Educational communities around the world are talking about how blended learning – which combines traditional and digital classroom instruction – can make teaching better. With computers, interactive whiteboards, tablets, smartphones and other devices being brought into classrooms in greater numbers, teachers are discovering new ways to use the technology to engage with their students.
Teachers want technology
A January survey sponsored by PBSLearningMedia analyzed data from pre-K-12 teachers across the nation. And the data shows one thing very clearly: more than two-thirds of teachers want more technology in their classrooms; and in low-income schools, this number rises to 75 percent.
Some other statistics from the survey show that:
- 90 percent of teachers have a personal or classroom computer
- 59 percent of teachers have interactive whiteboards in their classrooms
- More than one-third of teachers use a tablet or e-reader in their classroom (up from 20 percent in 2012)
Teachers also believe that technology reinforces and expands content; motivates students to learn; helps them offer a variety of learning in the classroom; allows them to do “more than ever before” for their students; and demonstrates something they can’t show any other way.
“Technology is a critical part of learning and teaching in today’s classrooms,” commented Alicia Levi, PBS Education, in an interview with THE Journal. “Teachers today need access to high-quality digital content to keep pace with schools’ investment in interactive whiteboards, tablets, and other devices to maximize the educational benefits of technology in classrooms.”
The study found that the most commonly used classroom tech resources are online lesson plans (48 percent); web-based interactive games and activities (45 percent); websites to deliver class information (44 percent); and online video, images and articles (43 percent).
Blended learning initiatives
CaitlinFertal, a reporter for The News-Herald, wrote recently about Lisa Bowers, a chemistry teacher at Mentor High School in Ohio. After Bowers began helping her children with their homework, she started changing the way she taught her advanced placement classes because she realized that homework was being under-utilized as a learning tool. She changed her classroom management strategies by breaking her lesson plans into easy and complex subjects. Her students can work on the simpler assignments at home by watching a video lesson and come to class better prepared to tackle more challenging material.
Bowers thinks that this is the future of education, and that more teachers will move toward a blended learning model like this one as technology becomes more prevalent in classrooms.
“Things are changing forever, iPods are here to stay, this isn’t one of those flavor of the month kind of things,” Bowers said in an interview with Fertal. “There’s a couple things I think are really cool — it takes teachers from that crusty, burnt-out mode and it re-energizes them … and the other thing is, you reconnect with your students because suddenly you have so much time in class for the one-on-one stuff.”
Fertal also described several other blended learning initiatives that are occurring in the state:
- The Willoughby-Eastlake District recently completed its Tech Academy, a program that taught teachers how to use classroom software and iPads in the classroom.
- Mentor High School recently invested in a class set of Google Chromebooks for one of its math classes.
- THE Journal reported that blended learning is also being used in Ohio’s Medina City School District, which recently introduced new bring-your-own-device (BYOD) learning initiatives on its 13 campuses.
Since introducing the initiative, reported THE Journal, one of the schools in the district was selected to be a part of the state’s blended learning pilot, which combines traditional and digital learning.
“Our school district is now being looked to as an example of technology use in the classroom,” said Jack Howell, senior network and systems engineer for Medina City School District, in a prepared statement.
What do you think about blended learning environments? What other technology would be effective in a classroom setting? Let us know by posting a comment below.