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What Does Blended Learning Look Like in Elementary Classrooms?

February 21, 2019

As educational hardware and software improves, technology-rich classrooms are more and more common. However, moving beyond a technology-rich classroom is a classroom using blended learning. Blended learning leverages educational technology, like PebbleGo, to combine face-to-face instruction with online learning. There are many different models and approaches to integrating blended learning into an elementary classroom, but all models involve some sort of online instruction, generally independent from a teacher.

A La Carte and Enriched Virtual Models

A la carte and enriched virtual models of blended learning approaches are less common in elementary schools. In an a la carte blended learning model, students take courses online that support or complement what they are learning in the classroom, either at home or during the school day. In an enriched virtual model, students attend a few in-person class sessions and complete the rest of the coursework online.

Flex and Rotational Models

In a flex model, students take online courses while in school and teachers provide support to individuals or small groups, but the learning primarily occurs online.

A rotational model may be the most adaptable to the elementary classroom. In a rotation model, students rotate between online and teacher-led or face-to-face instruction of some kind. There are also different kinds of rotational models: station rotation, lab rotation, individual rotations, and flipped classrooms.

Many teachers use station models now, but a station model in a blended classroom will have at least one online station. A lab rotation is similar, except for one of the stations, students leave the classroom to go to a computer lab or library learning center within the school building. In an individual rotation, the instruction is much more personalized to each student. Students rotate through learning activities tailored to their specific learning needs with at least one online station and one face-to-face instruction station.

A flipped classroom is still considered a rotational model but looks somewhat different. In a flipped classroom, students are first introduced to new content online, generally at home. Then, teachers use in-class time for guided activities, lessons, and project-based learning to deepen and apply the knowledge that they were introduced to outside of class.

How Blended Learning Can Help Your Classroom

There are several critical ways that implementing blended learning can enrich your elementary classroom.

Facilitating Data-Driven Instruction

Data-driven and research-based instruction is a huge part of most curriculum plans. Using data to drive better and more personalized instruction can be very difficult in a traditional, lecture-style classroom. Data is primarily gathered informally or through assessments every few weeks. Blended learning often generates far more data for teachers through the use of technology. Because blended learning also frees up some of a teacher's instructional time, teachers will be able to better analyze the data they receive and start to implement more targeted instruction.

Improved Student Engagement

Blended learning gives students an element of control over when, where, and how often they learn. Tools like PebbleGo allow for kids to continue learning and discovery beyond the classroom on a variety of devices, further expanding opportunities to learn. Also, blended learning offers the opportunity for personalization of content as well as delivery methods. These are all factors that can help students engage on a deeper level with concepts.

Easier Differentiation of Instruction

Blended learning allows for multiple ways to reach educational goals. Blended learning not only provides for a variety of instructional methods, but it also frees up teacher time through the use of automated instruction and other technology tools. This will enable teachers to focus their time on provided instruction to smaller groups or even individual students.

Team-Based Teaching Models

Since many blended learning models are rotational, blended learning allows for more team-teaching opportunities. Inclusive classrooms can better utilize special education teachers, advanced intervention teachers, reading specialists, and librarians to support instruction in the classroom, working with smaller groups of students.

Student Interaction Increases

While it may seem counter-intuitive, blended learning can lead to an increase in student interaction, depending on which model is used. For example, in a flipped classroom, students do introductory lessons on their own. By completing initial lessons individually, flipped classroom models free up class time for interaction in smaller groups with not only the teacher but also each other. Blended learning provides an excellent opportunity for students to engage with each other in project-based learning, which can sometimes be difficult in a traditional classroom. Rotational models can also increase interaction if stations are set up to be collaborative between students.

Check out Supporting School Leaders in Blended Learning with Blended Learning published in the Journal of Online Learning Research for even more information.