In the School Growth February webinar series we're featuring the design elements of blended, personalized learning. Innovation through technology is core to this school design, but student ownership of the path and pace of learning is one of the most radical parts of effective implementation.
The next two weeks the webinars discuss the governance and administration design for effective blended learning implementation.
Innovation through Technology
The good news (and the bad news) of blended learning is that nobody has figured this out. Part of the challenge is how to make all the pieces fit together in light of the mission, values, rules, and goals of your learning design. Each school may be unique, but consistency is needed classroom to classroom within the same building.
There are many different pieces that come together to build a blended learning platform; curricula, data, instructional systems, talent management systems, etc. If you are beginning to look at a blended learning design for your school, start culling through the variety of resources out there to find the ones that are best for your school. Remember to start with process, though, before implementing systems.
One great resource we recommend is NewSchool Venture Fund’s EdTech Map. It is an interactive format that identifies the technology tools currently available in four key areas. It enables you to look at a wide variety of providers to see the options. Building your own learning platform will be key, and this tool will be a big help in your process of determining which components to use.
Your operational design will become very important in the process of developing your blended learning platform. Putting all these tools in place is great, but if you don’t have the bandwidth to use the tools appropriately then you’re going to run into problems. Getting the infrastructure right is vital.
In your blended learning consider how to give students the ability to own and control their own learning path. This idea is contrasted with a teacher-owned path where the teacher has sole control over the learning sequence and tempo for students. For this to work properly, mastery should take precedence over time and the grouping of students will have to be stragically aligned.
Some refer to this as student centered learning. It is a different way of teaching, planning and scheduling. As you implement blended learning strategies you will have to determine what level of autonomy you will provide in the path and pace of your school.
How much autonomy of pace will you give students? If they want to work through more than the average amount of material in a typical school year, why not? The only limitation you have is whether you have to give credit based on mastery or seat time--or whether you have to the courage to give up some elements of control. This takes time on the front end to adjust for your school as you begin to implement innovation projects to construct you blended learning model.
Progression is another element of pace that you will have to determine. In some schools there are no longer "grades" (e.g., 1st, 2nd, 3rd, ...) but rather levels that students progress through. Because of this freedom of path and pace, some students are able to cover multiple years of progress in one year. Give them freedom to learn and grow.
This is an especially powerful way to give hope to students who are academically lagging. We've seen students in low performing schools take ownership of their path and pace begin to close the learning gap. These were students that had extremely low chances of even graduating high school because they were so far behind. Now because of their academic autonomy their future is completely changed. That's real hope!!