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Blended Learning is the future of Education

As the world begins to feel the beneficial effects of the emergency measures against COVID-19, it is time to look to the future. This prolonged period of forced closure has pushed educators towards a more extensive use of technology. So, will the schools ever be the same again?

Blended learning teaches the students three key lessons:
• Education is no longer about memorising facts and answering test questions, but knowing where to find reliable information about applying knowledge to real-life situations.
• Teachers in a blended learning environment are there to act as discussion moderators, provide guidance and support and give feedback to student projects, but are no longer the only source of knowledge in this structure.
• School is not the only place where you can learn, educating yourself is a continuous process that follows you everywhere.

Blended education combines online and classroom approaches to teaching and learning. It offers more flexibility to teachers and a richer experience to students. Blended learning also called hybrid learning, focuses on outcomes, employing a variety of methods to aid the students in learning the required material. In blended education, both Independence and self-discipline are important aspects which require students to take more responsibility for their own learning. In turn, it provides greater satisfaction when the subject matter is mastered by students and they engage in a wide variety of tasks independently. This blended education has allowed teachers to be more creative the way they structure and deliver courses and provide opportunities to incorporate new technologies into their lessons. This shows that as technology changes, both teachers and students must adopt it.

Blended learning includes:
• Students alternate between classes and online learning which is called Rotation.
• At home, students listen to online course lectures and class time is used for projects, group activities or questions about the lectures which is known as "Flipped Classroom".
• Students are allowed to access all learning material online at any time to refresh their memories, to ensure that they understand the course.

Opportunities in blended learning:
• A mix of teaching approaches will make it possible so that a larger number of students will absorb the material more easily. For those who find it challenging to keep up during classroom lectures, it reduces stress and can increase satisfaction for quicker learners.
• Students can access online materials anywhere and anytime. They can review the material any time as they like and study them at their own pace. Blended learning includes new technology which has become a natural part of everyday life.
• Blended approach offers richer, more interactive learning experiences and improves communication between student and teacher.
• Online tools allow students to collaborate and communicate better with each other and can connect via email, text messages and online discussions, as well as face-to-face in the classroom.
• Students can be given the opportunity to take test online, allowing easy grading and quick feedback that gives them the opportunity to see where their weaknesses lie. Teachers can also quickly take action to address these students’ problems.

Challenges:
• Students may find difficult to absorb the course material if they don’t understand how to use the necessary technology.
• Those students, who lack in Discipline about keeping up with online material, can easily fall behind in their coursework.
• Same goes for teachers if they are not trained to incorporate new technologies successfully into their courses, they too will lack.
• Students must have time to do the coursework at home and access to the necessary technologies for blended learning to be successful.
• Outdated Tools: The technology used in blended learning must be kept up to date, because students will be adopting the latest technologies.

So, it is seen that positives of blended learning far outweigh the negatives, and it’s apparent that students will encounter blended learning wherever they study.

The Author is Dr. Anuradha Mehta. Views are personal.

How to make teacher professional development effective?

Professional development can be defined as teachers’ ongoing learning to improve the way they teach, and it occurs in both formal and informal ways. Teachers also routinely set their own, informal, ongoing professional development agendas, such as taking additional courses, pursuing graduate study, personal study of their subject matter or teaching approaches, sharing resources and ideas with colleagues, and building learning networks through social media.

According to research, effective teacher professional development:

• Recognizes that teachers are professionals who should be given an opportunity to select what they would like to learn from a variety of research-based ideas about improving students’ learning.
• Provides long-term, ongoing opportunities for teachers to reflect upon both their chosen and mandatory PD experiences.
• Provides opportunities for teachers to coach one another and work together to analyze new teaching techniques, which often connects new teachers with experienced colleagues.
• Provides opportunities for teachers to study and gather data on the effects of changes in their teaching approach, particularly in response to new ideas or initiatives in education.
Professional development for teachers can fall short in numerous ways, including:
• Too many goals and priorities competing for teachers’ time, energy, and attention.
• Unrealistic expectations of how much time it will take schools and teachers to adopt and implement goals.
• Professional development training events that are inappropriate in size, scope, or structure to support learning new ideas or skills. Gathering 100 teachers into one room for a training event will never give them the time they need to reflect on the material, ask questions, listen to their peers, or go through activities to enhance their comprehension.
• Lack of support for teachers’ implementation of new instructional practices. Research shows there’s an implementation gap in teachers’ professional development. They may learn, understand, and agree with a new idea presented in a workshop, but it’s hard for them to implement that idea without ongoing support.
• Failure to provide teachers with feedback about how implementing new skills

15 Professional Development Skills for Modern Teachers :

When schools are looking to hire a teacher, there are a few basic requirements: a college degree, experience working with children, and, of course, patience. Teachers need a variety of professional development skills along with knowledge of their subject matter and experience in order to be an effective teacher. Likewise, as rapid developments in technology integrate into our day-to-day lives, they affect the way students learn and teachers teach. Modern teachers need to be competent in not only basic skills but new skill sets.

Here are 15, 21st century professional development modern skills, that today’s teachers should possess.

1. Adaptability
In this modern, digital age, teachers need to be flexible and able to adapt to whatever is thrown their way. Likewise, administrators are changing and updating expectations and learning standards. Whether it’s to the way students learn, the behavior their classroom exhibits, or their lesson plans, being able to adapt is a skill that every modern teacher must have.

2. Confidence
Every teacher needs to have confidence, not only in themselves but in their students and their colleagues as well. A confident person inspires others to be confident, and a teacher’s confidence can help influence others to be a better person.

3. Communication
Being able to communicate with not only your students but with parents and staff is an essential skill. Think about it: almost all of a teacher’s day is spent communicating with students and colleagues, so it is crucial to be able to talk clearly and concisely in order to get your point across.

4. Team Player
Part of being a teacher is being able to work together as part of a team or a group. When you work together as a team, it provides students with a better chance to learn and have fun. Networking with other teachers (even virtually) and solving problems together will only lead to success. Doing so fosters a sense of community, not only in your own classroom but school-wide as well.

5. Continuous Learner
Teaching is a lifelong learning process. The world is always changing, along with the curriculum and educational technology, so it’s up to you, the teacher, to keep up with it. A teacher who is always willing to go that extra mile to learn will always be an effective, successful teacher.

6. Imaginative
The most effective tool a teacher can use is their imagination. Teachers need to be creative and think of unique ways to keep their students engaged in learning. Many teachers are of the opinion that these standards are taking all of the creativity and fun out of learning, so teachers are finding imaginative ways to make learning fun again.

7. Leadership
An effective teacher is a mentor and knows how to guide their students in the right direction. They lead by example and are a good role model. They encourage students and lead them to a place of success.

8. Organization
Modern teachers have the ability to organize and prepare for the unknown. They are always ready for anything that is thrown their way. Need to go home sick? No problem, they have a substitute folder all ready to go. Studies show that organized teachers foster more effective learning environments. So it is even more imperative to be organized if you want higher-achieving students.

9. Innovative
A modern teacher is willing to try new things, from new educational apps to teaching skills and electronic devices. Being innovative means not only trying new things, but questioning your students, making real-world connections, and cultivating a creative mindset. It’s getting your students to take risks and learn to collaborate with others.

10. Commitment
While being committed to your job is a traditional teaching skill, it is also a modern one. A modern teacher needs to always be engaged in their profession. The students need to see that their teacher is present and dedicated to being there for them.

11. Ability to Manage Online Reputation
This 21st century, modern teaching skill is definitely a new one. In this digital age, most, if not all, teachers are online, which means they have an “online reputation.” Modern teachers need to know how to manage their online reputation and which social networks are okay for them to use. LinkedIn is a professional social network to connect with colleagues, but other social networking site profiles, such as Instagram or Facebook, should remain private and separate from students.

12. Ability to Engage
Modern teachers know how to find engaging resources. Nowadays, it is essential to find materials and resources for students that will keep them interested. This means keeping up-to-date on new learning technologies and apps, and browsing the web and connecting to fellow teachers. Anyway that you can engage students and keep things interesting is a must.

13. Understanding of Technology
Technology is growing at a rapid pace. In the past five years alone we have seen huge advancements, and we will continue to see them grow. While these developments may be hard to keep up with, it is something that all modern teachers need to do. Not only do you need to understand the latest in technology, but you must also know which digital tools are right for your students.

14. Know When to Unplug
Modern teachers know when it’s time to unplug from social media and just relax. They also understand that the teacher burnout rate is high, so it’s even more critical for them to take the time to slow down and care for themselves. They also know when it’s time to tell their students to unplug and slow down. They give their students time each day for a brain break and let them unwind.

15. Ability to Empower
Teachers inspire; that’s just one of the qualities that come along with the title. Modern educators have the ability to empower students to be critical thinkers, innovative, creative, adaptable, passionate, and flexible. They empower them to solve problems, self-direct, self-reflect, and lead. They give them the tools to succeed, not only in school but in life.

Professional development is a vital part of improving your technique as a teacher. Learning best practices and practicing best practices are both important. You can make a school better by improving its teachers. Effective Professional development can do that.

The Author is Dr Sanjay Chugh. Views are personal.

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