In classrooms nationwide, primary school students are booting up laptops, Chromebooks, tablets and other devices on a daily basis. As the barriers around technology equity and access have fallen, the trend toward 1:1 computing in the classroom means many school districts are rethinking their entire approach to education.

Many successful districts are marrying this internet-connected technology with another powerful ally: a teaching approach called blended learning. These combined forces are redefining what education means for instructors, administrators, students and the entire campus ecosystem.

What Is Blended Learning?

Although new education terms continue to evolve, they are very different education practices with distinctive definitions. Blended learning is about providing a balance between the traditional classroom and the creative freedom of more free-form techniques such as self-directed learning.

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) describes this education method as not about the technology itself, but rather about the “shift in the instructional model to personalized, student-centered learning to ensure each student’s success.” In this approach, teachers are guided curators of the modalities students can use — from traditional textbooks and lectures to digital content such as online resources — in the drive toward greater student achievement. The result? Children can mix face-to-face and online learning as they work toward mastery of a given topic.

According to the National Education Association, in 2011, 75 percent of school districts used some form of online learning. While true blended learning doesn’t distinguish between online versus offline learning, technology plays a vital role across content delivery and acquisition for students, and in how teachers assess student progress.

The need for more robust learning solutions is becoming increasingly apparent amid a perceived technology gap highlighted in a recent survey of 400 middle and high school teachers. Only 16 percent of teachers surveyed gave their schools top marks for technology integration, and about half said the technology they used in their schools was outdated. Those surveyed also highlighted the potential of technology in the classroom, indicating its ability to personalize content based on students’ needs and differentiated instruction.

What’s Driving the Trend?

Scalable student computing solutions are a key driver in making blended learning possible. With affordable, easy-to-use devices like Chromebooks, teachers can now more easily manage progress for hundreds of students — something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Coinciding with this drive toward affordability has been the demand from employers who are seeking 21st century skills in the workplace. The need for workers who crave collaboration, idea sharing and flexibility has made this kind of self-directed learning an essential consideration for school district administrators.

Children today are using tools like Google Docs in the cloud to easily create projects, extending this new learning philosophy into the content creation process. Imagine one student who is the writer, another student who designs the document and a third who shoots and edits video. Tapping into this instinctive process of creation gives students a platform to express themselves in the manner they’re most engaged with.

Get Started Now

Educators today have a myriad of options to bring digital learning to their classrooms, and it can be a daunting task to find the information needed to get started. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources available to help teachers make a successful transition to new learning approaches, including an implementation guide from Digital Learning Now!, a national initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and our recent eBook, which aims to guide educators on how to reach their digitally savvy students in a way that matches their learning style.

The Future Awaits

Today’s new learning approaches are just one piece of the ongoing transformation within the education space. With the growing popularity and availability of virtual reality devices, it’s only a matter of time before we go from having students simply watching videos about the moon landings, to actually experiencing the missions in a very visceral way. Every day, we are making small steps toward this reality.

Looking to make the move to a 1:1 learning environment? Here are three areas to consider.