Effective blended learning – introducing new forms of learning

Technology and the internet are transforming how students learn, providing them with access to resources from anywhere in the world and allowing them more flexibility in when and where they study.  The focus of education is continuing to shift from traditional teaching styles where students learned passively to more activity-based lessons, often assisted by technology, and self-directed study through online content.  Consequently, there are many valid reasons why educators should ‘do digital’.

The short animated video below outlines the impact that technology is having on education.

Technical advances have given us the opportunity to rethink how we teach and we are starting to witness a paradigm shift, however it is essential that any changes are led by pedagogy, not driven by technology.  It is important that we consider how digital learning can complement our existing teaching and we need to critically evaluate if the use of technology will genuinely enhance learning.  Therefore, we need to decide the optimal approach for ourselves and our learners when embedding digital activities in the curriculum.

New forms of learning

While the benefits of technology for learning are clearly evident, for many students a combination of classroom-based and online study is likely to be most effective.  This blended (or hybrid) learning approach gives them the advantages of both digital and face-to-face instruction, providing them with the assistance of a tutor’s expertise while allowing them to study independently online.  With educational technology now widely available, the trend towards blending synchronous classroom-based teaching with either synchronous or asynchronous online learning is gaining pace. One of the greatest benefits of this is in the increased flexibility it offers tutors and students.  The following animation will help you review what you might hope to achieve from adopting a blended learning approach.

Blended learning can take many forms and it doesn’t require sophisticated technology or equipment.  However, it does require some time and effort to introduce and manage. Setting realistic objectives and planning how you are going to embed technology in the curriculum are essential if blended learning is going to be effective.  One of the first things you need to consider is the range of skills that technology can help your students develop.  A good starting point for deciding that is to use Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

Most educators are familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy which outlined a framework for categorising educational goals.  The original taxonomy has been updated for the 21st century to expand upon the skills for each level and reflect the importance of technology in education.  There are many ways that we can use technology to help students acquire the skills outlined in Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and a range of blended learning strategies that we can adopt, such as flipped learning and project-based learning. Effective integration of technology in lessons can assist in developing both lower and higher order skills in students, with the most effect method being to encourage students to create digital content themselves.  The animation below suggests some activities you could try with your students to help them develop the skills they will need in the digital workplace.

You can introduce blended learning activities into your teaching gradually, taking time to experiment with what works for you and your learners.  In my next post I will discuss how employing the DADDIE model can help us to ensure that our blended learning strategy is driven by pedagogy rather than technology.  In the meantime, feel free to share your own suggestions or experiences in the comments!

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