Climate change, social justice, CoVid, politics, education systems – now more than ever we need to adapt.‘Unprecedented’, ‘Difficult’, ‘Challenging’ … these are times of Opportunity. How we move through and beyond this period in history, and how we ‘bend’ in this bending world, will define life on Earth in the future. At Green School Bali (GSB) we call it ‘Bend Like Bamboo’ – and with our blended learning program, a direct response of the bending world, we are on an exponential learning curve of what education needs to become. That said, since it opened in 2008, GSB has been actively ‘bending’, adapting and innovating to this fast-changing world – now, it’s easy to see all schools all over the world are being asked (told) to start bending.

Moving from full onsite, or full distance learning programs, to a blended learning program is easier said than done. Our beautiful campus is closed, but we have access to some nearby Green Camp space for staggered onsite learning experiences focussed on social-emotional activities, assignment clarification, assessment, and gardening/agricultural activities. At GSB we have students in Bali who have a mix of onsite and online learning days which differs for different age-levels; we have students in Bali but (for CoVid reasons) are doing full distance learning programs; and there are students who are still unable to get back to Bali scattered around the world in different time zones on a full-time distance learning program. Throw all that into the learning program blender and you get an extreme definition of Blended Learning.

Learning isn’t something that starts when you begin pre-school and finishes when you graduate from high school or university. Learning isn’t something that begins when you sit down for your first class at 8:15am and ends at 3:15pm when the ‘bell goes’, Monday to Friday. Learning isn’t separate from the relationship you build with your parents and family. Learning isn’t independent of who you are in a community. Learning isn’t isolated from your natural environment. Learning isn’t disconnected from building life-skills like responsibility, decision-making, time-management, information research, IT-skills and problem solving.

Real learning happens everywhere and all of the time. At home, in your community, in your local natural environment – with your parents, with your neighbors, with other people in your local and global communities – in-person and online. Learning is supposed to be ‘blended’ – you can’t put it in a box, you can’t limit it with boundaries of time, place and particular groups of people. Simply stated, the world is blended and life is blended, everything is connected – schools and education systems need to reconnect with the real-world needs of their students.

Blended learning programs are allowing students to learn at their own pace and in their own way. Teachers are now to add more depth to the resources that students engage in. The opportunities for collaborative learning (learning in teams) are massive. Instead of collaborative learning being limited to who a student is sitting next to, learning teams can consist of students throughout the school and around the world, different groups of teachers, parents and community members, and an array of digital resources (videos, podcasts, games, infographics, etc). Learning becomes integrated (like the real world), learning becomes connected to the natural environment (like the real world), learning becomes a blend of knowledge, skills and values (like the real world).

When you define blended learning, and look at the opportunities it presents in terms of accelerating the education revolution that this planet needs, an obvious question should stare you down: Why have we waited for CoVid (and school closures) to make this happen? At GSB (over the past 13 years), and at many other innovative schools, blended learning concepts have created the framework of our innovative models of learning. When you look at thematic-integrated learning opportunities, project units, and skills and values-based learning programs, communities learning, sharing and celebrating together – what you see is blended learning. We are not perfect, we have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but we know where we are going and what we need to learn and improve.

Hopefully all schools – administrators, teachers, students, parents – take this opportunity to use this blended learning crash-course to move out of the traditional in-a-box school system. We simply can not go ‘back to school’, back to the way it used to be. Blended learning is the ticket to going ‘forward to school’. Now that we have purchased that ticket, I hope we all use it.