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Pedagogy first, technology second – the key to successful hybrid classes

In today’s heavily technologized world, pedagogy and technology go hand in hand. The Covid-19 pandemic has urged educators worldwide to embrace technology as many of their classes shifted to a fully remote or hybrid environment.  Naturally, this posed some challenges for many teachers, especially those who weren’t used to using edtech tools such as a learning management system (LMS ) or a video conferencing platform to deliver educational content. The need to swiftly incorporate technology in the classroom might have partially overshadowed another essential aspect of teaching — pedagogy, especially among less tech-savvy teachers who needed more time for this.  Yet, pedagogy remains at the core of any teaching activity, being the fuel for success in education. At the same time, technology is a vehicle for innovation, effective learning, and student empowerment. It’s the key to ensuring constant access to classes, at any time, from anywhere, and offering students a personalized learning experience. So how can educators make the most of both worlds — technology and pedagogy — while granting the latter a leading role? We’ll walk you through the main reasons why pedagogy is the key to successful hybrid classes. Then, we’ll share a few tips on leveraging technology while getting used to or starting with hybrid teaching .
Read more: How to get started with hybrid teaching

Why is pedagogy essential for successful hybrid classes?

Teachers can harness the power of technology to deliver engaging courses that bring positive, lasting results. However, technology alone can’t make up for a lack of teaching experience or formal preparation. In other words, putting great tools in the hands of a novice doesn’t necessarily mean they will deliver an outstanding class. This is only possible if that person also adopts effective pedagogical strategies suited to their students.  Different methods enable educators to teach theoretical concepts in a manner that enhances students’ understanding and recall capacities. In the end, the role of pedagogy in the classroom is to facilitate the way teachers convey information. It’s the essential skill teachers need to accomplish their goals, help students meet educational standards, and equip them with competencies that will help them later on, at work and in life.  In the absence of effective pedagogy , teaching is reduced to mere information transmission. It’s like reading a book or watching a video without really grasping the essence of its content. The information is there, and you retain some of it. Yet, you don’t understand the purpose of why that content was created and how it is useful to you.
Read more: Answering the Why? How? What? of lesson planning

Pedagogy’s role in successful hybrid classes

Pedagogy’s importance increases in hybrid classes where teachers must make sure all their students are on the same page and up to date with the course materials. When some students attend in person and the rest in the virtual environment, confusion, and misunderstandings might sneak in.  This is where effective pedagogy takes the lead. A teacher who knows how to deliver educational content in a clear and purposeful manner through successful pedagogical strategies can overcome these challenges.  For example, effective strategies include repetition. Teachers can leverage repetition to ensure students recall and retain information. They can do this simply by reminding them of certain key aspects thought in the previous classes. Also, they can ask students to repeat aloud recently acquired information, in their own words, and assignment instructions to ensure no one lags behind Teamwork is another highly praised pedagogical practice in today’s modern learning, alongside other strategies such as brainstorming sessions, creative tasks, storyboarding, or role-playing. All these popular l strategies that ensure comprehensive and well-rounded education can also be leveraged in hybrid classes.   Furthermore, teachers can focus on engaged pedagogy in hybrid classes to foster student collaboration, align everyone with the lesson’s goals, encourage active and research-based learning, and promote engagement.
Read more: 4 more ways to stimulate online learner engagement

How to make the most of technology for successful hybrid classes?

Technology is a game-changer in education. With the help of an LMS, for example, all students have access to classes regardless of their location as long as they have a device with an internet connection.  Thus, even if a student has to stay home or can’t make it to class for other reasons, they can catch up with their peers. LMSs and other digital tools are ideal for self-study; teachers can upload all sorts of class materials on online platforms and assess students there.  The latter enjoy a modern and engaging learning method, one that is adapted to their study pace and routine. Furthermore, edtech makes it possible for teachers to offer students a more customized learning experience by designing personalized learning paths.  For example, if a student completes an assessment in an LMS faster than their colleagues, the system can automatically assign them a more difficult task to challenge and help them progress. Conversely, an LMS can also help students make headway by asking them to retake certain assignments where they struggled or go again through certain parts of a lesson.  The bottom line is that there are multiple advantages to using edtech in hybrid classes. So, here are a few tips to help you and your students enjoy all the benefits:
  1. Always be prepared

    Whether you’ve already gotten used to teaching both online and offline, or you’re still adapting to this change, it’s essential to be fully prepared when you enter the physical/virtual classroom. This means having a clear lesson plan with activities and objectives suited for every lesson stage and all the technologies you need at hand.  Plan your classes ahead and anticipate your students’ reactions, the time your students will allocate to each activity, and the difficulties they might face along the way. This is especially important for the part of the class that joins remotely or the ones who will be exclusively online.  At some point, students will probably have some technical difficulties and they will turn to you for help. Simple questions such as how to access a course from the LMS or where to find the invitation link to a Zoom meeting, or an online assessment have simple solutions.  But you have to be fully aware of all the steps students need to take to successfully access your classes to be able to support them. So, each time you assign virtual homework or ask students to complete an online class, put yourself in their shoes and anticipate potential issues to tackle them quickly.  
  2. Choose tools and features that suit you 

    Digital tools are complex and versatile. An LMS alone might have dozens of useful features and integrations with other tools such as Zoom. The latter also has different functions you might have already been using in your hybrid classes.  For example, during video calls, you can easily change your background to look more professional and make sure your students don’t see your spouse or pet enjoying lunch while you’re trying to explain something. The bottom line is that there are many tools you can use while teaching, and they all have their features. Therefore, you can choose and use those that are more appealing to you and ease your hybrid teaching efforts. 
    Read more: 4 Things any teacher training program should include from now on
  3. Have a backup plan 

    When relying on technology, you might encounter surprises along the way. For instance, your laptop might run out of battery right in the middle of the lesson. Therefore, you should make sure it’s fully charged before you start your classes.  Or you might realize your internet connection is too weak or you’re not able to connect to your WiFi network. What will you do then? Make sure you know how to create a hotspot and connect to the internet from your mobile.  You get the idea. Technology is sometimes unpredictable. However, you can predict common problems and make sure you have the solution at hand. 
  4. Don’t shy away from asking for help 

    Finally, don’t fret if there are certain aspects related to the technology you must use for your hybrid classes you don’t know yet. There is certainly someone in your school’s staff who can support you. Don’t shy away from asking the school administrator or one of your colleagues to help you out.  No one expects you to be both a great teacher and a technology guru. The first skill is what matters the most. As for technology, you will have time to learn the ropes. 
    Read more: 4 Tips for teachers to make the most of edtech

Conclusion

Hybrid classes offer unique learning opportunities when well designed and implemented. They bridge the physical and achievement gap between different students with the help of technology. Edtech plays a pivotal role in the hybrid classroom . However, pedagogy remains the central force that ensures a successful and effective teaching and learning experience. Therefore, it deserves to be the number one priority in hybrid classes.
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