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Blended Learning with the BYU Educational Research Team

Episode Summary

Join Dani and Matt as they explore blended learning and the technologies that support it, including Open Educational Resources (OER). This engaging audio podcast features expert guests from BYU’s Educational Research Team who share their experience and expertise on OERs and how they can improve teaching and learning.

Episode Notes

Join Dani and Matt as they explore blended learning and the technologies that support it, including Open Educational Resources (OER). This engaging audio podcast features expert guests from BYU’s Educational Research Team who share their experience and expertise on OERs and how they can improve teaching and learning.

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Episode Transcription


Hey, Matt.


Hey, Dani.


How's it going?


Good. I'm really excited for our interview today.


Well, what are we going to be talking about?


We're talking about a subject that I think a lot of teachers have misconceptions about, but are-- it's something so essential to 21st century learning that we can't ignore it anymore, which is blended learning.


Yeah, no. I think you're right. I think blended learning, to a lot of teachers, sound scary, or it just means that you're using technology at some point in your lesson. And it's just-- it's so much more than that.


Absolutely. And we've got a great group of guests to talk this through, which is a group of educators from all over the country that are coming from the same department at BYU, and they're doing open-source research about blended learning and how blended learning can be used appropriately in classrooms.


Sounds great. Let's listen in.




Join UETN homeroom at UCET '23 on March 14 and 15 at the Utah Valley Convention Center. This year promises to be a great year with keynotes and a Utah ed chat format from local educators, including First Lady Abby Cox and Utah State superintendent Sidney Dixon. Join presentations from experts all over Utah and around the world on a variety of topics, including technology integration, personalized competency-based learning, coaching, and more. Beyond some great presentations from UETN, explore UETN's photo booth and author meet and greet on the second floor. Register now for UCET '23 at ucet.org.




All right, folks. We are very lucky to have an amazing group of authors and educators today to discuss a topic that-- I just-- it's so pertinent to education nowadays that it's just-- I'm excited for everyone to hear about it. We're going to be talking about blended learning and blended teaching, and what that means in schools across the spectrum, whether it be K-12 or higher ed, and what that can play-- what kind of roles that can play in our classrooms.


So to start off with, we have quite a large group to hear today. So I'd love to start with Michelle. And go around tell us a little bit about yourself, and then I would love to hear more about how this group came together.


I'm a recent graduate from BYU in instructional psychology and technology in their doctoral program. And this group was kind of together before I got there. They had done an original volume on blended teaching, K-12 blended teaching, and I was just a teacher looking for the solution of what does good technology integration look like. And someone else said, well, you ought to ask Charles Graham over at BYU.


He knows a lot about this. And before I knew it, I was part of this research group that was doing a second volume and answering the request from the teachers that had looked at the first volume to have some more content-specific solutions to blended teaching. So this is the answer to requests from teachers that said, that's a great book but. What does it look like in my content area?


I'm Jered Borup. I'm at George Mason University in Virginia, just outside of DC. I'm a third-generation educator. My grandmother taught school and drove the school bus literally. And both my parents are teachers, and my in-laws are teachers. I just always knew I wanted to teach.


And so I got interested in blended learning kind of by accident. I knew I wanted to get my PhD. My wife was starting her master's program. And so I saw blended learning as one of Charles Graham's expertise, and I thought it was actually something completely different. We were using that term for something entirely different.


And so I was like, oh, yeah, I'm interested in that. And then I got in and really got excited about it, and started teaching with Charles, and a few other things. And I think we all kind of have those types of stories, but maybe Cecil, do you want to go next?


Yeah. So I'm a Cecil Short. I'm out of Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. I finished my PhD in instructional psychology and technology, much like Michelle at BYU, in the summer of 2021. Like Jered, I am a third generation teacher. My grandma was a teacher. I don't think she drove the bus, but I also-- to be fair, I'm not sure they had buses.


And then both of my parents were teachers. So from a young age, I was dead set against becoming a teacher. But then as I got older, I realized that the field was calling to me, and when I started to teach high school English, I noticed that a lot of my students had things that took them out of the classroom. They weren't always able to be in front of me to learn.


And my solution to that was to start blending. I didn't know that's what it was called. I didn't know that there was a whole field of research and practice around it. I just knew that that was going to solve the problem of practice that I had in front of me.


And much like Jered, when I decided that I wanted to start teaching teachers, I knew that meant getting a PhD. And I started looking for, well, who's doing this kind of work, and where is that being done? And I found Charles. And so that led me to BYU.


And although Charles will probably tell you that his expertise is not K-12, I think there was a string of us that he took under his wing that were interested in K-12. And so we pulled his blended teaching research down into the K-12 realm. And then we were fortunate enough to have Karen join that same program. So Karen, you want to go ahead and introduce yourself? And then we'll save Charles for last, I guess.


Sure. I'm Karen Arnesen, and I'm a doctoral student at Brigham Young University in instructional psychology and technology. Unlike Jered and Cecil, I'm a first-generation student, and didn't know anyone who taught school, but I was called also to teach school.


I felt really drawn to teaching. I taught middle school English language arts, and then took many years off to be with my family, and came back as a grandma and have loved my experience here. But when I started looking at coming back, I was also really interested in blended teaching. Saw that Charles was teaching.


That was his area of expertise and research, so I grabbed one of his books that he had edited before I started the program and read it, and thought, yeah, this is what I-- this is really interesting to me. And so I joined the team with them also.


My name is Charles Graham, and I've been a professor at BYU for about 20 years now. And I got excited about blended teaching in the early days when it was first being kind of conceptualized back in the early 2000s. And the thing that got me so excited about it was the idea that we could combine the strengths and the best things of the online world with the best things of the in-person world.


So if we taught ended well in a blended environment, we didn't have to give up the strengths or the power of either of those environments. We could capitalize on both of them. And I'm so grateful that I've been able to work with these great teachers and scholars, Michelle, Jered, Karen, and Cecil, and the experience that they bring to this project and to this development. And we really-- the project that we'll talk about and the things that we'll talk about, the K-12 blended teaching, really came out of asking the question of what skills, what competencies does a teacher need to have to be able to do this well?


Because you can do it well and it really benefits students. But you can also combine online and in-person in really poor ways that actually end up being worse than what you do just in the classroom. So we wanted to know what are the competencies and how can teachers do that really well. And that's really inspired all of the work we've done over the past five or six years.


I'm excited to learn more about that, too. So let's go ahead. Let's jump in with our first question. So blended learning has often been discussed in education over the last two decades, but the pandemic really changed the world, and maybe changed our outlook on blended learning. So now that we're moving incrementally towards this post-pandemic world and the new normal, which strategies are sticking in schools, and maybe what strategies should be sticking in schools?


I just wanted to comment, and a lot of people are familiar that when this pandemic hit, there was some literature and some researchers that wanted to put on some brakes and just say, hey, hey, hey. Just so you know, what's happening here is emergency remote teaching. It's not blended teaching.


So there's a big difference between those. But that doesn't mean that what happened during the pandemic didn't affect blended teaching practices during and post-pandemic. Being in the schools, it feels like there are two different groups of teachers.


There's the ones that went, wow, that was hard. I learned some really cool things, and some of those things can really help my teaching and improve learning post-pandemic. And then we have some teachers that are like, man, I'm glad that's over, and I hope I never have to touch another piece of technology again.


But we're never going to go back to the way things were. And it's definitely created a movement of teachers wanting to know more. OK, now that we're past the pandemic, what of those practices really are going to stick and what's really going to help my students to learn better?


One of the things I've noticed, I teach a pre-service teacher class for those people who are undergraduates studying to become a teacher on blended teaching. And pre-pandemic, there was a lot of resistance. They really had to be talked into the idea that they might want to use technology in class. And we had little letters from former students who had used what they learned in this class.


But post-pandemic, they're coming in very eager, and we don't have to convince them that they may be doing this someday. They want to do it. They're much more inclined to want to learn, and to practice, and to think more deeply about how they can combine the two modalities. It's been a really interesting difference to see in just over those three or four years of the pandemic, just the way pre-service teachers are thinking differently about what they may be doing.


And to go with that idea that Michelle was mentioning about the ways in which the pandemic created these two camps, that camp of teachers that was like, hey, I learned a lot of great things that I can do with technology, and I want to keep doing those. There's also that camp that's like, no, I hope we never have to do that again.


I was at a conference last week and heard some research coming out of University of Texas at Austin, as well as William Paterson University in New Jersey. And they sent out a survey to a group of teachers they'd been working with, both pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, about technology integration, and whether or not they believed technology integration was really good for learning. And for the most part, they did. They kind of scored pretty high on their beliefs that technology integration benefits learning.


But they did notice that with their group of teachers, those scores dipped by a significant amount post-pandemic. And so we do have some teachers who, coming out of the pandemic, are like, man, the things that I tried just did not work. What works for me is in-person teaching.


That's what I'm used to. That's what I was prepared for. That's what I know how to do. That's what I want to do. I want to teach in person. I'm not worried about the technology stuff because I know that what I do in person works.


We were kind of fortunate that our team, in setting up this new series of books that we've been working on, we did interviews with a lot of experienced blended teachers that first summer of the pandemic. And a lot of them who had been blending before the pandemic said that their students were really prepared for it. Their students really already understood what online activities look like, already understood what logging into the system and getting at educational resources, and completing modules already looked like. So their students transitioned really easily.


And I think for them, the pandemic really solidified that what they had been doing was good, was a good practice, was effective, was preparing students for the skills that they needed to be successful in the future. So yeah, I think it's one of those things that we see all the time in education where there's just mixed results. People had different experiences during the pandemic and that has produced different outcomes for how teachers are now willing to approach blended teaching.


Can I just add one thing? This is Charles. And I have the opportunity to work with people across the world. So right now, I'm doing work with people in Colombia, in Brazil, in Mongolia, in Hong Kong, and the world has changed because of the pandemic.


People have-- people who didn't even consider or think about the possibilities that technology and online learning could bring were forced to think about it. And I don't think we're going back. So I think it's important for teachers, as they're thinking, when you do a blend, you can choose the level of blend that you want.


But teachers who decide that they're not going to use technology, or not use the resources and the powerful tools that are available online, they're actually putting themselves in a corner and they're going to make themselves less relevant as the rest of the world moves forward in this way. So I think it's important for all teachers to think about what piece of this is right for me, and right for my students. But it's likely that everyone that's going to be really successful will have some level of technology use in their classroom.


I love, Charles, that you brought up this idea of working with people around the world, because I'm a big advocate of the idea of flattening the walls around a classroom. If you can get more people involved, you can engage with more people around the world, it's a much more interesting world, and a much more interesting place for our students to learn.


But a big thing--


Can I just say--


Yeah, please.


The students that we are helping, they're going to be working and interacting in a world that's increasingly globalized. You work for a big company-- like I worked for an engineering firm for a while, and even 25 years ago when I was doing that, we were interacting with people in India and China. So if you want to be successful even here in the United States, being able to connect with people in different areas and understanding people in different areas is a really important part, and we don't do that well without technology.


100%. And I think one of the big things that a lot of teachers are taking away from a conversation around working with students in real-- with global settings, but also with blended learning is when are they doing it correctly? And when are they able to actually accelerate student learning. So thinking as a teacher, what are some measures that a classroom educator could use to know if blended teaching and blended learning is actually working in their classroom?


I love how you phrased this question because you're talking about how do we know if blended teaching is working? And it's important to remember that blended teaching is a tool, it's not a goal. And I've seen a few schools that maybe they make that their goal.


I'm talking not any in my district, but we are a blended school. But it's a tool. And so how do we know if we're doing it right? Well, if we're meeting those educational goals that we set for our students more efficiently and more effectively.


A lot of times, and in the book we talk about starting with a problem of practice. What's something-- and when I coach teachers, I'll ask them, what's something that just is kind of frustrating to you? And is there a way that we can look at that problem and maybe technology is a solution that might help you to be more efficient, or more engaging, or have more individual time with students. So the answer is you're successful if you're meeting your educational goals, or you're solving the problems of practice, or the things that were frustrating before are becoming less frustrating.


I think, too, as Cecil mentioned earlier, we've been able to meet with almost 100 blended teachers who are really good at the practice. And one of the things that they typically mentioned as a measure is the engagement of the students. For example, there's a junior high social science teacher, and she was able to connect with students in Pakistan, and the students met each week and shared current events from their school.


And the students were just passionate about meeting with these other students. They would run down the hall to this teacher and say, guess what I found out today, and guess what so-and-so in Pakistan said. Their view of the world increased, their understanding of their own community and the issues that they faced increased.


And they were excited about it. This wasn't just another assignment. It was something that began to mean something to them and that they were excited to share. And I think engagement is something I hear a lot of teachers saying, is that yeah, they're more interested in what's happening in their education.


They're more-- they want to take control of it more. They're more passionate about what's happening. And of course, that's not true of every student, but there are enough that they're feeling that their efforts in blended teaching are worth it.


And I think that's one of the things that I've seen with teachers as well. They talk about blended teaching in a way allows them to multiply their efforts, because there can be two of them in the classroom. There can be the digital them that's on a screen that students are referencing to, and there can be the physical them that's in the classroom that's working with students one-on-one to really help them overcome whatever problems they're facing.


I was recently talking to a pre-service teacher who was coming back from practicum and she was kind of new, a little bit familiar with this idea of blended teaching. And she's like, well, what's one way that I could blend? And I was like, how many times in teaching your lesson this last week did you have to repeat the same thing to a student over and over again?


She's like, oh my gosh, Dr. Short, I taught about potential and kinetic energy 30 times in one class. There were 25 students and I taught about kinetic and potential energy. I was like, yeah. Imagine if you had taken the time to just record that explanation and then when they had to ask that question, you could just send them the recording.


You could even have the little catapult that you're building there in the recording to show them this is where the potential energy happens. This is where the kinetic happens. And it gives you that opportunity to free yourself up to go do something else.


And she said, man, that has me excited about teaching again. That is enough to get me excited about being in the classroom, because there are so many things that I wanted to do in my lesson that I just couldn't do. But if I had taken the time to record something like that, that would have freed me up to be able to do those other things.


And then like Karen said, it also allows the students to take more ownership over their learning. Instead of having to ask that teacher-- shout out to Ms. Moon. Instead of having to ask that teacher to repeat something again, they can use their agency to go look for those resources, to go watch the video, to rewatch the video so that they understand it.


And I think we see a lot of that with blended learning. It allows students to increase their agency and ownership over the learning process and really feel like it's something they have control over, and learning is something they are participating in, as opposed to learning being something that's happening to them, where they're showing up and someone's telling them what to do in order to learn the content.


And I just want to say, this example that Cecil has given is a good one. But we need to think about the teacher recording a video of them explaining this thing once so they don't do it 30 times doesn't remove the human connection in the classroom. It just means instead of that teacher explaining that 30 times, the teacher can be spending time diagnosing with the students, or answering additional questions where the students aren't getting the initial explanation, or something like that. And so it's not removing the teacher from the classroom. What it's doing is empowering the teacher to use their time for higher order thinking kinds of things rather than just lecturing and content dissemination kinds of things.


One other thing that I wanted to say, and then I know Jered has had his hand up. But I would also like to say one cool thing about blended learning is that we should be thinking about measures that-- and evaluating blended learning and the learning that's happening in ways that we haven't ever thought about before. So we have these standard assessments and things that we do in the schools, and those are fine and those are good.


But sometimes what blended learning does is it is allows us to do something new that we've never been able to do before, like having the students connect with students in Pakistan, or freeing the students up so that they can do a collaborative project that was not possible before because they didn't have an expert that could work with them on that project, right? But now with the virtual connections, they can actually connect with a scientist somewhere that wouldn't actually be able to travel to the classroom.


So we ought to be thinking broader about how we're measuring the outcomes of this. And oftentimes, it's we're allowing students to do things that we're just not even possible before. Jered?


Yeah, I think we know if blended teaching isn't working very well, and that's when teachers are digitizing what they've always done. And I fell in this trap, too. When I was teaching, I taught social studies in Idaho Falls in ninth grade. And I lectured a lot. A lot.


And so one thing that was really painful is these students that were sick, and they'd come back, and they'd say, what did I miss when I was gone? And I was like, get the notes from Johnny or somebody. I'm too busy. I can't duplicate that. So I thought, oh, video. That's going to solve all this problem.


So then I would lecture in class. And then after class, I'd make these mini-lectures and I'd put them online, and it was very innovative. And The Post Register called me and interviewed me the, local newspaper. And then I saw the superintendent and I said, hey, Dr. Boland, look at what I'm doing.


And he looked at me, and he's like, you can do more. And I was like, how dare you say that, because I am so innovative. And he basically said, what's changed in your classroom? And I realized, oh, nothing. I was using technology. So that I could lecture more in class, so that I can make a bad pedagogy easier and more efficient.


And I think that one indicator of quality blended teaching is that you are seeking out new opportunities to teach and new opportunities to learn, and that you're exploring new methods that aren't possible otherwise. And that's what's so exciting. A video is not exciting. A lecture is a lecture, whether it's in-person or online.


But what is exciting is if you can offload some of those responsibilities to a video, then what you can do with students aside from that is what's really exciting. And that's where the magic is. The magic isn't in the video, the magic is teachers working with students.


I wanted to piggyback on that, just sharing-- it's kind of a counterexample, but I think it makes the point. I was having a conversation with a team of teachers years ago about these ideas that Jered and Charles are sharing. And this teacher said, well, then I wouldn't be a teacher, I'd just be a facilitator.


And I was thinking, no, no, no. It's not teacher above facilitator. If anything, it's facilitator-- because we're above teacher, we're helping these students facilitate and learn things on their own instead of just dishing it out to them.


To reference those interviews again, one of the things that I asked was about-- yeah, so when you're personalizing learning for these students, what have you learned through your blend? What impact has that had on your teaching? And I had a couple of teachers actually say it's really hurt my relationship with my advanced students because I've learned that they don't need me. If they have good content in front of them, they can learn the material and they can progress just fine.


And at first, that was kind of injuring to me as a teacher because I feel like I need to be needed. But what it has done is it's really increased and strengthened my relationship with the students who really do need me. The students who are good, they're going to learn whatever you put in front of them, I'm able to work with them just a little bit, get them started, and then they run with it.


And it gives me more time to really work with those students who do need me, right? And so that's what we've been talking about. It's not just taking those things that you've done online, or in person and putting them online. It's really looking for that the transformative teaching that can happen. How can we allow a group of 25, a group of 30, a group of 35 to all learn at their pace and really meet the expectations that they're ready for while we, as the teachers, support the students who need that support.


I love it. And thank you so much for sharing the examples and non-examples. I think it helps teachers to see that there's a wide variety of possibilities here. How can-- next, we're wondering how can blended teaching pair with other school or district-wide initiatives, like personalized learning or competency-based approaches?


I can talk a little bit about this. I remember I met with a school principal before the pandemic, and the district was rolling out a one laptop per child initiative. And I was talking to her about blended teaching and learning, and she's like no, no, we can't do that, because we don't have the laptops yet.


And she was kind of frustrated by that. It's like, well, what do I have to do to get the laptops? And I started asking her questions like what other initiatives are you doing? I knew that the school district was doing a project-based learning initiative. And she's like, yeah we're kind of doing that.


I asked more about personalized learning. What are you doing around personalize learning? And the point I was trying to make is that whatever initiatives you have at the school, whatever teachers are doing, that's how they're going to use the technology.


So if teachers-- like my example, I was lecturing, so I was using technology to support my lecturing. And so if you have these student-centric initiatives, or personalized learning initiatives, or problem-based learning initiatives, then when the technology comes, they're going to start using it and see new possibilities to enhance what they're already doing, but also to go in new directions. I think conceptually, though, a blended learning, if you look at the definition of blended learning that's commonly used at the K-12 level, it talks about student choice, and it's built in to that definition. And so any initiative that your district is doing around student choice and personalization, blended learning will enhance and take it to new levels.


So last year, I had the great opportunity to work with several schools across the state of Texas that are working to implement blended learning. In some cases, it was a single teacher working to blend, in other cases, I was working with schools that were wall-to-wall blended and personalized. And so they were able to use blended learning to really help with those personalized learning initiatives, recognizing that even by, say, second or third grade, students have such a wide array of skills and knowledge that the blend really allows those students to be able to understand their level of knowledge and ability, and work at that level.


And what was always so amazing to me is that when I walked into these blended classrooms, I could talk to a 7-year-old and say, hey, what are you doing? And they would tell me what they were doing, why they were doing it, and what the next steps were going to be, because they understood their data. And I think so often, we get this idea with schools that we want to create lifelong learners.


And sometimes when I talk to administrators about, well, what are you doing to foster lifelong learning, they talk a lot about what their teachers do and the supports that their teachers put in place. And it's like, well, yeah, but when there's no longer a teacher in front of them, when there's no longer an instructional designer creating curriculum for them, how are they going to learn? And we see with blended learning this lean towards personalization. Like Jered mentioned, personalization is kind of embedded within the common K-12 definition of blended learning, giving students some kind of voice and choice over the time, pace, place, and path of their learning.


And so blended learning allows them to have that opportunity. Working with in-service teachers last year, I remember having an interesting conversation about student agency and ownership, and this idea of, well, who do you think has more agency and learning, the high school junior or the preschool student? And I was like, ironically, it's the preschool student.


We don't let the high school junior free in the chemistry closet and just say, grab whatever you want and see what it does. But with the preschool student, we want them to explore. We say, we have a building station, and we have a letter station, and we have a sensory station, we have opposite stations. And go explore these stations, but we want you to hit each station throughout the week.


And then they could actually go and use tablets to check into those stations so that teachers could get data to help direct that learning. And they were looking at that data, saying, oh, hey, I saw that you only visited this station last week. I'd really like you to try to get to this station as well this week.


And so those initiatives, like Jered was saying, really layer onto blended learning really well, because blended learning, it isn't a method. We're describing a modality of teaching. Blended learning is combining the online and the in-person in strategic ways. And so whatever methods, whatever systems the district or school is trying to push for right now can easily be layered on.


And I oftentimes, teachers feel when district initiatives come out, it's like one more thing on my plate. How am I going to do that? And again, blended learning can allow teachers to multiply their efforts. It allows them to be able to focus on these different things without losing out on the time they need with their learners.


Just to piggyback on what some of these guys have said, I had an experience where this was demonstrated. I had a couple of-- or I had a coach from a nearby district reach out to me and say, Michelle, I'd like to bring my teachers to some classrooms to see blended teaching, and I knew exactly where I was going to take them because I had a school that had a really, really clear, well-articulated version, or vision that wasn't blended teaching. Their vision was very much deep learning if you're familiar with the acronym of six Cs, they had very much adopted the state of Utah's personalized competency-based learning platform, and I knew what would happen if I brought them there.


And the principal was just right on. He got up, and the main message he had for these teachers was this is our vision and focus. You're going to see some really cool blended teaching, but you need to know we have never done a professional development on blended teaching. We have this clear focus, and teachers started going, yes, I want to do these deep learning activities, and now I need tools to do it, and what are those going to be? And it was a lot of blended teaching strategies that allowed them to pursue a very well-articulated vision by the principal and the district.


I just wanted to go back to something Cecil said a while ago about repeating yourself 30 times in explanation. One of the things that's really important for personalized learning is to allow students to make their own goals for what they want to accomplish in their learning. And when you're not repeating yourself 30 times in a classroom, you have that time to sit down one-on-one with the student and help them create goals, have them be accountable for those goals.


I remember watching a junior high English language arts teacher kneeled by the desk of a student, talked about what they wanted to complete, when they wanted to-- when this child wanted to be checked on again, how long she thought it would take her. Those kinds of things can happen in a room where you are able to coach and facilitate, and don't have to be at the front of the room. And that helps in personalization.


Thank you, all. I think this is a great time for our student question.


Hi, I'm Emmaline from Majestic Elementary. What are some ways I can advocate for myself in a blended classroom?


I think as a student, you can be really clear with your teachers when they aren't clear with you. When they're putting up digital content, they're doing the best they can, and they are hard working. And if you can go and give them that feedback and say, this was confusing to me, or I really need more clarification on this, it allows those teachers to answer your question that most other people in your classroom had, too. And teachers really appreciate when you help them with that feedback.


I think also, you can advocate for yourself. If you've got an assignment and you can think of a way to do that assignment and in a way that's more useful to you that you feel like will help you learn better, you can talk to your teacher and say, is it OK if do it this way? And teachers will be excited, usually, to help you with that, because they can see that you've thought it through, that you have a clear goal in mind. I would just think of yourself as being an advocate for things that you can do to demonstrate how you're learning, and then counsel with your teacher.


The suggestion that I always give is learn to understand your own data, how you create data, and what that data really means. And so if you can know what questions to ask of your data, if you can look at your data to show demonstration of understanding, or growth, or places where you have growth, then you can act on that. And so that's something that I've worked a lot with my pre-service teachers on, is giving students the opportunity to learn about their own data so that data can be something that you have a hand in creating and using to guide your education as opposed to data being something that happens to you.


Nobody likes it when they take a test and then they get a percentage back with no explanation on it. And that's just data happening to you. Or when you take those standardized tests to prepare for college and they take your efforts on that test, and they boil you down into a couple of scores. But you don't really know what those scores mean, or how you can improve those scores. So learn what kind of data your teachers are using to guide instruction and learn that data for yourself. Understand what the data that you're creating, what it means, and how it can be used to guide your own learning.


I had a student email me today. So I teach teachers, so it's a little different. But the same principle works for a high school, or middle school, or elementary school kids. But she saw what the assignment was for this week and she emailed me and said, hey, I'd actually like to do something different. And is that OK?


And I wasn't entirely sure what it was, so I sent her my phone number and she called me, and we had a great conversation about this other project that she wanted to do, which happened to be aligned with the learning objectives. So that's really important. But then also way better than what I had thought of, even. And the fact that she was willing to do that was great.


So if you can advocate for yourself by sharing your interests with the teacher and your goals with the teacher, that's going to help the teacher to better customize things for you, but also when you're given a choice, take it, and really make the most of it. But also, if you're not given choice and you feel like, hey, maybe I should have some choice here, it's OK to talk with your teacher and see if there are opportunities that maybe you can even have more flexibility than they're currently offering.


I absolutely love that, Jered, because one of my favorite moments as a teacher, and I think for a lot of teachers, this is the private happiness that teachers-- or students don't know about is the moment when a student comes to me and says, I'd like to do something different with my project. I'm going this direction with it. Is that OK? And you're like, they're learning. It's the best thing ever, because you know that they're really internalizing everything that you're talking about instead of just regurgitating what action you think is appropriate for the learner.


With that said, I think I would be remiss if we didn't-- we have a group of wonderful higher ed scholars here. How has blended teaching, blended learning been effectively deployed in higher ed? And are there any significant differences in the process work of how blended learning or blended teaching is used K-12 versus higher education?


This is Charles again. And I would say that one of the biggest differences between higher ed and K-12 implementations of blended teaching is that in higher ed, oftentimes, the online learning portions are done outside the brick and mortar school. And so that does happen in that there's a lot of innovative high schools and other schools that maybe do some online learning components, and maybe only come to the brick and mortar school on Fridays, or on Thursdays, or something like that.


But for the most part, the online learning that's taking place in the K-12 environment is actually taking place within the school and within the classroom, whereas in higher ed, it's often the in-person time is being replaced by online time, so it's taking place outside. Other than that, I would say there are a lot of things that are actually happening in the K-12 environment that are-- maybe we can learn from in the higher ed environment.


And I think Cecil did his whole dissertation on personalized learning, which we view as being one of the important skills related to online, or blended teaching. And I think that K-12 teachers are a lot better at thinking about this than we are in higher Ed, and that's something that in higher Ed, we can learn from, from the K-12 implementations of blended teaching.


Something I'll add is when we talk about blended teaching, there's lots of different blended teaching models out there. People have probably heard of things like the flipped classroom, the flex classroom, thinkstation rotation. A lot of those models focus a lot more on having students in the high school, like Charles was saying. So we don't see those models used a lot in higher ed.


A model that we are starting to see use a lot in higher ed, and I think this is partly in response to the pandemic, is what they call the HyFlex model where you have some students who are joining you synchronously online and some students who are joining you synchronously in person, while the instructor is there teaching in person. And what's interesting about that is that it does cause a little bit of a different planning for instructors. They have to plan how are we going to have student activities.


If I'm going to have students do some group work in class, how am I going to make sure I'm including both my virtual students and my in-person students? Because K-12 schools require attendance, we aren't seeing that HyFlex model used as much in K-12. But I do know that during the pandemic, some schools were using that, where they might have half of their students on campus and half of them joining from home at different times to allow for more space when we needed to keep a distance.


So that's one of those things that I think is not sticking around in K-12 as much as it is in higher ed where we're continuing to see that use where higher ed has always had a lot of online students. And so now, trying to bring those online students into the synchronous classroom is a way that we're seeing blended learning kind of grow and go in a new direction in higher Ed.


Just from the K-12 side over here, we're still seeing a bit of it. We're seeing teachers that are trying to open it up for students who can't be there. And I was totally amused the first time I heard the phrase use-- the phrases used Zoomies and Roomies is what I've heard them refer to that model as in K-12.


This has just been an awesome conversation. I've really enjoyed it. I just have one more question. If educators are looking to sharpen their skills in blended teaching, what are some daily activities that they can commit to participating in, both from an instructional and professional development standpoint?


Read our books. Yeah, go read our books. I'll let everybody else share their ideas of what that actually looks like. But I mean, our books were put together for teachers, by teachers to be able to give them those resources so that you can see what blended learning looks like in your context.


And all of those books, as I have to remind my dad all the time, we do not make money off of them. They are openly licensed. They are available online for free to everyone. You can download them, you can remix them. But yeah, we don't sell the books. We don't get royalties from the books. They're out there to be resources, free resources, reusable resources for teachers.


Cecil, where can we find those books as well?


Yes, so edtechbooks.org. That's E-D-T-E-C-H books.org/k12blended_series. That has a volume one, which has the blended teaching competencies that are research-based that we've been working on for about half a decade, and volume two, which goes in and answers that question, well, what does blended teaching look like in my discipline?


Currently, we have Five content-specific editions published. In that second volume, we have elementary ed, then we have math, science, English, and social studies with more content-specific editions on the way.


And I would just say-- thanks, Cecil. I would say, Cecil said go read the books, but actually the books were created-- and they're online books, and they're created in a way to be media-rich. So a lot of what you're going to be doing is actually watching teachers explain what they do and share their practices, because each of the books has master teachers who are experts at blended who've been blending for a while who are sharing their experiences, the things that they do. And so in short videos with also text and some other explanations. So a lot of it is like going to see what a teacher in your district who's teaching your content area who's doing blended teaching, what they have to share with you.


And I'll add, they're not just sharing what, but they also share the why, which I think is so important. So oftentimes, as teachers, we're told about new ways that we can approach instruction, but we're never really given the explanation of why we should try out those new ways. And these are teachers talking about what they do and why they do it. And so yeah, great, great resources, again, from teachers, for teachers.


I would add to that, the one thing these teachers almost universally say is start slow. Choose one little spot to start, incorporate it into your classroom, then add a little bit more as you become more familiar with it and as you work with your specific students in your specific subject area. The books are so motivating, but they'll tell you just start. Just start at a little place and then take the next step.


I would add, look out in your local networks for support. You probably have a content team at your school that you're working with. You may have a district content team that you're working with. And then shameless plug here, work with a coach.


I'm an innovative learning coach. So if you have some questions, reach out to one of the coaches in your building, and especially if you come with that problem of practice. When teachers come to me and say, hey, Michelle, I'm thinking about trying this thing, or I've got this little snag thing, is there some sort of technology tool that we've got that's district-supported that would help me with this? And when we start with that problem of practice, or that desire to accomplish a goal, then we can really get those blended resources doing what they do best.


I wish we could clone Michelle. She is fantastic. But I just want to echo that suggestion, that there's somebody in your building that can help you, and that's a great place to start. The other thing I'll touch on is if you're an administrator and you're wondering OK, so I want to prepare my teachers for this type of environment, and where do I start?


Another thing that maybe we could put in the show notes is a link to a survey, and the survey measures the different blended teaching competencies. And as teachers go through that, they'll answer these questions. It's short. It takes maybe five, 10 minutes. And then at the end, it gives them scores for the different competencies and identify some areas that maybe the teacher could work on to improve.


So as a teacher just taking it, it's a great exercise. But then also as an administrator, if you contact us, we can give you a code, and they can put that code in there and so you can actually get a report across your whole building, or your whole school district. And then that can also help you make decisions on what do we want to focus on in this building, or this district.


Yeah. My district uses that readiness survey that Jered mentioned in our professional development. And we use the book, or now books, in our professional development. And I happen to know that two districts south of me also use those resources for professional development and that readiness survey.


And it's free. And people are always reaching out to Charles to say, hey, can we have a unique, identifiable code so that we can see our data? And I think it makes him happy when he gets those emails and he sets it up for them.


It might surprise you, too, as teachers, how you rank in those different competency areas. Just this week, or last week, I had the teachers I work with take it. And before they took it, I had them rank themselves in these areas, and then they took the survey. And sometimes, it didn't match. And so it can be a really nice diagnostic tool for the individual teacher in the self-reflection tool as well.


Yeah. My district also uses it to measure growth.




They have teachers that will take it at the beginning of the year and then at the end of the year to see how our district's doing in implementing those blended teaching strategies.


And sometimes, the score will go down, because they know more about what-- when they took it originally, they probably didn't know what they didn't know, right? And so as we learn more, sometimes we rank ourselves a little lower in some areas, too. And that's actually a positive outcome as well.


Maybe just to give an idea of what's on that readiness survey, there are foundational dispositions and technology skills, and then four competencies, online integration, data practices, personalization, and online interaction. Those are the areas that they're being measured in.


That's amazing, and such a great set of resources for teachers and for administrators to get into blended learning and blended teaching. We've really appreciated your time today, folks. Thank you so much for joining us, and hopefully we can enlighten some teachers who have never learned about blended learning in really unique ways.


Truly. Thank you so much for joining us.


Thank you for having us.


Yeah, thank you for having us. It was a pleasure.


Thank you.




There was a lot of really good points in there, and I love that they're giving away a lot of their research for free. But what are you taking away from this interview, Danny? What did you learn about blended learning this time?


Well, I think the biggest thing that I learned was that there are so many different entry points into blended learning. I think that I came with all the other teachers, that it just started out as this idea with flipped learning, or putting lessons on Canvas. But I think it's really cool that we can take what we learned in the pandemic and put it throughout all of our lessons. Whether we're in-person, hybrid, completely online, there's a place for teachers to start in blended learning.


Absolutely. And I think that's the big thing to start with, is that I think some teachers would go, well, we're past-- quote unquote, "past the pandemic," which I don't necessarily-- I think we're still dealing with some ramifications from it. And when we think about that, sometimes, people go-- or sometimes educators go, well, it's passed.


It's something that I may have missed the boat on. And the reality is, you should start today. There's some really great ways to get into blended learning, whether it be a flipped classroom, or an in-class flip, or doing things just simply for a single lesson plan can really add an edge to your classroom that maybe wasn't there before, and help students that didn't have the opportunity before as well.


Yeah, and I think that's a big point of it, too, is that there are things that you can do to blend your classroom that take stress off the teacher so that they can help students that need more help, just by making a video of what would normally be your lecturer so that students can slow it down, speed it up, watch it three times. And then while students are consuming that, you can work one-on-one, or in a small group with kiddos that really need the teacher's undivided attention.


Absolutely. One of the most valuable skills I learned as a teacher was filming myself doing video.




It's so helpful, and it's so great for blended learning, for sub days, for all sorts of stuff, and just learning the basics of a screen recorder are incredible. So check out their research. It's in the show notes. But also check out resources here at UEN. We have tons of information and classes about blended learning, and we'd love to help you out with that if that's something that you are wanting to bring to your classroom and learn.


Absolutely. Thanks, everyone, for listening.


We'll see you next time.