Bethel administrators almost universally agreed that they were not tied to the six hour school day, five day school week or nine month school year. So what would schools look like if we were able to make changes to these often taken-for-granted structures?

As I was thinking through this, it occurred to me that there might a very different way to view how school time is organized. Specifically, we might consider a totally different mind set about when learning takes place. Instead of changing the hours, days or months, it might make more sense to blur the the lines of when school ends and when it starts. Why not make schools 24/7? Could after school programs like KidSports or daycare be a component of a child’s learning? How about weekend activities involving parents? Why do we just give up July and August to summer school remediation? Doesn’t every child need to learn as much as they can?

eLearning.com says blended learning “combines coursework in a traditional classroom (synchronous) setting with an online (asynchronous) component. Students get the sense of community with other students, but are allowed to complete a portion of the coursework independently in a virtual environment.”

Purnima Valiathan defines blended learning as a “solution that combines several different delivery methods, such as collaboration software, Web-based courses, EPSS, and knowledge management practices. Blended learning also is used to describe learning that mixes various event-based activities, including face-to-face classrooms, live e-learning, and self-paced instruction.”

But this still makes the distinction between the traditional classroom and the virtual classroom. Why not just call it learning or education no matter where it happens? Although learning beyond the four walls of the classroom is a great match for Web 2.0 technologies, it doesn’t  have to be exclusively a technology environment. Reading to a child, helping with an art project or taking a field trip on the bus could just as easily enhance learning.

If as community members, professional educators and parents we come together  in a community of learning, we can make everyday learners into life-long learners. It seems to be as much a state of mind as a structural change in how children learn.

Blended education might be Bethel Learning Environment Night and Day.