Ready or Not, Blended Learning Is Coming To Your Community

This article was published in the Spring 2013 MACUL Journal

Blended learning, flipped classroom, and virtual schooling are all new models of K-12 education that are being bantered around in the press, academic journals, and at instructional technology forums across the country as ways to improve our educational system.  In many corners of the nation, the realities of these new models coming to fruition seem far fetched, since they are so different from the standard model of face-to-face classroom. However, as studies in the last couple years have shown, this is not the case. Not only are these new models of instructions becoming more of a reality, parental support for the importance of technology integration into K-12 curriculum and instruction is at new heights. These new models deserve a look in your community.

Virtual learning is on the rise and there is a growing body of research on its use. In a 2009 national study, the Babson Survey Research Group published a report estimating that 1,030,000 students were enrolled in at least one online or blended course in American K-12 schools. The study also reported that in 2000-2001 the percentage of school districts reporting a student taking their first online course was approximately 5%, and by 2007-2008 it jumped to 22%. Following up this report, in 2010 the group reported “online and blended learning are becoming integral to a number of high school reform efforts especially with regard to improving graduation rates, credit recovery, building connections for students to their future college careers, differentiating instruction, and supporting cost-efficiency for instruction.” Parents also overwhelmingly believe it is important for schools to make good use of educational technology.

The use of technology in blended and flipped learning models can facilitate an environment where each student can learn in the way that is best for them. Technology tools can be used to provide educators with opportunities to gauge students’ individual mastery of concepts, providing the vital information needed to design instructional activities to best help individual students learn, and in turn, keep them engaged. Students soon become the driver for their own learning instead of letting the teacher do it for them. The philosophy makes sense and parents are overwhelmingly supportive.

Is your community taking any steps to investigate or move toward flipped or blended learning instructional models? It will take a concerted effort from policy makers at the local, state, and national levels; parents, teachers, and students. What can you do to advocate and help move forward the effort to use technology in these types of ways?  The first step is to become educated about what blended learning means and how it impacts teachers and students. The REMC Association of Michigan, a MACUL partner, offers a free professional development course for Michigan educators. The MACUL Conference will also offer a variety of sessions in a blended learning strand. Or maybe you are ready to dive right in using tools that are already available in your educational community. Keep track of data that will help you know if the strategies you try are effective, and share your experiences with colleagues, parents, administration, school boards, and legislators.

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About the Authors:

Terri Gustafson is a MACUL Board of Directors member and the Assistant Director for the Center for Teaching and Technology in the College of Education at Michigan State University.  She can be reached at: terrigus@msu.edu or on Twitter: @tgustafson

Pamela Shoemaker, Ed.S, is the Technology Instructional Coach for Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. She is MACUL’s President Elect and an alumnus of the Michigan Educational Policy Fellowship Program. She can be reached via e-mail at pam.shoemaker@macul.org  or on Twitter: @shoemap