This experience sharing event enabled educators to learn from experts and their peers the dos and don’ts of blended learning.
Essence of Blended Learning
John C Tsang, Founder of Esperanza, posited that blended learning should be a manifestation of four basic principles of learning:
- Education is not about rote learning and examination, but knowing how to find information and applying knowledge to address real-life issues.
- Teachers will not have all the answers. A good teacher is to provide guidance, feedback and support to students.
- School is not the only place where we can learn, nor shall we stop learning once we have collected all the certificates.
- Students can learn not just with teachers, but their peers and many other people and organisations outside the classroom.
John believes that a very large part of blended learning is about experiential and project-based learning. “The world is where the classroom should be,” he said.
Blended Learning Dos and Don’ts
Prof Kong Siu Cheung, Director of Centre for Learning, Teaching and Technology of The Education University of Hong Kong, emphasized that blended learning should optimise the quality of learning. Under the current half-day teaching mode, schools should not turn the afternoons into an extension of the morning classes and remedial classes. Instead, remote learning should enable students to be active and reflective learners with constructive and interactive learning experiences. He explained that reflective learners mean personal, social and intellectual growth. Prof Kong introduced the flipped classroom model, with asynchronous, self-directed and self-paced learning in the afternoons and synchronous, collaborative and interactive learning in the mornings.
Prof Kong highlighted the importance of student-centred learning, allowing them to choose learning activities based on their interests and abilities and applying the knowledge to solve real-world problems. He concluded with the requirements of flipped classrooms: effective design of short instructional videos, understanding the needs of students as individuals and promoting student wellbeing and whole-person development.
Ms Gloria Chan, Director of Esperanza, shared her experience with the ISTE Summer Learning Academy. Echoing Prof Kong’s sharing, she highlighted that edtech should be used to optimise whole child development and student wellbeing – the keys to engage and motivate learning and academic growth. Curriculum design should embrace the WHY, WHAT and HOW of learning. Technology should be used to create personalized learning experiences, foster independent learning as well as peer learning. Out-of-class learning (e.g. field trips), home-school cooperation and regular communications amongst colleagues, students and parents are important. Quoting Dr Linder Mannila, Gloria concluded with the importance of having a positive attitude, a willingness to learn, daring to fail and feel uncomfortable, starting small and step by step.
Mr Jesko von den Steinen, the Lead Facilitator at PwC Experience Centre, said COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of many organisations. He shared the PwC experience of working with clients and teams around the world virtually under the triple eight mode, with teams from three different time zones working collaboratively. He also underlined the value of asynchronous and peer learning to enhance student engagement. Jesko underscored the importance of empathy in understanding and solving problems, and very importantly having fun with the problem.
From his experience of working with many people, he highlighted the importance of integrating ARTS and HUMANITIES into STEM education. Cultural sensitivity and social skills are very much in demand in the workplace. The ability to communicate visually is also important as the retention rate of images is much higher. He introduced MURAL, an online cooperation tool that PwC used to facilitate virtual team collaboration.
Case studies sharing
Mr Philip Law, Innovation and Technology Coordinator at Education University of HK Jockey Club Primary School, demonstrated four different blended learning models: rotation, flex, self blended and enriched virtual modes. He believes that blended learning does not have a standard model. Educators should choose modes that suit the needs of the school. His school has been undergoing three phases of remote learning: from moving lessons online, keeping the quality of teaching and learning, to improving the quality of learning. His school makes use of the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework as a guide.
Philip shared how different technology tools could be used to provide an immersive learning experience, enable self-directed learning and develop different assessment methods. His school placed a strong focus on developing a continuous improvement culture. They communicate regularly with parents and work closely with local and non-local partners, including Microsoft, NGOs like Esperanza, ISTE, publishers and sister schools in the Mainland. He concluded that empowering students and educators is the key to develop future-ready skills.
Ms Wong Fung Ming, Assistant Principal at Yuen Long Merchant School, demonstrated how her school uses technology to teach humanities. In August, the school organised virtual tours to learn about the history and culture of the Middle East and European countries. They also used a blended learning approach in service-learning and civic education projects e.g. designing age-friendly products. She shared her joy of learning together with students.
Ms Wong highlighted their whole-school approach in implementing blended learning, from student admissions, online learning, examination and evaluation. She shared the technology tools (e.g. flipgrid, Pear Duck, Nearpod, padlet, Mentimeter, Microsoft OneNote and Immersive Reader) they used to enhance interactive learning. She said blended learning should integrate the merits of face-to-face and online learning, with a view to enhancing the interactivity in learning and the benefits of self-directed learning.
Ben Chan, Industry Executive (Education) of Microsoft facilitated the Q&A panel. Speakers reiterated the importance of the following principles of blended learning to enhance the effectiveness of learning:
- Student-centred learning
- Self-directed learning by motivating and empowering students
- Whole person development
- Learning outside the classroom
- Collaborating closely with different stakeholders