“[With hybrid education], it’s like each child is challenged in a different manner,” says Gandhi. “Not all students do well being put on the spot. They won’t raise their hand and show you what they know without feeling like a spotlight is being put on them.”

Meeting digital natives in the middle

“Either we can try to fit square pegs into round holes, or as teachers, we can change how we are passing along information,” says Moe. That means moving beyond chalkboard and rote memorization techniques and learning to teach in multiple ways.

“Teachers are worried,” says Minda Fitzgerald, a teacher at California High School for the past 15 years. “They think kids aren’t going to get as much out of hybrid education because that’s not the way we learned. But it isn’t there to replace classroom learning; it’s there to increase students’ ability to grasp information. The hybrid idea is research-based. Students’ pass rates increase every time. The data is there.”

Active engagement is the key. Interactive learning means learning by doing rather than by being told. The choice and control impact students’ motivation. Students choose their own path via technology and arrive at their own conclusions rather than being told what the conclusions are.

The technology that’s enhancing students’ learning in hybrid programs is just as beneficial to the teachers, who prefer the hybrid models that enable them to access embedded professional development tools on demand. Just as children learn better when they understand context, teachers often prefer to seek technology help on-demand and at their own pace rather than being expected to absorb a weekend’s worth of lectures crash-course style at a formal conference. Educators in such hybrid environments get the support they need to create dynamic content for students that allows them to do more than just impart information; they bring the lessons to life.

Multimodal education and multiple intelligences

While many students excel in environments that focus primarily on logical and linguistic intelligence–hallmarks of the American educational system–many don’t. Developmental psychologist Howard Gardner put forth the theory of multiple intelligences in 1983, asserting that a number of cognitive abilities fail to be taken into account in such environments. A student who learns to memorize the multiplication table, for example, may not actually achieve a fundamentally deeper understanding of the subject than another student who learns the material differently or less quickly. Those perceived as slower learners may respond better to a different teaching approach, or they may understand the material in ways the classroom isn’t designed to provide.