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Years ago at the start of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, we made a conscious decision to not push too hard on the “adoption” of digital textbooks. It was 2002, and digital content was not readily available. Further, the Internet was not what it is today. Streaming video was not available. Many people were still accessing the Internet via a telephone modem. Web 2.0 and the existence of web-based Learning Management Systems were still years away. And to top it all off, Maine is a non-adoption state, so we don’t review textbook materials. We don’t have lists of approved resources that we require schools to choose from. So, all that led is to focus on how we could support changes in pedagogy. How could we help teachers change instructional practices in light of the ubiquitous availability of a laptop for every student?

In hindsight, I think we made the right decision, but what we didn’t do was shift to pushing harder on digital content sooner. We continued to push the ideas of more project-based learning, more active and independent learning, and generally stuck to the strategy of focusing on pedagogy. In the late 2000s, sometime around 2007 I remember beginning to promote the use of OER, and to attempt to coordinate the creation of more OER for use in Maine. At that time, I began to recognize that traditional print materials were holding back teachers’ attempt to change their practices because the print materials were designed for a different type of pedagogy. We needed digital content designed with the assumption of ubiquitous devices and connectivity so that everything was seamless and friction free.

Now, not only do we need that digital content, but we need the lesson plans and the pedagogy to match that recognizes the very real reality of remote instruction. It’s time for us to redefine our approach yet again. What we have now is a new model. Traditionally, hybrid or blended learning meant that you did some things online, but you assumed you see the kids the next day in class. Now, we may still see our students, but over video. Let’s hope we can spend some quality time in classrooms with our kids, but we need to develop new ways of thinking about time and engagement in a quarantined world.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that we need a new version. For now, I’m going to call it Blended 5.0.The first thing to note about Blended 5.0 is that it’ll be partially broken, and we will look forward to Blended 5.01! And why 5.0, and not 2.0 or 3.0? Because quite simply, some searching of the Internet seems turn up a fair amount of stuff labeled Blended Learning 2.0, 3.0, and even 4.0. So, if this is new, then I’m incrementing to 5.0! A first step in building something is describing what we know about it.

Blended 5.0 recognizes that bell schedules are truly a thing of the past. We can still schedule synchronous video classes, but we don’t have to build schedules and coverage where our educators are relied upon to supervise students from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm every day.

Blended 5.0 recognizes that assessment is truly for learning. The idea of an exam where you can have strong confidence that a student isn’t cheating is a thing of the past. That means grades that are a reflection of how well kids “do school” as opposed to progress reports that provide real honest to goodness feedback need to become the norm.

Blended 5.0 recognizes that the Internet exists, and that career ready means preparing students to know when to ask questions, when to do some research, and to know that collaboration with peers is expected. No more assignments or exams and quizzes that ask kids to regurgitate information that we know the Internet can easily provide. I’ve always valued employees that asked good questions, and that took initiative and researched information and came up with solutions over those that attempted to win my favor by asking me how I wanted things done.

Blended 5.0 recognizes that…I know there’s more…and this is an incomplete thought, but it’s what’s on my mind right now. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking. Please comment below…

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