Opinion: Blended learning proposes better alternative to traditional learning experience

    While the learning environment at school is satisfactory for some, to others, it is too uniform. School has been taught the same for generations, and lacks many areas of passion and further projects to develop these. While the current American teaching system involves many lectures and tests that are not as conducive to finding and delving into one’s passion as they could be, a learning environment in which students have complete freedom to do as much or as little work as they choose does not seem right either. So, the question is, how can we find a balance?

    Palo Alto High School journalism adviser Esther Wojcicki pushes for blended learning, a possibly solution.

    Wojcicki’s new book “Moonshots in Education” and recent presentation at Paly’s TEDx talk earlier this month discuss the concept of blended learning, or a way to “teach 21st century skills without lecturing to students,” as she described it in a recent interview with The Paly Voice. Her book describes how to change the culture of the classroom and revolutionize the American school system.

    We whole-heartedly agree with this style of teaching as it encourages students to take control of their own learning. The current rigid structure of some classes traps many high school students in an educational system they do not feel passionate learning in. Learning extends far beyond sitting behind a desk for 90 minutes while listening to a teacher lecture. For certain classes, like classes in STEM subjects, it is understandable that lectures are unavoidable – it would be pretty hard to figure out how to design and code your own website without any prior lessons. That being said, there can still be ways for learning to branch off into innovative territories.

    Physics teacher Gul Eris is one of several Paly teachers who have implemented blended learning into their class curriculums. Having introduced the new format last fall, she strays away from the traditional teaching style of class lectures and homework and instead provides lecture videos for students to watch at home and practice problems or labs to do in class.

    “What I’ve noticed in the past is that some students struggle to keep up with writing stuff [during class lectures] or cannot pay full attention in class,” Eris said. “So, if they can do it [learn the material] on their own terms in their own time, where they can make it [the lecture video] as slow or as fast as they want it to be, they can pay better attention and take better notes and can reach a better understanding of the concepts.”

    The numbers speak favorably in support of her theory.

    “The test scores are a little bit higher compared to last year,” Eris said. “It’s not a lot, but [they’re] still higher.”

    It’s a huge challenge to fit a square peg into a round hole — and even harder to fit each person’s individual learning preferences into a strict, cookie-cutter model. That’s why education should be personalized with blended learning. Students are currently unmotivated to learn in school, which detracts from the overall enjoyment of school. With blended learning, however, learning is more personalized, and students will be given the opportunity to pursue their true interests. The American high school system is too factory-like and not conducive to success because interests do not exactly lie in the domain. Ultimately, we push for teachers to experiment more with blended learning in classrooms because it allows students to take control of their learning experience.

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