Answers to Your Blended Learning Questions
Student-centered, technology-enhanced instruction that allows students to study at their own pace while mastering information and skills can be substituted for lecture-based, one-size-fits-all instruction through the use of blended learning approaches. In response to Edutopia’s visit to Eastern Senior High School in Washington, DC to film teachers who are implementing a blended learning model, the school’s students and parents expressed their appreciation for what they observed in the video.
The George Lucas Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by George Lucas.
They also had a lot of concerns about how to put this approach into practice in their classrooms and educational institutions. Our responses to frequently asked questions come from our experience as cofounders of the nonprofit Modern Classrooms Project, whose work forms the foundation for the teaching approaches depicted in this video.
Frequently Asked Questions about Blended Learning
1. What exactly is your teaching model? Our model is made up of three parts. To begin, teachers who use blended teaching replace their lectures with instructional films created by themselves. Through the elimination of the lecture bottleneck, teachers can spend more time working directly with students, which enables them to implement the second component of the model, which is self-paced structures, which allow students to learn at their own pace within each unit of study, either individually or in collaboration with peers. Finally, mastery-based assessment is used by our teachers to ensure that all children have a thorough understanding of the subject and skills required to be successful in school.
2. How do you go about making the videos? Numerous approaches can be used to make effective instructional screencast recordings. We utilize a tablet and a stylus, which makes it simple to write right on the screen and to upload files to the internet, which students may view through any learning management system. Explain Everything has proven to be the most useful application when it comes to tablets.
If you don’t have access to a tablet with a pen, you can still do the task using a desktop computer or a laptop. Explain Everything is similar in functionality to screencasting tools such as Screencast-O-Matic, which can be downloaded for free.
Check out our Blended Instruction Guide for more information on the individual gadgets and programs that we employ.
3. What happens if students don’t have access to technology at home with them? Because it would only serve to reinforce inequality, we do not mandate pupils to access digital content at home. As a result, we make certain that the films are available for students to watch during class while using school-owned devices. These films, on the other hand, are extremely simple to watch on a cell phone, and many pupils prefer to do so. Additionally, we provide students with time during non-instructional hours to use the gadgets in the classroom to catch up if they have fallen behind.
4. How long do you think it will take kids to become used to this system? Within a few weeks, the children become used to the model. The first step is critical: We normally start with short units to allow students to develop a feel for the model while also getting frequent checkpoints and fresh starts. We also encourage teachers to keep their instructional videos brief and to regularly involve students in metacognitive exercises to help them develop a feeling of self-direction and self-management. For courses in probability and statistics, we urge teachers to make introductory videos, such as this one, that lead students through the new system.
5. What happens to students who fall behind in their studies? We exclusively self-paced inside the confines of each unit. This guarantees that students receive regular fresh beginnings and allows them to reflect on their habits and mindsets regularly. In each unit, we highlight lessons that students “must do,” “should do,” and “aspire to do” to ensure that every student masters the essential skills while also identifying additional chances for motivated students to further their education.
Incorporating unit-end deadlines (by which time all “must do” lessons must be done) into the curriculum helps to inspire students, reduce procrastination, and offer a healthy space for reflection after each unit. Before the beginning of the next lesson, students participate in metacognitive exercises in which they identify the habits of thought that they will work on improving in the following unit. It is quite rare for a pupil to fail to learn all of the “must-dos.” If this occurs, a more intensive intervention, such as an after-school tutoring program, would be implemented as the following step.
Students can go back and learn “should do” and “aspire to do” skills from prior units on their own time, although we would prefer that students fully master the most vital seven skills in a unit rather than that they only comprehend a portion of the most important ten abilities.
6. How do you assist pupils who move at a much faster rate than the rest of the class? Achieving significant extensions for high-flyers is critical for success. We plan at least one “aspire to do” lesson in each unit—generally stand-alone projects or college preparatory activities (such as Khan Academy’s SAT prep) that can engage faster learners—and we leave plenty of room for continued improvement through revision of unit-end assessments, which high-flyers may complete early if they demonstrate exceptional performance. If students complete those projects or activities, we typically invite them to serve as teaching assistants for the unit, which is an opportunity that they normally relish.
Describe your approach to pupils who have specific needs or learning impairments. To ensure that everyone masters the “must-do” essential competencies, accommodations and modifications are implemented like that of a traditional teaching paradigm. Teachers have significantly more time to assist problematic students as a result of the elimination of lecture time, and students have the time they require (in or out of class) to completely master each skill.
8. How do you deal with kids who are disinterested or distracted from their work? We motivate them—we take advantage of the time we would have spent teaching to get to know our students on a more personal level, forming bonds that allow us to drive each student toward his or her full potential. We present students with regular progress updates so that they are aware of exactly what they need to achieve daily, and at the end of each unit, we challenge them to consider how they can improve in the future. The majority of students, once they realize that they are accountable for their learning, discover the drive they need to succeed.
9. How do you come up with your grades? There are two ways in which our teachers calculate grades. We utilize a binary scale to assess each skill that students acquire during a unit. For example, Students receive credit if they have mastered the skill, and they do not receive credit if they have not. Students can revise and reassess a skill as many times as necessary until they gain mastery, which helps them to enhance their grades as well. This emphasizes the necessity of truly mastering topics rather than simply completing assignments without gaining a thorough comprehension of the subject material.
On the other hand, unit-ending assessments such as tests or projects are marked in a more traditional, performance-based manner.
In general, this system works well in conjunction with a regular grade book and A–F grading system. If a student masters 80 percent of the topic by the conclusion of the quarter, they will obtain a B- on a typical grading scale, according to the course syllabus. The grade shows the extent to which the student has grasped the material.
The following is an example of what this looks like in a language or science lesson. One of the most appealing aspects of our model is that it is adaptable. Because each teacher configures the system according to his or her content area, grade level, and skill, the model appears differently depending on the class.
In general, we’ve observed that language teachers prefer to engage students throughout regular whole-class discussions in their courses, whereas science professors tend to rely more on videos to prepare students for complicated, hands-on activities such as laboratory experiments. We enjoy seeing how different teachers interpret and adapt the concept in their ways, and we are constantly learning from them. All key curriculum areas, as well as electives, are represented within our current cohort of instructors, who are dispersed among middle and high schools.
11. How does this look in the primary school setting? We haven’t attempted it yet because our youngest students are in the sixth grade at the moment. However, we do not believe that the model should be significantly altered for elementary school, as long as instructional videos are brief enough to maintain students’ attention and to limit their screen time, and as long as the self-pacing windows do not allow students to stray too far from the intended path. The more frequently the checkpoints are visited, the younger the children are.