On Blended Learning™

Excerpt from a previous post:

Blended Learning

“Blended learning” is a term being bandied about a lot these days. It is the latest and greatest “technique” that will revolutionize teaching and learning! Hallelujah!

What blended actually is, is the integration of technology into sound pedagogical practice. I do NOT oppose blended learning. What I oppose is Blended Learning™. This term creates a little clique of teachers and administrators who can become “experts” on it, thereby identifying themselves as teacher leaders, as if the idea of integrating technology into pedagogical methods is some new technique that only those who’ve been to the workshop can understand.

Again, I am not against blended learning, but when the term is used as a hammer to attack teachers who are doing a superlative job without using computer gimmicks in their teaching, I object strongly. Teachers are exposed to this kind of tawdry proselytizing through their whole careers. Many of us will remember “new math.” None of this has ever made any positive impact on good teaching or learning.

What is particularly dismaying about Blended Learning is that it seems to ignore the fact that technology in schools is often more of a distraction than it is a learning tool. Walk through any school, or simply observe your own children. Their cel phone is constantly taking their attention away from a learning task. You may say, “So what?”, but there are things in life that require intense, focused concentration. Persuasive writing, for example, is one of those things, as the writer needs to gather evidence, anticipate criticism, and articulate thoughts in a cohesive sequence all at the same time. Any distraction can be the death of a good treatise.

Amazingly, many teachers are ignoring the evidence right in front of their faces, and subscribing to the idea that students can be focused while listening to music or checking into social media. In fact, there is NO EVIDENCE that these things enhance concentration. At the very most, we find that there are some rare instances in which music being played through headphones can mute out external distractions and enhance concentration, but I will argue that the circumstances in which this is preferable to silence, are rare indeed.

At the heart of “blended learning” is the notion that students will have networked technology at their side, and that somehow all of the latest enhancements in technology will be able to enhance learning. There is no question that some technological advances will impact and likely benefit learning, but we need to dispel the ridiculous guilt trip that is put on teachers (quite often, venerated senior teachers) who dare to impugn God’s latest gift to teaching. There’s an ugly arrogance in some of the promotors of this new movement (that is not new at all), and their smug missive that those who raise concerns about student distraction are just “doing it wrong”. Please…

And we must also question the motives of the people funding these initiatives. I would be extremely wary of an ideology that is backed by, say… Microsoft.


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