Blended Learning – Redefining the Traditional Role of Teachers – 1

As education makes a move toward technological innovation, gone are the once common sights and sounds of the classroom – the heavy textbooks and the rustling of pages being turned have given way to the clicking of keyboards with collaborative analysis of a virtual text.

Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace. While students still attend ‘brick-and-mortar’ schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom methods are combined with computer-mediated activities.

This made me ask myself certain questions:

  • How far has blended learning redefined the traditional role of teachers?
  • Has it reduced the drudgery of teachers and freed them to interact with smaller groups of students effectively?
  • Are critics right in scoffing at the effectiveness of blended learning?
  • Is blended learning just a way to lay-off teachers and save labour costs in education?
  • Can blended learning be widely incorporated into the Indian education system?
  • Will it enhance the learning of students and result in improvement in higher education?

To answer these questions, I embarked on a research project.  The objectives of the research were:

  1. “To find out whether blended learning has redefined the traditional role of teachers.”
  2. “To find out whether blended learning reduces the drudgery of teachers and frees them to interact with smaller groups of students effectively.”
  3. “To find out whether blended learning enhances the learning of students.”
  4. “To examine if blended learning should be widely incorporated into the Indian education system.”

 

Methodology:

I used secondary data like articles from online journals, research papers and books for my research work.

 Delimitations:

This research work was confined to a study of the role of blended learning in redefining the traditional role of teachers, reducing their drudgery and enhancing the learning of students. This research paper explores whether blended learning could be widely incorporated in the Indian educational system.

 Components of Blended Learning

Blended learning combines traditional classroom methods with independent study to create a new, hybrid teaching methodology.

Blended learning has three primary components:

  • In-person classroom activities facilitated by a trained educator.
  • Online learning materials, including pre-recorded lectures.
  • Structured independent study time guided by the material in the lectures and skills developed during the classroom experience.

The move to blended learning represents a fundamental change in the way teachers and students approach the learning experience. The word ‘facilitator’ has emerged as an alternative to “teacher.” The teacher is no longer the ‘sage on the stage’, the wise one pouring knowledge into eager minds.

As facilitators, teachers need to focus on four key areas to guide students toward the most meaningful experience possible:

  • Development of online and offline course content.
  • Facilitation of communication with and among students, including the pedagogy of communicating content online without the contextual clues students would get in person.
  • Guiding the learning experience of individual students and customizing material wherever possible to strengthen the learning experience.
  • Assessment and grading.

 

In the blended learning approach, a student’s day typically includes a combination of online learning and small group instruction time with teachers.  This learning model shifts the classroom teacher’s focus away from more traditional curricular and administrative tasks in the direction of working with data and providing more individualized support to students.

Rather than follow the traditional roles of sharing content and grading papers, classroom teachers in the blended learning model must:

  • Be willing to learn:

In a blended learning program, the teacher should be prepared to:

  • assess, analyse and aggregate data
  • use data as an integral part of the planning process for each individual student, groups of students and the whole class
  • use benchmark tests and other assessments to direct instruction at different levels (individual, group, class)
  • Be open to new teaching strategies:

 

The blended learning teacher should:

  • have a wide breadth of content knowledge
  • differentiate instruction based upon student needs
  • focus on academic intervention and enrichment
  • Be leaders:

 

To guide students in a blended learning environment, teachers should:

  • show students how to findinformation and answers or ask the right questions
  • be able to manage project-based learning activities
  • have strategies in place to keep students on-task, engaged and motivated

As we transition to technology based learning, the interaction between content knowledge, instructional pedagogy and technology based skills development, becomes paramount to the success of the individual learner within the blended model.

Teachers must understand the content to be taught within the classroom.  They must also have deep understanding that allows the content to be morphed into a delivery system allowing the student to take ownership in their learning process. Thus the crucial components for the success of blended learning are content Knowledge, pedagogy and technology.

 

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References

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Springfield Trip – Lincoln Museum

This Post of Nirupama’s visit to Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois is worth reading and the photos keep our interest kindled!

nirupamaprv

Last weekend we fell in love with the museums of Springfield, Illinois. Home of former President Abraham Lincoln and capital of Illinois, this calm city charmed us with its wonderful child friendly and history friendly museums!
We set out on our touristy exploration as a gang of seven. This number included an infant, a preschooler and three male history-disliking, museum-phobic members. We gals- including T- love our museums. But what with the Easter holiday and rainy weather, it seemed that our outing would be a little wan, since we had planned a boat ride around the Marina and a mix of museums and outdoor adventure.

But thankfully , owing to the fabulous shows and extra helpful staff and wow-worthy spots, the occasion was memorable in a wonderful way and is now a cherished memory for us all.

Our first stop was the Union Station. The parking lot and museums are…

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The Engaged Spirituality of Mahatma Gandhi – 2

Spirituality is a matter of the heart. Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. According to Gandhiji, man is elevated by his spirit and man’s spirit can be elevated by mind which is never satisfied. Gandhiji was a Hindu, but his Hinduism had little to do with forms and ceremonials. He rejected everything that was against reason and humanity.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, good works must be performed in the spirit of sacrifice to God. He said, “I know that God is neither in heaven nor down below, but in everyone. Service to man is service to God.” In this sense Gandhiji was a Karma Yogi. A Karma Yogi is one who practises Karma yoga, a form of yoga based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita; Karma Yogi is a spiritual seeker who practises selfless service to humanity without hoping for merit, fame or glory.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, ‘God is Truth and Love. God is Ethics and Morality. God is fearlessness, God is source of light and yet he is above and beyond all these.’ He believed in a formless and attribute-less God.  Everyone who believes in the moral law is spiritual.

Gandhiji had great faith in prayer. He conducted prayer both in the morning and in the evening. In his prayer no symbol was kept. He said, “Prayer has saved my life. Without it I should have been a lunatic long ago. Let everyone try and find that as a result of daily prayer, he adds something new to his life.”

Mahatma Gandhiji was in politics for spiritual reasons. He explained that, “A man who is trying to discover and follow the will of God, cannot possibly leave a single field of life untouched. I found through bitter experience that, if I wanted to do social service, I could not possibly leave politics alone.”

For Gandhiji, soul force or spiritual force was the source of the greatest power. He strove to awaken soul force within himself and his fellowmen. Revolutionary social philosophers had concentrated on changing the society and the spiritual seeker had concentrated on the inner life. Gandhiji’s engaged spirituality helped him bridge the gap between these two extremes and fuse them together. Thus he was a saint and a social revolutionary.

Gandhiji is universally accepted as an exemplary model of ethical and moral life, with a rare blending of personal and public life, the principles and practices, the immediate and the eternal. He considered life to be an integrated whole, growing from ‘truth to truth’ every day in moral and spiritual status. He believed in a single standard of conduct founded on dharma of truth and non-violence.

Gandhiji successfully led nonviolent struggles against racial discrimination, colonial rule, economic and social exploitation and moral degradation.

Gandhiji’s engaged spirituality may be best summed up in his own words written in his Autobiography: “To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face, one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. God can never be realized by one who is not pure at heart.

To attain perfect purity, one has to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and repulsion. So long as man does not put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him.”

What Gandhiji meant by Truth was in fact the realization of Self. He writes, “What I meant to achieve – what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years – is Self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain Moksha – Salvation.”

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References

 

The Engaged Spirituality of Mahatma Gandhi – 1

Spirituality traditionally refers to a religious process of re-formation which ‘aims to recover the original shape of man,’ oriented at ‘the image of God’ as exemplified by the sacred texts of the religions of the world. In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience of a sacred dimension and the deepest values and meanings by which people live.

Engaged Spirituality refers to religious or spiritual people who actively engage in the world in order to transform it in positive ways while finding nurturance, inspiration and guidance in their spiritual beliefs and practices. Individuals who practice engaged spirituality tend to hold progressive values that galvanize their efforts for social change, while deriving support from their spiritual practices. The connection that they see between personal and social transformation, compels them to engage in organized causes or service activities.

Mahatma Gandhi stands as one of history’s greatest heroes of ‘engaged spirituality,’ active within the world to help heal injustice, hatred, pettiness, fear and violence with justice, loving-kindness, equanimity, courage and non-violence. The life of the Mahatma is the story of a man who used truth and non-violence in helping India become a free nation. His innate spirituality gave him the courage to act the way he did on many occasions, even when it looked as if he was treading a lonely path.

Engaged spirituality involves a synthesis of individual, subjective experiences and outer, collective activities. The individual and the collective mutually support, shape and transform each other. Prayer or meditation may serve as a way for the individual to gather strength and gain insights that will guide and enhance the efficacy of his efforts for social change.

Gandhiji’s most powerful weapon was prayer. Through his daily meditation, he came to believe in the presence and nearness of God in day-to-day life. One of the sources of Gandhiji’s spiritual transformation was his reliance on his mantra ‘Rama’. Gandhiji used it all the time when his mind was not occupied.

He called this mantra his staff of life which carried him through every ordeal. Gandhiji held that radical purity of heart bears enormous positive ramifications for the entire world. He firmly believed that the more we purify our lives, the more our lives will serve God’s work to end war, poverty, and injustice.

According to Gandhiji, spirituality plays a dominant role in developing inner consciousness. He taught that personal integrity is necessary for authentic spirituality. Gandhiji understood the basic principles of truth as actual laws of the Universe, with the same palpable hold as the law of gravity. Gandhiji would say that the thread of life was in the hands of God. Paramhansa Yogananda who was himself a self-realized Guru, called Gandhiji a saint. Paramhansa Yogananda was an iconic Indian saint, whose book “Autobiography of a Yogi” published in 1946, is still considered a spiritual classic.

 

Gandhiji felt that ‘the very purpose of life is self realization and to see God face to face, to attain Moksha’. (A term in Hindu philosophy which refers to freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth, freedom from ignorance, leading to self-realization and self-knowledge. )

This can only be possible by spirituality.” While speaking on spirituality Gandhiji said, “We may not be God, but we are of God, even as a little drop of water is of the ocean. If we love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in others. If we do our duty here, the beyond will take care of itself.”

Gandhiji said, “I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him.” It was through an assimilation of various concepts and philosophical tenets from Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Christianity that Gandhiji arrived at an understanding of non-violence. Gandhiji embarked on the search for a meaningful life based on truth, honesty and moral courage. He combined Ahimsa and love and added the Hindu concept of ‘Anaskati’ or detachment, to arrive at his activist philosophy. Gandhiji employed this outlook as a tool to guide India’s freedom struggle.

 

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Active Listening For Empathetic Leadership – 3

 

Empathetic Leadership and Active Listening Skills

One of the cornerstones of active listening is being prepared to challenge long-held, cherished assumptions. Being an empathetic leader who listens actively, enables drawing out of critical information and harnessing the power of innovative ideas to secure astonishing improvements in motivation, morale and energy of their subordinates.

Active Listening Matters 

To a large degree, effective leadership is effective listening.  Active listening helps leaders know ‘what makes their subordinates tick’, what they value as rewards for a job well done. This fosters cohesion, commitment, trust, reduces conflict. When leaders fail to listen, the communication gap inhibits loyalty, becomes a stumbling block for business growth.

Active listeners stay engaged in conversations by asking questions, showing interest and listening without being judgmental. Successful leaders understand that listening is an art acquired and developed by committing time and resources to it. However being a good listener is hard work as most people listen not with the intent to understand, rather with the intent to reply!

Effective leadership is not only listening but executing strategies to prove to the employees that they have been heard. Effective leadership is about working WITH the staff to help them get what they truly want – recognition, respect, job satisfaction or income, harmony with the organisational goals.

Active listening requires both deliberate efforts and a keen mind. Effective listeners appreciate flow of new ideas and information. Organizations that follow the principles of effective listening are always informed timely, updated with the changes and implementations, and are always out of crisis situation. Active listening promotes organizational relationships, encourages product delivery and innovation, as well as helps organization to deal with the diversity in employees and customers it serves.

Concluding Remarks

The hallmark of a great leader is that he is easily approachable and is willing to listen to what employees have to say.  Empathetic leadership transforms a collection of talented individuals into a coordinated team that performs well together.

Active listening allows leaders to connect, empathize and truly hear their subordinates and make them feel valued.

The dramatic strides we have made in information-management efficiency and effectiveness suggest a promising future. But our listening practices, in comparison, are rooted in the past. In fact, the quality and efficiency of conversational listening have been seriously diminished. Organizations rise or fall according to the quality of their interactions and relationships.

Email has become the easy and quick way to communicate, share info, make requests and answer questions. Yet, there is a dark side to the endless flow of emails coming at us. Each of us may have 100 to 300 emails to read, delete, respond to, or act on each day. More disturbing is the fact that to a great extent, emails have replaced conversations. We simply do not make the time to connect with and maintain solid relationships with people, as we should. This situation can and must be remedied with a quiet mind and a full focus, not thinking what we’ll say, not problem solving in our minds, or even partially thinking of our own to-do list.

Almost everyone sincerely believes that he or she listens effectively.  Consequently, very few people think they need to develop their listening skills.  But, in fact, listening effectively is something that very few of us can do.  It is not because listening effectively is so difficult.  Most of us have just never developed the habits that would make us effective listeners.

 

Active listening creates a work environment in which employees become highly motivated, committed and fully engaged. Empathetic leaders who listen actively, earn employees’ trust and conflicts with a win-win approach. They better understand how to inspire a higher level of commitment in the people managed.

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Active Listening For Empathetic Leadership – 2

Empathy and Leadership: The Connection

Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of others. Empathy is a construct that is fundamental to leadership. Many leadership theories suggest the ability to have and display empathy is an important part of leadership.

Transformational leaders need empathy to show that they care for the needs and achievements of their followers. Authentic leaders need to have empathy in order to be aware of others.  Several researchers believe that empathy is a key part of emotional intelligence that is critical to being effective leaders.

Empathy and Listening

Today’s employees want to be asked for feedback and they want to be heard. When leaders fail to listen, they fail to understand them or show appreciation and empathy for them. Effective leaders focus on listening with an open mind, welcoming and accepting sound recommendations from their team members and giving them the credit for it.

Empathy and Active Listening

Active listening engages all the senses, ears, eyes, mind, and “gut” to understand a speaker’s message. The active listener focuses on what the person is saying, both verbally and non-verbally, and also listens for what the speaker is not saying. An active listener creates a dynamic that encourages others to put all their cards on the table. The more the listener empathizes with the person speaking, the more they will open up and reveal their true thoughts and feelings.

 

Empathetic Leaders and Active Listening

“If you are a good leader, you are a good listener.” Empathetic leaders are great listeners who solicit feedback, listen to opinions and take action based on feedback.

Listening is an important component of competence in the workplace. Individual performance in an organization is found to be directly related to listening ability and listening effectiveness.

Most managers tend to rank their listening skills as ‘above average,’ but research indicates that people generally forget 50 percent of what they hear within moments of hearing it.

 Active listening is paying close attention the content of the message and discerning the speaker’s feelings about the topic under discussion through non-verbal cues such as smiles, frowns, crossed arms, avoiding eye contact, facial expressions and other forms of body language. Good listening skills can lead to better customer satisfaction, greater productivity, fewer mistakes, increased sharing of information, more creative and innovative work. Many successful leaders and entrepreneurs credit their success to effective listening skills. Many top organisations provide listening skills training for their employees.

 Empathetic leaders listen actively through observation of body language of the speaker, noticing inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages, by listening to the tone, pitch and volume, by listening without interrupting, talking over them or finishing their sentences for them, nodding or using other gestures or words to encourage them to continue. The empathetic leader listens actively by putting other things out of his mind and focusing on the speaker.

The empathetic leader looks at issues from the speaker’s perspective, with an open mind free from preconceived ideas. Being an empathetic leader also means avoiding personal prejudices, being impartial with focus on what is being said regardless of the style of delivery.

Leaders who are effective listeners validate and ask clarifying questions. They do not make assumptions, but use the interaction as an opportunity to learn. Active listening requires a far greater degree of time and patience than traditional forms of leadership, but it also opens up new ways of looking at the world and those in it. It makes leaders more approachable and inspires honest conversations. Empathetic leaders are effective because don’t just hear conversations. They listen to them and link together pieces of information to understand the ideas of others. Empathetic leaders are profoundly present in the moment and acutely aware of verbal and non-verbal communication.

Many leaders fail to listen to the ideas, opinions and constructive feedback of others. Some use intimidation to silence “threatening” ideas. Others suppress ideas by dominating conversations and not allowing others to speak. Their fears and insecurities send a loud message that they don’t want anyone to disagree with their view of the world. This makes employees feel valueless and unimportant leading disaffection in the workplace. Bad listening makes leaders take lower-quality decisions, fail to sense a changing environment or know whether their customers or employees are happy. In an incredibly information-intensive, dynamic environment, leaders have to listen.

Most people under-appreciate the complexity of the skills needed for active listening. Ineffective leaders are bad listeners who treat conversations as opportunities to broadcast their own status or ideas and spend more time formulating their next response rather than listening. Many leaders inadvertently act as if they know everything important and remain closed to anything that undermines their beliefs.

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 References

Active Listening for Empathetic Leadership – 1

 

In today’s world of smart phones, tablets, instant messaging and 24/7 access to information, almost everyone is glued to their device of choice. Technology has shrunken physical distances and connected people to each other worldwide. Yet, people have become impatient with short attention spans. They often miss key information as they get easily distracted.

  • 85% of what we know, we have learned through listening.
  • Human beings generally listen at a 25% comprehension rate.
  • In a typical business day, people spend 45% of their time listening, 30% of their time talking, 16% reading and 9% writing.

Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is an essential competency for organisations remaining competitive. However, less than 2% of all professionals have had formal education or training to improve listening skills and techniques.

The comments and questions of employees are often given short shrift by the leader in staff meetings. The manager’s lack of skill in questioning and responding produces guarded responses and many problems remain unaddressed in performance appraisals. Poor listening accounts for businesses losing billions of dollars each year to missed communication, misunderstandings and duplication of effort.

A business leader needs understanding to motivate and influence his employees. Listening is a prerequisite for understanding his employees. Listening is critical to leadership effectiveness. Leaders who have the most influence over others tend to be powerful listeners.

 Listening Is an Overlooked Leadership Tool

Listening is a leadership responsibility that does not appear in the job description. Leaders need to listen to their employees to lead the increasingly diverse and multi-generational workforce. In 1957, researchers found that listeners only remembered about half of what they’d heard immediately after someone finished talking!

Active Listening

Active listening is the act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech. Active listening is attentive, engaged listening that gets people thinking, sparks discussion, acknowledges feelings and facilitates speedier resolution of conflict. Active listening is influential listening that motivates employees to feel more at ease and be more forthcoming. The leader obtains more open, honest and meaningful information.

Meeting the challenges of global communication

Today’s global economy has created a multicultural workplace that requires increased interaction with bosses, subordinates and co-workers in other countries. Organizations therefore look beyond traditional strategies for development of leaders capable of moving the company forward.

Ineffective managers are expensive, costing organizations millions of dollars each year in direct and indirect costs. Studies show that ineffective managers make up half of the today’s organizational management pools. With such high stakes, organisations are keenly interested in finding out what skills are needed to develop effective leaders and improve their chances of success.

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