This week is Teacher Appreciation Week all across the country so we wanted to take a moment to tell all of the teachers we work with how much they mean to us. Incorporating blended learning in the classroom can be incredibly hard. It’s not just using new technology – it’s changing the way you teach. The end results can be fantastic, but that doesn’t make it easy. We want to thank you for trusting us to help you along this journey. We know how hard you work and the challenges you face everyday, and we truly appreciate all that you do. We’re proud to work with you, and we’re excited about the bright future ahead.
Here at Education Elements, we’ve created a small token of appreciation for all the teachers out there that have impacted our lives and our work.
School leaders often ask us: “How do I select the right content for my blended classroom?” To help answer this question, we’ve developed a “How-to Select Digital Content” info-graphic and guide.
The process we follow involves four key steps, each influenced by a set of frameworks and rubrics developed by our digital content experts.
- Step 1: Define the role of digital content in your classroom and how much you want teachers to influence the scope and sequence of digital content.
- Step 2: Research the digital content market to isolate the high-quality providers that suit your needs. At Education Elements, we extensively research content and applications options, using a detailed Digital Content Rubric.
- Step 3: Explore your short list by scheduling product demos.
- Step 4: Select the providers that best fit your needs and be sure to inquire about: references, pricing, implementation, professional development.
There are hundreds of options for digital content and tools and sifting through the sea of options can be overwhelming. Organizing your thoughts and coming up with a strategy about your approach to selection will ensure a smooth process.
For further insights, please check out these recent blog posts by two of our content experts: Meghan’s article entitled “Essential Questions for Selecting the Right Digital Content Providers” and Justin’s article entitled “Digital Content Selection in the Fragmented Market Place.”
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Building a partner ecosystem – and a movement – to drive academic outcomes
Our goal at Ed Elements is to help schools integrate instructional practice and technology to create classrooms that inspire both teaching and learning. Driven by this shared passion to affect outcomes for the next generation of teachers and students, the team at Education Elements has been working hard to make our vision a reality in more classrooms across the country.
In the field, our school consultants and design experts partner with leading schools and districts to re-imagine the classroom experience and engage in a facilitated design exercise to come up with dozens of innovative ideas about instructional model, classroom layout, bell schedule and staffing to fit each school’s unique goals, values and culture. As a former member of this team, I can attest to the level of effort required for schools to make this shift, both in philosophy and in practice. We are incredibly humbled by the work schools are doing to pioneer 21st century learning, and proud to partner with them in their effort to transition to blended learning.
Behind the scenes, our product team is developing our cloud-based platform, the Hybrid Learning Management System (HLMS), which unifies the classroom experience for teachers, students and administrators so that teachers are supported with actionable insights from multiple data sources to drive instruction and students are supported with the right resource at the right time, for a truly personalized learning experience. The HLMS is designed to integrate with an array of content and applications from leading educational publishers; we call this our “ecosystem.”
This past quarter, over two dozen new content and application partners have joined our ecosystem – a development we are thrilled about. Months ago, our team sketched out our partnership strategy. We had a simple yet ambitious goal: to support integrations with the most innovative and rigorous digital content and application products out there. Underlying that goal was a desire to create a platform that afforded teachers and administrators options – the ability to choose exactly the right mix of content and applications to bring digital learning to life in their school. It has been truly inspiring to see a range of leaders in the ed-tech space – from mature publishers such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Compass Learning to newer companies like eSpark, Pathbrite, and Kickboard – come together and align with us in this vision for blended learning. And, it has been even more inspiring to witness our partners’ commitment to learning (alongside us!) how, together, we can create product experiences that really deliver value for schools.
We salute our partners for creating incredible content and application products that are invaluable to teacher and student success. We hope to continue to provide value to our partners in a number of ways. First, through our deep services engagement with schools, we help create environments that drive student engagement and that are broadly conducive to high-fidelity implementations. Second, based on our internal evaluations and insight into how schools are using their digital content and applications, we provide critical feedback that helps our partners strengthen their products. And finally, we provide thought leadership and bring together leaders in a fragmented marketplace, so that as partners in a shared mission, we can focus our collective efforts on creating classrooms that inspire teaching and learning.
Thank you to our 2012-2013 partners and a warm welcome to our 2013-2014 partners! We look forward to our work together and continually adding new members to the Education Elements family.
Please see today’s Press Release.
For a full list of our partners for 2013-2014, please visit our website.
If you are an innovative content or application provider and are interested in partnering with us, please contact Supriya Booth (email@example.com).
Blended learning is still a relatively new way of approaching instruction, and we are proud to collaborate with organizations and schools that continue to push the boundaries of what learning could look like when technology is used to increase personalization. We are particularly excited about a partnership that takes blended learning outside the classroom walls to create learning environments that are seamlessly connected to the community.
Last Friday, Dr. Lisa Duty wrote a post on Tom Vander Ark’s blog on Education Week entitled “Shaping Communities as the World’s Classrooms.” Dr. Duty is Senior Director of Innovation at KnowledgeWorks, a social enterprise that incubates and scales up innovative schools and education initiatives. In her post, she lays out a vision for a learning ecosystem created through the fusion of blended learning and collective impact. Such a fusion would connect learning experiences across classrooms and communities, providing a “nexus point through which multiple providers can systematically connect, unlock, and reallocate existing resources to provide young people with access to more/quality learning opportunities than may be available under distinct and separate organizations.”
We are excited to be partnering with both KnowledgeWorks and Reynoldsburg City Schools to co-design, implement and support this model of a “learning oasis”. This school year, we are already working within the Reynoldsburg City Schools district to launch blended learning. One of the schools, Hannah Ashton Middle School, just recently successfully launched blended learning with one-to-one laptops for the seventh grade. These schools which are starting with traditional blended learning now will set a strong foundation for the development of Oasis across the district over the next few years.
We plan to share our lessons along the way, so that other districts can learn from our work connecting schools and communities. One of these opportunities is through the SXSWedu conference in March 2013. We proposed a panel entitled, “In It Together: Blended Classrooms and Communities,” to be led by Dr. Duty, my colleague Amy Jenkins, and myself. During the panel we plan to discuss our goals, our design challenges, and our successes to date. Panels are selected in part based on voting, so if you are interested in hearing more we hope you will vote for the panel. Voting is open now through October 5th. Even if you can’t attend, we will share our presentation and our learnings here on “The Garden” after the event.
If you are working on similar initiatives, have experiences to share, or have questions to ask we would love to continue the conversation. You can reach out via Twitter @LisaDuty1 and @edelements, post a comment on our blog, or reach me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few months later, our work together on Oasis continues to move forward. Last week, Lisa Duty, Amy Jenkins and I had the opportunity to introduce the concept and discuss our latest work on Oasis at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, TX.
The underlying vision of integrating learning experiences outside and inside the classroom through a fusion of blended learning and collective impact remains the same. Through continued research and development and partner meetings we have laid out the plans for a pilot at Hannah Ashton Middle School (HAMS) starting in Fall 2013. The principal, Denise Lutz, and the teacher team have had a busy year launching a blended learning program in the 7th grade. The lessons they have learned will prepare them to expand blended learning to the whole school and implement the initial phase of the Oasis model in the fall. The experience at HAMS will serve as a proof point for Oasis before launching in other schools across Reynoldsburg.
We are deep into the “Design Phase” with KnowledgeWorks, their subsidiary EdWorks, the HAMS team and local community partners, as we develop what the program will look like in its first year. In addition to the typical design process that Education Elements follows with other blended learning clients – which includes developing the instructional program and selecting digital content – we are also layering in how community partners will also be involved using the strategies of blended learning. We are particularly excited for the work ahead and look forward to sharing more about the design soon.
Last week, a number of good blog posts and articles were published, outlining the main themes and top ideas coming out of SXSWedu. Tom Vander Ark published a nice article, “SXSWedu Halftime Report” and Edudemic highlighted 10 EdTech Questions SXSWedu is Trying to Answer. As I look back on the week, I remain inspired by the breadth and vibrancy of the conversation and I wanted to focus on a few other underlying and related threads that permeated the conference.
“Small data” can be extremely useful to improving outcomes in classrooms.Everyone is excited about Big Data and how volumes of assessment-level data can help administrators see how students and groups of students are progressing over time. But, there’s also a great deal of value in activity-based data such as the results you get from one digital curriculum application. As Richard Culatta of the US Department of Education suggested, wouldn’t it be helpful, for example, if a teacher could easily see what Khan Academy videos had helped a student master a particular concept and then assign new content appropriately? Access to this sort of “small data” would give a teacher the information he or she needs to address daily instruction. Big Data is great, in theory, but its usefulness to teachers hinges on having access to the data in a format that is digestible and actionable.
There is a growing focus on security and privacy as access to and use of data becomes more widespread.This topic came up more than a few times during a variety of different panels. While access to data may solve a lot of challenges schools face, it opens the door to new concerns. As consumers, we hardly think twice before we purchase something on Amazon.com or use our online bank to organize our monthly payments. Our comfort arises partly because we’ve been doing it for years and partly because we trust that these companies have put in place the proper security measures to protect our personal, identifiable information. And, that too, is why we are wary of no-name web vendors and random apps that want to know too much about us. As the ed-tech sector explodes, companies need to exemplify rigorous security measures and build trust with schools and parents. While laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) provide high-level guidelines about how and with whom a student’s information can be shared, participants in the ed-tech market, including product developers and schools, should also take a proactive approach to converse transparently with end-users and parents about what data is exchanged and how it is used.
The role of the teacher is changing and we should embrace the change.While the conference buzzed about what technology can do to transform the classroom, the underlying message was that technology enables transformation by providing good teachers with great tools. Charlie Buffalino of Rocketship Education expressed it well when he said that “we (education innovators) need to collectively message that the ed-tech explosion is about building tools that help teachers do their job more effectively and augment what great teaching looks like.” Digital curriculum can be a wonderful way to engage students in understanding and remembering concepts that the teacher is covering in small-group instruction. Similarly, products like digital grade-books and classroom management tools can help teachers tackle administrative tasks more efficiently. And, dashboards that aggregate results from different systems can provide rich information to help teachers make more effective instructional decisions. At the end of the school day, the central resource for teaching is still the teacher.
Personalized learning is the Holy Grail, but there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to delivering a personalized learning experience.There’s no doubt that technological innovation is opening the door for schools to offer more personalized instruction to students, even in large classes, in a way that wasn’t possible before. However, simply putting technology in a classroom doesn’t inherently create a personalized learning environment. Implementation is critical. What works for one school doesn’t necessarily work for the school down the road. Things like classroom size and space, teacher and student fluency with technology, and broadband capacity can all impact if and how a technology solution can be used effectively in a classroom.
Parental access to student data and engagement is an area both schools and product developers should continue to explore.Parents are also getting excited about the potential of data to improve educational outcomes and many of them want to know how they can get involved. Plenty of studies show that parental involvement in a child’s education can lead to better outcomes. That’s why many schools and tech innovators are asking the question: how can we leverage technology to more effectively engage parents in their child’s learning path? Fortunately, there are a myriad of options emerging. Many of the digital curriculum programs in use in schools such as Tenmarks, a supplemental math program and CompassLearning Odyssey, a reading and language arts program for K-8 offer parent observer accounts, which allow parents to follow along with their child’s progress in the programs. Schoology, a learning management system that enables teachers to store content, facilitate discussions, and foster collaboration allows parents to view grades, schedules (assignments/assessments), and course content. And, Goalbook is a individual learning plan application that facilitates communication and collaboration between all stakeholders of a student’s education, invites parents to get updates on goal progress, celebrations of goals met, and class announcements. Parents and teachers can also exchange files to share student work.
Trying to figure out which digital content providers are right for your school or district is difficult. Though the digital content market is still in its nascent stages, it is already diverse and complex enough to overwhelm many teachers or school leaders who are trying to decide which products to choose.
Faced with the prospect of selecting content from a market in which new companies crop up every month and in which each product promises great results, school leaders often ask me questions such as: Where should we begin? How can we narrow down a short list of content providers from the many that are available? How do we know if a provider will work for our group of students?
I suggest that any teacher, school leader or district leader answer the following set of questions before beginning to search the digital content market:
1. What role do you want digital content to play in the learning process?
2. What role do you envision the teacher playing in the management of the digital content?
3. What are the unique needs of your student population?
From my experience, answering these three questions at the outset makes the digital content selection process more focused and ultimately, much more manageable.
1. The Role of Digital Content
To select content that will work for your school you must have a good understanding of what role or purpose you want the digital content to play in your classrooms. Do you want the content to introduce new concepts to students? Allow students to practice skills the teacher introduces during direct instruction? Test students and identify skill gaps? Use it to remediate or accelerate student learning?
Blended learning can be used for any one or all of these scenarios, and there are products that target each. For instance, a number of our schools use Virtual Nerd to introduce new concepts to students because of its strong direct instruction component. Others prefer TenMarks because of its easily assignable, concept-based digital worksheets that allow students to practice what they have been working on in class. Other schools want products like i-Ready and iLearn that effectively incorporate direct instruction and practice components in one easy-to-use product.
The more specific you can be about what you want the content to do before you start looking at potential providers, the easier it will be to narrow down which are right for your school.
2. The Role of the Teacher
The second aspect to consider is what role the teacher will have in managing digital content day-to-day. Schools that are new to blended learning may want to start with a more adaptive program like DreamBox Learning which is designed to automatically find and assign content to each student in their “Zone of Proximal Development.” Programs like DreamBox often work well for new teachers because students get lessons and practice that target their skill gaps with minimal input from the instructor. The caveat with adaptive programs is that the content will not be as tightly aligned to what is being taught in class on a particular day.
Teachers who want to take a more hands-on role with their digital content should consider assignable providers like Achieve3000, a practice-based reading program that delivers the same AP articles and accompanying comprehension questions to each student at their individual Lexile level. Assignable products allow teachers to align what students are seeing on the computer to what is being taught in class. The tradeoff with assignable products is that they usually take more time for the teacher to manage, as they have to push content out to students on a regular basis.
There are also programs like Odyssey by Compass Learning that are flexible, meaning that they allow teachers to choose whether to assign specific lesson modules to students, or they can let the program adapt and administer content tailored to each student.
There is no right answer in the adaptive vs. assignable discussion, and there are tradeoffs to each approach; however, the takeaway is that it’s important for schools leaders to honestly assess their teachers’ bandwidth and desire to manage content in a hands-on manner.
3. Student Population Needs
Finally, outline any trends or special needs that your student population has and think about how these factors may affect the content you will ultimately choose. All too often schools purchase a product because they heard it worked for another school. However, it is important to remember that what might have worked for one group of students may not work for your own.
Before deciding on content, think over the strengths and weaknesses of your student population. Are the majority of your students reading below grade level? Do you have a significant ELL population? Are there a cohort of students who need accelerated subject matter? Outlining your student body’s weaknesses (and strengths!) will help you identify the product offerings that are most finely tailored to the needs of your kids.
For instance, ST Math is an example of a program that uses a spatial temporal approach and presents mathematical concepts visually. While this approach works well for the general student population, it works especially well for English Language Learners because it does not rely on words but rather on visual representations of mathematical concepts.
With this framework in mind, you will have a strong starting point for selecting digital content that does what you want it to do, works for your teachers, and addresses the needs of your students. Ultimately, by asking and answering these questions, you will increase the chances of success when implemented in classrooms.
As we’ve expanded our work to reach more than 50 schools across the country, we continue to seek input from our partners about their experience implementing blended learning. Gestalt Community Schools in Memphis, Tennessee, recently shared with us some thoughts and we want to share their comments, verbatim, with our broader community.
For those who don’t know the Gestalt Community Schools, they are an outstanding set of charter schools that believe in building better communities through education; They are achieving excellent results for their students who mainly hail from low-income communities. Innovation abounds at Gestalt’s middle and high schools where students and teachers are using a rotational blended learning model that focuses on closing skill deficits in literacy and numeracy. In this model, students rotate through 3 learning stations: The first is direct instruction from the teacher, the second is guided practice in small groups, and the third is independent digital practice prescribed by the classroom teacher.
What we love to hear is how teachers explain blended learning in their own words. So, we decided to ask teachers in the Gestalt Community Schools network the following question: If you were explaining Blended Learning to a colleague who had never heard of Blended Learning before, how would you explain it? Although each teacher described blended learning in a slightly different way, three themes arose across all comments:
2. Data Driven Instruction
3. Multiple Modalities
We were happy to hear these themes expressed by the teachers because they mirror our view that differentiation and data-driven instruction are two of the essential attributes of a successful blended classroom. We also believe that when digital curriculum is integrated into the classroom alongside teacher-led, small group instruction and project-based learning, kids can benefit from learning from multiple modalities.
- Theme 1: Differentiation
“I would say that Blended Learning is when a teacher divides the class in such a way that the students are getting more individualized attention to master the necessary skills.” – High School Writing Composition & Literature Teacher, Power Center Academy High School
“I enjoy blended learning because it awards an opportunity to relate to every scholar better in the learning community.” – 6th Grade Reading Teacher, Gordon Science and Arts Academy
“Fully integrating technology as part of the learning process. Using technology alongside traditional teaching practices enables more differentiation to happen so scholars are met where they have needs and the content and intervention systems help to continually address learning gaps.” – 6th Grade Math Teacher, Gordon Science and Arts Academy
- Theme 2: Data Driven Instruction
“I would explain that it was a system of teaching that allowed for differentiated instruction within one classroom. It would be focused on data-driven small-group instruction targeting specific scholars and their particular needs.” – 7th Grade Reading Teacher, Power Center Academy Middle School
- Theme 3: Multiple Modalities
“Blended learning is a system that seeks to allow students to tackle material in as many ways as possible through the use of differentiated stations.” – High School US History, Power Center Academy High School
“Blended learning is a way to reach students of all levels in the classroom. It gives students the opportunity to grow independently as well as gain confidence from direct instruction in a small group setting. In the classroom blended learning can be set up many different ways. As long as there are multiple stations covering a topic in different ways (i.e. direct instruction, independent work, group work) you are engaging in blended learning. Blended learning can also come in handy when there are students in your class who are ready to move on to a new topic and some students who need more practice with the present topic.” 9th Grade Special Education Teacher, Power Center Academy High School
It was great to hear from this set of Gestalt teachers doing pioneering work in blended learning. As the field of blended learning continues to grow, innovate and evolve, we look forward to hearing from you about your experiences and best practices. We’d like to hear from you. Tell us how you define blended learning. Please share with us via comment on our blog or on our Facebook page.
I just returned from two jam-packed days at the eTech Ohio Conference in Columbus. It was my first time attending the event and I was really impressed by the level of energy and enthusiasm around blended learning. I had the opportunity to kick off the conference by co-presenting with Denise Lutz (principal at Hannah Ashton Middle School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio) about our blended learning work at her school. Despite our less than ideal time slot (8AM on the first morning of the conference—right before the key note!), about 30 teachers and school administrators attended our session.
Denise started the session off by providing an overview of Hannah Ashton Middle School’s (HAMS’s) 21st Century Learning Model, which includes two key components: Blended Learning and Achieve After Three (their innovative afterschool program). We spent the rest of the session focusing on blended learning at HAMS—how it has evolved this year, some key lessons we’ve learned, and what her plan is for next year.
I think what session attendees appreciated the most was how candid Denise was about what’s going well, as well as the challenges she’s faced this year. A few of the key learnings she shared with the group include:
1. Students need to be taught how to become online learners.
We often assume that since many students are “digital natives,” they will naturally know how to learn online. This is an incorrect assumption. We need to spend time at the beginning of the school year modeling online learning for students and developing accountability tools and procedures to help students take responsibility for, and ownership of, their own learning.
2. Leaders need to establish clear routines, procedures, and expectations around teachers’ use of data in Blended Classrooms.
Even if teachers are familiar with reviewing student data on a regular basis, it’s important to not only develop specific expectations around teachers’ use of data in a Blended Classroom, but to build in time for teachers to engage in the data analysis you expect. If designated time and clear expectations aren’t established at the beginning of the school year, it is unlikely that the level of data-driven instruction we are looking for in Blended Classrooms will happen.
3. One content provider is not enough.
Even if you believe you’ve found the end all be all of content providers, students will get bored using the same digital content provider every day. It is worth spending the time reviewing multiple content providers and selecting a portfolio of providers that complement one another.
Next year, HAMS will expand from a 7th grade blended learning pilot to a 5th-8th grade blended learning implementation and I feel fortunate to join them on this journey. Will everything go smoothly? Certainly not. Will we encounter additional obstacles and frustrations along the way? Absolutely. However, I believe the key to blended learning success is not getting it perfect the first time. It is learning from what didn’t work and doing things differently the next time. I just finished reading Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” and I feel his message is particularly relevant to blended learning implementation. Blended learning is new and it’s hard (at first, at least). The schools that will succeed are those that have leaders and teachers with grit—and I am proud to be working with many of them.
I had a great experience in Boston earlier this month at the LearnLaunch event and I left feeling energized and excited about the rising tide of education entrepreneurs working to improve our K-12 education system in innovative ways. The range of speakers provided both hopeful notes and cautionary considerations about the future of EdTech. I applaud LearnLaunch for creating a forum to support a new generation of education entrepreneurs in the New England area.
Cambridge was blistering cold, but the weather didn’t keep the throngs away and the event had fantastic turnout. About 450 people attended ranging from teachers, aspiring entrepreneurs, veterans with “battle scars” from working in education over the past 10-20 years, and investors looking for the best thing since sliced bread in education.
The two day event was kicked off by Anant Argarwal of EDx, who discussed the buzz of MOOCs. Then, Seth Reynolds of Partheneon Group not only sobered us up by explaining the barriers of selling into education, but also gave us a glimmer of hope about the potential for blended learning; his perspective — “this time it’s different.”
I was fortunate enough to provide the keynote on Saturday morning and took the opportunity to highlight these key points:
- Blended learning can’t be defined as face-to-face and online instruction. It has to be about blended learning modalities such as independent learning and practice, small group instruction, and project-based learning, integrated into a classroom. This approach can only be done well with technology.
- We expect blended learning to grow pretty substantially in school districts. Fortunately, the Race to the Top District competition spurred a lot of interest for 2013, but, in fact, the addressable market today is still very small. Organizations supporting the education space need to focus on creating more demand for EdTech versus creating more supply.
- Needless to say, selling to schools is very different that other markets. The end-user is generally not the buyer. For instance, in schools the end user is the student and the teacher, and they don’t purchase the software they use, the district administration does.
- EdTech companies that plan to offer products first to teachers for free, then roll out paid versions to the district need to be prepared to support district-level architecture requirements. Otherwise, they are in for a big surprise.
- There isn’t less pressure on EdTech companies to show growth. For EdTech companies to survive beyond the angel round or series A rounds with investors, we need to be able to demonstrate impressive growth rates similar to those of other industries (Just look at the growth rate of companies like Workday, Inc.)
My friend John Katzman (Princeton Review, 2U, Noodle) closed the event with a keynote talking about how painful it is selling into K-12, suggesting that the Lean Startup model doesn’t bode well for K-12 EdTech companies. Selling into a diffused market with multiple stakeholders and collective governance requires complex sales and complex products. I would have to agree with John here, that there are minimum table stakes to be relevant in education, especially if you are trying to change systems. John also goes on to mention that many EdTech companies don’t have a well thought out business model, and this is going to be risky to the whole segment and growth of new innovations if we aren’t collectively careful.
John argued that, with the shift from publisher to technology-based instructional program providers, there will be an opportunity for a few new dominant players in education, but these new players will need to focus on solving the distribution challenge.
I wish LearnLaunch and LearnLaunchX the best in shaping the education entreprenuers of tomorrow. It is a key component of the success of the EdTech sector. Let’s make sure that these new companies have solid business models and a distribution platform into schools that can make them successful and the teachers and student who use the product even more successful. After all, the products and services ultimately have to support student outcomes and improvement.
New York State is famous for innovation, leading the way in finance and culture, publishing and trade. Now, the state is poised to embark on a new challenge and embrace the promise of blended learning.
The Education Elements team celebrated Digital Learning Day in Albany at the Blended Learning Summit sponsored by the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE). The Summit was designed for New York’s K-20 education community to discuss, learn, and share best practices around blended learning.
Ken Slentz, Deputy Commissioner of P-12 Education at the New York State Education Department, began the day by addressing the standing-room only crowd. Slentz reiterated the state’s support for blended learning and challenged vendors in the digital learning space, saying, “We will not accept anything that is low rigor or low quality. Do not tell us that something is aligned to Common Core, do not say you have developed something that will change that way students learn … without quality of rigor, access, and equity.”
Michael Horn, Executive Director of the Innosight Institute, gave the keynote address. Horn spoke about blended learning in the context of his research on disruptive innovation. Horn warn the audience that disruptive innovation often seems inevitable – but it is not. Horn challenged New York not to be paralyzed by challenges and to focus on the leadership that successful blended learning requires.
The Education Elements team offered their expertise on a series of panels that covered the nuts-and-bolts of blended learning.
Participants engaged in two “Blended Learning in Action” simulations led by Education Elements. They learned about blended learning while taking part in a three-group rotation model – rotating between independent work viewing videos and case studies; collaborative work designing blended learning classrooms with their peers; and direct instruction. One participant noted, “I think a particularly important takeaway of this session is that, if you are working with your staff, administration, students… you model what a good Blended Learning session model looks like. Don’t talk about Blended Learning by delivering direct instruction via a PowerPoint!”
Three frequent comments heard from participants were ‘how are we going to fund this?,’ ‘how do we know what content is out there?,’ and ‘how do I get my teachers ready?’ To address these questions, the Education Elements team shared ideas on how to fund blended learning by breaking it down into one-time, periodic, and recurring costs. The team also shared expertise on selecting digital content and professional development – two of the day’s most popular panels.
The closing panel featured a case study about schools in Pennsylvania’s Hybrid Learning Initiative. Representatives from Lebanon and Manheim school districts, as well as Amy Morton, Executive Deputy Secretary from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, reflected on the challenge of getting started. They noted that while initially it was difficult to get teachers, school leaders, and legislators on-board, it appears that the bumpy road is starting to pay off. Teachers that were initially resistant to going blended now say they do not want to go back to the “old way” of teaching. Morton noted that in the Governor’s speech to unveil the state’s education budget, he mentioned a Pennsylvania blended learning school three times.
To close the day, NYSCATE president Dr. Amy Perry-Corvo drew the name of a district that won a free Blended Learning in Action workshop from Education Elements. Out of dozens of entries, Kingston City School District was selected the winner!
NYCSATE members are eager to continue the conversation. One member posted on the online discussion page, “SO? Can we keep this group going for possible exchange of ideas or help on particular projects? I would like to use it as I get some of my best ideas from fellow NYSCATE members.” Education Elements would love to hear your comments. We invite people to visit us on our Facebook page to continue the discussion on blended learning.
Perhaps most exciting was the energy in the room. New York’s education technology leaders were not wondering if they could move towards blended learning – but when. It was a successful Digital Learning Day for New York and the Education Elements team!