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5 Lessons in Blended Learning: It's Coming to Your School

Posted by Grace Lee on Nov 19, 2013 7:13:00 AM

"Blended learning is your destiny, Luke!"

Sounds like the kind of quote you'd hear in a movie called, "School Wars," doesn't it?

Highly personalized classrooms designed through effective implementation of instructional and information technology is changing schools at all levels. It's very possible that this approach will inevitably become an integral part of your school because of the extraordinary results being achieved. Our team has been actively involved in the implementation of blended learning models (working with Matchbook Learning) in some public schools and we're working on such plans for a few private schools as well.

What is Blended Learning?

Fundamentally, blended learning is utilizing modern advances in technology to enhance and personalize the classroom experience to achieve higher levels of teacher and student performance. The teacher transforms into a learning designer and coach rather than the central driver of whole class instruction. The components of a blended learning platform include:

  • Learning Management System
  • Digital Content/Curriculum for core and supplemental materials
  • Digital Assessments
  • Reporting Systems to integrate and analyze data

The Learning Accelerator has created a video explaining blended learning for a broad audience. School boards, parents, faculty, and students will find this resource useful in understanding how this method for teaching and learning is different and powerful.

Another valuable resource to consider is Laura Vanderkam's book, "Blended Learning: A Wise Giver's Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching," publised by the Philanthropy Roundtable. This book provides a good introduction to the opportunities available through such instructional practice, and speaks to the ways donors/investors might financial support such efforts.

Blended Learning Vanderkam

"Unfortunately, I see too many kids when the teacher isn't looking going on a different tab and playing games etc instead of doing school work....Even when you continually walk around the classroom the ones behind your back are clicking over to other tabs and as soon as you walk up they immediately click back to their school work, very hard to catch every one. I am still a firm believer in the TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM SETTING." - Joy Chauncey

Yes, implementing classroom technology has risks, especially when the school's culture, strategies, and professional development are haphazardly defined. When done well, however, schools are able to set very high expectations for student growth. We're working in bottom 5% public schools where over 60% of the students mastered more than 1.5 years of content in the 2012-2013 school year. Even better results are expected this year. The risks are definitely worth the rewards!

One of the keys we've seen for blended learning to work optimally, is for the administration to incorporate time in the master schedule that allows teachers to actively participate in professional learning communities to learn, share ideas, and collaborate. Student-centered learning is a major shift in thinking about lesson design and preparation, requiring support in resources for coaching and development. Again, the return on investment is huge if done well.

A few lessons that we've learned from blended, student-centered learning:

  1. High performing schools have a higher degree of uniformity in instructional practice and process.
  2. Teachers who have mental and emotional grit (persevere), a coachable attitude (humble), and enjoy learning and sharing (collaborate) are most effective in adjusting to this model.
  3. Professional development for teachers should reflect the same blended, student-centered approach.
  4. 80% of the administrators time must be spent on teacher coaching, assessment, and evaluation.
  5. Age is not a reliable predictor of success in a blended learning classroom. We've seen very experienced teachers make the transition, though it required hard work and dedication, and emerge with a renewed confidence and enthusiasm about classroom leadership.

Topics: Blended Learning

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