Blended Learning Is the Future of K-12 Educational Technology

In our blog post of Oct. 6, 2014 we panned blended learning, and now, in what follows, we are about to say blended learning is the greatest thing since sliced bread. If we were politicians we would be labeled as flip-floppers, a derogatory term in the political argot. But, thank goodness we are not politicians, but an educator (C) and a technologist (E) coming to a new understanding of what the future holds, amongst higher-minded colleagues who eschew fallacious ad hominem arguments.

Here’s the reasoning behind the evolution of our thinking:

  • We had identified personalized learning – what we are calling personalized learning 1.0 – as the same thing as blended learning.
  • And the canonical example of personal learning 1.0, from our perspective, is the Carpe Diem schools, where children sit in cubicles half to three-quarters of the school day, being drilled by some company’s “adaptive learning” system.
  • Since we do not feel that the Carpe Diem school model is an appropriate education model, wepooh-poohed blended learning.

Simply put: we painted blended learning with the same brush as personalized learning 1.0. Our bad!

But now … we have seen the light! <Smilely face goes here>

In an excellent 2011 article by Heather Staker of the “Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation” (formerly the Innosight Institute), she defined blended learning as follows:

“Blended learning is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.”

We can easily live with the above definition of blended learning because of the phrase “at least in partthrough online delivery.”  Personalized learning 1.0, e.g. the pedagogy used in Carpe Diem schools, takes online delivery to the extreme, it seems to us. But, as we argue below, what we see coming to K-12 classrooms is absolutely consistent with the definition of blended learning. Please read on!

Here’s the deal: 1-to-1 is the new normal: Between BYOD (bring your own device) and school-provided devices, it is clear that over the next two to three years every student in every classroom in every school in the United States will be using a computing device for learning. Many, many schools in the United States are already at 1-to-1. But the two- to three-year time period is there to acknowledge the sad and disturbing fact that the digital divide still exists, though it’s not talked about very much anymore.