Blended learning combines technology and teaching
January 15, 2014
In the digital age, where teenagers have become accustomed to instantaneous delivery of information on their smart phones, tablets and computers, the classroom has become a means of experimentation for teachers with technology.
Dr. Joseph Veres is the director of K-12 Outreach at Grand Canyon University, and he came to visit the Park City School District faculty and administration to discuss the topic of blended learning.
School Board president Maurice Hickey said there is no set definition for blended learning, but what it entails in the Park City School District is to take technology, "marry it" with a teacher and bring all the content students can find online into the classroom.
"Growing up in New York City, we had three television stations, Encyclopedia Britannica and whatever textbook your teacher gave you," Hickey said. "This generation is different, because the world is the content. We used to have to go to school and get lectured on the content, and now the content is being brought into the classroom."
Hickey stressed that blended learning is not a new initiative but a fine-tuning of what is already occurring in classrooms in the district. Teachers are already practicing blended learning without the technology, he said, because of the way they manage the classroom, assign projects and break the classes up into groups.
Veres spoke with the district about the resources they had available and what they will be able to do with them in a blended learning atmosphere. Hickey said they will wait a couple of weeks for Veres’ evaluation before they take the first step toward blended learning.
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That first step would be to create a program for professional development and determine what online content is available for teachers to use a resource for those who want to learn blended learning practices, he said.
He added that the board, district and administration recognize that this method of teaching is not for every teacher, nor is it for every student.
"I’m a big believer in that if we say we have to differentiate ‘one size does not fit all,’ then we cannot say blended learning is for every student," Hickey said. "So we really have to look at it and say, ‘What can we do to provide the best education possible for every student?’"
Upon hearing back from Veres, Hickey said the board will begin an internal discussion with administrators and the interim curriculum director, Korin Ledbetter. The district is hoping to have a new curriculum director in place by the end of February, and that is when discussions will begin about where they think they may be more willing to move forward with blended learning in a structured environment as opposed to the way it is being done now, which Hickey said is more "ad-hoc."
One obstacle may be the firewalls in place in the district when it comes to online restrictions. The number two search engine in the world, YouTube, is one that is blocked.
Hickey said the content available for students on YouTube can be educational, such as "how to" videos. They can be considered peer-to-peer learning, which Hickey says is a valuable educational tool.
"As an education entity, we need to think about how to create digital citizens," he said. "There is great content out there, so we have to look at it and say, ‘What should we be using and what shouldn’t we be using?’ It is becoming more and more pertinent as the content gets better."
With Veres’ evaluation and a new curriculum director, Hickey said school district Superintendent Ember Conley will hold community forums to discuss the topics of blended learning and online content.
"The community will be involved and kept up to date on what is going on from start to finish," he said.
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