Teacher training vital for success of blended learning
Blended learning – the combination of traditional learning in classrooms and technology-mediated instruction – was under the spotlight at a dedicated panel at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, taking place from 22-25 January in Davos, Switzerland. EI’s General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, participated in the panel entitled ‘The future of learning’, that debated how education systems are responding to advances in online learning and social technology.
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting brings together some of the world's most powerful people, including top business and political leaders, to discuss pressing issues about the future.
Based on the premise that blended learning will be widespread in the future, panellists identified major barriers that would need to be addressed for it to work globally, as well as solutions to overcome these barriers.
Avoid bland education Van Leeuwen highlighted two significant barriers. Firstly, teacher training and professional development is a key precondition for quality information and communication technologies (ICT) in education.
To enhance the learning process, ICT in education must be used under the supervision of qualified well-trained educators with the expertise to ensure that its impact does not damage or undermine the development of learners.
To achieve this, the current trend of de-professionalisation of the teaching profession must be reversed. “Precisely at the moment that we need to help students develop 21st Century skills and behaviours, we are reducing the role and the space for the professionals who have the competence to provide that help and guidance in a real world context,” said van Leeuwen. “Blended learning without qualified teachers can easily become bland education.”
Equitable access neededSecondly, he emphasised that this type of learning could exacerbate inequalities in education, due to the limited availability of and accessibility to technology and broadband, depending on students’ geographical location or economic status.
In this regard, education financing and investment is critical to integrate ICT into the teaching and learning process globally. “Governments have to allocate the necessary funds to develop appropriate ICT for schools and education institutions and ensure these are available freely to all,” stated van Leeuwen.
He reminded participants about the State’s primary responsibility to ensure that high quality public education systems are in place and to provide free quality education for all, with appropriate conditions and support for teachers.
Framing a common agendaParticipants also reflected on how to build a common agenda around which everyone working towards blended learning can effectively come together. Van Leeuwen highlighted that educators must be consulted about the introduction of ICT into education institutions and involved in the design and development of appropriate ICT for education purposes.
“Education unions should have a major role in monitoring the implementation of any agreements entered into by governments, national education or school authorities for the provision of ICT by commercial companies,” he said.