There is enough room in public K12 education for just about every type of teacher. In fact, one of K12’s strengths is that we offer the public a variety of teachers, learning environments, and differing ways to experience knowledge.
So why would we choose a narrow path in online learning for all our awesomeness? When we could opt for a broader way to deliver learning, blended learning.
So forget online, think blended.
I needed to learn more about online teaching (see: Presentation #eTeacherTOOL, #MOOC Two in the Books, and Where are you on the Learning Continuum?) to balance my knowledge of Face-to-face teaching. Last year when I immersed myself in MOOCs which included online teacher training I found limits of face-to-face which I had never before crossed. Learning about the continuum of learning really helped me put these categories into perspective.
Public K12 teachers used to close their doors and very few people actually knew what happened in those rooms in the face-to-face only days. With online learning the content typically is prepared for the teacher. This is good that it ensures a standard for content, but not so good that it limits the art of teaching. It is expensive for public K12s to train their teachers to write online content (and not everyone can do it well) and it often replicates the variations across classrooms instead of providing that expected standard level of experience. Blended learning is more cost efficient for public K12 organizations – it costs too much to make content for everyone and it also is expensive to purchase it.
Public K12 serves the largest segment of education in the U.S. With such a large market share we need to aim to reach the largest number of our customers. While limited portions of students require fully online learning most require a blended approach (there are many), and decreasing numbers are experiencing only face-to-face instruction from the point of view of a typical K12 student’s schedule. Even adding a la carte online courses to a students day is defined as blended learning; so there is little practical demand for public K12’s to morph into strictly online programs.
Use the technical terms, we have enough confusion in education. Your administrators, your parents, and your students need to know that what they are doing in classroom A, B, and C is all blended learning. However, they also need to appreciate that those three learning experiences vary greatly. It would be a wonderful idea to have each school include The Christensen Institue’s Definitions and Models in an informational venue which allows teachers to identify which model their classroom most closely resembles. Of course including that the amount of content available online varies a wide amount between classes also would be useful. It might not be worth publicly declaring, but if I were an administrator I would be interested in the percentage of content my building’s teacher are offering online; according to The Sloan Consortium (now Online Learning Consortium) blended instruction as “30-80% of course content delivered online.” I would hope that a teacher could indicate from year to year how his/her online presence has grown.
Blended learning encompasses a large enough portion of the public K12 audience to concentrate on this one method with multiple models.
Finally blended learning allows the teacher to practice his/her discretion for developmental appropriateness, product/content/process differentiation, the weather of the class/student. All things which practiced, seasoned online teachers might be able to overcome, but your public K12 teachers are accomplishing it right now, already. Allowing these teachers who are already getting it done to create their own content which complements those practices is the smarter way to go. Blended learning takes the strengths of current K12 teachers and amplifies them.
Educate yourselves, your administration, and your parents about blended learning and how you are already doing it. While online education is a great niche for some, most of our audience really wants what you can blend already from your classroom!