With the intense budget cuts and challenges in public schools, get ready to hear the term “blended learning” more and more. Blended learning is simply a mix of face-to-face classroom time with the added use of technology. The hype and selling point of blended learning for parents is that it potentially provides more self-pace and self-directed learning as students move through materials on a computer. The selling point for politicians and school administrators is that it cuts costs, which is really the driving force behind this trend. In her article for The Washington Post Valerie Strauss speaks to the myth of blended learning:
“These adaptive learning systems (the new teaching machines) do not build more resilient, creative, entrepreneurial or empathetic citizens through their individualized, standardized, linear and mechanical software algorithms. On the contrary, they diminish the many opportunities for human relationships to flourish, which is a hallmark of high-quality learning environments.”
What is the purpose of education? It isn’t to blast through the content. It is to build a better world with empathetic, critical thinking citizens who are able to shape a society that is fulfilling, ecologically sustainable, and just. So far the blended classroom system is simply one of many tools available to a teacher (and Rainbow teachers certainly takes advantage of some blended learning); but there is zero evidence that blended learning improves even traditional content-oriented learning, much less that it meets loftier goals. Beware of the slippery slope.