An Approach to Blended Learning That Works! #boldschool

Blog post on blended learning based on the work of Weston Kieschnick's Bold School.

If not, you don't want to miss it!

     Our school has wrestled with the idea of implementing blended learning all year long.  It’s caused a lot of heartburn over the uncertainty of what ‘blended learning’ should look like.  Yes, we’ve been told blended learning can take many forms and, in fact, we have several teachers who already expertly integrate technological tools into their lessons to improve learning outcomes.  Still, there are some who are thinking of leaving education altogether, given their fears of inadequacy and the ‘stories’ they’ve heard of what will be ‘mandated’ in the name of ‘blended learning.’  This past week, a bright gleam of light lit up our district in the form of a former high-school history teacher.  His name is Weston Kieschnick, author of the book Bold School.  Weston brought with him messages that, I believe, will lift the heavy feeling many of our teachers have over the idea of implementing some form of blended learning.

     During his presentation, he highlighted many critical points.  Below are a few.  I am waiting to receive a copy of his book, so I won’t be quoting from that source, however he told us much of what he was sharing is represented there.  (I’m going from memory here, sharing points that stood out to me.)
1. “Technology is awesome; teachers are better.”  Weston emphasized the importance of relationships in classrooms and how we, as teachers, are the one key ingredient research shows makes all the difference for student success.  There is nothing, NOTHING, that can outdo the performance of a knowledgeable, motivated, relationship-minded educator.  Take that technology!
2. Tech tools are “really cool,” but we shouldn’t be distracted by them and they shouldn’t lead our thinking when it comes to planning.  Rather than thinking, “What am I going to do with _______  (insert tech tool here) today?,” we should be designing great instruction the way we have in the past, with outcomes in mind FIRST.  Once we know what outcomes we’re going for, we need to look at what teaching strategies are most effective to achieve these outcomes.  Weston emphasized the use of John Hattie’s research, as many before him have, to lead the way in helping educators decide which strategies are the most effective given their effect size.  (Sounds like Weston’s book will be very helpful in that regard, since he’s paired the most common and most effective teaching strategies with tech tools he thinks will augment their implementation.)  Once the outcomes and the strategies are planned, only then should the educator start to consider which tech tools might be useful.  The tech isn’t leading the way…good instruction is.  I like it.  I like it a lot.  He also reminded us that rigor and relevance should be part of our planning.  Sounds like a well-rounded approach, does it not?  Sounds like something we can handle, yes?
3. He quoted Harry Wong as saying something like, “Teachers should never work harder than their students.”  Agreed.  Using a blended learning approach in a classroom or grade level shouldn’t take a Herculean effort.  This is a VERY welcome idea; one our teachers will receive with great enthusiasm.  He proceeded to model a lesson using Reciprocal Teaching (.74 effect size, if I remember correctly), seamlessly integrating a slew of great engagement strategies as well as tech tools.  He used Poll Everywhere, Google Images, and Todaysmeet (all FREE tools) as we worked to preview, clarify, question and summarize a text.  As learners, we did most of the work, he simply expertly questioned and engaged us throughout and the technology served as a useful tool for us to give him feedback about our learning, thus helping guide the process.  This was the best language arts lesson I’ve seen a secondary teacher EVER model, and Weston isn’t even from an English department (hooray for the message that ALL teachers should be skillful teachers of reading and writing).  What made it so successful?  It didn’t focus on the tech, it focused on great teaching.  Weston emphasized that creating a poll, having US (the learners) search Google Images to clarify vocabulary, and posting a question in Todaysmeet took him minimal time and effort.  Yippee!  This is an approach that fits everything I believe in.  
4. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Weston emphasizes that blended learning should not be part of another huge educational pendulum swing.  We are not throwing everything out in favor of technology.  Instead, we need to keep in place proven teaching strategies (many of them ‘old’) and integrate the use of tech tools in places that make sense as we continue to seek optimum learning outcomes for our students.  Indeed, this is just what he modeled.
     I can’t wait to get my hands on his book and, based on what I heard and saw, I highly recommend it.  Additionally, if you ever get a chance to hear Weston Kieschnick speak,* jump on it.  Besides being extremely entertaining and sharing information educators can act on immediately, he is an example of what all master teachers strive to be—real and relevant!
*You can find Weston on Twitter @Wes_Kieschnick  

As always, I welcome your comments.  Best to you on your blended learning journey!

1 comment

  1. The speaker emphasized the paramount role of teachers over technology, stressing the importance of strong relationships for student success. He advocated for a thoughtful approach to technology integration, prioritizing effective teaching strategies and outcomes before considering tech tools. The blended learning model showcased in the presentation highlighted the seamless combination of engaging strategies and free tech tools, promoting the idea that good teaching, not technology, should lead the way in education. A few days ago, I was having issues completing my task, so I used "pay to do assignment" and received the maximum marks with the help of this online academy.


Back to Top