Blended learning: what is it and how does it happen in practice?

Blended learning gained strength among teachers in the second half of 2020 as it uses the potential of digital technologies to collect data by teachers, who will use them to personalize teaching in order to enhance their students' learning. It promises to be the main model to be adopted in the face-to-face resumption of classes. As its class models modify some characteristics in Brazilian school classrooms, there are still many doubts about what it is and how to apply it in practice. What do you know about Blended Learning?

What is blended learning and why is it so promising?

Blended learning is composed of class models that integrate face-to-face and online activities, in which digital resources are used to collect data and information that will be analyzed by the teacher with the aim of personalizing teaching. In other words, it is not just a mix of face-to-face and remote, but using digital resources to collect inputs that allow planning activities more in line with the needs of students.

In the gradual resumption of face-to-face classes in the municipal network of Rio de Janeiro, Science teacher Carla Fernanda Ferreira Pires bets on hybrid teaching to deal with some of the challenges she encounters in her class. “Without all the students in the classroom, we need to optimize the time we spend with them, and with blended learning, the teacher can do that”, he says. Hybrid models allow a closer look at the student's learning process than in an expository class, because, for example, these models give greater freedom to the teacher to circulate in the room among the students.

Where to start?

To make the transition from remote to hybrid teaching, Lilian Bacich, director of Tríade Educacional and one of the organizers of the book Blended Learning: Personalization and technology in education, points out that one should not start from scratch, but consider remote teaching as a starting point for planning actions. For this, the implementation steps are:

1. Understand how remote teaching worked;
2. Identify the essential skills to be worked with students within blended learning and how evidence of learning these skills will be collected;
3. Organize activities in order to integrate online (or remote, using digital technologies in all contexts) and face-to-face proposals;
4. Use the data and information collected to plan the next actions.

“It's not a cake recipe. You can adapt [the hybrid learning models] and mold it according to your reality”, says Carla. Therefore, Lilian states that the starting point is to identify how remote teaching worked to think about the next actions and the most appropriate models. “Networks that did not have online remote teaching, but worked with printed materials can work with learning scripts as in the enhanced virtual model”, exemplifies the specialist. She explains that the use of digital tools is essential for blended learning, however, they do not necessarily need to be used remotely, and can be used, for example, within the school. It is also possible to find alternatives that demand low technology or limited connectivity.

Blended teaching in practice in public schools
Despite being in focus now in schools, anyone who thinks that blended learning is something new is wrong. Science teacher Andrea Barreto started using the teaching model years ago in the municipal network of Rio de Janeiro. Today, she serves as a trainer on active methodologies and technology. “I always brought experiences and debates to my classroom, but my classes no longer made sense to the student. They weren't interested,” says the educator. Realizing this, she sought new methods and found the Flipped classroom. Thus, students studied content online at home that would be deepened or used in the classroom. The classroom space was then used to ask questions, guide discussions and carry out more practical activities associated with the theme.

For Lilian, the flipped classroom is also one of the most applicable models when it comes to blended learning. She suggests, for example, that if a network has classes broadcast on television (or even radio), it is possible to suggest that the student watch, answer a form sent by WhatsApp and then, based on the results of the form, the teacher can develop other activities in person. in which the content is deepened according to the needs of the class. The expert also points out the possibility of using the enhanced (or enriched) virtual, in which the student has online study guides and, as in the flipped classroom, uses the time at school to accompany the teacher, answer questions, deepen or debate what has been studied.

Another possibility that works well in the reality of public schools is the rotational laboratory, in which students are divided into two groups and alternate between a moment in the classroom with interaction with the teacher and a moment of activities with digital technologies in another space – even in the same space, if the devices used are mobile, such as cell phones. or notebooks. “The [Science] laboratory does not fit the whole class. So, when I want to do an experiment, one part stays in the lab with me, while the other does a variety of online activities,” explains Carla. Then the class switches activities. Without access to many digital resources, the teacher says that she is looking for alternatives to be able to offer them to students. “I do with what I have. They use one or two computers [which are available at school], or whoever has a cell phone, I pass the video or other material through bluetooth [so they don't have to use internet data]. Let's adapt”.

Another model used by Carla is the season rotation, in which several activities are prepared on the same content, at least one with digital resources. The “stations” are organized within the classroom itself, without a fixed order of rotation. Students are divided into stations and after completing the activities in one, they go to another, until circulating through all of them. “In this case, it is necessary to break with the didactic sequence logic, because the activities cannot have a dependency”, explains Lilian. That is, they must be thought of in such a way that they are integrated, but they must be independent.

In this format, the student can get in touch with the topic in different ways and even exchange with colleagues. One point that Carla highlights is the teacher's freedom to move around the stations to follow the student's learning and make interventions. “I also respect the student's time, because whoever finishes can go to the next activity or can do a complementary activity at that station”, explains the teacher.

To practice blended learning, Carla changed her way of preparing classes: instead of planning thinking about her actions as a teacher, she started to think about what the student would do, since the teacher acts as a mediator of the learning process and gives the student the place of protagonist. “In blended learning, the question is: what does the student do? Planning is in the student’s doing”. Today, the teacher sees that this logic has become part of her daily life and she automatically plans within hybrid models. “Once you start doing this, you will hardly be able to think of a class in which the student is not autonomous, protagonist of the learning process”, says Carla.




Source: New School