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chris_sutton

blended learning - solution or cop-out?

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At the EDUCA Online 2003 conference in Berlin in December , one of the workshop leaders was heard to remark, "Blended learning? Blended learning is just a cop out for those people who are too afraid or unable to teach fully online"

What do you think ? Is blended learning a cop out or the best way to offer flexible learning choices to students ?

Is teaching online different to teaching face to face ?

Do students really want to learn fully online ?

Let's open the debate on blended learning! :D

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Guest ChristineS

This sort of debate seems premature to me when most teachers don't have access to computers for their classes - or often, even one in their classroom.

The powers that be in schools need convincing to provide the wherewith all; it cannot start with the teachers. I would suggest that people on this forum at the moment are not typical of the teacher population in this country in regard to their attitude towards and the access they have to computers in teaching and learning.

I would like to hear more about the experience of the people on this site who actually do manage to deliver blended learning.

What equipment do they - and their students - have? How did they get started? How much time does it take to prepare and deliver this sort of teaching experience? What age students does it work best with? What subject areas seem to find it most useful? What proportion of their teaching is e-teaching and what face to face? What type of e-learning opportunity have they found works best or is most effective in terms of time taken to prepare and learning outcome?

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Just a very quick reply from my hotel in Austria, before I set off for a morning´s skiing: Some subjects, e.g. my own discipline (German language) cannot be taught fully online. As I am constantly reminded by my daily experiences here in Austria, face-to-face learning of a language is unquestionably the best way to acquire an acceptable level of language proficiency and to absorb knowledge of local culture, customs, etc. Online language learning can only be a supplement to the "real thing" - a useful add-on but not a substitute. Some years ago, when I was director of a university language centre that was very well equipped with ICT hardware and software, we conducted a survey among teachers and students to determine to what extent they would accept more ICT-based learning instead of face-to-face learning. Almost unanimously, they agreed that they would prefer more face-to-face contact with native speakers and less ICT. Blended learning is not a cop-out; it´s the only approach that makes sense. Do we really want to turn the next generation of kids into screen-gazing zombies?

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The powers that be in schools need convincing to provide the wherewith all; it cannot start with the teachers. I would suggest that people on this forum at the moment are not typical of the teacher population in this country in regard to their attitude towards and the access they have to computers in teaching and learning.

I would like to hear more about the experience of the people on this site who actually do manage to deliver blended learning.

You are right to remind us that members of this forum are not typical teachers. However, for any development to take place, it is important to have pioneers with vision. Since creating my website in September 1997 I have been disappointed by the speed of progress. It would be wrong to suggest the fault is with teachers. Some quickly embraced the new technology and preached the message. I have been involved in providing INSET on new technology since the early 1980s. Although there has been a certain amount of resistance to computers, the main problem is that teachers have not been provided with enough equipment or technical help to make blended learning a reality. I have observed it taking place at schools such as the International School of Toulouse. Several members of staff are also active on this forum. Hopefully they will post messages explaining how this happens in Toulouse.

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the main problem is that teachers have not been provided with enough equipment or technical help to make blended learning a reality

Exactly! Many times pc's were set up in schools with the message: There is a computer, use it! Luckily this hasn't happened in my school.

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Do we really want to turn the next generation of kids into screen-gazing zombies?

No, at least not in my view. However we need to prepare them to be active citizens. And society 'demands' screen gazing zombies. ;)

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I am currently in the middle of what could be described as a "blended learning experiment". My A1 Sociology online resource can be found HERE which is part of my main web site. I currently "teach" 3 formal lessons of A level Sociology and the students work through the site during the week. It might be interesting if I ask for their responses on their own forum.

What I like about it is that they are no longer reliant on me as "provider of information". They come to the lessons with background information and are ready to discuss rather than soak up material. It also gives them a greater deal of control over their own learning and uses a technology with which they are extremely familiar.

At this stage I would say "blended" rather than being a cop out is probably the most sensible response to the new technology

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What I like about it is that they are no longer reliant on me as "provider of information

What do you think of the ideas on natural learning? <see debates in education>

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So far 15 votes and and 'landslide' victory for blended learning. That is great news, now the question is how you organise blended learing effectivel. :rolleyes:

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Guest ChristineS

It is interesting though that the students on the forum seem to see the teacher's main role in blended learning as a form of 'police' to ensure they do the work.

Surely the role of the teacher in face to face teaching should be/is more involved and skillful than that! Or are we heading for on-line learning and teaching assistants in the classroom instead of teachers? How many teachers here think that would work - with the educator's role being to prepare the on-line learning material and oversee the assessment, perhaps?

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It is interesting though that the students on the forum seem to see the teacher's main role in blended learning as a form of 'police' to ensure they do the work. 

Surely the role of the teacher in face to face teaching should be/is more involved and skillful than that!  Or are we heading for on-line learning and teaching assistants in the classroom instead of teachers?  How many teachers here think that would work - with the educator's role being to prepare the on-line learning material and oversee the assessment, perhaps?

Well I did write it <_< and I do talk to them now (sometimes even teach them) and again :lol:

Sometimes I even mark their work :lol:

I guess it is all done so seamlessly they don't even notice it is happening B)

Also if you read the student responses carefully I don't think Christine's is accurate interpretation of what my students actually said - only 1 in fact implies the "police role" highlighted by Christine. others talk about the benefits of a variety of methods - personal help over e-mail help etc. etc.

More seriously the scenario Christine outlines in her last clauses clearly would not work. At the very least an intelligent and informed teacher is required to create content, lead discussion, tease debate, challenge viewpoints and explain new material. A "teacher supervisor" in most cases would not be well placed to do much of this.

I think there is also a danger that traditionalists could use such "scare scenarios" to avoid the issues and perhaps even deny change. :rolleyes:

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Guest ChristineS

I hope you will accept that I am playing Devil's Advocate with my posts, Andy. The thread is a discussion about whether e-learning is a cop out and it occurred to me e-learning could be made one for totally different reasons.

As has been said, others may already see e-learning as that - and our political masters do talk about 'freeing' up teachers so that they can do their marking (and reporting, I assume) with classroom assistants. That is not something I like at all since the physical process of teaching is why I do this job, and do it well. Wouldn't it be awful if enough fools assumed e-learning would 'free' us in like manner?

I personally am very keen indeed in incorporating more e-learning into my teaching and already do a bit of it, but I am not lucky enough to be able to have access to computers for my pupils during lessons, and cannot assume they all have ready access at home. So, whilst I use a computer linked overhead projector in the classroom, I can only build in limited use of e-learning for individual students in the Sixth form students who can get round problems of access easier, in part because they don't need to travel home on the school bus after school so can use school computers then. My lower school pupils have to be satisfied with me using the projector and a few research homeworks because otherwise, using e-learning, I would be excluding many of them.

I do have concerns though that e-learning isn't confused with e-teaching (easy teaching) and that teachers remain pro-active in the process. Having seen how distance learning fro Primary aged students is managed in NZ I know that hands-on from a qualified teacher mostly involves setting work and marking it and telephone contact with the pupils and families with the occasional 'camp'. Teaching assistants do most of the day to day supervising so it is not such a remote possibility that my gloomy prognosis may happen to some extent. I can see a possibility of a few lessons a week being given over to this type of learning to 'free' us up, although not, I admit, the whole timetable. (Where such apparent 'freedom' is gained, I would like to be present and use it as one-to-one with students, for instance.) I think there would be a strong resistance to that from parents as well as us.

It would be up to the teachers who are developing e-learning now to develop it responsibly (and I do not suggest any of the examples shared with us on this forum are not responsible, of course! They are excellent). By that I mean shape its development in such a way that classroom teaching - not just as a check and support but as actual teaching and developing - remains high profile, and in my view, still the major part of the teaching and learning process. If that happens and the partnership between the two types of learning remains a true partnership so that e-teaching and physically present learning are truly blended and inter-dependent, then it is much less likely to be misused or seen as a replcement for traditional teaching.

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Guest ChristineS

Just as an additional query - I am wondering how many of the folk on here are able to deliver blended learning to lower school students and in what proportion and with what success?

To my mind, the earlier students are introduced to it, the better.

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Just as an additional query - I am wondering how many of the folk on here are able to deliver blended learning to lower school students and in what proportion and with what success? 

To my mind, the earlier students are introduced to it, the better.

Not to the same degree by any means. Time to prepare materials, availability of computer suites for teaching groups etc. takes its toll on the best of intentions.

I agree however that the earlier students are introduced to e-learning the quicker they will reap the very clear benefits.

I have certainly noticed that in my own subjects e-learning for younger students tends to focus on individual lesson activities rather than integrated courses and programs of study online. There are some fantastic history sites offering quizzes, games and lesson activities but no one to my knowledge has yet tried to deliver a whole unit or course online as yet.

(Christine, I like the e-teaching idea! <_< )

With good well planned, interactive, challenging and interesting online content I do however believe that teaching will become "easier". Not least because you have more chance of a room full of self motivated in part self supported learners.

Is this a bad thing? :rolleyes:

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