Blended learning is the combination of traditional classroom education and digital elements, such as interactive applications on a laptop or online homework and reading. Many schools are embracing technology to promote learning. One area where technology performs particularly well is improving English language learner and low-income student outcomes.
How Blended Learning Improves Inclusion
These demographics face many challenges in school. You can put blended learning in place to provide customized lessons for each group of students. Each segment works on exercises that strengthen skills in critical areas. They don't feel left behind if they spend more time on a particular topic compared to other students in the class.
Diverse classrooms leverage technology to identify bilingual students' English levels. They get lessons that match their proficiency, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to English language learners. Vocabulary, grammar and other skills develop quickly thanks to personalized experiences that work English language development into each lesson. These students develop their aptitude in this language even when they're not specifically focusing on English lessons.
The supporting technology reduces the time-consuming work you need to do for each lesson. Each student has the information on his computers, and you don't need to pass out papers for homework. You can provide individual attention to the students who need it the most. Students get more than an improved understanding of the lesson, they also grow their interpersonal skills, as they may lack extended time with their parents at home. In many low-income households, there is only one parent or both parents are working, so quality time is limited by necessity.
Another benefit of blended learning is that everyone uses the same platform. Even though you have students at many aptitude levels, this similarity boosts equity in the classroom. Diverse student demographics get the same opportunities as others starting out in less disadvantaged positions. English language learners are no longer isolated from the rest of their peers. Blended learning puts every person on a computer, so it's a common sight rather than the mark of an "outsider."
The Importance of Technology Access
Blended learning can't help English language learners and low-income students if they don't have access to the necessary technology. Computer labs at school aren't enough, particularly if homework is in digital form or requires internet access.
Some students lack access to the internet or a computer at home. Even traditional projects are challenging to complete in this situation, as the student has to go outside her house to get access to valuable research resources. When most of the coursework is built around the assumption that the student has full access to technology, as well as the skills to use it properly, it's easy for this demographic to fall behind in class. The parents or caregivers may not have the resources to purchase these supplies. Schools should take responsiblity to ensure that all students have technology access in blended learning initiatives. For instance, one school district provides free Chromebooks and Wi-Fi to support their efforts.
More schools should embrace blending learning technology and innovation as a way to improve outcomes across their entire student population. Promising K-12 results show the clear benefits that this practice brings to the classroom.
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