While many agree on the basics of blended learning, Brooks pointed out that blended learning is not:
- Simply putting a digital device in the hands of teachers and students.
- Scanning worksheets and uploading them for students to print and complete.
- Sharing digital versions of class notes.
- Experiencing a mastering of technology tools.
- Thinking of students as being simply information consumers.
That last point is especially important, Brooks said. “We have to think of students differently,” she said—“as creators, researchers, investigators, and even designers.”
The district took several important steps to ensure that its blended learning program would succeed.
First, leaders adjusted school board policy to permit students to bring their own devices to school. This prompted a review of the district’s infrastructure and available bandwidth, which were upgraded to handle the demands presented by an influx of internet-ready devices.
Teacher professional development received an overhaul, too.
“One of the things we found is that teachers are really good at collaborating among their colleagues, but when you ask them to collaborate with students and make students a part of that, you deal with control and teachers giving up control,” Brooks said, adding that the district has done a great deal of work teaching students and teachers how to collaborate with one another, as well as teaching students how to collaborate with each other in appropriate ways.
Teachers also receive instruction on classroom management and procedures—in particular, a pilot is under way to help teachers learn how to handle device glitches or network problems without losing instructional time.
The California Learning Resource Network (CLRN), a state-funded effort, gives educators a place to review and select supplemental electronic resources—a valuable resource if educators want to use electronic resources in their blended instruction. California educators must meet certain qualifications and then complete a rigorous training program before they are qualified to review materials.