Future of Learning

Blended learning emerges as a leading trend in education technology, report says

An annual report explores the leading trends driving the adoption of education technology in schools worldwide

The crowd Monday morning at the ISTE 2015 conference in Philadelphia.

The crowd Monday morning at the ISTE 2015 conference in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA — The use of blended learning in schools has increased the adoption of educational technology as the public has grown fond of online learning, according to a new report.

A closely-watched report that provides insight into digital learning trends – both in and out of school settings — named blended learning as a key topic to watch in the next two years.

The annual New Media Consortium Horizon Report’s K-12 2015 Edition was released Monday at the ISTE 2015 conference in Philadelphia, a conference devoted to educational technology that’s expected to draw about 18,000 attendees. The trends included in the report were selected by 56 experts from 22 countries, and they collaborate online to discuss the topics on a public website.

“There is a very strong description of blended learning [in the report],” said Matt Harris, of the British School Jarkarta in Indonesia, the chair-elect of the ISTE board. “And it’s something you will find all over this conference.”

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Blended learning generally means the combining of technology with teacher-led instruction in the classroom.

The Horizon report tracks worldwide trends, not just those in the United States, and it is meant to gauge changes in educational technology. The report includes research on six significant challenges to the adoption of new technology, six teaching and learning trends that are expected to accelerate technology adoption in schools in coming years and six trends in emerging technology use in schools.

Two teaching and learning trends expected to accelerate the use of educational technology in classrooms in a year or two, the report said, were the use of blended learning and STEAM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education.

The rise of blended learning comes as the public’s perception of online learning has grown more favorable, according to the report. Sometimes called hybrid learning, it enables educators to pursue a variety of instructional models. Ideally, the technology allows the teacher to make the most of face-to-face time with students, leaving some more routine learning tasks to the computer. Teaching methods supported by blended learning include personalized learning, which gives students more choice and the ability to move at their own pace through lessons.

“Progress in learning analytics, adaptive learning, and a combination of cutting-edge digital platforms will continue to advance this trend toward integrated online learning and keep it compelling,” according to the report.

The New Media Consortium produces several other versions of the Horizon report, including digital trends at higher education and museums, but the K-12 report is its most popular download. The entire report is available online for free.

The report is not a prescriptive list of technology that school should follow. Instead, supporters say, the document is best used as a way to have informed conversations about how schools and communities can improve and enhance teaching and learning.

“The key to use it powerfully is to start off with what is the problem we are trying to solve, and do any of these trends help us solve those challenges,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, a membership organization for education technology professionals.

This story was written by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter to get a weekly update on blended learning.

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