Blended education for elementary and secondary students

Every teacher constructs a unique learning environment for their students. Cathy Cavanaugh explores how today’s teachers are successfully blending physical and virtual spaces in ways never before possible  

LONG BEFORE THE ADVENT OF SCHOOLS and classrooms, children learned beside their parents, family members, and neighbors while the adults conducted their daily activities. Children had continual opportunities to immediately apply their learning. As education became formalized and standardized, it moved from the center of the community to the separate physical learning space of the school, and took place under the direction of educational specialists. This move happened for a variety of compelling reasons:

  • Adult life shifted to work sites;
  • The range of necessary knowledge and skills increased beyond the capacity of parents to teach; and
  • A curriculum was needed to acculturate children into their society as expectations grew for citizens to participate beyond their immediate communities.

Another revolution is now taking place. Teachers now have access to new virtual learning spaces that have the potential to move some educational experiences closer to the places where learning can be applied in authentic settings. This article offers an overview of emerging research findings from blended physical and virtual educational courses and programs for students of all ages, and it provides examples of blended programs under way in the U.S.

What we know
● Blended programs are most effective when they use technology to increase individualization and opportunity for reflection on learning.
● Independent practice and formative assessment can be done online, freeing classroom time for interaction and specific needs.
● School costs can be reduced through use of open online resources and through student attendance in schools during part of the school day or week.

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Published

October 2010