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In Blended Learning, a Chance to Build Student Community

Cross-posted from Rules for Engagement blog.

In a live Education Week chat held earlier today, English/language arts teacher Catlin Tucker discussed her use of blended learning, which combines online instruction with in-person instruction. The chat goes hand-in-digital-hand with Education Week's newest e-learning report, "What Works in Blended Learning."

One of the benefits of blended learning, Tucker says, is that students find themselves more involved in the curriculum and building a real sense of community.

"Because they engage asynchronously online all of the time, they use each other's name and learn so much from each other," she said. "My kids come in talking about the work they do online. They are more active in terms of our in-class conversations and activities because they have gained confidence via their interactions with their peers online."

Tucker relies heavily on group collaboration and online discussion as ways to complement and enhance her lessons. But even as she noted the benefits of technology, she warned against an assumption that children automatically understand how to live digitally.

"I think too many teachers assume that since kids are firing off text messages and updating Facebook pages that they know how to engage online," Tucker said. "I've found that they need to be actively taught these skills."

Indeed, students may not even understand the broader consequences of working on the Internet. Many schools have started addressing tech literacy, whether by teaching digital citizenship or by integrating social media, such as Twitter, into classroom lessons.

"They have no idea how powerful their words are. They don't see the faces of the people receiving these messages most of the time. This needs to be embedded into our curriculum."

As for the cynical who think students will just use technology to check Twitter or their fantasy football league (which would never be a concern with grown-ups, I'm sure, nope, never), Tucker doesn't worry.

"When we use the devices, I say 'screen up,' " she said. "Since they know they will get to use them, I think it actually deters them from trying to use them for social purposes in class. Mobile devices are no longer taboo in my class. It makes using them less of a temptation."

The chat, moderated by Katie Ash, covered multiple angles of blended learning over the course of an hour. Check out the rest of it here.

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