Though blended learning models are becoming very popular across the country, some schools and districts still think it's not possible in their case.
These schools often labor under the misconception that they need a major investment in infrastructure and technology to make a blended learning environment possible. Somewhere along the way, the idea developed that blended learning is only possible if their student-to-device ratio is close to 1:1.
Not only is that view incorrect, it's often unrealistic.
If you feel this way, know that there are very few schools in the country without the same budgetary concerns. In fact, if a school is even remotely close to 1:1, they are probably doing so with via Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy. Almost no school or district has $500,000 to spend on iPads for their school.
So, how do we offer blended learning to our teachers using our existing resources? There are actually quite a few solid options.
Bring Your Own Device
As I mentioned, BYOD (sometimes also refered to as Bring Your Own Technology or BYOT) is a viable strategy to exponentially increase the number of devices available in your school. By simply allowing students to use the devices they already clandestinely bring to school, you can get quite close to a 1:1 device ratio.
An investment in technology and infrastructure may still be necessary to cover for low-income students without devices and the network load that will be experienced when everyone is on the Wi-Fi, but chances are, your school will already be required to make these additons and the costs are not nearly the same investment as a true 1:1 strategy.
The Flipped Classroom
If having students bring their own devices to school makes you and your fellow administrators nervous, the flipped classroom model may serve as a solid alternative. Background learning takes place at home via online videos and presentations, i.e. as homework. These videos can be produced by the teachers themselves or accessed through YouTube or other teacher-sharing sites.
The theory is that if teachers dont have to provide the background knowledge during class through lecture, their instruction time can be better spent practicing and scaffolding the skills the students need to utilize the topic at-hand and provide personal attention to the students that still need support and reinforcement.
Solutions using existing computer labs
If you have your technology grouped together into a lab setting, either a rolling cart or a devoted brick-and-mortar room, there are also ways to become more blended:
- The rotational model is the traditional strategy where teachers occasionally schedule time in a computer lab or share a laptop/tablet cart. Depending on demand, this model may require teachers to plan their schedules months in advance.
- The flex model requires schools to provide students a dedicated place in their schedule for online learning while still attending traditional classes. This scheme is growing in popularity amongst secondary schools as a credit recovery program for students who need to make up a variety of classes.
Selected rotation with limited devices
Finally, students can be rotated as a form of enrichment or remediation. This can be done using either a computer lab or a few devices that remain housed in classrooms. With a prescribed curriculum provided by either the teacher or a software algorithm, more differentiation can occur than if students were just kept on the same schedule as in traditional classroom settings.
Taking your classrooms to the next level
Have you seen any of these models in the wild? What did you think? If so, we'd love to hear more about the challenges you faced and the successes you experienced. Reach out to us via our Twitter account, @Wowzers, or tell us about it on the Wowzers Facebook page!