From the keynote speech by Laser Systems Director, Vivette Eaton
Dubai, June 25th 2019
What do we mean by blended learning?
I see blended learning as a three-pronged approach.
- Face-to-face teaching
- Independent, online learning
- Workplace practice, shadowing, and experience
Even in 2019, we are still working with ‘traditional’ methods
of teaching. In most countries, education is a set of mandatory requirements
and sweeping expectations.
- Core subjects to be taught are set by the Government
- Hours students must be in an education
establishment are set
- The emphasis on subjects is set, for example, students
will find maths prioritised over music even if this doesn’t make the most of
- How students can present evidence of learning,
knowledge, skills, and achievement is set
These requirements are in place to give the impression of
equality, ensuring all students are working to the same expectations.
While there may be a slight difference in teacher style,
most young children are learning the same core subjects in a similar learning
environment. More than anything, access to funding and resources are what will
make the biggest difference to how students are taught, which can often leave
some students at an advantage or disadvantage compared to those in other
Teaching students in the same way with the same emphasis on
subjects doesn’t account for individual needs or individual taste. It’s
important students are given equal access to education and can be taught the
same subjects, but teaching in a classroom environment with written assignments
for example, will always disadvantage those who don’t enjoy the classroom
experience and struggle with written classwork.
It can also mean that students who show a passion and talent
for certain aspects of learning or particular subject areas will not be given
the opportunity to nurture this from a young age as the education structure
favours the status quo.
How can on learning environment suit a group of 30 students?
We know it isn’t possible.
Students, particularly in schools, are grouped according to
location and age over everything else. There is no consideration as to whether,
as a group, the learning environment will meet their needs.
Even the school day is designed like a work day. This prepares
students for a life of work but doesn’t consider how they might learn best. If
a student struggles in the morning but learns better after lunch, is consideration
given to how their learning is delivered to address this?
How can we ensure we give students the best possible
learning experience, giving them the skills, knowledge, and confidence to excel
in later life?
We need to meet their individual needs, but not simply the
superficial needs. Every student should be given the same opportunities to reach
their full potential.
For example, we know from research that teenagers need more
sleep than any other age group. Research published in Frontiers in Human
Neuroscience in December 2017, found that student absence due to illnesses
dropped by over 50 percent with a 10am school start for children between the
ages of 13 and 16. This is a significant change at 50 percent and a permanent
change to school start times for teenagers could see a huge improvement in
attendance as well as overall achievement.
As educators, we must facilitate our students to achieve
their goals. This means:
- Meeting someone where they are
- Choosing methods of learning that suit their
personality and needs
- Being flexible and adaptable
- Giving a range of varied resources to learn and
- Valuing initial assessments while also
understanding that needs change
We should priorities the things young people need:
- Positive, trustworthy relationships
- To look forward to their future
We can become facilitators of this by allowing students to
take responsibility for themselves and their learning while giving them the
support and guidance they need. Let them tell us what they need and how they
learn best. We need to listen and adapt, but as educators we firstly need the
funding, time, and resources to do this.
However, we don’t need resources to listen or to flip the
classroom and use this format for sharing, understanding, and clarifying. We
can encourage learning outside the classroom and gain experience from real life
Let the classroom be the place students ask questions
because they have read things, been told things, discovered things, but haven’t
yet seen these things in action.
Similarly, it is important that the time students do spend
in face-to-face teaching is:
- Engaging for all students by incorporating a range
of teaching styles
In an article published in EduTopia in 2015, they
“According to findings culled from five meta-analyses,
blending technology with face-to-face teacher time generally produces better
outcomes than face-to-face or online learning alone. An analysis of effective
technology use for at-risk students found that simply replacing teachers with
computer-based instruction typically yields no learning benefits. Rather,
blending technology with teachers to support interactive learning, exploration,
and creation leads to higher engagement and learning gains.”
Blended learning allows greater equality, diversity, and
- Consider the student who lives with a carer
rather than a parent
- Consider the student who is learning in a second
- Consider the student who is from a minority
- Consider the student who is from a disadvantaged
- Consider the student with a physical disability
- Consider the student with a learning difficulty
- Consider the student who is unwell
Whether it’s needing extra time, needing access to learning
in a specific format, allowing for a wider variety of inclusive examples, or
giving students the option to return to sections of learning at any time,
blended learning including online learning makes all this possible.
The results reported in the 2018 Educational Technology
Journal research article, ‘Blended learning: the new normal and emerging
technologies’, found that blending maintains or increases access for most
students and produces improved success rates for minority and non-minority
students alike. In addition, students expressed they believed the most
effective learning environment was a blended learning environment.
Giving students a truly flexible, blended learning approach
to learning would include:
- Face-to-face teaching
- Peer group collaboration
- Online learning resources accessed in and out of
- Flexible approaches to teaching – not expecting
a one-size fits all attitude to give the best possible experience to al
- Regular feedback from students about their own
experience and adapting learning where possible
- Workplace experience or hands-on experience to
put learning into context and further develop life skills
The 2018 ‘Teaching with Technology Survey’ which
questioned 161 faculty members in the US about their experiences using
technology in the classroom found 73% said technology made their job easier or
much easier, and 87% said technology has positively affected their ability
Online learning was initially widely frowned upon, despite offering important opportunities and support to students who were previously struggling to learn. It’s vital we continue to be open to what might be possible tomorrow and not just what we can accept today.