more advanced to the point where we can do just about anything we want. What is so wonderful about technology today, though, is that it has become a magnificent learning tool for children in school and at home. It started with games. Kids whose parents had enough money were able to have a computer at home with a black screen and green text, and were able to play a couple of simplistic games. After a few years of that, there were colored screens with much more graphically advanced games (even though looking back we would laugh). Some schools at the time had these machines, but it was still considered a “luxury”. In computer class, simple games were played but there was still no World Wide Web. In fact, the most basic functions of the Internet began in 1969 at UCLA. It was invented for government purposes, and was never anticipated to be the colossal technology that it is today. Now, with the press of a button, the world is at our fingertips. In order for blended learning to become successful and incorporated into classrooms without “forcing” teachers, they must be educated on what technology will bring to their students.
Looking at computer use, it is an absolute necessity (more and more everyday) for people to have the skills and savvy to compete and succeed educationally and professionally. Many teachers still cannot turn on a computer, or find programs easily. Some still struggle with email and the basic functions it entails. This is the first step that must be corrected if blended learning is going to be functional. Students cannot look to their teachers for guidance, if they know more about the subject matter. It is embarrassing that many children help their teachers when they run into a computer problem. It is rare to see students helping their teachers figure out math or science equations, and it shouldn’t be any different with technology. Teachers should be thoroughly educated in computer knowledge equal to the grade level they teach, especially in the elementary grades. The job should start in college when earning a degree in teaching, and then on-going technology education must be enforced by administrators and technology coordinators. Once there is something solid in place, blended learning must be part of the curriculum. It cannot be incorporated into a standard curriculum until the teachers are using what is available to them correctly. If this is not the case, it can allow a class become less and less functional. In order for blended learning to become a common term and knowledge in schools, is to start at square one and not insist on jumping ahead. If done right, our children can benefit in ways that are unprecedented. The evolution has only just begun.