By Dr. Cindy Elsberry
Blended learning can deliver the best of two worlds – face-to-face teaching and technology-enabled learning. Obviously, the availability of devices for students will impact the delivery design for blended learning, but limited technology should not prohibit teachers from utilizing the technology that is available.
For some schools, access to 1:1 technology is feasible. However, for most districts, the student to device ratio is much higher. The good news is that this should not preclude utilization of blended learning strategies. Some examples of how schools are utilizing limited technology include:
Pairing students on one device, thus designing for collaboration
Using a BYOD (bring your own device) model and forming groups to ensure at least one device per group
Station rotations where only one station involves working on a device
Shared use of mobile device carts or a computer lab
A combination of BYOD and school-provided devices
Sharing devices can serve a dual role of providing access to technology for all students and, at the same time, providing collaborative experiences for students where they utilize important next-generation power skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.
Consider the classroom in which a teacher is using Kahoot! to conduct a unit review. In a BYOD or limited-technology classroom, the teacher can divide the students into groups, ensuring that each group has at least one device. Students then collaborate on their shared answers to the posed questions and alternate inputting the group’s response. The group discussion is powerful and the engagement is high even with only one device per group.
Paired device use is another means of embedding blended practices without a device for every child. This sharing of a device lends itself to collaboration and deep learning. Consider a teacher assigning pairs of students the task of collaboratively researching a topic then creating a digital storyboard that is posted in Google classroom for others in the class to view and provide feedback. Learning is transformed as students design and create something that has real value and mirrors real-world experiences.
The station rotation model is another means of using blended learning when technology is scarce. Student work can be designed so that only one or two stations require technology. Using adaptive, intelligent digital content in the technology-enabled station will provide the teacher with the real-time data needed to inform instruction when teaching those students in small groups.
Similarly, by sharing mobile device carts or a computer lab with other classes in the building, teachers can schedule specific times or days where students can engage with technology. As with the station rotation model, the use of a digital program that includes embedded assessments and real-time reporting will provide the teacher with powerful data that can be used to guide instruction – as well as quickly identify below-level students in need of intervention or high-achieving learners who would benefit from extension activities.
Never before have teachers been able to leverage data to monitor progress and meet the learning needs of every child in the classroom as right now. The time is now to integrate blended practices into classrooms. Do not wait until your school can supply 1:1 devices – start right now!
Dr. Cindy Elsberry – Former Superintendent, Horry Country Schools, South Carolina
Dr. Elsberry is a sought-after educational leader and expert in blended learning who served as the Superintendent of Horry County Schools in South Carolina. This diverse, high-poverty district won national acclaim for its digital transformation under Dr. Elsberry’s leadership and was rated as one of the state’s highest performing districts.