(February 15, 2015)
(NewScientist Tech - January 2015)
of smart blended learning is richer and deeper interactions between teachers and students (and between students themselves) than in traditional classrooms.
Integrating technology and teaching allows students to fully master content and
skills, and at the pace that’s right for them... Think about it this way: an
average classroom sets a “speed limit” for the class — bounded by grade-level
standards and assessments — making it hard for some kids to catch up and
holding others from moving ahead when they’re ready. But blended learning revs
up students’ learning velocity, allowing them to go further and faster. Who
knows how far they’ll go?
online computer games or videos to a student’s day or homework time doesn’t
count as blended learning. Neither does rolling a laptop cart into a school.
Nor does it mean that students are isolated at their keyboards with no social
Education Elements, 2012
Does Blended Learning Really Work?
by Thomas Arnett
When we talk to education leaders about blended learning, we often hear the question, “Does it work?” What they want to know is, “If I fund a blended learning initiative or implement a blended learning program in my schools, can I be confident that it will improve student learning?” Typically, these education leaders can see the potential that blended learning has to enable student-centered learning and improve student outcomes. Yet at the same time, given the unimpressive track record of many past tech-rich school initiatives, they want more assurance that results will be different with blended learning.
So what is the answer to this question? Well, it’s complicated. Today, a growing number of schools are implementing blended learning to achieve measureable gains for their students. But not all schools that are going blended are seeing worthwhile results. So does blended learning improve student outcomes? To answer that question, I think it is insightful to consider an analogous question. Do machines with wings fly?
Today, it’s obvious that wings enable flight. We have almost a century of aviation history demonstrating that fact. Yet, although wings are obviously important, the presence of wings alone is not sufficient to guarantee flight. Humans were putting wings on machines for millennia before figuring out how to get them to lift off the ground. Wings couldn’t produce flight until we figured out how to give them the right shape, size, weight, and configuration; and engineers and scientists today continue to improve their understanding of wing design.
Similarly, the presence of technology in a school does not guarantee improvements in student learning. Blended learning models that work are designed and implemented according to our current best understand of what it takes to make them successful; and schools that use blended learning are still discovering new ways to configure their models in order to produce stronger results.
We also have to admit that just as wings are not the only way to achieve flight, blended learning is not the only way to achieve student-centered learning or positive academic outcomes. People were flying in balloons long before airplanes; and shortly after the invention of airplanes, people also figured out how to fly using rockets and helicopters. Similarly, many schools were producing strong student learning outcomes long before blended learning. In addition, some schools pursue student-centered instruction with exceptionally low student-to-teacher ratios. What blended learning offers compared to these forms of instruction is an effective and budget-conscious way to personalize learning. The aviation analogy is insightful here as well. Although planes are not the only way to fly, they allow for speed and maneuverability that have never been possible in balloons.
Yet, rather than framing blended learning as an instructional model that competes with other instructional models, we should recognize that different instructional methods are best suited to different circumstances. Balloons are best for high-altitude, low-speed flight. Helicopters are best for landing without a runway or maintaining a stationary position in the air. Rockets are best if you need to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. Similarly, schools should use blended learning in combination with other instructional approaches and align each approach with the jobs for which it is best suited. For example, Summit Public Schools uses blended learning in conjunction with project-based learning to personalize instruction for students. Similarly, Anthony Kim recently wrote an insightful blog explaining how schools can use computer-based instruction in combination with small-group instruction and project or group instruction to address students’ various learning needs. The very term “blended learning” connotes that a blend of online and face-to-face instruction is important for supporting the different aspects of learning.
Lastly, to understand when blended learning works, it is important to note that just as wings are not the only important components of an airplane, software and devices are not the only important parts of an effective blended learning model. In addition to wings, planes need engines to give them thrust; landing gear to help them land and take off; rudders, flaps, and ailerons, to give them control; and a pilot to coordinate all of these subsystems. Similarly, high-quality blended learning requires sufficient Internet bandwidth, appropriate physical facilities, strong classroom procedures and culture, and, most importantly, good teachers.
So does blended learning work? The real answer is “it depends.” Blended learning can be a powerful enabler of student-centered instruction, which in turn can produce strong student learning outcomes. Many schools today are testing and refining their blended learning models in order to figure out how to achieve increasingly stronger student learning results. The success of any blended learning program, however, depends on how well school leaders design and implement it with clear goals in mind and by taking into account important elements such as teachers, facilities, curriculum and culture. The forthcoming book, Blended, by Michael Horn and Heather Staker, provides an incredibly valuable guide to help people in the field bring all of these important components together to create successful blended learning.
SEPTEMBER 08, 2014
Nation’s smallest state makes huge gains in Blended Learning
by Alisha Kirby
(R.I.) Rhode Island is on track to become the nation’s first state where students in every classroom learn through a combination of teacher instruction and online coursework.
Working toward that goal, the Rhode Island Department of Education – with help of a grant from a California nonprofit – plans to transition every one of its 296 schools to the blended-learning model within five years.
“The goal is to bring blended learning opportunities to every school in the state because it allows for personalized instruction for each student,” said Eliot Krieger, spokesman for the Rhode Island’s Department of Education, in an interview late last week.
Blended learning is an education model that combines face-to-face teaching with online elements tailored to each student’s individual proficiency in a topic, meaning that students who excel can move ahead and students who need more time can move on with the lesson as they feel more prepared.
The $100,000 grant from The Learning Accelerator enabled the education department to develop a five-year implementation plan, as well as a communication campaign to spread awareness about the transition.
In addition, the state education budget includes The Wireless Classroom Initiative, which provides $20 million to expand wireless access to classrooms over the next five years, and an amendment to the state Telecommunication Education Access Fund to provide more revenue to meet bandwidth needs.
There are already two charter schools in the state using the blended learning model in all grades, and according to Krieger, nine of the state’s 36 districts are also in the process of moving toward full blended-learning classrooms and reaching a 1:1 computer/student ratio.
Rhode Island, a member of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) state consortium, adopted the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, as well as the Next Generation Science Standards.
Krieger said 75 percent of the state’s students will take the new Common Core-aligned assessments on tablets or laptops this spring.
Though there have been a number of arguments made against the increased use of technology in classrooms, including the expense of providing every student with a digital device, as well as the idea that children will rely more on computers for answers rather than thinking for themselves.
But a key concern from teachers has been that a move toward blended or online learning will diminish their role in the classroom.
Rhode Island lawmakers and education officials don’t see it that way at all, said Krieger. The hope is that teachers will be able to use the online lessons and resources as a tool to engage and challenge children in different ways in order to raise achievement levels of all students.
“It doesn’t replace the classroom teacher, but rather, it allows the teacher to work closely with individual students who proceed at their own pace and have access to a broad array of courses and materials,” Krieger said. “It’s about opportunity and individual instruction, but certainly under the guidance of the classroom teacher.”
The Learning Accelerator released a guide in August, A Framework for Cultivating High Quality Blended Learning at the State Level, for use by state leaders looking to establish this learning model in their state.