In the dark ages before projectors, laptops, and tablets if students collaborated together it was usually met with a sharp look from the teacher. These were the days of presentations for the class as you stood in front with your paper shaking as much as your knees.
Thanks to technology you could do a presentation from the comfort of your couch, in your pajamas. It’s not that we’re suggesting you try, but with the systems being installed and utilized in classrooms, it is theoretically possible.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning can be put into a few different categories. One is a basic collaborative space. This is one where the students as well as the teacher has the ability to share from a device the content they are working on. This can range from a presentation to research being done by the student. Regardless of the scenario we are talking about a technology-focused system. “The technology becomes primary,” says Kevin Iselli of Crestron, “instead of a feature.”
Flip classroom is both a blended learning environment as well as a pedagogical shift. It is one where the lecture portion of the classwork is done out of class and what was once considered homework is done in class. Typically this work will be completed in conjunction with fellow students and with the supervision of the instructor. The students are able to share their work with the rest of the class through technology.
In both instances the ability to capture what is happening in the classroom is key. This information comes from cameras, microphones, as well as capturing the video signal from the various technology devices in the classroom. Anything that is shown on the main display, whether monitor or projector, will be recorded and made available at a later date through a learning management system.
The design of blended learning is becoming ever more popular due to the challenges of engaging the students of today. This generation has grown up interfacing devices from a much younger age than the previous generations. They have the expertise and the desire to learn with technology in hand. In addition, collaborative learning that is made possible through this system has proven to increase retention in students. “The rise in flip classroom is due to the rise in adopted technology. It allows them to further integrate themselves with technology,” says Josh Srago, consultant at Teecom.
So what does it take to create a blended classroom? Let’s begin with some of the basics.
Some of the Basics
The centerpiece of any system that allows for blended learning is a matrix switcher of some sort. This allows for multiple inputs and outputs. As the students sit at their various workstations you will want the ability to connect their devices. In a majority of middle and high schools the organizations provide a laptop for the students. Use these as the baseline for connectivity. The current line of MacBooks have HDMI and USB 3 ports. Both of these give the ability to display the contents of the laptop.
The student station may also feature a local display. This allows the collaboration between students at each location. They would have the ability to connect their individual devices, show them locally, and switch between devices depending on who wants to share at any given time. It will also allow the instructor to push content to all displays at the same time. This can be used to illustrate a specific point, show a video, or annotate. This spoke and wheel approach also gives the instructor to pull from each workstation the local content and display this at either the main display or on the individual workstation displays as well.