Blended learning has become one of the most used pedagogical concepts for improving instruction both in the classroom and at home. In today’s society we are exposed to technology at every turn and so are the children we teach. We are not escaping the digital age because we are living and working in it every day. Thus, exposing children to digital learning is not trendy, it’s preparing them to be college and career ready.
Blended learning is defined as combining face-to-face instruction with computer-facilitated instruction supporting personalized learning. WestEd, a nonprofit research, development, and service agency aimed to improve education for students, conducted a study on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to examine how technologies in a blended learning environment could offer enhanced opportunities for both teachers and students.
In their report titled, “Blended Learning and Data Use in Three Technology-Infused Charter Schools,” the authors examined whether the blended learning environments provided greater access to and more diverse data sources for teachers and students from which to make educational decisions. The authors looked at how strongly leadership supported the use of technology, students’ engagement in the learning process, and the flow of data for which decisions were made. It is noted that the opportunities in the teaching and learning process that were made available in this study were opportunities that most likely would not have been possible in a traditional setting.
Three small charter schools in Arizona participated in the study. Middle and high school students were exposed to multiple forms of technology that supported in-person and distant educational experiences.Teachers and administrators were well trained in the use of the technologies and how they could be used to enhance instructional and administrative decision making.
Key findings include:
- Blended learning environments provide data to teachers and students that may not be readily available in more traditional classes;
- Blended learning environments provide for anytime and anywhere virtual learning opportunities;
- Teachers were able to address the needs of particular students through various media and diverse learning experiences;
- Students were engaged through flexible and customizable learning activities; and
- The schools exhibited strong leadership, an explicit vision for the use of technology and data, the engagement of students in the teaching and learning process, the enculturation of data use through data teams and data coaches, and the provision of professional learning opportunities.