Blended learning is the combination of active engaged learning online and active engaged learning offline with the goal of giving students more control over the time, place, pace, and path of their learning. Blended learning can take many different forms and the various models give students different degrees of control over their learning.
Some educators use blended learning and personalized learning synonymously. It’s important to make a distinction between the two. Blended learning models can serve as a bridge toward personalization, but it is not synonymous with personalized learning.
Personalized learning is a hot topic in education. Educators agree that each learner is different with unique interests, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Of course, it would be ideal if teachers could work with individual learners to identify learning goals, co-create learning experiences, and track progress. I honestly don’t know how realistic the idea of personalized learning is in the context of public education as it exists today.
As long as teachers are juggling large class sizes, seeing five classes a day for less than an hour each, and have limited access to resources, personalized learning or “tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs, and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when, and where they learn” may feel unattainable (iNacol 2013).
Instead of talking about personalized learning, as if it is a destination I have reached. I use the verb personalizing a lot in my work with educators. It signals that personalization is a journey. Just because we cannot personalize learning for every child every day does not mean it is not a worthy goal to work toward.
This is why I am such a big advocate for blended learning. It provides teachers, even those of us at public schools with limited access to technology, with a path toward personalization. We can use the various models–Station Rotation Model, Flipped Classroom, Whole Group Rotation, and Playlist–to provide students with more opportunities to decide when, how, and what they learn.