I am a firm believer in the middle ground. I always think that there needs to be balance and that is no different for my views on using technology in the classroom.
I love how much technology offers in way of changing how we do things in the classroom, but I do not believe it should be an all or nothing. I honestly believe that truly effective classrooms blend the use of technology and traditional teaching methods. As long as everything is student-centered there is no limit on what students and teachers together can accomplish. Here are my 4 Keys to have a successful blended learning environment:
1. Curriculum First
Teachers should never look at their tools first. This isn't about what you have access to it is about what are you teaching. What standards are you covering and what do the students need to learn? Once you have determined what you are teaching, you can now look at the tools in your tool box.
2. Look at what you are teaching?
Once you have laid out your roadmap of what you are teaching/covering, now let's look at how you are going to teach it? Technology offers so many opportunities to teach anything. It can bring experiences to students that they probably would not get otherwise. You have to ask how is it best taught? This is one of the reasons I love blended learning. Most things need to be taught in multiple ways. Technology goes hand in hand with differentiation and most things that you teach will not be presented in just one way. You can have lessons that use traditional and technology all at the same time, hence the word blended.
3. Know your audience
So you went to a conference or read a blog and saw some amazing new ideas and want to try them out. You have looked at what you are teaching and think, yep this will fit perfect. Now the question is, will it work with your class? Is it age appropriate? Do you have the devices? Is is Spring or right before a holiday? Will it engage them more or create more chaos? A lot of this depends on your classroom management. If you are great at classroom management, integrating technology will not effect it either way. If you have a really rough class or they are just struggling right now, will it help focus them or cause problems. You as the teacher are the expert of your classroom and will know those answers.
4. Does it enhance?
When I have integrated technology and created blended lessons, it most always enhances my lessons tenfold. With blended learning, that is exactly what technology should do. Create your lessons and set your roadmap, now how can I make this so much better? With blended learning you could teach a traditional lesson and then use the technology component for extension activities, reteaching or just practice. Now we have some differentiation. There are some teachers that utilize flipped classrooms where the lesson is taught via technology and then they use more traditional methods for reinforcement, practice and intervention when needed. Looking at enhancing your lessons doesn't come with a script, you have to look at the content and the kids. It is taking that lesson and really pulling your kids in.
Blended learning is one of the best ways to really begin to integrate technology into your class. You may be asking, "why would I want to do that?". I am not saying that technology will solve all of your problems and answer all of your questions, but I do know that it gives students a level of engagement and interactivity that are just not possible in a traditional non-technology classroom.