Blended learning: Soufflé or sandwich?

I’ve just returned from conVerge10 at which I had a frantic couple of days attending, presenting, listening, learning and catching up with other eLearning teachers across all sectors of education. Fantastic stuff, thanks to the eWorks team for another successful event (see you next year). As I became immersed in the proceedings and presentations I started to make some observations that gave me pause for thought-

  • The average age of the attendees must have been 35+ (at least); where were all the young ‘up and comers’?
  • There was lots of talk about being ‘not very tech-savvy’- a general lack of tech self-confidence, such as-
    • “there are too many Web 2.0 tools to choose and learn”
    • “it scares me that I have to learn soooooo much!”
    • “I don’t know where to start’

Does this sound familiar? Are you or your colleagues in that 35+ range, not that confident with computers, unsure of how you might move your teaching practice towards a blended learning model? As with all things worth doing there’s the ‘right’ way and the ‘wrong’ way, I’ve suggested two ways you might approach your move to blended learning- I’ll let you choose which one’s right for you and your current skills and abilities.

The Soufflé approach

A soufflé is a light, fluffy, baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients. The word soufflé means “to blow up” or more loosely “puff up”.

Think ‘occasional’ food, think difficult to prepare, think many ingredients

The recipe for Soufflé blended learning-

  1. Combine the following (badly)- Dropbox, Moodle, PhotoStory, Movie Maker, Podcasting, Blogging, Mind Meister, etc., etc.
  2. At every opportunity add the latest and greatest software/app to your course (without understanding its implications or teaching & learning benefits)
  3. Become a ‘Jack of all Web 2.0 tools, Master of nothing’
  4. Serve to your students
  5. Wonder why your students are angry/perplexed/frustrated/not learning/not experiencing
  6. Wonder why you are feeling angry/perplexed/frustrated/unfulfilled

The Cheese sandwich approach

A sandwich is a food item, often consisting of two or more slices of bread with one or more fillings between them.

Think comfort food, think easy to prepare, think simple ingredients.

The recipe for Cheese sandwich blended learning-

  1. Carefully select one (1) Web 2.0 tool or piece of software that you feel might-
    • Add a positive experience to your class/students AND yourself
    • Has a valid application from a teaching and learning perspective in your subject
    • Is easy to use, apply and teach to others
  2. Combine it sparingly to your current teaching practice e.g. face to face delivery
  3. At every opportunity seek to learn more about the tool you’ve selected-
    • Its ‘other’ more esoteric features that may be of benefit at a later stage
    • Seek other users- this may be through Twitter or subject matter blogs/web pages
  4. Become comfortable and confident using it
  5. Serve it to your students when you’re ready (and confident using it)
  6. Wonder why your students are happy/confident/not frustrated/learning/experiencing
  7. Stick with only using that tool until both you and your students (not necessarily in that order) are ready to try something else
  8. Enjoy feeling fulfilled/confident/proud of your new skills/proud of your new teaching practice

It’s no use trying something doomed to failure on your first attempt and making a hash of it- a soufflé has a tendency to collapse while everyone loves a toasted ‘sango’ and they are the most simple food to prepare and enjoy.

Bon Appétit

Cheese sandwich: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hammer51012/4173320360/sizes/s/in/photostream/
Soufflé: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tokyofoodcast/98740778/sizes/s/in/photostream/
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3 responses to “Blended learning: Soufflé or sandwich?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Blended learning: Soufflé or sandwich? « Blended Learning practice at Wodonga TAFE -- Topsy.com·

  2. I like the souffle / sandwich metaphor. The most interesting observation in your post though was the one about the age of the average conference attendee (35+) and not very tech saavy. At almost every session I attended I felt that the students the presenters were talking about were very tech saavy and in their teens to early 20s. There was hardly a single mention of older learners within the TAFE sector (although they actually make up quite a considerable percentage of the student cohort). Have older learners fallen off the radar all together? What about the pedagogy / androgogy + relevance of Web2.0, social networking etc, etc for this significant proportion of learners? Most students in the Adult Community Education sector are 55+ but I suspect the focus is well and truly on younger learners in TAFE because of the greater number of potential articulations into employment that can be made? What do you reckon Geoff?

    • Dale,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and offer your thoughts.

      Yes, very much so, there is an issue with ‘older’ learners and a lack of skills focus placed on them, their learning and whether or not they have skills that allow them to function within an educational and learning framework of the 21st century.

      I believe that this may be symptomatic of a focus on our younger learners (both pedagogically and technically). I’m worried about both sides of this cohort; are our older teachers and learners tech savvy enough to be active participants within a framework that would seem to be catering to a much younger market?.

      I’m sure we don’t have all the answers (yet), the best we can hope for is that both sides of the educational fence are considered and valued as we move forward into an increasingly Web 2.0 centred world.

      Again, thanks for your comments please feel free to ask your colleagues to post their thoughts also- it’s an interesting and important topic I think.

      Geoff Young
      Team Leader
      Learning Innovation

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