Students are growing up in an environment that is saturated with online interactions. Younger and younger students are adopting interactive online media as a way to connect to the people they know face to face. Schools need that same blending. Schools were designed years ago for a factory worker model. The structure of school was designed to cultivate a good factory worker. This model no longer fits. Students want to interact in online ways.
In face to face interactions there are strategies a teacher can use to engage students. Questioning techniques, Project based learning, collaborative work. Each of these strategies takes skill, experience and often support and training to be able to pull off successfully. Students achievement both in terms of testing scores, inherent self-concept, and marketable skills are improved when teachers effectively weave different authentic learning experiences into their students face to face interactions. In the past few years, there has been an increased emphasis on the effectiveness of multi-media, well, that is true, but the reason we need a blender is that we need to blend these face to face skills into an online environment.
In the online or distance environment, whether it be the online presence of an individual teacher, a library, district, or a specific course or class ideally, there would be a connection to the real world face to face environment. There are a set of skills for interacting online. There are skills to moderating online discussions, to creating a paperless classroom, and to processing multimedia. These skills need skill, experience and often support. These skills are the greatest challenge for many teachers.
The ideal teaching and learning experience is the experience that best facilitates the learning by the student and the teaching by the teacher or facilitator. Sometimes the ideal is entirely online, sometimes it is entirely face to face, but increasingly it will be blended. Whether we are talking about Algebra 2, Biology, 4th grade reading time, or Professional development. Learners will be looking for a face to face experience and an online connection.
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