Two weeks ago, we rolled out our eBooklet, "Finding the Blended Learning Model that's the Right Fit for Your School", to help educators gain a better understanding of the four main blended learning models that have emerged in the movement's infancy.
This week, I read an article by Katrina Schwartz of MindShift that I felt served as a great coupling resource to our eBooklet. In the article, Katrina put together four fantastic "guidelines and best practices" she culled together while speaking with schools and districts that have successfully integrated blended learning.
The four points offer solid advice for any school beginning a blended learning initiative (or any school seeking to refine their current blended learning model, for that matter). The info below is my takeaway from these "crucial" blended learning integration factors, combined with observations of successes we have seen while helping schools add Wowzers to their Blended Learning math instruction resources.
1) Promote same "vision" throughout the school
Just like any new education initiative, schools benefit best when the administration provides a transparent vision of why the change or shift is being made. Integrating blended learning is no different. Schools must provide a vision of how the educational technology will:
- enhance and meet student learning goals
- provide advantages to instruction methods and progress monitoring
- help students develop the needed higher-order skills and understanding
Additionally, this overall vision for blended learning within the school must be coupled with support and leadership from the administration and staff pivotal in making the change (tech personnel, curriculum directors and coordinators, etc.).
Katrina's article mentions ensuring teachers are given room to make a few mistakes and try new things. I felt like this is a great point, because in our experience, creating rigid blended learning rules really negates the advantages of the technology.
2) Assess school and individual subject needs prior to integration
Each school has totally different needs and resources. This fact is obvious, but it's also important to remember when beginning to add online learning aspects to your curriculum. The great thing about the explosion of available educational technology tools is that the variety of resources offers schools, as Katrina puts it, "lots of room to experiment with what works best."
Think of it in terms of differentiated instruction. Just like a student learns better via a certain modality, different teachers or schools may be able to offer better learning environments with the right blended leaning model. This fact is also true of separate subjects within the school. The blended learning approach used in a language arts setting may be different than the best approach for a math course. More or less, don't try to fit a round digital peg into a square digital hole (if you don't have to, that is).
3) Find the Educational software and devices that fit your needs
If your school is planning to really ratchet up online learning, there's a good chance teachers and administrators will be inundated with student data. Scores, assessments, mastery results, you name it, will be at the fingertips of your school's educators.
But, don't bury your face in stat sheets and data just because its available. Schools that have had the most success with blended learning models ensured that the data returned by these EdTech tools afforded their teachers the ability to utilize the info and retain curriculum and instruction autonomy. When looking for online learning software, assess if the technology helps the teachers meet the goals laid out in the overall vision mentioned in point one.
4) Include teachers and staff in decision-making process
Finally, don't buy into the idea that blended learning is just the process of setting the kids up on a linear ride of learning via technology. Teachers are integral to success in blended learning environments. They support student learning, identify learning needs, and ultimately know what will help their children meet these learning needs (and what won't).
Include the teachers in the choosing of both the online and offline aspects of the curriculum. As Katrina so deftly notes, schools often adopt blended learning models to tailor instruction to the individual learner. We have seen, when teachers are on-board and ready-to-go, major success is just on the doorstep. However, if teachers don't identify with the decisions being made, it can be detrimental to individualized instruction.
To learn more about steps to take when integrating blended learning models, be sure to check out Katrina's article on MindShift (linked below).