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Education Desk: Blended Learning Brings Technology Into The Classroom

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Facebook, Instagram and Skype are finding their way into classrooms.  From our Education Desk, 90.7’s Catherine Welch talks with University of Central Florida professor Richard Hartshorne about the integration of technology in teaching called blended learning.

Hartshorne: So blended learning involves a lot of things but combining traditional face to face environments and online learning environments and mixing those together, so blending them into a single environment.

Welch: One of the things you’re looking at is whether these students like this blended learning: what they like what they don’t like. What are you finding that they like and what ages are you looking at?

Hartshorne: Primarily we’re looking at middle and high school students. So we’re looking at what are factors that facilitate completion, what do students like, what do they not like, what are teacher activities and teach characteristics that support student satisfaction with the courses, that support student achievement with the courses.

A lot of the blended learning in high school and middle school data currently shows that there are consistencies with higher ed as well. So that the things that students like in blended learning environments: they like the flexibility of it, they like receiving consistent feedback, they like the active social learning aspects of the environments, they like the opportunities to share what they know both globally and locally, they like opportunities to communicate with their instructors in different contexts and with experts maybe outside of the classroom that they would normally get those opportunities to interact with.

Welch: What would be an example of this kind of a blended learning project that hits a lot of those buttons of what they like?

Hartshorne: In a civics class we gave students a series of problems that they could address and local issues that they were passionate about and they wanted to find solutions to. So within that setting some examples where the bathrooms in the schools were a bit subpar. So they put forth a campaign, I believe was a Facebook campaign for that group, to improve the bathrooms in their schools. Others were they had a real passion for pets and homeless pets so they did a lot of work collecting materials for animal shelters.

Welch: As tablets become almost a required school supply like a three ring binder or a spiral notebook, do you expect in five to ten years that this blended learning will be second nature to most teachers and students?

Hartshorne: I think it will be. Right now it’s commonplace in higher ed. So when we look at higher ed enrollment, face-to-face enrollments at UCF for example are pretty consistent. Where we’re seeing growth in enrollments are in online learning and blended learning environments.

And so they’re already commonplace here. I think like 48 percent of our credit hours are either blended or online courses.

I think in five years we’re going to start seeing an increase significantly. There’s a lot of other issues that come into play that need to be addressed: how do we prepare teachers to teach in those environments? It’s a very different setting than teaching in a traditional face to face class.

How do you keep up?

Tools are constantly changing, so how do we teach teachers to deal with the constant change of technology but also the constant change of the setting and the best practices in that particular field.

Welch: As technology moves quickly and teachers have to keep up with the technology. As any office worker knows, especially ones of a certain age, there’s a version of Microsoft Word you do not want to change because you know exactly how it works and you don’t want the upgrade. Is this a real challenge for teachers now?

 Hartshorne: The rate of change, and not just the rate of change of versions of tools, but what’s being implemented what’s not being implemented. And then the functionality of the tools that are coming out and the types of tools that are coming out are constantly changing.  How to actually use those tools, they tend to be user friendly so they don’t there’s not a great learning curve on the learning on how to use them functionally. But where the trick and where the challenge comes from is how to use them in the classroom.

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About Catherine Welch

Catherine Welch