Monday, December 31, 2012

2013: The Year of the Blended Learner

If a clear division still exists between the traditional classroom and online distance learning, then a hybrid model like blended instruction seeks to muddy those waters.  Another grey area to explore and master may not sound like an appealing prospect for the new year, but those two low-tech vs. high-tech scenarios are polarizing over-simplifications that I believe hold us back as educators.  That's one of many reasons why blended learning is such an exciting prospect for 2013.  It's about giving teachers and learners more options to meet our challenges and more opportunities to speed up or slow down the pace of instruction.

My prediction for the field of adult education in 2013 is the widespread adoption of blended learning.  We will get over the fad diet of 'flipping the classroom' (sorry, Khan), and we'll get serious about immersing our learners in technology-rich learning experiences inside and outside the classroom.  We will go further than simply 'integrating technology' in our classroom instruction, and we'll make computer-based instruction a standard component of every learners' ABE/GED/ESOL experience.

I'm not exaggerating or being sensational about this. 
Computer-based tests require computer-based instruction. Digital literacy is becoming a requirement for virtually every measurable outcome that an adult learner might possible set for themselves (like finishing up the 2002 GED test in 2002!).  David Rosen, of The Learner Web, has said the same thing in recent conversations I've had with him.  Heck, I even thought about changing the name of this blog to Blended Learning Skill Share (but really, adding the distance component is my focus, something my company Essential Education is really good at, so the name stays).

I've said in the past that we're going to see a 'second coming of blended learning' (because the concept is not a new one - hello KET's GED Connection, my old sweetheart).  But the tools and the teachers and the students weren't in alignment to give blended learning the traction it needed in adult ed over the past ten years.  I think that's going to change, as we've got a perfect storm brewing in the year ahead.

"As blended learning grows next year, 
more software companies will translate student data 
into actionable intervention suggestions for teachers." 
-The Journal
We're not talking about recycling an old concept or another unfunded mandate for stretched thin programs and practitioners.  We're talking about reaching more people, putting more responsibility on our students, gathering more reportable data, recording higher gains, and making the instructional process more individualized to increase engagement and retention.  To get a better sense of the exciting potential, see this recent list of Predictions for Blended Learning in 2013 from the often provocative edtech magazine, The Journal.   Despite the subtitle, "Transforming Education Through Technology," The Journal doesn't just push educators, it also offers support in that list of predictions. The accompnying cover-photo's caption is from prediction #5, and I found it especially comforting.

So, what are you anxious about, for better or worse, when it comes to blended learning in adult education's 2013?

UPDATE: I just changed the title of this post after publishing it as "The Year of Blended Learning," because this this is about learners stepping up and achieving using new tools and new authority over their own learning.  This blog is about teachers' evolving practices and the factors and tools that influence us, but with adult education, ultimately the glory belongs to the learner who leads the change with their own capacity to rise to the occasion and transform before our eyes.  So, in my crystal ball, I see 'the person of the year' in adult ed being the blended learner. 

Here's a bit more detail, if you want to go deeper and approach blended learning from a few different angles (this infographic is from Knewton Learning, a company prioritizing adaptive learning, just like Essential Education).

Blended Learning
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


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