In surveying the many models of hybrid (or hyflex) learning out there, as well as talking with educators around the district, it is apparent that there are several well-intentioned, but slightly misguided assumptions about how hybrid learning has to look.
In fact, it doesn’t have to look like anything. What it has to be is good instruction. I recently asked a group of 65 teachers to define what learning is. Every single one of them could do it–and in a very encouraging and enlightening way. We all know what learning looks like. So let’s remove the burdens of anxiety and cut through the preconceptions we may have inadvertently adopted along the way. Here are some false assumptions (I’ll call them myths) I think we need to at least question, if not outright challenge:
Myth #1: It’s a good idea to have all students (even those attending in-person) on a Zoom meeting for the entire class period.
Well, for one thing, we don’t know how our network will do with every single person in our school buildings on a Zoom, simply because we haven’t been in this situation before. So if we’re planning on doing this, we might as well lower our expectations of audio and video quality. We also need to have a plan for how to avoid audio interference among all of the devices.
But that’s not even to mention the important things: what is it like to be a student in that environment–sitting, live, in a room with your teacher, watching them on an 11″ screen and listening to delayed audio through their headphones, wondering why they even had to come to school anyway if this was all they were going to do? Now, I can see how there might be some limited times when it could possibly be appropriate to have all students on a zoom, such as to work in breakout rooms, etc. But the technical issues will not go away. Either way, we need to be deliberate about how we use any technology, including Zoom. So if we are going to do things this way, there had better be a good reason.
Myth #2: The more tools and websites we use and the more transitions we make, the more students will be engaged.
Nope. It can be dizzying. If not for our students, it is at least for us as teachers. Transitions take time. Instructional time. The fewer transitions we make, the more instructional time we have. With 40 minute class periods, we need to be as efficient as possible in this way. And just because students are hopping around to different sites and activities doesn’t mean they’re engaged just because they’re compliant. In fact, it just might be a recipe for surface-level learning, simply because there’s no time to become immersed in the content.
Practically speaking, one way to streamline transitions and tools is to use a tech multitool. In our district, our current best tool to use in this way is Nearpod. Nearpod allows you to pull your content together and embed formative assessments and other outside tools and links into one place. This makes it easy to keep students on the same page (in some cases, literally), and ensure that transitions take as little of the valuable instructional time as possible.
Myth #3: Lecture is the only way to make hybrid learning manageable and equitable.
Let’s face it. Lecture isn’t bad. Bad lectures are bad. I’ve seen some really good lectures. But all lecture all the time has never been good teaching, and it never will be. Again, students don’t want to sit through someone talking at them for the entire class period. And neither do we. Check out the following model for a couple ideas of how to begin to make small shifts to increase the effectiveness of hybrid or blended classes. And let’s build on it with student choice if we can.
Myth #4: Remote students and in-person students must be doing the same thing at any given time.
Students in the classroom should be doing things that take the most advantage of being in-person in the classroom. Students at home should be doing things that take the most advantage of being at home and outside the classroom, physically separated from their teacher and their peers. These two scenarios may rarely lend themselves to the exact same activity–or at least maybe not at the same time.
Myth #5: Teacher emotional health and well-being are irrelevant.
We are all in this for kids. We are now paying special attention to the social-emotional needs of kids. But social-emotional needs are human needs. And we’re humans too. While all of us will gladly set aside our priorities for the kids in our classrooms, if we don’t make things manageable for ourselves, it will be counterproductive for everyone in the long run.
Let’s keep things simple to start. Let’s build from there. Set small goals. Achieve success. Build on what we’re already doing–and what we’ve been doing is a bang-up job of providing kids with a rich remote learning experience, regardless of any negative feedback from the armchair educators out there. And–most of all–let’s protect the things in our lives that are most dear to us.
Myth #6: The more models, ideas, and tools we’re exposed to, the better our teaching will be.
To a certain extent, we need to seek ideas. But there’s an optimal stopping point at which we need to tune out chatter and get on with designing our lessons. Never stop learning, but sometimes, for our own sanity, we need to stop searching for the next best thing. We need to take the time to get good at things rather than jumping ship at every opportunity. This goes for instructional strategies, technology tools, and the bombardment of all kinds of other ideas we constantly subject ourselves to.
Myth #7: Hybrid teaching is doing 2 jobs.
False. It’s more like 7. But we shouldn’t be surprised–because teaching under any circumstances has never been less than at least 4.