Role of Technology in Education
“Technology” (like any tool) should only be utilized when it is appropriate to the situation at hand. The term “instructional technology” describes any tool that is used to enhance learning. By this definition, even the textbook was, at one point, a “technology” available to students and teachers. Technology does not replace good teaching, however. While a textbook might contain all the information that might appear on an exam, a teacher can’t simply assign the reading of a textbook and expect a good outcome on the test. Teaching is more than just connecting students to materials… it’s about creating a learning environment that takes into consideration all that we know about students (their prior knowledge, experiences, and preferences), the brain (how we learn), and the subject material and puts it into practice.
Digital instructional technology, when used correctly, can help create flexible learning environments where teachers can truly personalize learning and foster an environment where students are truly involved in their own educations.
“Blended Instruction” is a term that describes the incorporation of online-based instructional tools into the face-to-face instructional environment, creating a “blend” of online and offline instructional strategies. By thoughtfully incorporating instructional technology into the learning environment, teachers can maximize their role as "coach" and help students develop the skills they will require to be lifelong learners.
Through the use of blended instructional models, teachers can create a more personalized educational experience that meets the needs of all students - while valuing the best aspects of each method of instruction.
Blended Instruction vs. Hybrid Learning
While both "blended instruction" and "hybrid learning" (as experienced by students during the COVID-19 pandemic) incorporate aspects of in-person and online instruction, they are not necessarily the same. While "hybrid learning" was utilized in order to address ISBE requirements as well as IDPH health and safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, it does not truly reflect the type of personalized, student-centered approach that is inherent to "blended instruction". In a truly "blended" environment, student needs (as determined by formative assessment data) drive decisions about instruction, pacing, and learning location; in a "hybrid" environment, health and safety are the primary deciding factors.