Defining a Hybrid Learner Today

My favorite news magazine is The Week. I love it for the range of topics covered, and I appreciate its efforts to view issues from more than one perspective. Not all news sources do that. I realize there’s a digital version, too, but I stick to the printed version that comes in the mail and I carry it around with me to doctors’ offices, the car pool line, or any other place I might have a few minutes of quiet.

Do I read any news online? Yes, I have some favorite news sites, but I mostly read quick blurbs because when I’m at the computer, I’m there to work and I have little time for other online activities. A similar thing has happened with the fiction I enjoy. I’ve listened to some audiobooks on long drives, but I mostly read books in print from my shelves or the library. To quote The Week’s special report on How We Read Books Today in the July 1, 2016 issue, I’ve become a hybrid reader — “shifting between print, audiobooks, and digital books, depending on the situation.”

We’ve all heard about hybrid classrooms by now. For many of you blended learning is your reality as a teacher. A term I don’t hear is hybrid learner. As I was reading about the hybrid readers Americans have become, I began to think how people around the world have become hybrid language learners, shifting between video, textbooks, ebooks, audio podcasts, apps, and live instruction to acquire English.

Hybrid learners learn from multiple sources online and offline. That’s my definition. Because of the internet and mobile devices, learners today have an overwhelming number of choices. The challenge is making good ones. Our task as teachers – our responsibility –  is to guide learners in their choices and teach them how to study.

What tips would you give to the hybrid learners today? Here are a few of mine:

1. Don’t try to use too many resources at once. Having some English apps on your smartphone is great, but do you use everything you download? A dictionary app can be one of your constants. Downloading half a dozen vocabulary apps all at once, however, isn’t a good plan. Be selective.

2. There are ways to make use of short and longer blocks of time. Twitter is designed for brevity, so it can be a great place to get a quick dose of English once or twice a day. I’ve been using the platform for single-word vocabulary practice. Click to see examples. At the start of the day I post an image and ask learners to identify an everyday object and explain its use. In a later post I give the answer and a follow-up question. A student needs only a minute to read and possibly reply to each post, and yet this regular practice has benefits over time.

In contrast, a longer block of time could be used for something like a grammar tutorial or extended listening. Within a day or over the course of a week, as student can plan for both focused study and open practice. So whereas you might open Twitter while standing at the bus stop, you could start streaming a TV show after you get on the bus because you know it will be at least 20 minutes before you reach your stop.

3. Remember to disconnect and take breaks. We can be surrounded by information 24/7 if we choose to be, but I’d argue there isn’t enough time to process it everything if there’s a constant flow of input. Decide on a realistic amount of study time. You might choose to do more during the week and less on the weekend, or vice versa. In any case, take breaks and always start a study session with a fresh mind.



How We Read Books Today. (2016, July 1-8).  The Week, 16(777/778), 20.


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