Ever since the World Wide Web started making inroads into our homes and schools, researchers and practitioners have been exploring ways to combine both traditional and new ways of teaching. How can we blend the best of both worlds? What happens when tradition meets technology?
“21st century learners call for 21st century teachers.” This has been the impetus behind the review of teacher education at NIE and the mandate for both school teachers and teacher educators (NIE, 2009).
While this does not mean that traditional classroom-based teaching is obsolete, its use as the sole learning delivery tool is fast becoming outmoded.
But as much as teacher-fronted instruction is no longer the only mode of imparting knowledge, e-learning alone cannot possibly address all our pedagogical concerns. That’s where blended learning comes in – where tradition meets technology.
Misconceptions about Blended Learning
So, does incorporating technology in any form – PowerPoint slides, CD-ROMs or video – constitute blended learning?
Or do we need to re-examine the ways we use new technology for teaching and learning? associate Professor (A/P) Philip Wong, who is also the Associate Dean for Pedagogical Development and Innovations at NIE, distinguishes between ICT-based learning and true blended learning. he considers much of what students are experiencing in Singapore schools as ICT-based learning.
“I wouldn’t say students are exposed to blended learning,” notes A/P Wong. “I would say teachers are using technology to enable and support learning for students.”
A/P Wong defines blended learning as a combination of e-learning with face-to-face teaching. “Students learn content through exploration, e-learning, problem-solving, and then go deeper and have in-depth discussions with their teachers on a certain topic,” he explains.
The e-learning element in this approach to learning allows students to learn at their own pace, time and convenience. Thus, for this model of learning to be successful, A/P Wong believes that students need to be motivated, self-disciplined and self-directed.
So, What is Blended Learning?
The rapid technological developments over the past years have opened up many doors for teaching and learning in schools today. Blended learning is an approach that is gradually gaining in popularity.
But while this phrase has been used in educational circles for a while now, surprisingly, not everyone agrees on its definition.
In its essence, blended learning is a mix of different learning environments, involving the combination of traditional pedagogical methods and new learning technologies.
New Frontiers in Learning
As an increasing number of students are gaining access to computers and the Internet, blended learning has the potential to be applied at every level of education.
New media opens up new possibilities in the classroom. Teachers can include relevant curriculum content that would otherwise be unavailable or difficult to comprehend if not for the use of the Internet or an interactive whiteboard.
The use of Internet resources, in tandem with face-to-face teaching, extends learning beyond the classroom.
“The Internet offers different opportunities than just textbooks alone as it really opens up the whole world to the students,” says A/P Wong. “Students can now Google and go into depth on a certain topic. Complex processes and procedures are made alive and this can help students understand the concepts better.”
Integrating new technologies allows for greater interaction. Students and teachers can interact in real time and asynchronous modes (Matheos & Archer, 2004).
Blended learning also alters the act of learning. This self-directed learning process trains students to be independent learners, and thus develops a necessary skill for the future.
Leap Forward with Technology
Blended learning certainly offers a means to incorporate the “best of both worlds”, to create an appealing environment for teaching and learning.
Although there is still a long way to go before blended learning gains ground at all levels of education, the foundations are already being laid. By exposing our students to new ways of learning, we are equipping them to be self-motivated learners beyond the walls of the classroom.
Education is all about teaching and learning in ways that are most beneficial to our students. If blended learning can help to do that, then can we afford not to consider it? Where tradition and technology meet, you can be sure that’s where learning occurs.
Goh, C. (2010, July 25). Learning couldn’t be more fun. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_557620.htm
Lui, T. Y. (2010, July 23). Beacon Primary School Opening Ceremony. Speech by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and The Arts, at the Official Opening of Beacon Primary School. Retrieved August 11, 2010, from http://www.ida.gov.sg/News%20and%20event/20060925154143.aspx?getPagetype=21
Matheos, K., & Archer, W. (2004). From distance education to distributed learning surviving and thriving. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 7(4), 1–15. Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/winter74/matheos74.htm
National Institute of Education. (2009). A teacher education model for the 21st century. Singapore: Author
Read about the other TE21 recommendations in previous issues of SingTeach.