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Day 4: Blended learning, E-Montessori?

Posted on Nov 27, 2012

The Guide on Development and Implementation of Blended Learning notes that blended learning supports three areas of change (in education): Thinking less about delivering instruction and more about producing effective learning, reaching out to students through distance education technologies, and promoting a strong sense of community among learners. We see these changes in this comparison:

Montessori: Multiage groupings that foster peer learning.

Blended Learning: Partial online delivery of courses.

Montessori allows multiple grades to be taught in the same classroom – usually a span of three grades will be taught together. The purpose of this is to promote peer learning; the third graders learn from the sixth graders and when those older kids teach the younger ones, their knowledge of a topic is reinforced all over again. They are able to achieve a more efficient learning environment and a stronger community, but still, they are confined to the classroom.

In blended learning, peer learning could occur within a Rotational-model, where students move from online instruction, to teacher-led instruction, to collaborative activities and stations. I like this peer learning and teaching idea and feel it is great educational tool, but what fascinates me is the community that environments such as these can form.

With some of the courses being delivered online in the blended model, brick-and-mortar teachers could stick with their area of specialty and move up the grades along with a set group students (I’ve touched on this before with the hypothetical Mr. Feeny situation). The environment this creates is much more personal and thoughtful than the random pooling of students each year like we see in a traditional school. Further, the blended community exists online and off. Student involvement and connection doesn’t necessarily depend on how much they’re physically together; from their phones, their laptops, video chats and discussion forums, the blended community stretches far beyond the schoolyard and far beyond the classroom – much, much further than the traditional planes of interaction.

So, what’s that overall message we’re supposed to take away from this four-day series?  Montessori and blended learning might appear radically drastic educational formats, but they’re not. They’re based on the traditional foundations of education, but designed to be accommodating for all students. Blended learning, to me, and I hope to you now that we’re at the tail end of this, is a lot like the online format of a Montessori school, but with rockets strapped to its back – NASA, not ACME.

Blended learning fosters a structured and efficient exploratory environment, it’s self-motivating for the students, and it accepts, adapts, and works to help students learn information in their own individualized way. What makes it unique, from all forms of education, is its ease of use. There is no format (that I know of) more supportive, more accessible, or more efficient than blended learning.

With that said, I hope that more people being accepting and embracing blended learning as just another progression of our society. The repercussions of an ill- or uninformed change in a student’s education could be detrimental to their education and their futures. With so much at stake in our children’s education, we definitely don’t ever want to do anything to hold them back or hinder their learning, but not changing at all could do just exactly that. So don’t be afraid of blended learning. It won’t bite.

Kyle Vineyard is a senior majoring in English at the University of Kansas. He has a passion for the written word and a soft spot for rural America.

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