Blended learning offers strategies for teachers to excel in the concurrent classroom

Teachers are spending more time than ever in the role of “designer,” being the architect of their students’ learning experiences. Meanwhile, they must also fill the roles of instructor and facilitator, said blended learning and online learning expert Catlin Tucker.

When teachers rely exclusively on a teacher-led “whole group” model, the challenges of teaching in a concurrent classroom are exacerbated, said Dr. Tucker, a bestselling author, international trainer and Google Certified Innovator. However, there are strategies that educators can implement to combat these challenges.

As the author of a collection of books on blended learning, Dr. Tucker was the featured presenter at the latest Virtual Keynote Series event on Dec. 9, which was presented by the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center’s Technology Leadership Institute.

“Teachers really need to hear from their leadership that less is more,” in order for them to be able to engage students in deep, rigorous learning with their students, Dr. Tucker told nearly 150 attendees during the online event. While that learning may not be broad, “that doesn’t mean that there can’t be depth,” she said.

The LHRIC’s Technology Leadership Institute is designed to provide participants with various opportunities to engage in discussion with experts and vendors about technology-based educational topics that are timely and relevant. This was the third virtual event in what Sarah Martabano, the LHRIC’s Educational Technology Manager, dubbed as a “pandemic-inspired series” of keynote presentations.

In Dr. Tucker’s address, titled “Using Blended Learning Models to Design for and Facilitate Learning in a Concurrent Classroom,” she spoke of four key challenges that teachers face in the virtual and hybrid learning environments.

1. Managing students in two learning landscapes
2. Inequality of teacher attention
3. Lack of student engagement
4. Not enough time to connect with individuals or small groups of learners

The remedy that she recommended to solve these issues is to give students greater control over the time, place, pace and path of their learning. She offered a series of practical and substantive ideas about how to accomplish that.

With regard to teaching students both remotely and in-person, Dr. Tucker suggested creating an interactive agenda that all students can access and developing a welcome routine at the start of each class. To counter inequality of teacher attention, she suggested various rotating learning stations, which offers several benefits, including allowing students to control the pace of their learning.

Regarding student engagement, Dr. Tucker posed a question to her audience: What engages students? She invited attendees to share their answers. The real-time results informed an interactive word cloud that featured responses like “interest,” “fun,” “interaction,” “connection,” “movement” and “games.”

She suggested a choice board, a graphic organizer that allows students to choose different ways to learn about a particular concept. In addition to being fun for students, it can help teachers to drill down on specific skills and standards. “Choice is a really powerful motivator,” Dr. Tucker said, “and we all know that students don’t always enjoy the same tasks.” A choice board offers a series of activities that students navigate through, which shifts the control of the pace of learning from teachers to students.

In response to educators not having enough time to connect with learners individually, she suggested using the “Playlist Model.” With playlists, teachers can differentiate the path of student learning and create clarity about the work’s trajectory so that children can continue to make progress. Teachers can also fuse media, modalities, online and offline work, and build in check-ins with students, which are essential for receiving and giving feedback.

Dr. Tucker offered sage advice to those striving for success in a concurrent classroom. Think big, start small and embrace a “less is more” mentality, she counseled. She recommended that the attendees create clear channels of communication, prioritize relationships and make time to connect with students. She suggested that educators design learning experiences, which put students at the center of learning, and to use blended learning models to differentiate learning experiences.

At the end of her engaging lecture, she asked participants to be compassionate with themselves: “Remember that we are all learning right now,” she said. “Be patient with yourself.”

Dr. Tucker is the author of several educational books, including “Blended Learning in Grades 4-12,” “Blended Learning In Action,” “Power Up Blended Learning” and “Balance With Blended Learning.” She is also active on Twitter (@Catlin_Tucker) and writes an internationally ranked education blog at CatlinTucker.com.

TLI’s Virtual Keynote Series continues on Jan. 29, 2021, with keynote speaker Carl Hooker. We hope you can join us. For more information, visit the TLI website