Why We Blend

Much has been said and written about a formal definition of blended learning and the various models of blended learning. The truth of the matter is that teachers have been using forms of blended learning long before we had a formal definition or the technology tools to ease blended learning implementations. iNACOL says that “blending is a strategy for helping teachers achieve what they strive to do every day—deeply understand and enable each student they work with to reach the very highest levels of educational mastery,” which is a definition that resonates with me.

As a classroom teacher I quickly learned that no matter how slick my PowerPoint slides were, I wasn’t meeting the academic needs of all students in my classes. I still remember the day when I had the epiphany that it didn’t matter how well I taught a lesson, it only mattered how well all of my students were learning my lessons. This was my driving force toward blending – long before I knew what to call it. I blended because both my students and I needed something more out of our classroom.

There are lots of books, some of them even best sellers, on blended learning but one of my favorite books is “Blended Learning in Grades 4-12” by Catlin Tucker. Catlin is a high school English teacher in California. Her desire to blend her classroom instruction “came from a place of desperation.” She was eight years into her teaching career and was balancing increased demands due to high-stakes testing, larger class sizes, and “overwhelming stacks of grading.” She also knew that despite her best efforts, some of her lessons were not reaching all of her students. Even though she had limited technology in her classroom and no formal building support, Catlin implemented a blended model because she needed a change and so did her students. Catlin’s book is a compilation of her lessons learned as a blended teacher, best practices for new blended teachers, and a hint of common sense in an educational world that is filled with pundits and experts who have never been in a classroom.

Over the next few blog posts I will share some of my personal favorite quotes and ideas from Catlin’s book. In effect, I’ll give you the “Reader’s Digest” version. This way you can read along with me in just a few minutes every other week. If you like what you are reading then I encourage you to join me on Twitter on April 8th at 9pm as I host Catlin for a Twitter Q&A at #iplearns. You can follow me on Twitter at @StacyHaw and Catlin at @Catlin_Tucker. I know that this date falls on your spring break so I’ll be sure to Storify the tweets and post on this blog for everyone.

As I close out this post, I encourage you to respond and tell us why you blend. Is it because, like me, you want more for your classroom? Is it more like Catlin and you just need to do something different to maintain your sanity? Is it something completely different? In any case, you’ve embarked on a journey that will undoubtedly make you and your students appreciate being a part of a learning community. Share your driving force and let’s build our learning community on this blog.