I recently applied to a job within our board for the Blended and eLearning Consultant. Although the job was awarded to someone else (someone I am excited to work alongside), I wanted to share the vision statement I had written for the job, because I think it captures my current thinking about Blended learning in general, and what needs to be done specifically within HWDSB in order to see this style of learning become the standard. I have shared the full text below:
The job title infers that there is work to be done. When we need to identify that there is some difference between blended learning and “regular” learning there is work to be done. When that separation indicates that perhaps this is something optional, and one might be able to “opt-out”, there is work to be done.
Learning is blended. It is a blend of disparate ideas and opinions culled from dichotomous sources both virtual and analog. It is a blend of paper mock-ups and digital creations that express the breadth and depth of learners who are growing up plugged-in, screen-glued, and televised via YouTube. Whether it is happening in classrooms or not, this is a generation of media creators, and if that is the case, then it shouldn’t be a question of “whether it is happening” but “how do we make it happen”? How do we capitalize on a culture that shares and provides descriptive feedback on the minutiae of life on an ongoing basis? One that is consistently assessed by video-games and Like buttons; one that is programmed to share, and doesn’t understand copyright or ownership in the same light as their predecessors; one that crowd-sources and collaborates and sees the world as so much smaller and more easily traversed from the comfort of a Google street-view than any generation that came before.
And yet this job title exists; and rightly exists because we are not yet blending as a matter of course. We are stirring. We are sifting. We are seeing tools emerge that make the blend relevant, accessible, and contextualized to the framework of our day-to-day.
How can it be made easier? How can it cease to be a differentiation strategy of the few, and emerge as the common practice for all?
It can be made easier through job-embedded training. Show how it works in the learning space, with the available tools, and an awareness of the curricular focus, and we will blend the learning.
It is made easier through clearly provisioned tools. Learning Management Systems and Learning Networks that create a centralized hub from which learners embark. Remove the roadblocks of enrollment and accessiblity and dizzying terms of service. Provide a consistent point of entry, then go off and explore authentic tools and solve real-world issues. Search widely upon the web, but always return home to reflect, discuss, and monitor progress.
It is made easier through consistent, yet differentiated entry-points. Robust systems, properly presented, court the seasoned and the un-initiated, and allow for colleagues on the continuum to more easily support one another. A small kit, properly presented, with tools that are multi-purposed, keeps the focus on the learning, rather than on the learning of the tools.
Through the blend, eLearning will emerge. eLearning presents as a distant country three steps removed from the “regular” learning we are morally obligated to abolish. When we blend the learning for all, we will bridge that distance, and cease to see eLearning as the answer for the few, and recognize it as viable choice for all. Blending learning allows us to practice engaging from afar, and permits us opportunity to see the ways we can connect students with the process of learning from a distance. Blended learning environments will ensure that learners are gradually immersed in spaces that will help them recognize their potential for success within an eLearning environment.
eLearning needs a champion. It needs a marketing plan that results in students demanding it as an option that fits their learning style.
It is made easier through coaching that celebrates the successes, is responsive to the difficulties, and is mindful of the constraints. It is made easier through the recognition that this is not easy, and that it is the small steps that lead to the giant leaps. We may not all be in step with our neighbour, but we must ensure that we are all constantly moving our feet. Until we can remove the word Blended from the job-title, and the understanding of the role is shifted to a “Learning” consultant, and blending learning becomes synonymous with differentiating learning, there is work to be done; I would like to do that work.