Is it time for Blended Learning?

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to blended learning and the various models that are out there.  I’ve even been experimenting with the flex model in professional development programs.  But after having spent a week at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC), I definitely feel that things are about to shift drastically in education in how we teach and students learn.

There seem to be several variables driving this movement and disrupting education as we know it:  Textbook Publishers, Tablets and other personal devices, and Cloud Computing.

Textbook publishers seem to be moving away from the print market and into the digital content market.  I’ve sat through quite a few presentations by vendors and they are offering a variety of online learning programs and online content that promote personalizing learning.  As I sat there, I could feel the whirl of confusion, excitement and emotion from the teachers trying to grasp the concept of a classroom without a textbook.

Tablets and other personal devices are infiltrating the workplace and classrooms at an unstoppable rate.  Many classrooms and worksites have adopted BYOD (bring your own device) programs and the growing the pains that come with such initiatives.

With cloud computing services such as Google Apps, and Microsoft 365, employees and students collaborate and work in device neutral environments.  Updates are instantaneous with very little oversight and device management needed.

So what could stop all of this from affecting the way teaching and learning happen?  I feel there are three vary strong forces that could slow progress toward blended learning and even keep progress from happening. These include infrastructure, fear & outdated policies, and lack of digital leadership.   Even though the devices are coming in, if the infrastructure can’t handle the demand the devices won’t stay.  And if outdated policies such as cell phone bans, blocking, and even teaching and learning schedules dictated by local boards and state legislature continue and do not consider digital learning, blended models will struggle to be adopted.  Lastly, and this is always the biggie, there must be those in leadership positions who have a vision for digital learning and blended learning in order to even begin to think about the logistics, support, and resources need to make this shift in how teaching and learning happen. 

I am ready, many kids are ready and I know others are too.  Many are out there making blended learning happen and they are the ones we can look to for guidance.  It is time to stop over fearing change and over valuing the status quo.


Blended Learning Models Explained:


Using the SAMR model to reflect on your habits of educational technology integration

Recently I’ve been involved with studying the concept of technology integration in an educational setting and what qualifies as being distinguished, proficient, or needs improvement in regards to how and which technologies are used.  That is where the conversation started.  Where did the conversation come from?  Well some felt that simply using a projector was “distinguished” while others don’t even put that on the map as having integrated technology into learning.   Clearly, we all had different perceptions and understandings of what technology integration in an educational setting to enhance learning was.

Through this study, we stumbled across Ruben R. Puentedura’s SAMR model for educational technology integration.  The SAMR model suggests that technology tools are either Substitutions, Augmentations, Modifications, or Redefinitions of how the technology supports and enhances learning.  What I love about this model is that it is simple.  I also love that it doesn’t suggest that you should always be working at one level over another.  Although, I have to admit, that must be reinforced when looking at the SAMR model for the first time.  It is easy to think that implementing technology at the Substitution level is bad!  But it is not.  There is a good place for that type of technology in learning.  The challenge is to be diverse and provide enhance learning experiences with technology at all levels.

The discussions are now just beginning.  Now that we have a nice definition and framework for what educational technology integration can be, we can begin to reflect and discuss the differences between distinguished, proficient, and needing improvement.  Here is a simple introduction to the SAMR model to get those discussions started!

SAMR Model Introduction

It’s a good time to stop and Evaluate!

With the start of the New Year many of us take time to contemplate the year that has just past.  We stop to look at what gains we’ve made and where we have made progress.  We even reflect upon the areas that we’ve perhaps fallen short and want improvement.  Along with our personal reflections and goal setting, this is a great time of the year to evaluate and assess how your programs and training initiatives have gone.  Program evaluation is probably the hardest piece of instructional design to stay true and committed to.  It takes time, it takes commitment, and it takes having a well-designed program to even know what you want to evaluate!

Today , I was busy reviewing grant proposals.  Two things really stood out to me during this process when reviewing the plan for evaluating effectiveness of the proposed ideas:

1)       You have to know, precisely, your instructional goal and what the outcome looks like

2)      You have to know, precisely, what you want the participants and learners to be able to do when all is said and done.

Proposals that struggled to clearly layout these variables struggled with deciphering how to evaluate the overall effectiveness of their proposed initiatives. 

I keep hounding on this, it appears, but it just keeps sticking out like a sore thumb when it comes to identifying effective and quality programs for learning.   So what about you?  What about your training programs and learning design?  Do you know how you be able to tell if you met those goals you sought after?  Sure, the learners where able to perform tasks during the training, but what about after the training?  Did those skills follow through into the work setting or similar learning context?   Have you seen the promised results training was supposed to be the solution to?

For me, I’ve challenged myself and those leaders and SMEs I’ve been working with to take a hard look at how it is really going.  By having a good design with clear goals and objectives this has been a very doable task.  Actually, we already had the plan in place for both formative and summative evaluation before our training programs went into place. We all know the definition of INSANITY all too well. So perhaps by taking the time to truly evaluate our Goals and program outcomes are we able to avert this scenario.

Happy New Year to you and best of luck to all your initiatives for the upcoming year!

It’s about the course goals and objectives, not the technology

As an instructional technology integration specialist, it is expected that my focus always be about the technology.  Many requests come in from leaders and instructors asking for advice, guidance, and instruction on how to use specific technologies for student learning.  I say, this is the wrong question to start with.  Focusing on “using” technology can be very counter productive, especially when so much is riding on content knowledge and skills gained by students.  Sure, it can be  helpful to be aware of which digital tools and resources are out there but not necessary if you know clearly what you want students to be able to do in your course, unit, chapter, lesson, workshop, e-learning, etc.

So if you don’t start with technology then where do you start?  You start by identifying the basic instructional goal and behavioral objectives before you can begin to understand how and which technology tools will best support learning.  If you’re differentiating, this is critical to help you guide the design of content, process of learning, or product.

I know what the learners need to be able to do but I still am unsure how to use technology?  I often explore these questions in determining how and which technologies may be most effective in reaching the instructional goal and objectives:

  • How will you know the learners met the goal? Are students creating, designing, performing, or producing a product?
  • How will the learners gain the knowledge to reach the objectives?  Research, collaboration, project-based or hands-on learning?
  • Is the learning independent, guided, whole group, problem- based?

Each of the questions lend themselves to opportunities to employ different digital tools and resources.   Collaboration and research may involve independent and group learning using blended learning models and such tools as YouTube, Gale Research, .Gov and .Org websites, and even simulators and gizmos.   If learners are producing a product the focus will be on the type of product.  This could include using presentation tools, poster creation, video production, even building a website.  Lastly, if learners are exploring through problem-based and project-based learning multiple collaboration tools offered by Google Apps along with probes and simulators will be helpful in studying and recording progress with learned material.

Whether your designing learning for education or business, focusing on the technology is counter productive.  We all know technology is very helpful and can be very productive and effective in learning.  But with  there being such a big interest in e-learning and blended learning we must remember to maintain our basic principals of good design and always start with the instructional goals not the technology.

A Model for Designing Blended Professional Development and Training

A Model for Designing Blended Professional Development and Training.

A Model for Designing Blended Professional Development and Training

A Model for Designing Blended Professional Development and Training

Tackling the design process for blended learning can quickly become overwhelming and complicated.  This link provides a model I’ve developed and used in designing two blended learning professional development programs.  Please note that it only covers the design process and not the entire program cycle (ADDIE).  Good luck with your blended learning programs and please share your approaches and success!

Directions for using Autocrat Script in Google Spreadsheets

Directions for using Autocrat Script in Google Spreadsheets

Nice little script to create merge documents with data collected in a google spreadsheet from a google form.  Have fun and explore the possiblities.  I’ve used it for everything from collecting emergency contact information, making an observation instrument, to using it with middle school kids to create homemade Mad Libs.  Share your ideas!

Know your K.U.Ds

Recently I had a special request to bring back a presentation and mini training I did on differentiating in the classroom from two years ago.  A little surprised, I certainly agreed.  As I paged through my materials and revisited websites and that of Guru Carol Tomlinson, I realized the value in revisiting this content as it applies to professional development and skill development of staff.  So why K.U.D?  No, it is not about cows, horses, ect…it’s a nice easy acronym for remembering to identify what you want your learners to Know, Understand, and Do.

In my last post I talked about the importance of knowing what you want your staff to be able to do as a result of any training offered and implemented.  I now argue for the rest of Carol Tomlinson’s learning design formula when designing effective instructional programs.  First, and intuitively, you identify what the learner is suppose to understand.  I say intuitively because this is the big idea, larger concept or generalization that connects everything else we have to learn together.  For example, “learners will understand that using 21st century tools enhances communication and learning in and outside of the classroom”.  Once you understand the big idea you are trying to address you can then analyze the learning further.

Then next step is to identify the Knows.  What do the learners need to know in order to Understand the big idea?  These are your facts, rules, and vocabulary.  To achieve the above understanding students need to know the tools available.  You would list what those are and include vocabulary necessary to build literacy in your understanding.  For example:

  • Learners know that cloud based tools allow for anywhere anytime access.
  • Learners know you can post content, grades, and links to our LMS.  
  • Learners know that students need to complete a “cloud” form to gain cloud access.

Finally, the Do’s. These are skills and procedures.  They are not the steps you will have the learners go through to accomplish your objectives.  Please refer to my last post for more on Do’s.


  • Learners can properly update posts to edline with recent data
  • Learners create assignments that are turned in digitally through the cloud or LMS
  • Learners transform technology specific assignments to technology neutral assignments

So what is the overall benefit of all this work?  Well, for one you have a very clear picture of what you are designing for. You can easily begin to delineate the type of support and training needed (if needed).  Secondly, this is your formula to begin investigating differentiation of professional growth.  Yes.  I said it.  One shoe for all is not always the best approach and by using KUDs you can begin to see potential differences in learner readiness, learner profiles, and learner interests.   From there you can choose to create different opportunities for how the content is learned, what content is learned, how the learner will demonstrate what they learned, and the environment they will learn in (eLearning, face-to-face, blended?).  Of course , this is only one step in a much bigger picture, but I feel it is certainly a manageable step that can send you into the right direction for creating your most influential and effective instructional programs.


Know what you want them “to do”.

Over the past month I’ve had many requests for professional development.  But what is unique about the requests of late is that they are meant to be supported over the long term.  This pleases me to see administrators, teachers, and committees recognizing that a one hour workshop of “how to” just isn’t going to give you sustained results.  But, with that being said, to make long term, programmatic commitment to professional development work,be effective, and not waste anyone’s time, one must understand what the learners are suppose to be able to do and why they are doing it.

So how do you get to there when the requests that come in are so general not well articulated? There are always two main questions I ask when approached to design professional development for staff.  

1.  What is your instructional goal?  What do you want to see happen? What are you trying to change?

2.  What do you want the staff to be able to do?  What aren’t they doing that you wish was happening?

The answer to the first question is usually pretty general and needs to be further flushed out by asking for a time frame, a context, a measurable means.  For example, the initial response may be “i want teachers to use technology more with students”.  This is a good start and allows the discussion to explore definitions of “more”, “technology”, and “use”.  In the end, you end up with a goal that is measurable; “Student performance on state exams will increase by 8% by increasing student engagement through the use of technologies that support learning objectives”  From there you can begin to sort out your “dos”.  You can look at what the teacher needs to do and even what the student needs to do.  

The second question provides strict guidance of whether or not training is necessary, a training aide, or if something else altogether is needed (procedures, models, etc..).  If you find that access to technology is hindering the “do” then training might not be the answer.  But if you see that resources and technology tools are underutilized then ongoing training may be just what is needed.  Identifying what you want to see staff “do” also provides guidance on how and what to evaluate to determine the impact professional development is having as it pertains to the instructional goal.

So keep your eye on the goal and the “to dos” and you will keep your professional development effectiveness on the right track toward reaching those instructional goals.


Apps for the “wordy” ones among us

Today I was introduced to some fun apps used to build word sense, vocabulary, and word association skills.  This is what happens when you get to spend some time with high school English teachers!  Best part is that they are all Free!! Beware, some of these are pretty addictive…..

Chain Thought (Jay Bacal)

Word Wall (MochiBits, Inc)

Veritas Prep SAT (Veritas Prep)

Little Riddles (Juxta Labs, Inc)

WordJewels2 (Boy Howdy Technology LLC)