Blends, borders and boundaries

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Here are some further thoughts on the ‘blend’ in blended learning:

Blends are made of disparate elements. Elements are often separated by boundaries, and these must be transgressed if blends are to be effected. In other words, we need to bring elements together that might not naturally co-exist.

Boundaries also mark a transition from one state to another. Cross over a border, and you find yourself in new territory. In online and virtual forms of education, especially blended forms of pedagogy, learners are constantly transitioning between complex states as they learn, interact with their tools, content and with others; and as they navigate, discover, create, organise, remix, repurpose and share content.

Such complexities have been the focus of concerted research, but they are still less understood than we might wish. Many types of borders (binaries) exist in ‘the blend’, including those between personal/social, learner as producer/consumer of knowledge, synchronous/asynchronous, local/global, closed/open, real life/virtual and local/distance.

It is these many and various modes of learning and associated activities that ensure ‘blended learning’ cannot be a simple proposition. However, these may be complexities that matter more in theory than in practice.  After all, the term ‘blended learning’ is a relatively new label for something that has been practiced for aeons. It is only since the advent of telecommunications that we have begun to recognise some of the complexities that result from our engagement with technology.

Such complexities are generally only problematic for academics, course designers and teachers. Students largely ignore the boundaries between states or do not consider them as anything particularly significant, usually getting on with the task of learning and applying. That is, until a technology fails to function, and the normally smooth transition between states is found to be blocked. When the border crossing is blocked, and no transition is possible, learning can be restricted or constrained. In such situations, our theoretical knowledge of these complexities can enable us to find new practical ways to obviate the problems.

Related posts:
Trends and blends
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Creative Commons License
Blends, borders and boundaries by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Blends, borders and boundaries

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EdTech Café is a podcast series produced by the educational technology team at Stanford Medicine.
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