Amy McDowell, Content Specialist

What’s your blended learning game plan?

As the initial panic caused by emergency remote learning has subsided, schools & teachers are looking ahead and preparing for a return to ‘school’, wherever that may be. With a desire to not only gain back some control over their teaching practices but to also implement some of the strategies and tools that have worked well during this period of forced distance learning. Whether that’s in class or a hybrid approach with a mix of in person and online delivery.  


With summer holidays only beginning for some, why are we thinking about the return to school? Especially as the 2019/20 school year brought with it empty classrooms, separation from students and a period of intense professional development. Well it’s because this fall looks to be a very different start to the new year, as schools prepare to leverage blended, hybrid, or completely digital instruction. But unlike the emergency remote learning from March, this time schools, teachers and districts will want to be prepared with an instructional game plan. 

Teachers need to understand the different strategies & tools that worked well during remote learning and how to overcome the challenges that blended learning may present. With so much change and uncertainty, we’ve put together some tactics to get you started as you and your school get ready for what lies ahead. 
 

The pedagogy of blended learning 

First up, it’s important to accept that as the traditional classroom setting is flipped on its head, keeping the same ways of teaching no longer makes sense. And it’s going to require more than training & tech tools to make blended learning successful, a change in how teacher’s work is needed, and that’s not easy.

This recognition that education will never be the same, is a positive one though. The opportunities presented from implementing blended learning include a pathway for true personalisation and an understanding that what works in a classroom won’t automatically engage all students online, and vice versa. 

Especially if you’re switching from a solely face to face approach, it’s important to take time to consider your teaching practices and what strategies will be needed to suit different environments. Considering both the context and the content of a lesson will help guide this. For example, math based quizzes are easy to administer remotely to assess progress, what might not be so easy is determining where a student got stuck in certain areas of that test. This is where direct face to face interaction works well and the great thing about this new hybrid approach is that it allows you to utilize the two. 
 

Accomodating a diverse range of learners 

A key takeaway from school closures is that it’s been a driving force to encourage teachers to recognize their diverse range of learners when designing lessons. It's not only about supporting those with additional learning needs, but ensuring that learning is available to all, regardless of their ability, geographical location or access to technology. 

A hybrid mix of online and in person learning will enable students to find their own unique blend, depending on their preferred learning style and their access to technology. But it’s important that all students have the right support tools they need to ensure learning progress isn’t hindered without direct teacher interaction. It’s about breaking down barriers to learning. 

Providing a mix of synchronous and asynchronous content while blending both in person and online classes, can help meet the diverse needs of your students. By giving students the autonomy to control their own learning pace, while still having opportunities for direct class/teacher discussion that allows you and them to assess their understanding of a particular topic and implement learning interventions if necessary. 
 

Design with communication & collaboration in mind

As you start to navigate this new hybrid teaching landscape, it’s important to design lessons with communication & collaboration front of mind. Yes, your time with students may be reduced but a blended approach doesn’t mean students have to learn in isolation. In recent months we have seen schools get creative with how they keep the school community connected, including virtual graduations and end of year videos from teachers. 

The use of tools like class forums are an easy way to facilitate class discussions and peer to peer reviews. And learning platforms like Google Classroom allow you to create an interactive workflow that provides opportunities for feedback and group work. Of course this can never replace the social interactions from the classroom, but it provides opportunities for communication that are key for students to be able to continue learning successfully within blended environments. 
 

Coming soon: Design and delivery in the blended learning jungle 

We know it can seem like a jungle out there when it comes to strategies and tools that you can use as you return to school. That’s why you’re invited to join us for a free online PD experience, 18th - 20th August, as we help you roam through this new blended learning environment. 

You’ll be able to access a wide range of keynotes, sessions and panel discussions that focus on how you can design curriculum content and deliver teaching strategies with technology. Reserve your spot today to ensure you're equipped with all the tools and expert advice you'll need to start the new school year off right!

Design and Delivery in a Blended Learning Jungle. August 18 to 20, 2020.
 
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How is your school preparing for the new school year? Let us know in the comments what your main focus and tools are for 2020/21 in response to the remote learning of the last few months.     

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