ACE logo

“Why Blended Learning?” ACE Teaching Fellows Respond from the Heart

Tuesday, July 30, 2019 by Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C.

Why Blended Learning? - ACE Teaching Fellows Elective

For the last several years, we have been invited to teach a summer course for our second-year ACE Teaching Fellows. These are teachers who already have a year of teaching and now want to improve their teaching practice. They take our class as an elective, so they’re making the choice to take an elective instead of having a couple hours of free time in the afternoon. It’s not surprising, therefore, that these students were incredibly motivated to learn how to use technology for meaningful differentiation. Over the course of the class, we introduced them to blended learning, created learner profiles, discussed classroom management and procedures in a blended-learning classroom, explored software, dove deep into data-informed instruction, and talked about planning for success. Whew! It was a lot, packed into a short amount of time, and this group of students was particularly energetic, creative, hard-working, and hungry to be better teachers for their kids.

Why Blended Learning? - ACE Teaching Fellows ElectiveBut before we got into the research, explored the mechanics of blended learning, or designed lesson plans, Francesca had a great idea about our starting point. We began by asking our students a simple question: “Why?” Why give up your free time? Why take a class on blended learning? Why dive into using technology for personalization in the classroom? Francesca began this exercise by asking, “Why are you here today?” Students then asked themselves iterations of “why” four more times. With each subsequent why-statement, student responses became more poignant. Here’s an example: 

Why did I come to class today?
To take a blended learning class.

Because I want to be a better teacher.

Because I want to do better for my students.

Because my students are important to me.

Because my students are children of God.

Why Blended Learning? - ACE Teaching Fellows ElectiveBy their fifth why-statement students got to the core of what they believed. We had them write that “why” on the back of their name tag so that they could keep it in front of them during our class. Yes, we were hoping it would help them stay focused if they happened to look out at the quad in the middle a sunny day. But more importantly, we believe that when you truly understand why you are doing something, your actions, or your “what,” become more impactful because you are working, walking, and living with purpose. Our students’ “what” was blended learning, but their “whys” were deeply rooted in faith and community. We were so moved by their “whys” that we wanted to share them with you all, so we made a short video:

Think about your “why” for a minute. Maybe you’ll ask yourself, “Why am I reading this post?” or “Why blended learning?” Then whatever your response is, ask yourself “why.” Repeat the inquiry four times. Your fifth response is your pure intention.

Pretty neat, huh? Post your “why” below!

About the Author

Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C.

Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C.

Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C., serves as the Director of ACE's Blended Learning Initiatives, and on the faculty of the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program.

Wills was a member of the 8th cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows, and later served as an associate pastor at St. Joseph Parish in South Bend. He teaches the educational technology class in RLP; his research and scholarship in the area of blended learning in K-12 Catholic schools support ACE’s understanding of how technology and other levers for change can help Catholic school teachers and leaders have an even greater impact.