What is your blend?

Your Personal New Normal

Fifth wave, sixth wave or seventh wave, it depends on what country that you live in. In my region, mask mandates are being rescinded and face-to-face learning is returning. Teaching in buildings is going to take some adjustment as many of us have enhanced waistlines and have to figure out how we can fit back into our professional clothing. Even the staunchest luddite among us learned how to integrate technology into their instruction. It will be difficult for them to return to their old ways and ignore the tools that they have been using for the past two years. So, as many have be discussing in our online professional development gatherings, there will be a new normal. One good thing about the new normal is that each teacher has a say in what theirs will be. In the classroom, technology integration can take on different forms. It is debatable, but according to TeachThought, there are twelve kinds of blended learning. For general language educators, I feel that there are five. None or not including technology in the face-to-face classroom is not really a blend. These are described below. You may or may not agree. but these are starting points for instructors who are wondering what their new normal will be.

Blends of Technology integration
No technology

Some instructors will return to buildings without adequate WI-FI, computer rooms, library resource spaces or accessible hardware. These teachers will not be able to demand that learners purchase their own smart devices and data plans to participate in online activities. If an instructor has access to technology, but they do not feel that their learners will benefit andragogically or pedagogically, they will facilitate their lessons without technology. This decision may be due to the level of the class, for example pre-literacy. It is the instructor’s decision if technology will be integrated into their classes.

B.Y.O.D.

Bring Your Own Device is a complex blend of learning for administrators, students, families and teachers. An institution must have robust Wi-Fi, instructors must have strong class management skills and students must exercise self discipline. B.Y.O.D. can also open a chasm between students with smart phones and students without. If this is the case, B.Y.O.D. is not justifiable. however, being able to engage with technology at the appropriate time is ideal for planning or taking advantage of teachable moments. The reality is not that simple for instructors trying to accomplish their daily objectives. Students are often distracted when they have a smart device nearby. I used a canvas, Ikea shoe rack as a holder for smart phones for a few terms. Students were only allowed to use them in class if I directed them to use their smart phones for activities. Many instructors feel that smartphones in the classroom is a non-starter and do not permit phones in the class. I persisted with B.Y.O.D. because education technology apps such as Quizlet, Kahoot, YouTube, H5P and general internet searches for information can accelerate the language acquisition process. If you decide to try B.Y.O.D. in your class, be sure that a charging station is available in an accessible space in the room.

Flipped Learning

The term flipped learning has always confused me. Do the students complete the online activities before a live session or after? My confusion occurred when teachers claimed only one or the other was the “real” flipped learning. Whatever your perspective, outsourcing the technology portions of your classes to cafes, homes, learning resource centres (libraries) is a manageable way to ensure learners are benefiting from technology without intruding on your face-to-face time with the learners. Consuming and considering media such as articles, slideshows, e zines, videos, polls, animations or virtual tours allows the class to immediately move forward into discussions or activities in the classroom. Conversely, if the technology follows in class content or concepts, it could include optional rote activities for practice, summative assessments or an extension activity such as project work including book reports or media presentations.

Computer Rooms or Sharing Carts

Computer labs and portable device sharing carts will seem so primitive as they are normally more than a few years old now. Teachers and learners will most likely be used to their smart devices or laptops. coupled with institutional controls and scheduling limitations, access will be restricted by dates, times and proxies. Some instructors may prefer to limit access to technology by using computer carts or labs as the learners will require focus to complete their assigned tasks. Other instructors will politely decline these options and use another blended technology to gain flexibility and choice. If you decide to use a portable device sharing cart in your class, ensure that the previous instructor has set the cart to charge to avoid disappointment.

Teacher Workstation/Smart Board

In this mode, only the teacher workstation is used to broadcast information. This method can be used creatively by allowing the learners to become the class , communal formative assessments/activities and simulations. Student can come to the front to facilitate or just to answer a question. While this blend allows the class to benefit from internet resources, the classroom feel is more traditional, which many instructors prefer. There are plenty of ways to exploit apps allow for cooperative and competitive gamification with this blend with the class focused on the front of the classroom.

Half and Half

If the administration allows a half in person and half online blend, this may be a practical way to take advantage of the both teaching modes. On some days the sessions are held in the building and the remaining sessions are held on a synchronous online class. This may reduce the operating budget while allowing the classes to move forward accomplishing outcome targets.

Final thoughts

There is no best way forward here. Choose the blend that works for you and your learners. Ihope this post has you thinking about what you would prefer in your new normal.

Resources

TeachThought’s Kinds of Blended Learning, https://www.teachthought.com/learning/12-types-of-blended-learning

John Allan
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John Allan

John is a Canadian who writes about learning object development and online facilitation from a teacher's perspective.

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