The digital age has ushered in the widespread use of technology in all facets of life. Computers are in our homes, in our phones, and even in our cars. In response to the growing digitization of the world, there has been a push in recent years to introduce more computers into the classroom. Blended learning strategies, wherein part of a student’s education is completed online, as well as 1-to-1 initiatives in K-12 schools, seek to integrate computers and digitized learning into the traditional face-to-face teaching format. Utilizing technological advancements in the education system prepares students for what they will face in the real world. A student’s success in the global economy depends more and more on their technological literacy than ever before.
A blended learning curriculum combines digital learning with face-to-face teaching and real-time instruction. The difference between face-to-face teaching and real-time instruction is that face-to-face refers to the traditional model of a teacher and a student in the same room, while real-time instruction can be digitized through computer conferencing software, live chats, and similar programs where the teacher and student are communicating live, just not necessarily in the same place. A blended learning model combines all of these methods of instruction into an integrated yet differentiated curriculum.
Many have viewed online learning as a threat to teacher-student interaction. If students can learn on their own through online methods, such as tutorial videos, then the job of a teacher may become obsolete. This fear, however, is a bit unwarranted, as online tutorial programs have not been shown to teach students better than a teacher can. Face-to-face instruction is a crucial part of a student’s educational growth as it develops their social skills by promoting the idea of a community of learners. By reinforcing an attitude of “we are all in this together,” live classroom instruction remains a crucial part of student development.
That being said, there are many benefits of utilizing online instruction. Digital teaching tools allow students to progress through the curriculum at an individualized pace. Struggling students can take their time to review concepts that they are having difficulty with, while more advanced students can move forward without having to wait for the other students to catch up. A common problem with classroom instruction is that everyone must move through the material at relatively the same speed. As a result, students who comprehend the information more quickly get bored and lose interest as material is reviewed for struggling students. Conversely, moving too fast to accommodate the advanced learners ends up leaving those other students in the dust. Online learning individualizes the process to allow all students to progress at their own rate.
1-to-1 Computing Initiatives
Given the benefits of online learning in addition to, rather than instead of, face-to-face instruction, there has been large interest in providing students with computers in their classrooms. The term 1-to-1 computing refers to an initiative to provide one computer for every student in an effort to prepare them for the modern world. A study conducted by Boston College found that such programs not only increase student achievement, but also promote engagement and interest in the material.
Unfortunately, efforts to include computers in the classroom have had a rocky start. School districts must first decide what kinds of computers are best suited to the students’ needs. They can choose between laptops and tablets, as well as whether to use a pre-loaded curriculum or guided Internet use. Despite the initial growing pains of implementing 1-to-1 computing initiatives, many districts, have seen great success with 1-to-1 computing programs, inspiring other districts to mirror their success.