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Blended learning and the paradox of the experienced teacher

By Peter West
September 30th, 2014

The move to blended learning can be threatening, even for good teachers. Being aware of their possible concerns is vital for those leading change in organizations.

blended-learning-teacherAssuming a good teacher in the traditional classroom will be a good teacher in a blended learning environment is wrong. The terminology alone provides a clue; after all, it is “blended learning”—not “blended teaching.”

A teacher hopefully will be good in both environments, but this is not a given.

The rules of education have changed, yet some persist in believing old solutions will remain successful. The teacher is no longer the main source of information for a student. The flood of information that is now available online has changed that concept forever. Yet, students still need help in many ways. Teachers need to be educators—guides, mentors, encouragers, and providers of deeper learning and understanding, while allowing students to access basic knowledge in a variety of other ways.

Eddie Obeng makes some powerful observations in his excellent TED Talk, “Smart failure for a fast-changing world”:

“What’s happened to our pace of learning as the world has accelerated? The pace of change overtakes that of learning. This is what happened to us in the 21st century—someone changed the rules about how our world works. The way to successfully run a business, an organization, even a country has been deleted. Flipped! There’s a completely new set of rules in operation. … My simple idea is that the real 21st century around us isn’t so obvious to us, so instead we spend our time responding rationally to a world we understand but which no longer exists.”

What I do works. Why should I change?

An experienced teacher is often a successful teacher. Past knowledge and experience has reinforced the concept that what he or she has been doing works. Average student grades have been good, student engagement (at least, according to the rules of the traditional classroom) has been good, rapport with students has been good, and so on.

Thus, the obvious question in the mind of the teacher is, “Why change?”