Please Stop Calling it Blended!


For the love of education, please stop calling it blended.

Recently, I attended a ministry hosted function that provided schools/boards from across the province with the opportunity to share ideas, showcase best practices and dialogue on innovation. Depressingly, I use this notation of innovation loosely as most ideas were very much recycled, clichéd or post-modern.

It really did seem that when speaking about 21C and tech-enabled learning that the ideas being generated were manufactured on an assembly line. Ironically, the declining automotive industry and the decaying lustre of the Ford or GM assembly line is often the conversation point as to why education has to evolve, promote innovation, autonomy, creativity etc.  This is not the say that the ideas being shared or efforts lacked heart, but rather that they seem to be growing in in their disconnection from students. Evidence of this is the conversation around eLearning – specifically blended.

This is not blended eLearning:

Teacher walks into a computer lab or a BYOD environment.

Students walk in.

Student access an LMS.

Students work on content.

Teacher sits down.

Students Leave at bell.

It is time to have a real conversation.

In addressing blended eLearning as a mode of innovation, my concern is that the technology is increasingly being used as a passive entity.  In many instances (more than there should be), the mode of blended instruction I shared above is happening in Ontario schools. Teachers are becoming dependent on an interface to deliver content. The delivery is not 21C and it is not tech-enabled learning.

21C is to promote a learning environment where students are sharing ideas, given autonomy, provided with choice, innovate, create, critical synthesize, make connections, curate and share etc. Although this can happen within an online environment, often within blended (and full credit for that matter), the learning is stagnant  – composed of reading and response and lacks a true extension into the realm of 21C or tech-enabled learning.

Tech –enabled learning is where the focus is on the student use of technology and not the teachers. Often, within eLearning design, the use of the technology is still teacher driven. This changes, when students use technology to extend and compliment there learning. Importantly, within the era of LinkedIn and the increase of demand for online profiles, technology needs to be used to apply learning. Technology needs to be used actively by students to create, innovate, share and brand themselves as individuals of the digital age.

For the love of education, please stop calling it blended.

Blended eLearning is not lab driven but studio driven. This is where personalized learning can takes shape – offsetting traditional mode of delivery through an LMS so that students work in class to create learning artefacts, collaborate in groups, share ideas and build a transferable skill set. Importantly, the LMS can be used to delivery content and build discussion but the classroom needs to be where the learning takes “shape.”  This learning needs to happen. Universities have acknowledged this by coupling with colleges – why within the realm of eLearning is this taking so long?

It is not blended if students are solely online. It is not blended just because students are using technology. It is blended when learning is complimented, extended and given new and abstract life.

In the end, ask this question if you are “blending.” Is the LMS about the ease of your instruction or the enriched deliberation of the learning and can students in your classroom show what they know?

I share this not as an expert but someone who continues to grow in how to blend and make the abstract a reality.

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