Many of our nation's mathematics educators are being faced with a dual challenge: integrating new educational technology on a daily basis while also aligning their curriculum and lesson plans with the new Common Core math standards.
At Wowzers, we feel a concurrent push towards technology integration and new standards does make sense in today’s classroom. The advances in educational technology provide the ability to model and hone many of the skills, practices, and concepts found in the new standards, including collaboration, analysis, and critical thinking.
Additionally, the understanding of the standards will be assessed via computer-based tests (PARCC or Smarter Balanced). This connection between technology and the standards only further increases the need for students to be familiar with using technology to complete math equations and to be comfortable with completing these math questions via tablet or computer.
Oakland, CA schools start Blended Learning Pilot to Tackle CCSS
Four schools in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) directly addressed this concern by partnering with the Rogers Family Foundation to engage in a Blended Learning Pilot geared to utilize the combination of online and offline learning as a driver for CCSS math integration.
This pilot is a major undertaking both in size and scope. The program includes four schools: two middle schools (6-8) and two elementary schools (K-5). Within the four schools there are a total of 1,000 classroom students and 45 teachers. Additionally, the schools have access to 21 different digital learning programs via 379 computers in efforts to increase the use of data-driven personalized learning paths and effective small-group offline instruction.
One main theme in the pilot was that the learning environment needed to be changed in order to become blended learning-friendly. This includes altering class/subject lengths and rearranging learning stations to be more receptive to rotation and collaboration. However, it’s important to note that even though all four schools had the same overall goal, each pilot school approached administration and instruction methods via different means.
Changes to the Learning Environment and Daily Curriculum
Below are descriptions of the drastic learning environment transformations two of the pilot schools underwent in order to provide their students an engaging and effective blended learning/CCSS math learning experience.
Madison Middle School (6th-8th Grade)
At Madison Middle School, the classes are broken into 90-minute blocks, where the classroom educators have the option of using four different digital content providers during instruction – two for core instruction, one for remediation, and one for incentive. The core and remediation content are aligned with the CCSS math standards to further blend the integration of technology and new standards.
The learning data provided by the online and offline learning are organized via a Learning Management System (LMS) provided by Education Elements. Within the 90-minute blocks, technology is mainly used to reinforce teacher-taught direct instruction, while the offline learning experiences are more focused on group and individual learning time where the classroom educator can spend more time scaffolding deeper understanding and real-life application of the math concepts. Students rotate between individual online learning, "round table" group discussion, and individual/group instruction with the teacher (as seen in the image).
Korematsu Discovery Academy (Grades Pre-K-5)
Korematsu Discovery Academy took a totally different approach to the pilot, opting to completely redesign a single grade's structure and curricula to use as a baseline and model for Common Core math standards integration. Though students stayed within the same core class throughout the day, the subjects were broken into 45 minute blocks in which two-thirds of the students would be learning online while the other one-third worked directly with the classroom teacher (see image for blended learning environment breakdown).
The teachers at Korematsu also utilized an LMS that allowed all stakeholders to easily view the student’s progress and achievement on the online and offline Common Core-based math learning. Because of high class numbers at Korematsu, the school sought methods to engage and reach each and every student. Their rotation blended learning model allows two classroom teachers to individually instruct a group of 60 total students. That’s pretty impressive!
Takeaway from the pilot’s first year
In January 2013, Greg Klein and Carrie McPherson Douglass of the Rogers Foundation posted an update on the OUSD Blended Learning Pilot. Their takeaway was very encouraging, and they stressed the fact that by changing the learning environment and the means by which learning content is delivered, these schools opted into “high-quality personalized blended learning,” (as opposed to just adding tech tools to your existing instruction methods).
The Rogers Foundation and OUSD were also quick to note that blended learning is the “means” of Common Core-based student learning, not the “end”. In their observations, the teachers at the pilot schools now receive real-time achievement data via the blend of online and offline data (provided by the LMS), and can integrate and change methods more quickly to enhance student engagement and achievement.
The pilot seems to have found the most success when teachers allowed their instruction to be agile, building on the quick successes found via heightened engagement and optimizing those successes to increase achievement and progress. As the teachers became more familiar with the new educational technology resources, they were able to offer “deeper, more rigorous implementation” of both the blended learning models and the Common Core math-based instruction.
Share your experiences with Common Core math and blended learning!
Has your school/district attempted to integrate the CCSS math standards via a blended learning model? If so, how did they do so and how is the process going? What are some of the tips you can give fellow educators?
- Classroom model images via Rogers Family Foundation