Temple Independent School District (ISD), which is located north of Austin and south of Waco, Texas, has a very diverse student population. More than 75 percent of our students are economically disadvantaged and our ethnicity is comprised of roughly equal distribution of African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian. Like other similar districts, we meet our students’ needs through enhancing instruction, building strong relationships between students and their teachers, and creating opportunities for students to take ownership of their learning. Despite our success, this wasn’t something that happened overnight.
For years, we’ve been working toward blended learning because we felt it would be the answer to meeting the needs of our students. In 2015, Temple High School was chosen to be a Raising Blended Learners pilot site through Raise Your Hand Texas. For the next two years, we had 13 teachers experiment with innovative instructional models and new ways to leverage technology to enhance instruction. After the pilot, we saw how blended learning could help meet our students’ needs. Our teachers in the pilot learned to differentiate instruction, had more time to develop meaningful relationships with students, and helped students take ownership of their learning.
Blended learning for everyone
We’re now in our first year of a district-wide blended-learning initiative. We are proud of the progress we’re seeing already and we have learned a few things along the way.
Lesson 1: Find an expert to help.
If you’re new to blended learning, find an expert who will lead you down the right path. We knew this instructional shift would be challenging for teachers, administrators, students, and parents, and we’ve read plenty of horror stories about new instructional initiatives not working as intended.
We wanted to avoid the instructional “swinging pendulum”–swinging back to old instructional practices after something new doesn’t work, then trying something else new. That’s why we began working with Education Elements in 2016. Their team shared their vast expertise and resources with us, walked us through the blended- learning design process, helped us understand what blended learning would look like in action, and how to sustain it.
The eSchool News Online and Blended Learning Guide is here! It features strategies to help K-12 administrators and educators adjust to the sudden shift to online learning in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It also features best practices, resources, and tips for top-notch online and blended learning practices. A new eSchool News Guide will launch each month–don’t miss a single one!