Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hybrid Classrooms: TedX Style

By Mark T. Burke

Yesterday was one of the highlights of my professional career.  I was invited to speak at TedX Williamsport. Now, Williamsport and the surrounding area isn't HUGE.  So, the event didn't draw thousands or even hundreds.  I've spoken to much larger crowds, but this event was special.  The event was exciting for me because of what Ted and TedX events stand for. Ted = Ideas worth spreading.  This simple, powerful mission is what made the experience fantastic.

The organizers, BLaST IU17 from Williamsport followed a musical, creative theme throughout.  Local school groups performed during registration and at the afternoon break. Also, several presenters hold musical degrees.  However, none of the presenters offered a solely musical talk. 
The collective focus was more on what musical experiences can offer, to both the participants and those who are influenced by them.  In other words, music backgrounds supply us with abilities to influence and change the world in ways few others can.  The day ended with Ben Zanders incredibly powerful presentation.  A must see for musicians, CEO's, Managers, Parents, Kids and all other humans :-)  

Less than 1% of the videoed presentations make their way into the Ted.com website.  While the chance of mine making it into Ted.com is low, there is that chance.  However, I will become part of the TedX social circle.  To help spread my message outside of the TedX forum, I've put together this summary of my ideas.

My presentation, "Hyrbid Classrooms....Entrepreneurial, Creative Thinking Regenerates Learning" helped me introduce the concept of Hybrid Learning.  My definition of Hybrid Learning:

Classrooms that use online content and communication tools to enable student to teacher, student to student and student to community member interactions above and beyond face to face instruction.

While I believe structured, well planned online education can revolutionize music education on it's own, hybrid classrooms serve as the transformational connection between the two worlds of face to face and online education. I've written another article on Hybrid Learning, more focused on whether online learning will catch on at all in the musical world. In addition to being transformative, hybrid classrooms have reach.  It is my belief that every classroom in the world can harness the power of hybrid learning.  With that in mind, I presented a few "must have's".  In reality, these must haves are part of the transformation brought on by adopting hybrid learning at schools.  But, I won't get picky over whether they must be present before implementation or if they develop over time. :-)


 Teachers must be energized about the potential for their students to reach new heights as well as about the process of discovering new instructional methods.  Teachers who believe continuing to do the same thing will lead to different results over time don't have the mindset to benefit from hybrid learning.  Hybrid learning is for teachers who seek new levels of instructional mastery.



The hybrid environment must follow professionally developed educational content.  The content should contain explanations, videos, assignment instructions, opportunities for discussion and be available 24/7 for students through a safe environment.  Story telling is also a great benefit to the online instruction.  Students benefit from stories both in the classroom and out.  When they don't have access to their teacher, stories help them understand complex subject matter.



Teachers who integrate hybrid learning are not clock watchers.  Managing the online components of their classroom will require teachers to rethink how they use their plan periods as well before and after school time. Integrating the online with the classroom will take time and energy.  A teacher who is concerned over time on task will always feel challenged to stay ahead of the students in this environment.




The online content must supply rigorous, authentic assignments.  If the online courses contain only multiple choice tests, look elsewhere.  The assessments must serve as outputs (products themselves) or inputs (products as components of other products).






The school where the hybrid program is being integrated must be involved from the top down.  Policies and rules must not serve as rigid barriers to the activities of the hybrid classroom.  Rather, the school must be willing to review existing rules and polices and adapt them for this powerful type of learning environment.  The policy changes must be driven from the bottom up (students, teachers and up).




Lastly, the organization supplying the online curriculum and tools must work to build and maintain any external relationships that are part of the hybrid environment.  Bringing other professionals into the classes and seeking community based learning opportunities requires time and effort to manage.  While the teacher at the school should help, they can not manage external resources in addition to their classroom duties.




When the TedX video is live, I will post it.  I look forward to hearing from music and non-music teachers on this subject.  Please share your ideas, questions and even concerns.

--- Mark 





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