Friday, March 2, 2012

Un-Blended Blended Learning

In their new monthly column in THE Journal Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker advise schools to ignore blended learning "best practices". 

I would argue that the "best" practices have not yet emerged ...although there are some promising practices on track to be proven practices.  Horn and Staker are right in that if "best practice" models are defined based on mostly irrelevant aspects of the blended learning model, such as where and when students sit in front of a screen, device to student ratios, or how many students sit in a computer lab at a time, then educators can make their own model.

The definition for blended learning leaves room for both good and bad practices:
"Blended learning is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brickand-
mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery
with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace." (Staker, H.; The Rise of K–12 Blended Learning, p.5)
This definition includes models in which there is no connection between the supervised instruction and the self-paced online learning, thus "un-blended" blended learning.  The online and offline learning experiences may be disconnected, or they may be tightly aligned, each activity informing the other.

The emerging "best practices" for blended learning will have less to do with seat time and device count, and more to do with what learners do during both offline and online time, and what teachers and online tools do to support learning.   The best practices will focus the effort on the right kind of learning activities that motivate the right kind of behaviors and lead to the right kind of outcomes.  These are models not to ignore.