Flipboard is a cool app which aggregates a bunch of news stories around the topics you subscribe to. For instance, I get stories on Mac software, Education Reform, Education Technology, Project-based learning, Freedom of Religion, Constitutional Law, the Tiny House Movement, Flipped Learning, and some others. I click on that topic and it opens up current stories from sources around the world on that topic.
I have noticed recently that almost every article that is carried in the “Flipped Learning” topic does not have “flipped learning” or “flip your class” or anything “flippy” in the title. Instead they say “Blended Learning“. “Blended” is the new “flipped.” This change of words carries with it a slight change of paradigm. Instead of the idea inherent in “flipping” – that students gain all subject content at home, and group activities are planned for class – the idea inherent in “blended” is that traditional teaching is to be blended with flipped teaching. Probably every teacher who flips has found that his or her pedagogy becomes “blended” at times – I know mine has – because there is no reason to be irrevocably wedded to the idea that all knowledge acquisition be done at home. Teaching that is committed to student learning will be eclectic and agile, not slavish to some formal system.
I teach World History and Civics for both my “brick and mortar” school, Bartlett High School (BHS) and for my state’s virtual school, the Illinois Virtual School, (IVS). I never see face to face the students I have in IVS, but I see everyday the students I have at BHS. While much of the BHS class content is online, all of it is online at IVS. So I never provide direct instruction to my IVS students. But I do provide direct instruction of some kind every day to my BHS students. These BHS students are thus recipients of blended learning. I am sure that is more powerful and educationally beneficial than the online-only nature of IVS. But then IVS coursework can be done anywhere, anytime -asynchronously – whereas direct instruction cannot be delivered live, face to face anytime, anywhere. Each form of these forms of high school content delivery have their advantages.
I currently have a student teacher at BHS, who I have been observing from time to time. Because of the demands of his student-teaching program, he must do a lot of direct instruction. As his cooperating teacher, it is my responsibility to observe him occasionally as he instructs my students. Being an observer in the back of the room, instead of the teacher standing in front delivering the information, I feel that my commitment to flipped and blended learning has continued to be affirmed for me. While my student teacher is very capable and doing a great job, I have been able to observe more intimately (from the back!) the engagement level of the students receiving the direct teaching. My anecdotal observations align with a study from the National Training Laboratories in 2000 that found only about 5 percent of the information delivered through lecture was retained. Compare that with retention rates at 50 percent for discussion group and 70 percent for practice by doing. Even higher, at 80 percent, was retention by students teaching others. Most students are not auditory learners. Students may appear to be engaged as they sit quietly through a class lecture, but there was much inattention, fidgeting, lack of note taking. and scattered energy. In most cases, it seems to me, lecture is not the best form of delivering content that you want students to retain.
Today I modeled for my student teacher being a Supreme Court Chief Justice, running our moot courts on cases dealing with the First Amendment. We had student groups arguing Supreme Court cases like Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, Wallace v. Jaffree and Westside v. Mergens. Students had to research the cases and then argue them before the Supreme Court over which I presided. Just as Supreme Court justices are merciless in firing aggressive questions at the litigants who argue before them, I was probing arguments, challenging assertions and figuratively fencing with my students as they argued before me. I came away from this flushed with joy at being a teacher, feeling the power of the blended learning taking place in my classroom. Students did their own research, had to articulate it before an adversarial team of peers, and then be bombarded with tough questions from their instructor! I am sure the retention of information relating to these cases was more profound that if I had spent the period lecturing about Hazelwood, Wallace and Westside!
Health enthusiasts often blend concoctions of green veggies and fruit to produce tasty maximum nutritional benefit. Educators, join the revolution and experiment with the blending your classroom delivery!