Blended learning and educational technology are topics that have been consistently gaining traction in K-12 education, but the onset of remote learning due to the COVID-19 crisis has increased this momentum, truly showing how important both blended learning and technology are to successful and effective learning. 

On our most recent Tackling Tech episode, we spoke with Josh Bridges, Industrial Arts Teacher and IT Coordinator at Dowagiac Union Schools in Michigan.

Josh has extensive experience with educational technology and blended learning, and shared some great insight into these topics as they apply to new remote learning environments. Although COVID-19 is an incredibly unfortunate situation, Josh shared that his mindset during this time follows one quote: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Making the most of this crisis

During our conversation, Josh shared that although this time of COVID-19 and remote learning is a time of crisis, that does not mean we won’t grow from this experience. He explained that educators are required to find new ways to facilitate learning in a way that has never been done before.

Everything is totally different and we need to take advantage of this, utilize it, and not let this time go to waste. Josh believes that if we utilize this in the Fall to practice true blended learning, we can take this crisis and really make a difference in K-12 education.

So, how can we make sure we are not letting this crisis go to waste? Josh explained that he has been a long time proponent of the SAMR model as well as intentional technology integration and blended learning. This crisis provides teachers with the opportunity to really think about what they are doing and how they are using the technology for learning.

Some districts have a ton of technology that has been invested in, but most often these technologies are either not being used at all, or teachers are using it as only a replacement for paper. Teachers need to be using technology to truly enhance the lessons, encourage real-world problem-solving, and promote good digital citizenship. This time of remote learning provides the perfect opportunity to truly capitalize on technology integration and blended learning.

How to promote blended learning

One of Josh’s biggest takeaways from this remote learning “crisis” is how important blended learning is for effective education. He explained that teachers need to be doing lessons in a way that students can see what is being taught in a virtual environment, and utilize one-on-one time during office hours to dive deeper into that information.

Josh believes that “blended learning is the way of the future in education,” because educators are having to adapt and make use of technology for learning, and come Fall, this will be the new normal. Classes will need to be blended in case of a future crisis, in preparation for remote learning with snow days, and to continue the momentum of technology integration that has been achieved during this time of remote learning. 

During our conversation, Josh emphasized that we will need to take what we’ve learned and utilize it in the Fall to promote true blended learning. 

What does blended learning mean?

Everyone learns differently. There are students who learn better with pen and paper, and there are students who learn better with technology. Similarly, there are teachers who teach better with pen and paper, and teachers who teach better with technology. Blended learning is taking both of those learning or teaching styles and blending them and make it work for everyone.

How to prepare for blended learning during the Summer 

Although there is still uncertainty with what the learning environment will look like come August, one thing is certain: schools will need to prepare for a blended learning environment. These few tips shared by Josh can help teachers prepare during Summer.

1. Host a blended learning class.

Josh shared that he will be facilitating a blended learning class over the summer where teachers can more intentionally plan for blended learning in the Fall. Most of his teachers were thrown into remote learning at the start of this crisis, but now have the opportunity to evaluate what they learned, what has worked, and changes they’ll make in the new semester. Hosting a blended learning class over the Summer will help teachers use technology more effectively.

2. Provide Summer technology training sessions.

In addition to tactic-based classes, Josh will also be hosting G-Suite training with staff over the summer to help them get more accustomed to using the technology tools they have. He will also be hosting training sessions on using audio and visual tools like screencasting to make blended learning more effective in the Fall.

3. Use evangelist teachers for peer mentorship.

Josh shared that although some teachers were previously uncomfortable with technology, there are teachers who are “technology evangelists” at his school. He plans to use these teachers to extend his reach during the Summer as peer mentors for other teachers who may need additional help getting accustomed to using technology for blended learning. 

Listen to our full conversation with Josh Bridges

On this episode of Tackling Tech Podcast, Brett McGrath speaks to Josh Bridges. Josh is a STEM teacher, the IT coordinator for his district, and a parent in Michigan. He believes this crisis is the chance for all teachers to embrace blended learning and utilize technology to improve education.

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