#UnleashPotential with a blended learning environment

Kristy Lundström and Dr Hanna Forsberg

As a former Cell Biology researcher, Dr Hanna Forsberg is a master teacher in Biology and Chemistry, as well as an ICT project leader at Viktor Rydberg Gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden.  She works today as an Instructional Designer who develops highly effective digital learning environments for high school students.

 

Starting out as a Mathematics and Computer science teacher, Kristy Lundström understands the impact effective technology and systematic thinking can have on learning. She has worked as a Head of School for more than 10 years in Sweden, Belgium and the US. In every school, she seeks to empower teachers, support students and build communities. Her philosophy can be summed up by her favourite hashtag:  #unleashpotential

Follow @klundstromatvrg

Follow @NatSciEd

Website: www.learningatvrg.wordpress.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Originally published on 29th March 2016 Originally published on 29th March 2016

Kristy Lundström, rektor (head of school): We are always trying to find ways to create the “perfect” learning environment for our students. The challenge is that the “perfect” environment can look different from student to student, from course to course, and from time to time. I want us to stop thinking “class” and think “student”. With this in mind, the question shifts from trying to find the perfect solution to trying to find a flexible framework where teachers are empowered to make the strategic instructional decisions that would work for just their group of students. At our school, we have designated an instructional designer to explore possible methods for how this could work. We call it our BLE (Blended Learning Environment) project. Meet Hanna.

Hanna Forsberg, lektor Biologi / Kemi  (PhD teacher Biology / Chemistry): It continues to be a debate of should we or should we not include ICT in our teaching. At our school, this is not our debate. Our debate is how can we best use the tools we have to offer students the most effective learning environment. We have come to a conclusion, we need a ‘blended learning environment’.

I use both digital and analog learning activities, and I want to continue. I want my students to read books, brainstorm at the whiteboard, build DNA models and do investigations both in and outside the classroom. However, I understand that it would be very efficient if the instructions, learning results, reflection, feedback, discussions and other details associated with their tasks, is available and can be handled in a digital environment.

By structuring the learning materials on a cloud-based digital platform, I can organise the learning in a way that I could not do otherwise. Students have access to all course material before and after the lesson. It is available wherever they are; on their mobile on the bus, at home, at school or at a library.

Our learning platform opens the class up for interactivity and a variety of modalities that are hard to get to in an analog classroom environment. By mixing, collecting and referring to different types of resources in a learning management system, I can offer students a varied and flexible learning environment. Some students may need more support when we start a new concept, while others need to have more challenge. Some students learn best by reading individually, while others learn best by discussing cases.

With a clear structure, students can see their learning in context. They see the path, and they can see their progress. Students are not stressed by always trying to find the course materials or understand “what is coming next”. If they want to go back and review a topic or move forward to explore an aspect that really interests them, they are empowered to do that. They can better control the tempo of their progress.

With different types of discussion forums and feedback tools, I am able to increase the communication between me and my students, and between students. I can listen to each student, perhaps through an audio recording on the platform's built-in video tool.


Seeing every student explaining replication in separate 45-second videos gives me valuable information about students' knowledge and their understanding of the course concepts. I can also respond with a media recording if I want to. With effective and efficient communication channels I can pursue ongoing formative assessment in (and outside) the classroom. Other tools, such as self-correcting examinations, group chats and peer assessment, are also built into the system. With a clear structure and easily accessible materials, we do not spend as much time in the classroom going through instructions and distributing materials. Digital tools also help to organise groups of students and assess assignments easily and quickly. Feedback to students, via peer feedback or from their teachers, goes faster. Better information about where the students are in their learning make the teaching more cohesive and effective. Our digital feedback system allows reflections and exit tickets to be collected and surveyed easily, which allows me to spend less time on teaching the wrong things.

To develop and implement a BLE

At the start of our BLE project, we have investigated a range of digital platforms on the market, and we are now piloting one in the “free-for-teachers” version.

I am employed as an ICT project coordinator (30% of my position) and my title is instructional designer. The very concept of instructional design can be defined as follows:


We understand there is a need to structure and develop resources and methods to optimise student learning. Educators, researchers, developers, authorities and politicians must work together to create the best possible conditions for learning, and we believe instructional design is a necessary part of this work.

At our school, we are currently working with a core group of four teachers and a shadow group (five people, the growing crowd) to add educational materials and develop secondary courses on our learning management system. This digital structure makes it easy to share courses and learning activities between teachers and schools, which will lighten the preparation workload in many different ways in the future. Instead, we hope to spend more of our time on student contact, peer learning and further pedagogical development.


In a blended learning environment, the class can be divided into different activities. With the clear structure and support the digital platform provides, a part of the class can engage in group work, reading, problem solving, while the teacher has a discussion with the rest of the students. The teacher can easily move between the groups as needed. Teachers have reported that they have more time to communicate with each individual student in this structure. In most courses, it is necessary for students to not only demonstrate an understanding of concepts, but also be able to articulate the connection between them. To be able to move around the room to listen to each student share and discuss is invaluable.

Benefits: How many is too many?

The issue of group size is no longer about "big or small classes", but rather how we can adjust the group size (and staffing ratio) for the learning activity. Reading and lecture can work in larger groups, while discussions and team problem solving is much more successful in small groups.

Benefits: Reduced administration ...

If we could use less time on the administration of a class, then we could focus on what is really important - the students. Of course, more time to plan meaningful lessons and communicate with students for feedback and formative assessment is optimal.

Benefits: More "face-time" with the students ...

All in all, the use of ICT in teaching allows us to have more time for dialogue and direct contact with students exactly when and where they need it.


Kristy
: As a school leader, I have decided to stop looking for the “perfect” learning environment. Instead, I am focused on how can I support my teachers to make the best instructional decisions. One concrete idea is to build blended learning environments and integrate an instructional designer into every teacher team. I truly believe that teachers are the key to our students success. And, this is how we can #unleashpotential!

Do you use blended learning in your school? Let us know in the comments!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"