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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Blended Learning Is About More Than Technology

"Battles between different philosophical camps in education are nothing new." according to Education Week News.

Whether it's knowledge vs. skills, memorization vs. project-based learning, small schools vs. comprehensive ones, the debates in education are often framed as a choice between "either-ors."

From John Dewey to Chester E. Finn Jr., countless education researchers have documented the fallacies in these dichotomies and the dangers of being too beholden to an "-ism," as Dewey wrote.

Many educators sense the folly as well. They know that at different times and in different circumstances, different approaches are best for students.

Despite this understanding, teachers are often handcuffed in their ability to steer their way toward a pragmatic middle ground. With limited blocks of time in a public school day and a set curriculum to work their way through, as well as the need to serve many students, each with unique learning needs, teachers must make trade-offs. More of one thing means less of another.

Blended learning—the mix of online and in-school learning—represents a way to break away from the trade-offs mentality, as Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen explains in the foreword to our new book, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. (Christensen is also the co-founder, with Michael B. Horn, of the Christensen Institute, where both of us work.)

Done right, blended learning breaks through the barriers of the use of time, place, path to understanding, and pace to allow each student to work according to his or her particular needs—whether that be in a group or alone, on practice problems or projects, online or offline. It preserves the benefits of the old and provides new benefits—personalization, access and equity, and cost control.

The question is how educators can capture these benefits. Blended learning is not inherently good or bad. It is a pathway to student-centered learning at scale to allow each child to achieve his or her fullest potential, but it is not a guaranteed success.


Additional resources

Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools

Source: Education Week News and Clayton Christensen Institute Channel (YouTube)

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