The Book: Blended Learning in Action
The best selling book, Blended Learning in Action, was written by two of Learning Innovation Catalysts’ founders, Tiffany Wycoff and Jason Green, along with company advisor, Catlin Tucker. We invite you to read more about blended learning and its impact on students, teachers, schools, and districts. We think you’ll find a compelling argument for getting started on this work, along with resources and tools for taking action. Blended Learning in Action is available from Corwin Press.
What is Blended Learning?
Perhaps the best definition of blended learning comes from the nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, the Christensen Institute. It states:
Blended Learning is a formal education program in which a student learns: (1) at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or place; (2) at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; (3) and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.1
The Urgency of Classroom Innovation
When the LINC team speaks about the urgency of 21st-century learning, we cite futurists’ predictions about the uncertainty of tomorrow’s world – that by 2035, when today’s youngest students emerge from college into the work force, at least 38% of today’s jobs will no longer exist (lost to automation); that those students will have to reinvent themselves five or more times in the workforce to stay relevant; and that the only way to prepare students for their future is to address the issue of skills ambiguity by teaching 21st-century skills over traditional content.
“Ultimately, blended learning is about reinventing what learning looks like for students, and even schools. The schools that win today are the ones that build cultures of sustained learning and innovation across all levels and stakeholder groups. …Through sustained innovation shared over time, transformation is not only possible, it is inevitable.” (Blended Learning in Action, p. 5)
The seismic shift that education is experiencing demands proactive planning, design, and implementation that is also systemic in nature. It is no longer enough for one progressive teacher to “get it,” because then the only students who benefit are the ones lucky enough to be in that teacher’s class. It is no longer enough for principals, superintendents, and other school leaders to maintain the status quo. All stakeholders must be engaged and involved in the process of shifting behaviors, practices, and culture. (Blended Learning in Action, p. 5)
But what we don’t often address is something that we recognize we need to start talking about much more — the urgency of 21st-century learning for the social-emotional wellbeing of students. One frequently cited villain in the youth mental health crisis is technology. Even our youngest children face a barrage of stimuli from an increasingly noisy and confusing digital world. Our current system does a poor job of helping children safely navigate, understand, and self-regulate their use of the excessive information.
Opponents of blended and 21st-century learning point accusing fingers at this trend as justification for not using technology in the classroom without recognizing that all screen time is not equal. 21st-century learning that models the healthy balance of face-to-face and digital interaction, and teaches the purposeful, responsible use of technology, is as essential as gradual release of responsibility in students navigating a busy city on their own or teaching them how to ski alongside them on the greens before they hit the black diamonds. Technology access without education is playing out in a highly detrimental manner, and balanced integration of technology in learning is the solution.
Blended Learning Increases Engagement and Agency
“When successfully implemented, blended learning enables these hallmarks of best teaching and learning practices:
- Personalization: providing unique learning pathways for individual students
- Agency: giving learners opportunities to participate in the key decisions in their learning experience
- Authentic Audience: giving learners the opportunity to create for a real audience both locally and globally
- Connectivity: giving learners opportunities to experience learning in collaboration with peers and experts locally and globally
- Creativity: providing learners individual and collaborative opportunities to make things that matter while building skills for their future” (Blended Learning in Action, p.6)
“In blended learning schools, schooling does not happen to students. Students are drivers of their learning, even at early ages. Simultaneously, schools, district leaders, and teachers become both facilitators of student learning and 21st-century learners themselves. A blended learning school is a true community of learners who have vested participation in the ultimate manifestation of the learning environment and experience.” (Blended Learning in Action, p. 8)