Monday, September 30, 2013

If we're going to teach a hybrid -- then do it!

In the midst of all the macro trends in educational technology, hybrids continue to gather traction, often in ways we don't even think of as hybrid, such as the flipped classroom. (I like this little infographic about flipping from Knewton.)

As I wrote, geez, about three years ago, I think we teachers in general are continuing to seek optimal ways to use the hybrid learning model, finding the best integrations of the in-the-room and out-of-the-room parts of the education experience.

In embracing this quest, we have to be creative in how we do everything in a hybrid course, from how we handle readings to how we manage student conversations to how we administer assessments. Sometimes, I think when we conceptualize flipping, hybridization, or blending we focus too much on making the most of that precious time we are all together in that room at the expense of thinking how we might make the most of that precious solo contemplative time writers spend inventing, composing, and reviewing away from that room.

Also, a "hybrid" does not have to be a solely digital model. Instead a hybrid could involve providing students with time for other kinds of out-of-class exploration. Myself, I think of a lot of service learning initiatives as hybrids. At Drexel, we had a first-year program we called English Alive that framed the city of Philadelphia as a living classroom, museums and all. Of course, now students in these types of exploration-type hybrid writing courses, with the portable hardware and software they have, can do lots of composing in the moment during these experiences.

I know I continue to struggle (as of this term with my 75-25 kind-of hybrid course) to think about what I can do so students are engaging in substantive activities that maximize the time and interface of each environment. Say you want to give a quiz. Is it worth it to give a quick online quiz? Or is there some pedagogical benefit to administering the quiz right there in class (as I think there is)? In OWI, of course, we want our students to write. Should writing always be an out-of-class experience? What could you learn from writing together? (And how about reading collectively?) Is a class discussion better in the onsite give-and-take or in the contemplative message board space?
These are fundamental teaching strategy questions. But they lead us to deeper reflection about things like how to maximize teacher persona for the different environments or of investigating how to make the most of students' "on" times. How, in essence, do we achieve a true blending of experiences?

Again, a lot of this sounds like "flipping," and that's fine, because the original call and challenge of flipping emerged from a desire to make the most of our teaching time. If you are teaching or better yet preparing a hybrid, reflect on what students do best where. I feel we have never been better positioned through our technologies and our pedagogies than now to meet them there.

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