Teachers value today’s classroom digital resources, but students might not be as comfortable using technology as parents and educators believe, according to a new report about successful blended learning strategies.

The report, Teaching with Technology, a new report from the Foundation for Blended and Online Learning (FBOL) and the Evergreen Education Group, characterizes blended teaching as using a combination of face-to-face instruction and digital content, tools, and resources.

A survey of teachers from 38 states finds that time, thoughtful planning and support at the school- and district-level, and ongoing relevant professional development are key to the success or stagnation of their blended learning efforts.

Teachers are incorporating new technology tools and strategies into their classroom practice, and despite their different approaches, and blended learning plays a large role in teachers’ approaches.

(Next page: 6 insights from teachers)

The report draws insight from educators teaching in traditional public schools, charter public schools, alternative education programs, and private schools, as well as in-depth interviews with teachers and administrators across the country, and school and classroom observations by its authors.

Nearly all respondents (97 percent) said they are using computers in their teaching, and between 64 and 66 percent of respondents report that they are using each of four types of resources and strategies: student creation of documents, student collaboration, free online resources, and online resources purchased by the school or district. This finding demonstrates that use of open educational resources and purchased resources is not either/or, but that in some cases teachers are using both free and purchased materials.

About 60 percent of respondents said they regularly use formative assessments (61 percent) and/or differentiated instruction (58 percent).

The report offers a number of major takeaways and recommendations, based on teachers’ responses:

1. For teachers to be successful in their use of technology, the devices, internet access, online content, and software must work well and consistently. Some teachers report that they have two versions of their lesson plans—one for using computers and one for paper when internet access fails—but clearly it is not reasonable to expect most teachers to take on that level of planning. Although many schools are using computer labs or carts, teachers who are further along in implementing technology express frustration at not having better and easier access to computers.

2. Teachers are especially concerned about students accessing inappropriate online material. Some teachers have developed strategies in their classrooms to address digital citizenship, or use strategies developed by their districts, but others are still greatly concerned by this issue. However, finding the right balance of allowing vs. restricting access is difficult for district administrators, and some teachers report frustration with
students not being able to access materials that the teachers want them to see.

3. Recognize that blended teaching represents a significant change in instruction, not just the layering of technology onto existing practices. This misunderstanding leads advocates for the increased use of technology in education to underestimate the amount of time required to adopt technology successfully. Most existing professional development mechanisms are insufficient, because 1) they do not allow for enough time, and 2) they are removed from the classroom and school year, often taking place during summer breaks. Teachers need more time and support than they usually receive.

4. Apply the growth mindset strategy to teachers as well as students. Blended learning advocates often call for increasing students’ growth mindset, and believe that digital tools and resources help students focus on growth, persistence, and grit. Blended teachers explain that this type of mindset is also necessary for new teachers as well as for students.

5. Provide blended teachers with additional examples and resources. In particular, teachers would like the opportunity to visit other classrooms to see exemplars in action.

6. Teachers have different personalities and instructional strategies, and they should feel comfortable adjusting blended learning concepts to their own strengths and situations. Blended learning advocates disparage the “factory model” of learning because it applies one mode to all teachers and students. But poorly implemented technology can fall into the same trap of expecting teachers to use digital tools in one way, regardless of circumstances. Instead, digital tools can be used in flexible ways by teachers who choose how best to use these online resources.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura