Blended Learning Does Not Exist

By Jason Lewis and Margaret Roth

Classrooms, regardless of time, format, or place, are the same. They are a physical space, occupied by students, supervised by a teacher.

Some classrooms have desks. Some classrooms have chairs.

Some classrooms have walls. Some classrooms have floors.

Some classrooms have chalkboards. Some classrooms have whiteboards.

Some classrooms have paper. Some classrooms have computers.

Some classrooms even have iPads. And smart boards. And projectors. And laptop carts. And apps. And PowerTeacher Gradebook.

And they are still classrooms. Some have better stuff. Some have cooler stuff. Some have newer stuff. But that stuff does the same thing, in some version or another, some of that stuff is a digitally enhanced iteration of old stuff. Sometimes that iteration actually makes it easier to teach, or gives one less thing to worry about. Sometimes that iteration makes no sense, does not fit into the workflow, or does not actually enhance teaching or facilitate better learning in the classroom. But it is still a classroom.

Most of the new things that are infused into the classroom as it currently exists are technology products, devices, software, apps, the latest and greatest that edtech has to offer. And when we bring this stuff in, when we start using these products, software, or bringing the devices into our classrooms, we call it blended learning. And we define it as follows:

“Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns: at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.” - The Clayton Christensen Institute

Online learning. Awesome.

Student control, ownership, choice, and voice. Amazing.

Connected content. Applause.

Supervised formal classroom environment. Why?

By this definition we are accepting that we want learning to continue to be defined and divided between formal and informal learning, that learning only happens in a context defined by physical space, and within a space that can be measured and controlled.

Blended learning is supported by a series of models. Rotation stations, centers, the computer lab, the learning lab, the flipped classroom, flex schools, the menu, a la carte. All defined physical spaces.

The integration and effective implementation of these models and teaching styles in classrooms and schools are the first step in the transition to true blended learning. The second step is accepting that we’re not there yet. Blended learning does not (yet) exist.

These models and teaching styles are blended classrooms. Classrooms enhanced with existing technologies to support traditional pedagogical practices. We’re not teaching and learning in new ways. We’re teaching and learning with new tools.

All we’ve done is take these traditional models of teaching and learning and infuse technology into that mix. We’re doing the same thing with technology that we did with textbooks. We’ve got a better form of media and content delivery and we’re doing everything we can to get it in the door, without redefining where that door leads.

We need to disrupt the classroom. To disrupt and transform the concept into an unrecognizable, unrevertable, undefined new existence.

And to do this we need to move from blended classrooms to blended learning.

And the tools to do this do not (yet) exist.

Blended learning, and the tools that will make it possible, must be invented. Invented by the teachers and students that will learn with and through them.

Only then can we invent the future we need; the future we desire; the future we deserve.

A beautiful and unrecognizable blended future.

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