Undoubtedly technology is a massive boon for teaching, from massive online research facilities to interactive content and full-spectrum online learning environments, to collaboration across country and cultural divides, to the promise that teachers can spend less time preparing and grading, and systems that yield more data with which to measure students across a number of parameters — not to mention achieving the ideals of the flipped classroom.
The introduction of technology is a march towards a more integrated, interactive and motivated learning space.
But there are casualties.
Veteran teachers — who are, by nature, also of an older generation — are being compelled to include technology into their long-held and hard-won traditional classroom techniques in order to meet policy goals of their districts or schools. This has led to many of them feeling overwhelmed and uninspired.
5 Tips for incorporating blended learning into your classroom
Blended learning is the use of technology and face-to-face instruction in a seamless, blended way that nonetheless introduces both students and teachers to the benefits of technology in the classroom without the shock of going “full online.”
Here are some simple ways teachers can overcome their reluctance to using technology and begin blending their classrooms.
Identify an actual problem you are having
Instead of reaching into the mixed bag of web-based and computer based tools randomly, think about what issues you are currently facing, then research technology-based solutions that address that problem specifically.
Are you, for instance, finding that only a handful of the same students participate in classroom discussions? Perhaps those that are shy or too “cool” would find their voice in an online forum.
There are a myriad of online collaboration spaces that you can create and moderate where students can spend focused time together online, nurturing debate and discovery.
The online classroom was not built in a day, so start small. Try simply replacing one or two lessons with digital or online content.
Ted-Ed is the Ted Talks educational program that is a great resource for teachers. You can design an entire lesson plan around one of their videos, add questions and discussion points and track your student’s progress. Get started here.
Don't add to your workload
Try not to add technology as a side dish to an already full plate. Instead, try and replace activities that currently sap your time with swift solutions online. Time sappers like assessments can be designed online, and preloaded with the answers, which makes the tests self-grading.
Google Forms is a great way to achieve this. Just check out this great step-by-step instruction on how to create your first self-grading assessments.
Another time sapper is contacting parents. Mass announcements can be swiftly made within closed groups on WhatsApp or Twitter, and Skype is a great immediate way to meet with parents online. Depending on the LMS your school is using, and if parent accounts are an option, you can reach out to them regarding any subject within the same platform.
Learn from your students
Why not plan a lesson around online learning tools, with a view to your students collaborating with you on designing your first foray into the online classroom.
Let your students discover how your subject is currently being taught online, and what tips, tricks and tools they feel could work in your particular class. Your students will not only have ideas and methods you may not have heard of (or feel comfortable using yet), and you may find students enthusiastic in helping you get to grips with the technologies and software involved.
Let go a little
Many teachers think an online learning environment requires them to be available 24/7. As we have seen in a previous post, critical skills need to be developed by letting students rely on themselves or each other for answers and guidance.
In creating online projects, tasks and lessons you can be clear on how and when you will be involved. Let students know when you will be attending the online discussion, what your expectations are in terms of their collaboration, and be clear about how the grading will work in order to encourage sharing.
Technology is not the goal
Remember that the goal is not to include technology into your lessons, or classroom. The goal is to create a more student-centered learning environment which online learning tools can enable.
It also need not be drudgerous, and can in fact be fun.
A good teacher never stops learning, so try to embrace the new challenge of the technology-based classroom as an enjoyable learning journey.
NEO Brochure: Using NEO for Blended Learning