blended learning

7 must-knows from blended learning’s early adopters


Blended learning mavericks reveal what works and what doesn’t for K-12 blended and personalized learning implementations.

#4 Expand the Conversation about Cultural Relevance

More and more “mavericks” are focusing on determining best practices for weaving cultural relevance into personalized and blended learning environments. As one educator from District of Columbia Public Schools put it, this should be grounded in conversation. “It shouldn’t just be a class or a book. Ask students, where do you see your identity represented and supported in your school?”

Greg Callaham described that cultural identity is a critical part of student voice at of Alpha Public Schools in California. “Many teachers want to have this conversation [on culture] but don’t know how. Start the conversation outside the classroom first—in staff meetings and in advisory meetings with individual students.” The Alpha team also took steps to make sure that students felt represented in the curriculum—they invited students to share personal stories and experiences and turned those into case studies that could be used as instructional material.

#5 Frame Tech as One Tool in the Toolbox

Central to expanding blended-learning efforts is this message: technology is an essential tool, but strong pedagogy will always be the backbone of a great blended program. For example, Julie Coiro from the University of Rhode Island talked about a summer professional development institute that she runs on digital literacy. “We have teachers, librarians, and other educators coming and expecting the week to be about technology,” Coiro said. “But we don’t frame it in technology. We focus on collaboration, flexibility, the power of personal relationships, and creativity. It’s an institute to learn about the culture in which, and from which, digital texts and tools can foster learning and engagement.”

#6 Reinvent PD for the 21st Century

Teacher professional development must mirror the kind of classroom we want to create for students. As Kimberly Ramos of North Kingstown School Department in Rhode Island said, “If we want teachers to help grow students’ individual interests, strengths, and goals, we need to foster that learning environment for teachers, too,” she said.

Kristen Watkins of Dallas Independent School District in Texas echoed this sentiment. Her district has started to personalize professional development supported by the tool BetterLesson. “We’ve developed an adult learner profile,” Watkins said. “We pulled together 16 teacher and student actions into a rubric and started providing personalized learning coaching. That’s where we align all our coaching and support at the teacher and leader level.”

#7 Seek Out Smart Approaches to Scale

When encouraging the scaling of models, there is a clear tension between being flexible and personalized enough in response to varied local conditions, and ensuring the fidelity of certain model components. Andrew Frishman of Big Picture Learning suggested that scaling is best done with a generous frame of mind. “We think of it as spread instead of scale,” Frishman said. “Our goal is not to be imperial nor colonial but rather to leverage existing local assets to spread our proven approach and practices.”

Want to learn more? Read the full report here.

Take action: Are you a teacher or leader spearheading blended and personalized learning in your school system? Join next year’s conference in Providence.

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