How K–12 Schools Should Define and Act on Digital Learning
To be honest, I hate the term blended learning. Let me explain why: In today’s world of education, blended learning gets thrown around for any type of new education involving technology.
We could go around any room of educators, ask what they think blended learning means, and get hundreds of different answers. In the Pickerington Local School District, when we decided to modernize our teaching and learning methods and enhance those skills with technology, we knew we had to first properly define blended learning.
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1. What Does Blended Learning Mean for K–12?
We wanted to honor our teachers’ past successes and identify effective teaching strategies from our traditional classrooms while also enhancing those tactics with best practices gleaned from our one-to-one classrooms. That brought us to the concept of “tradigital” learning, our version of blended learning, which in our district refers to a hybrid version of the traditional classroom and a digital learning environment.
When we sought to transform our classrooms from traditional to tradigital, we moved forward through four stages, understanding that our educators would find themselves at different places, and we would need to support them at those levels while also gently nudging them toward the next step in the process.
2. What Educators Need to Know Before Integrating Blended Learning
A traditional teacher likely starts out as a lecturer who uses digital tools sparingly, and data only when it’s convenient. A tradigital teacher acts as a facilitator who develops 21st-century learners using advanced digital tools. This teacher also mines data at the individual student level to help students become active owners of their learning process.
All of that requires teacher training and significant preparation for the students. The tradigital learning environment encourages all teachers — elementary, middle and high school — to adopt a station rotation model. To start, teachers have two stations: a technology-enhanced station and a teacher-led station.
As they become comfortable with using those two stations, they add in a third — usually the collaboration station — where they work on a project with multiple students.
The fourth station usually involves the four C’s: collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. Depending on the instructional outcomes, a fifth station can be added, which typically involves independent work. Teachers who establish and successfully roll out four to five stations complete the first stage of tradigital learning.
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3. Restructure Lesson to Facilitate Learner-Centered Education
Stage two involves differentiating those stations. Teachers may give assessments before each unit or standard, which sorts students into three groups: high, middle, low.
Teachers may then move to a three-station rotation that distinguishes lessons for the students based on the assessment data gathered. Every time a teacher switches units or standards, they should reassess, and students may change groups throughout the year depending on that data. The eventual goal is for teachers to work back up to four or five stations.
4. Personalized Learning Is the Ultimate Goal
The goal of tradigital learning is to differentiate lessons for each student. Teachers can do so effectively by using checklists and choice boards that offer students greater ownership of their learning. This approach makes up the final two stages of our tradigital learning model.
The primary takeaway here is, if you are going to adopt a form of blended learning, please take the time to define precisely what blended learning means in your school. Doing so will inform precisely how you will need to support your educators in making the shift successful.
The evolution typically involves all aspects of teaching and learning — from shifting professional development to professional learning, to adjusting the teacher’s role and using technology and data in powerful ways and involving the students as the true owners of their learning and outcomes.
Let us know how you fare on this journey.