Red, yellow and blue are very nice colors. But the world would be boring in just these three ones. Just try to imagine an oak tree in the summer, only with blue leaves. Green, orange, violet and brown take things to the next level, but the multitude of shades and tints make the world wonderfully colorful — or colorfully wonderful.
You know what else could be consider that way? A classroom full of students.
Each student is like a shade or a tint of a different color — and I'm not referring to the color of their skin. Each student has a unique blend of nuances that makes them the individual learner they are. Some enjoy listening to stories in lessons, others need to put their hands to work during a learning experience, while others actually like reading about new things.
With so much diversity in the classroom, the traditional one-size-fits all approach to education is bound to fail. And if we take into account ed-tech and the increasingly important role it plays in learning and instruction, blended learning seems like a feasible — maybe perfect? — solution.
What's in a blend?
Before going to the part of why I think blended learning will eventually become an educational norm, let's get a few things straight. Two things, actually.
(1) A blended learning strategy is based on blended learning materials. No matter how you create these learning materials, don't be afraid to mix things up a little. Images, videos, audio files, interactive apps, graphics, crossword puzzles, kinetic games and so on can blend marvellously in all sorts of classroom activities, for all grades.
(2) A successful blended learning strategy must have the perfect balance between face-to-face human interaction and technology. The perfect balance is unique in each classroom and for each teacher. Some things are done exclusively by technology, others by the living breathing teachers; and at the end of the day, technology complements and enhances the work of the teacher.
Now let's move on to the promised part of why blended learning — online and offline instruction being woven together — will be taken for granted by the students of tomorrow.
Why blended learning will become the norm
Don't get me wrong, I know blended learning is nothing new and it's quite spread out in educational institutions around the world. But it's not quite the norm yet. Educators are facing plenty of challenges when trying to implement it. But this could be the subject for another post entirely.
Today's post will deal with a few reasons why blended learning has the potential to become an educational norm. Two reasons, actually.
Education technology is continuously developing
The ed-tech industry is already big, and it keeps on growing. According to the Global ed-tech Research Report, it is estimated it will reach $252 bn by 2020. Quite an impressive number, I would say. And 2020 is not that far into the future.
Old ed-tech tools evolve or disappear. Just think about how far the average LMS has gone since its beginnings as a mainly administrative tool for teachers and school management. Today's learning management system comes with a comprehensive set of features that are more learner-centered: gamification, learning paths, many types of assessment, integrations with all sorts of productivity tools, improved tracking of learner data, you name it.
New ed-tech tools are popping up like mushrooms after rain, and some of them can become a very nutritious and satious meal for any classroom. Just think about Kahoot!, WeVideo or CollaborizeClassroom. Teachers and students alike love these.
What's more, AR and VR technology are going uphill, and these developments hold great potential for education as well. Nevertheless, it's still early to know how nutritious and satious these will turn out to be.
All in all, educators are facing a sea of options in terms of technological tools that can be used to enhance their instruction and the learning experience of each student. And this sea might soon turn into an ocean.
Everyone will need to be tech-savvy
If most teachers still remember encyclopedias and what it was like having to go to the library to do homework, most students find it hard to imagine a world without the internet and all the information available literally at their fingertips.
Students are already more tech-savvy than most of the adults in a school, but this doesn't mean they develop this skill while at school. A more plausible setting would be anywhere outside school unfortunately. Imagine how things could be if students discovered new tech in an organized learning environment.
The world outside school is more digital than ever. We shop online, we do our banking online, we order food online, we date online. For almost any activity there's an online option. Learning how to use the online to do these activities — including learning — will become a basic skill, right next to reading and counting. Future jobs will demand this.
If using technology properly is going to be a must-have skill for the citizens in the near future, then schools should play an important role in teaching it to students. And how else could they do this if not including technology in the everyday instruction?
Blended learning — or the art of mixing face-to-face instruction in the classroom with ed-tech — is on the path of becoming a real norm in education. Technological tools developed especially for the education market, along with the future demand for online literacy are the two foundation stones of this path.
NEO Brochure: Using NEO for Blended Learning