Today, I began a MOOC (courtesy of the University of Central Florida and Canvas) titled, "BlendKit2015." It is a class designed to teach best practices for creating a Blended course. For the next several weeks I will be posting reflections and ideas based on the knowledge I gain while taking the course.
Chapter 1 Reflection: Understanding Blended Learning.
Because I have limited knowledge on the subject of blended learning, I found it interesting to discover that the desired result of teaching a blended course isn't any different than the desired result of a traditional class setting. That is, if technology were taken out of the equation, the philosophy remains: the teacher plans lessons based on learning objectives; and the struggle remains as to what is the best approach for student mastery of those objectives.
So if, theoretically, the desired result is the same in both styles of teaching, the difference lies in the design of the course. It was mentioned in Chapter 1 that learning activities within a blended course should be focused around the objectives. Therefore, before planning a blended course design, it is imperative that the designer fully understand the objectives to be met and mastered. Only when the objectives have been defined should the learning activities be incorporated. Then it must be decided which activities are better learned face to face and which can be learned online through technology applications.
Of course, the application of technology is another main difference when teaching a blended learning style versus a traditional classroom style. One important thing to note is that blended course content should be focused around the expected learning to occur as opposed to the technology that will be incorporated within the course. One of the ideas mentioned in the chapter that stuck with me most was the idea that the technology in a blended course should really go unnoticed by the learner. In other words, it is a supplement to the lesson and should be very learner directed if the intention of the activity is for students to gain knowledge. If any teacher interaction is needed to complete the technology application(s) within the course it should be as facilitator.
My real take from the chapter was achieved after reading the two case studies. The second study hit home when the course designer, Ms. Crichton, mentioned that her course structure hasn't changed much over the past 14 years but the interactive activities have changed quite a bit. She mentions that as technology evolves she is able to make changes that can potentially better engage her students which, in turn, can lead to more personalized learning. Her testament is reassuring to me, especially since my idea for a blended course revolves around creating district-wide teacher trainings that would incorporate best practices for teaching in a 21st century classroom.