Tag Archives: Teaching

How to Blend Learning #1

The ‘blended’ in ‘blended learning’ means combining in-class with online teaching. It can be synchronous (live) or asynchronous. It’s touted as one way to be lockdown ready. I propose it’s the only way to be 21st century ready.

It’s not something to do ‘while we get through this’. It’s a permanent redefinition of learning. What it offers is long overdue: a necessary kick start to finally break from the educational practices that fuelled the first Industrial Revolution, to fully prepare students for the demands of the fourth. We need to get this right.

Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash

There are three ways to come at blended learning:

1. Plan learning for in-class then transform it to work online.
2. Plan learning for online then transform it to work in-class.
3. Integrate all learning spaces then plan the learning.

Embarking on 1 and 2 risks a frustrating ‘good enough’ short-termism. 3 lays deep foundations where learning is central, not the tools or methods of its delivery.

1. Planning an in-class lesson to work online prompts the search for web tools that will replicate face to face activities. This will only ever partially succeed. In-class will never be the same as online. We’ll never achieve the full authenticity of a classroom where we’re all breathing the same air.

2. Likewise, planning an online lesson to work in-class is equally doomed. The range and flexibility of web tools cannot be replicated in the ‘real’ world. Online collaboration, editing, access to information, creativity – these and more are in a completely different league to their in-class counterparts.

3. The third approach separates learning from the debate about online vs in-class. It challenges us to take a different, long term view:

Think big about how and where learning happens.
Take time to bring your philosophy of learning to life.

1 and 2 fuss about which mug to use. 3 considers the quality of the coffee.

Places where learning can take place are combined into a whole. School, library, bus, bedroom, street, in-class, online. Learning doesn’t stop with a school bell or start with a log on.

Online happens to be a place where we can collaborate and create. In-class happens to be a place where high quality discussion takes place. Research in the library; debriefs on the bus; texting in the street. Learning is bigger than school and bigger than online.

Effective learning is independent of the tools or spaces used to bring it to life. We all have a philosophy of learning. Mine cites eight evidence-based features that underpin learning design:

  • Relationships
  • Visual Thinking
  • High Order Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Self-efficacy
  • Feedback
  • Active Learning
  • Peer Teaching

These are not tied to a room or a screen. We can build learning relationships online and face to face; we can think visually at a screen or in a forest; feedback can be verbal, written, emailed, texted or videoed.

Don’t get caught in the twin traps of, ‘How do I make this work online?’ or ‘How do I make this work in-class?’ Instead ask, ‘What is my philosophy of learning? Which principles work best?’ Then, looking at all the tools and resources and places and spaces available to you and your pupils ask, ‘How do I bring this philosophy to life?’

Thinking Classroom resources from September 2020 will help you to do this.

Ofsted says learning is…

fredy-jacob-764477-unsplash…a change in long-term memory. Other definitions are available but let’s explore Ofsted’s, starting with three questions I ask children in class and finishing with advice and a powerful memory technique.

Try asking children these questions:

  1. When you’ve finished, what will be different?
  2. How will you make sure that you always know this?
  3. Why can you do this?

The first question has three kinds of answer:

  1. A wild stare; a furious mental scrabble for the correct thing to say.
  2. A shrug.
  3. A clear articulation of what’s being learned, usually with reference to success criteria stuck in an exercise book or displayed on a whiteboard.

The occasional child will say, ‘I’ll be at play time’ or, ‘having lunch’.

The question is powerful because it’s vague and ambiguous: Finished what? – this work? today? school? this question, word, line?

Different? – for me? in my book? in my head? in my life?

Each child brings their own meaning to the answer which is why it’s valuable to us. They reveal what they think is happening and what finishing it means to them. They have to think for themselves, about their learning, and about how things will change while learning is happening. They can’t look to the teacher for help and there is no ‘right’ answer.

Once a child can describe what will be different; what is being learned, then I’ll ask the second question: ‘How will you make sure you’ll always know this/always be able to do this?’

It stumps most children. ‘Write it down again.’ they say, or ‘do it another time.’

And the final question really hurts. It requires a child to reflect and connect. ‘Why can you do this?’ Some say, ‘because I work hard’, or ‘because my teacher helps me’. It’s rare for a child to refer back to previous learning as a foundation for current success.

I’m hoping Ofsted will take a broad, deep and authentic view of what a change in long-term memory actually means, and that its inspectors will value curricula that include lessons on memory skills and thinking skills. If not then it’s missed its own point.

A change in long-term memory is more than knowing the capital city of Iceland because it was drilled in to you 3 months ago. A change in long-term memory means that you can drive a car without referring to an instruction manual every time you sit in the driver’s seat. It means you can remember what to do, how to do it, and actually do it in different contexts (that’s called lateral progression).

So may I offer you three ways to develop long-term memory (Ofsted-defined learning):

  1. Design learning around the Curve of Forgetting.
  2. Ask pupils the three questions.
  3. Teach memory skills.

And here’s a premium Thinking Classroom tool based on an ancient memory technique:

Memory Theatre Thinking Tool

Thinking Classroom