Why Blended Learning, Why Now?

Why Blended Learning? Why Now?

Blended Learning as Change Agent

At last year’s iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium, we asked educators and thought leaders what excited them most about blended learning and were thrilled by their responses. Participants shared that blended learning acts as a change agent that can transform the teaching profession as well as the learning experience. When blended learning programs are effectively implemented with quality content and curriculum, students gain access to more personalized and engaging learning.

In 2014, the Center for Digital Education’s (CDE) Digital Content and Curriculum Survey found that “53 percent of school officials said digital resources were critical to the increasing adoption of alternative learning environments, including blended, online and flipped learning. Significant percentages of respondents were also turning to digital innovations to improve student engagement and achievement as a way to cope with limited financial resources, and because students and teachers simply expect to access digital content from mobile devices.”

Over the years we have continued to see an increase in the use of technology, and it is important that we also see an increase in quality programs that support teachers and make the most of technology. Blended learning offers a 21st century education program that balances the best of face-to-face instruction with the personalized potential of online learning. In The Blended Learning Implementation Guide, Digital Learning Now, Getting Smart, and The Learning Accelerator note: “Promising early results from initial adoptions of personalized learning technologies and blended learning models suggest that schools can be organized in ways that produce higher levels of achievement for students and improved working conditions for teachers.”

Rebecca Murry, Math Coach at the Manhattan and Queens campuses of the United Nations International School (@UNISNYC) has seen a change in the way her students engage with mathematics. Blended learning has:

  1. Increased student engagement
  2. Provided student autonomy
  3. Instilled a disposition of self-advocacy
  4. Promoted student ownership
  5. Allowed instant diagnostic information and student feedback

Blended classrooms are working to create unique and memorable experiences for students that extend beyond traditional instruction into individually designed lessons that meet students where they are, and motivate and effectively challenge.

In Walker’s classroom at Harrison Elementary in Marion, Ohio, third grade students use DreamBox Learning® Math for 15 minutes a day as part of their station rotation model and also access the content at home. Walker explains that the technology that is most helpful are the programs that give students immediate feedback. One of the benefits of personalized learning with products like DreamBox is that each student is working at their own pace and in the lesson that is right for them, right now. Thirty different students working on 30 different lessons also creates challenges for a teacher to provide individualized feedback in a timely manner. Immediate feedback lets “students make more realistic evaluations of their learning,” and helps keep them motivated and engaged.

As students use the tools, a data profile develops that empowers teachers to make the best instructional decisions possible for every student. Teachers meet in grade level teams weekly to analyze data and plan instruction. They pull data a from variety of resources including pre and post testing, NWEA MAP assessments, teacher observation, and DreamBox data which is displayed in a teacher dashboard. The combination of data helps to create productive student groups that ensure students have a personalized experience that provides the right information at the right time.

Partnering with content providers that are aligned with your instructional vision and strategy will help ensure you achieve your desired outcomes and don’t simply add technology on top of current practice. Finding a partner that can help you build the organizational capacity you need to create the change you desire and that has a strong understanding of the atmosphere in which their curriculum works best as well as the professional development offerings to support an implementation with fidelity are important factors for success.

For example, DreamBox suggests:

  1. Setting goals with students to complete 5–8 lessons per week
  2. Allowing 15–20 minute sessions throughout the week
  3. Monitoring lesson completion using the teacher dashboard and reports

DreamBox Learning is dedicated to the research and development of a curriculum that both engages learners and individualizes the learning experience. Our Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ technology adapts to the individual learner through continuous formative assessment in and between lessons. In order to get that right, DreamBox analyzes over 48,000 data points per student per hour to provide the right lesson at the right time, every time.