I was at Hamilton Elementary in Hamilton, MI last week. What I saw was really impressive. Blended Learning is a term that gets thrown around a lot. What I saw in practice at this school was the real deal. I even learned how old a third grader's dog is, in both human and dog years. (More on this in a moment...)
Leadership Starts At The Top
My morning at Hamilton Elementary started with tech-savvy superintendent Dave Tebo (@tebotweets). We walked the halls, where he knew kids by name. We went down a hallway where three classrooms were equipped with enough iPads and laptops for all students to use them. When he described these three teachers, who try out new products, technologies, and instructional models, they sounded sorta like a SWAT team. It was clear he trusted them to adapt and lead the way for the rest of the district.
Device Agnostic? Kids Don't Care...
All three classrooms I visited were using a Rotational Blended Learning model. The teacher would work with 3-5 students at a time on offline activities while the rest of the students were using self-paced electronic instruction.
There were basically three groups of students in each class. Those working with the teacher, those working on iPads, and those working on laptops.
Students would move between different applications (Edmodo, ixl, Wowzers) every 20 minutes. I was sitting next to a girl that was using Wowzers on an iPad. After 20 minutes was up she logged out of Wowzers on an iPad and right back into Wowzers on a laptop. She continued right where she left off.
I thought to myself: Adults use big phrases like "Device Agnostic." But it never even occurs to kids. They are digital natives; experts in all interfaces.
Calculating Dog Years Is Learning!
So now to some of the exciting things I was able to learn in the two hours I spent in classrooms: one girl's dog is 7, or about 40 in dog years; one girl's mom has been telling people she's 29 for 3 years; one boy logs on every morning before school to 'warm his brain up.'
I love talking to kids. It makes me feel like the guy from the AT&T ads:
But there's also something relevant about these seemingly inane facets. These students were really demonstrating how they were taking ownership of their own learning:
The girl who shared her dog's age in both human and dog years did the calculation in her head during a math activity on her iPad.
The girl whose mom has been '29' more than once made that reference while playing a game whose storyline was similar.
The boy who logged on to 'warm his brain up' was actively preparing for challenges ahead using his own resources. All excellent examples of constructivist learning, where students were creating meaning out of these concepts.
The Moral Of the Story...
For me the simple takeaways:
Having a tech savvy leader (principal, superintendent, etc.) is key in adopting a true blended learning environment
Having a "SWAT TEAM" of early adopting teachers is essential to try things out and get the other educators on board
Kids can use any device
Maybe a better takeaway is this: kids are hilarious and always smarter than you think.
Do you have any good kid stories? Post in comments below:
Interested in employing strategies like Hamilton Elementary? Download this free guide from the experts at Wowzers: