Blended Learning in an Adult Literacy Classroom
This page was authored by Michele Brannon-Hamilton (2010).
Blended learning is a method of learning that combines face-to-face (f2f) teaching with online learning. Blended learning has gained popularity in the literacy field in recent years because of free Web 2.0 tools and the need for computer literacy skills.
Mortera-Gutierrez (2006) defines blended learning as “a combination [of] computer technology and Internet components with traditional face-to-face teaching forms and e-learning formats” (p. 314).
Blended learning falls along a continuum allowing adult literacy instructors to use any combination of f2f and online learning.
The Blended Learning Continuum
By incorporating different amounts of technology into a f2f classroom, literacy instructors can move along the continuum to suit the class or literacy levels of the students.
Blended learning benefits adult literacy learners by incorporating the benefits of f2f and online classes that are conducive to learning in a literacy classroom.
The Traditional Literacy Classroom
Adult literacy learners return to school to learn the basic skills necessary to obtain further education or jobs. These students come from a variety of backgrounds and abilities that may include learning disabilities or English as a second language. Many students face barriers to traditional education including time constraints, child care and travel issues.
Class Structure and Pedagogy
Literacy classes include one instructor and 5-20 students who are all at various literacy levels. Literacy instructors use active learning principles and student centred teaching methods to help students obtain their personal goals. Traditionally, students used computers for word processing, emailing and researching. Today, literacy is moving from the basic skills of reading and writing toward computer, communication and critical thinking skills.
Blended Learning and Literacy
Blended learning has the ability to change the face of literacy and enhance education by combining f2f learning with online learning. Mortera-Gutheirez (2006) suggests “a blended learning course allows more personal control of student goals and instructor learning objectives” (p. 317). Instructors can use blended learning to guide students toward higher education and work.
Blended learning environments make learning accessible, inclusive and interactive. Students can interact with instructors while “benefiting from guided support in trying out new skills” (Bryson, p.29). Teacher support “contributes in a large way to building their self-esteem as learners” (Bryson, p.29).
Blended Learning Pedagogy
Blended Learning in an adult literacy classroom uses the principles of adult learning and constructivism. Chickering and Gamson (1987) suggest that active learning and relationships improve learning (p.1). Classes are holistic, learner centred and interactive. Students learn critical thinking and problem solving skills while collaborating, creating and communicating with other students.
Blended learning promotes a “shared responsibility for learning . . . [because] education is a partnership between teachers and their adult students” (Bryson, p. 27). Students learn independence and responsibility in a community of trust while “being offered choice and control over the ways that [they] learn” (Bryson, p.27).
Blended literacy classes are convenient, interactive, and engaging. Instructors can teach to various learning styles. Introverted students can create online personas and extraverted students can interact with others.
Blended learning provides an accessible, inclusive environment where students can access course material at home, school or local community centres (Zemsky, 2004, p.2). Instruction is inexpensive: “if a blended learning course is well planned, developed, and conducted, its cost effectiveness is obvious and proven” (Mortera-Gutierrez, p.317).
Advantages of f2f learning include using student centred instruction, accommodating learning disabilities, and providing one-to-one help. Advantages of online learning include using collaborative, communicative and creative tools, obtaining immediate feedback, and computer instruction.
Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) suggest instructors should use teaching principles and pedagogy to select tools for teaching and learning. Tools that suit a blended literacy classroom include the following:
|Communication Tools||Forums, chats|
|Creation Tools||Wiki, blog|
|Assessment Tools||Online quizzes|
|Learning Management System||Moodle|
|Adaptive Technology||Kurzweil, Inspiration and Dragon Naturally Speaking|
|Media||Videao, audio and interactive files|
|Reading and Writing Tools||Textbooks, workbooks, flash cards, pens, pencils|
Limitations of Blended Learning in Adult Literacy Classrooms
Limitations include technical issues, no IT support and fear of computers. F2f limitations include sparse resources, one teacher to many students, and a lack of collaboration opportunities. However, Mortera-Gutierrez (2006) suggests successful classes are possible if based on a blended pedagogy. Teachers need “training with pedagogical and didactical tools, and teaching [of] how to handle blended learning courses” (Mortera-Gutierrez, 2006, p.335). Programs need IT, funding and training support for success.
A Successful Model
The Learning Hub in Ontario combines f2f literacy instruction with online courses offered using the learning management system, Moodle. Courses are offered throughout Ontario to students already enrolled in adult literacy courses. Students work independently with their online instructors and get help from their f2f instructors when needed.
The future looks promising for blended learning in the adult literacy classroom. Incorporating technology into the f2f classroom is affordable and enhances learning. Bryson suggests that “adults are practical, focusing on the aspects of a lesson most useful to them in their work” (p. 26). Blended learning offers students the opportunity to use real world skills in the classroom.
Incorporating technology into a f2f literacy classroom meets the needs of today’s students by allowing them to adapt to a changing society in an environment conducive to learning.
Blended Learning in a Second Language Environment Collaborative Learning Communities of Practice in Education Digital Divide Course Management System Information Literacy Learning Management System Lifelong Learning Media Literacy Students with Learning Disabilities Teaching Literacy Using Blogs Technology Enhanced Learning Environments Universal Design for Learning Ways to Integrate Web 2.0 Technologies to Enhance Classroom Instruction Web 2.0 Web Literacy for Educators
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