I once believed that the term blended learning, would slowly vanish, as it would just become the classroom norm – taking the best of online learning matched with the best of face-to-face instruction. That, in this new century, teachers would partner with digital curriculum, guide instruction based on the data available within their digital partner, and have the time to craft peer-to-peer active engagement and authentic assessment opportunities. In other words, embrace what I like to call the curriculum, instruction, and assessment, or the CIA of Blended Learning – digital curriculum, guided instruction, authentic assessment.
This huge worldwide experiment of school closures and adopting remote learning has exposed the great truth. Blended learning is not the norm. And yet, had it been, the transition would have been much easier. Yes, there would still have been access issues, but instruction and pedagogy shifts would have been minor, as would have the learning losses.
Had we embraced blended learning, school closures would have still allowed students to continue learning within digital partners with teacher guidance – focusing on the core business of schools: relationships and learning. Yet, too many were caught off guard, ill-prepared to continue with learning new concepts aligned to standards and benchmarks for the remainder of the school year, as learning losses got deeper and deeper. See the NWEA COVID-19 Slide report.
As we look to the future, our education system should aim to recover but not replicate the past. We have an opportunity to “build back better.” Use the most effective crisis-recovery strategies as the basis for long-term improvements in areas like pedagogy, technology, assessment, financing, and parental involvement.
We have an opportunity to re-define education in the 21st century, even though we are two decades in. It’s time to re-define the “new norm.” We have a great opportunity, and with it comes great responsibility. Change is difficult, but not changing is what has kept our schools in the 1950’s rows of desks and our children bored and frustrated for decades characterized by too little learning, high levels of inequality, and slow progress.
It’s time for all educators to embrace technology. Partner with digital curriculum. Personalize the learning environment. Re-define instruction. Re-define the role of teachers. Create learning environments where students take ownership of their own learning and develop skills needed beyond the classroom, such as communication, collaboration, creativity, flexibility, persistence, risk-taking, and problem-solving. Don’t go back. Push forward. Re-define education.
One thing this pandemic has taught us, it’s that when doors close (e.g. world-wide school closures) – many are open. The question lies, are we willing to step through it. Are we ready to change education, from the last century to the needs of today’s students? I believe we are and we can.
Educators pride ourselves on being lifelong learners. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to learn. Learn new techniques. Learn new pedagogy. Learn to adapt. Then let us take this opportunity to “build back better” and set a new norm. Don’t go back to the way it was. Push forward, wiser and stronger. Re-define education by changing classroom practice. Partner with digital curriculum, to create blended personalized learning environments, guiding instruction with a balanced blend, where students are empowered to take ownership of their own learning. In the fall, start anew, embrace blended learning, and plan with digital in mind.