Empowering Families for Blended Learning
A new day in education has arrived. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, blended learning is no longer simply one of many instructional strategies, it’s the future of K-12 education and the change is likely permanent.
Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face and online learning that we must approach as a collaboration between educators, students, and families with the goal of improving the learning experience. The teaching practices that create blended learning are able to replace traditional lecture-based, one-size-fits-all teaching with student-centered, digitally-enhanced instruction that allows students to master content and skills as they go at their own pace. During these times, blended learning presents an opportunity for educators to engage with families in ways we have yet to fully explore.
It begins with empowering families to help their students achieve success. Keep these ideas in focus as your school or district transitions to blended learning.
Digital equity is foundational.
By no means do I believe that we can snap a finger and magically achieve digital equity. It’s far more complex and systemic than that. But, in blended learning, technology is more than just a tool. It becomes an enabler for meaningful personal contact, so there are a few things we can keep in mind to further the journey toward equitable access for all.
- Not every family will have access to the same technology and digital resources. This is important to remember when creating assignments for students to complete at home. While many—if not most—students at least have access to a smartphone, far less than that may have access to a tablet or computer depending on your student population. Be mindful of the non-digital materials required for at-home activities, as well.
- As educators, we should know everything we can about equitable teaching practices across the board.
- Establishing equity also means being considerate of families’ language and literacy skills. Try creating videos in families’ home language to provide instructions and support their understanding of lessons.
Collaboration with families is key.
Similar to many of us, most parents attended school in a traditional learning environment much like the ones their parents and grandparents experienced. Changing the classroom model to blended learning may leave parents and family members confused, causing questions and doubt. That’s why it’s important for families to be included from the beginning. Effective blended learning will depend heavily on collaboration between schools and families, reaching further beyond parent communication alone. They must understand the changing roles of teachers and technology, and may need guidance in keeping themselves informed about edtech.
- Implement a system for families to communicate, share information and ideas, and learn from each other. Your learning management system (LMS) is a great way to facilitate this type of collaboration.
- Leverage parents’ relationships with their students to learn more about students’ interests, learning styles, academic strengths and weaknesses.
- Solicit constructive feedback on student work from families.
- Communicate on a regular basis about assignments, progress, and concerns.
With parents and families likely continuing to play a larger role in their students’ education through distance and blended learning, shifting the way we view assessments is inevitable. We may need to rethink how we approach everything from standardized testing to daily formative assessments. Ideally, we can transition from knowledge retention based tests to project-based and skills mastery-based assessments. By doing so, we also empower students to take the reins in their own learning, which increases confidence. Consider the following questions:
- Does the assessment method match the instructional approach?
- Does the assessment method lend itself to student choice and control?
- Does the assessment method facilitate meaningful interpersonal contact?
- Does the assessment method allow students to demonstrate mastery of the content, skill, or concept in a way that fits their learning style?
When done well, blended learning transforms education. The key is working with students’ families as a team. By empowering families with the confidence, knowledge, and skills to facilitate student-centered blended learning at home, we can ensure that our students’ learning continues even when they’re not in our classrooms.