“In the year 2000, roughly 45,000 K–12 students took an online course.  In 2009, more than 3 million K–12 students did. What was originally a distance- learning phenomenon no longer is. Most of the growth is occurring in blended-learning environments, in which students learn online in an adult-supervised environment at least part of the time.”

– My comment on the blog post “The Rise in K12 Blended Learning

  • blended learning logo

In the paper “The Rise of the K-12 Blended Learning” by Micheal Horn and Heather Staker, they introduce and define the term “disruptive innovation” as “an innovation that transforms a sector characterized by products or services that are complicated, expensive, inaccessible, and centralized into one with products or services that are simple, affordable, accessible, convenient, and often customizable.”

Blended learning is emerging as a disruptive innovation with the potential to transform America’s education system by serving as the backbone of a system that offers more personalized learning approaches for all students.” This model of instruction is a hybrid of traditional classroom instruction and the increasingly popular online courses available to students. However, this model values face-to-face interactions with the teacher as an essential component of the learning process.

Reading this paper confirmed much of what I have said about blended learning in past blogs- Could Blended Learning Offer Teachers a Much Needed Life Raft and Blended Learning Gives Students Time to Think–  and my SF Examiner articles- Blended Learning Demystified.

Horn and Stake define blended learning as “Blended learning is any time a student learns, at least in part, at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.” This definition, like the term itself, is amorphous and capable of being molded by individual instructors to meet the needs of their class. This flexibility in definition reflects the flexibility of the learning model as well. Unlike online courses and distance learning programs, a blended learning model can be adopted by traditional classroom instructors to make them more effective, efficient and innovative. At the same time, students have the opportunity to collaborate in an asynchronous environment online that creates equity in voices and encourages students to actively participate in the discovery of knowledge.

The educational landscape is changing whether teachers like it or not. “U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently described a ‘new normal,’ where schools would have to do more with less. Blended learning is playing a vital role, as school operators begin to rethink the structure and delivery of education with the new realities of public funding.” Blended learning provides educators the freedom to incorporate an online element in a way that works for them. Some teachers use an online component to drive dynamic discussions and support collaborative group work. While others use it to flip the traditional teaching model to introduce notes, multimedia resources, and information online then use face-to-face interactions to engage in discussions and group work. The perfect blend of online and in class work depends entirely on the teacher. Regardless of how it is done this learning model allows teachers to define their own “new norm.”

As Horn and Stake note at the end of their paper, it is crucial that policy makers, superintendents, and principals “act now to prevent the cramming of online learning into the traditional system and to foster its transformative potential.”

I would add that teachers also need to act. Most teachers do not appreciate dictums handed down from above. Recognizing that technology is an important part of the future of education, we need to experiment with online learning tools and resources to decide what works with our individual curriculum. Teachers who effectively adapt their classes to include technology that teaches 21st century skills, creates digital literacy and fosters digital citizenship will be more successful as the traditional model of instruction shifts to include online components.

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