Blended Learning Implementation for Elementary Schools

Webinar Date: May 29,2013

Webinar Description

Implementing a blended learning solution into an existing curriculum poses both significant challenges and opportunities. Join education advocate and advisor Tom Vander Ark for our community’s new webinar when he will lead a discussion about best practices for implementing Blended Learning. Tom will share different approaches for blended learning implementation through an analysis of several elementary school case studies. He will show us how blended learning can improve teaching, benefit student learning, as well as assist in transitioning to the Common Core Standards. Tom will cover the impact of gaining real-time data on each student’s progress and how this affects teaching methods and practices. He also will provide a critical evaluation of adaptive learning tools at the core of successful blended learning models.

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TH:       Alright. So, welcome to today’s webinar, “Blended Learning Implementation for Elementary Schools: Real-Time Data, Adaptive Learning, and the Common Core State Standards.” My name is Tim Hudson, I’m the Senior Curriculum Director at DreamBox Learning, and I’ve spent over 10 years in public schools both as a high school math teacher and K­–12 math coordinator. Our team at DreamBox Learning is sponsoring today’s webinar. DreamBox offers a rigorous and engaging Pre-K through Grade 5 math program that fully adapts and differentiates for each student—no matter where they are in their learning—to complement classroom teachers and support schools’ Blended Learning models. I’ll share more about DreamBox at the end.

Today’s webinar is intended to share best practices for implementing Blended Learning in your school. You’ll hear examples of different approaches to Blended Learning implementation, how Blended Learning can improve teaching and benefit student learning, and how technology-enabled real-time data about each student’s progress can positively affect teaching methods and practices, especially if you’re transitioning to the Common Core. I’m excited to introduce our speaker for today’s webinar, Tom Vander Ark. Tom Vander Ark is the author of “Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World.” He is also the CEO of Getting Smart, an education advocacy firm. Previously, he was the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Tom served as a public school superintendent in Washington state, and has extensive private sector experience. Tom is Chair of Charter Board Partners, Treasurer for the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL), and serves on several other non-profit boards. To read more of his work, you can check out his daily Education Week blog: Vander Ark On Innovation. Tom also wrote a white paper on Blended Learning that you’ll receive—if you’re participating in this webinar—you’ll receive in a follow-up email, and I’ll share more about that at the end.

So, a couple of webinar tips about audio and video there, you can see those, about maximizing your screen, you will receive a CE certificate within 24 hours and you’ll have information to access this recording and the slides, as well as that white paper. And if you’re tweeting, you can see the hashtag there, #edwebchat. So, without further ado, I will step off and turn it over to our speaker. Thanks, Tom.

TVA:    Thanks, Tim. Hi everybody, and welcome to “Blended Learning Implementation for Elementary Schools.” I look forward to your comments and questions. We’ve got a couple folks from the Getting Smart team that are going to try to monitor the chat box with me and try to respond in real time where we can, as well as during the Q&A session at the end.

Just a note at the outset, this is not just another reform that we’re going through. It’s the beginning of a phase change, a real change in the state of school. I call it personal digital learning. I think it’s the biggest deal since the printing press in terms of how human beings learn, probably going back to 1994; the influxion in the World Wide Web, and the beginning of Wikipedia. That was probably the real beginning of anywhere/anytime learning, and 15 years later we’re beginning to really understand how to redesign schools, so that they work far better for students and teachers.

As you’ll hear, I’m quite optimistic about what we can get done in this decade, in terms of new tools and new schools that work much better for kids and teachers. When we talk about Blended Learning, I’m not just talking about the shift from print to digital, but I’m talking about a shift from textbooks to digital content, from flat and sequential content to adaptive and engaging content, from passive to active learning, from grouping kids by birthday, to individual progress models. A shift from annual testing that we’ve all grown to hate, to instant feedback for teachers and kids that in many cases is really embedded within the learning experience itself. And then a shift from individual practice as teachers, to in many cases working together in grade level teams, or in subject area teams; differentiated teams that work together for the success of a large number of students.

When we talk about Blended Learning we usually default to the Innosight Institute definition—they’re now called, after founder Clay Christensen—but they simply define Blended Learning as a multi-modal experience, where students spend part of their formal education online, and part of it in a brick-and-mortar setting. I’d like to add a slightly narrower definition that it’s an intentional shift to an online environment for a portion of the day, made so that learning is improved—learning productivity, kids are learning more per hour, engaged—and that school works better for teachers and kids. So that’s different than just layering technology on top of how we’ve always done school. It’s a real design change, in terms of how school works for both students and teachers.

So, this is not really optional, this is, I think, an undeniable wave that is coming and you, and you and your school have a choice of doing it sooner or later, doing it well or doing it poorly. But I think these 10 drivers indicate that this is really an undeniable set of change forces, the chance to personalize learning, the chance to better engage and motivate kids. The shift for most of us to an online testing environment for a part or smarter balance starting in 2015. The fact that devices are getting much cheaper and the fact that lots of teachers have already made the shift and lots of parents and kids have already blended their own learning. So, you put all those together, and it’s time to build a plan. We really think Blended Learning is going to be very positive for the teaching profession. In fact, we’ve just released a paper called “Improving Conditions and Careers,” and it outlines 10 ways that Blended Learning is benefiting teachers. There’s a list there, on the screen. It’s our sense that working in these data-infused team-based environments is going to result in much more support for teachers, better learning experiences for teachers, more rapid advancement opportunities for teachers; and for teachers that want to take on leadership roles, the opportunity to earn more and do that faster. Caroline just put two links up for you. The first one is the paper on conditions and careers, and then the second is an infographic that’s been really popular where these slides are taken from.

Today, we are going to walk through five important decisions that school teams need to make when they’re considering Blended Learning: the strategy; adapting or adopting a school model; picking platform and content; and then, and only then, considering what kind of an access device will be best for kids; and then finally, staffing and staff development strategies. So, the first set of questions are around strategy. So if you’re a school, the question is, “Should we join a network, should we adapt a model from another school, or should we invent something completely different?” I visited Rocky Mount, North Carolina a few weeks ago, and it was a K–12 school that had adopted the “Rocketship” model,, in the K–8 grades, and the Carpe Diem approach to High School, And they had flipped over the month of August.

There are lots of new school models being developed. You can see 20 of them at the NGLC profile, if you just Google “NGLC profiles,” you’ll find them. You can also look at, really well written examples of new school models that you could adapt or adopt. Most of those are high schools, but you’ll find some K–8’s as well. At the district level you really have to decide whether every school is going to do their own thing, or whether you’re going to work together on what I call an enterprise model. Enterprise is a term borrowed from corporate computing, which usually talks about using common IT systems and a common device, and when I talk about an enterprise strategy for schools, I often use Mooresville, North Carolina as an example. It is a system of about 4,000 kids. One set of goals, one set of curriculum, one device, and one really rich teaching community with [an] engaged group of teachers. Many enterprise environments feel top-down, but I think that the secret sauce at Mooresville has been the fact that Mark Edwards has made it a really engaging community, where teachers feel valued and heard, and where they’re part of the design team.

Bigger districts usually default to a portfolio strategy, which means schools have more autonomy to develop a model. They’re often encouraged to join a network. In the New York City iZone, they’re helping to expand networks of schools, using common platforms. So, that’s the first set of questions, and we’ll dive into more detail on school models in just a minute. But, after you’ve asked that question of, “Are we all going to do it together, or is each school going to do their own thing?” and then the next question is: “How do we leverage teacher leadership?”

What has changed in the last 30 months compared to when I was a school superintendent, is that parents, teachers, and kids have really flipped and blended their own learning. Since iPads came out in 2010, and we saw the app explosion, there’s now some 75,000 educational apps just on the iTunes marketplace, and more than half that many on the Android marketplace. So, with that explosion we’ve just seen a lot of bottoms-up, sort of organic activity by parents, teachers, and kids. So if you’re a school administrator, you really have to start this process by listening to teachers, by surveying what’s happening in your school, by getting the good sense what’s working and who’s leading—and find ways to engage them in the process. Then, the next strategy question is, “Could we all jump in and make the change over the summer the way Rocky Mount did in North Carolina and use a leasing strategy to be able to afford the shift, or should we phase the change over three or four years like Mooresville, North Carolina did?”

I think the key for your school is to find the right balance. To run a good school, I think you have to balance innovation and execution. Execution means great teaching in every classroom, every day, by every teacher. Innovation means trying to do things differently to get a dramatic improvement in student achievement. So, you’ll have to find the right balance between doing what you do well today and introducing new strategies. In most places, a phased approach over three or four years is going to make more sense instructionally, as well as financially. Strategy really starts with a good set of goals, and very specifically, I’d love to have you think about what kinds of learning experiences do we want for our kids. One of my favorite districts is Danville, Kentucky. Their goals are—they start out with the aspiration that we want—powerful learning experiences for every student every day. Number two, they’re obsessed about growth—we want every student growing every day. Number three, they want their kids to be great communicators. They want their kids in their schools really connected to the community. And finally, they want them to be globally prepared. I think that’s a great set of goals.

So, start this process out with thinking about your academic outcomes and, very specifically, the kinds of roles you want kids to play. Caroline put a link to a paper we wrote a couple of months ago, called: “How Digital Learning Contributes to Deeper Learning.” And in that role, in that paper, we describe about 15 different roles that kids can play: tech-empowered roles, kids as journalists, kids as video producers, kids as scientists, kids as historians, and the sort of active role that they can play in a tech-infused environment. And finally, have a community conversation about how will kids show what they know. If you want to shift to a competency-based environment, you have to have really good and frequent demonstrations of student learning. So start with a conversation about what kids need to know and be able to do, and how they’ll show what they know. Here’s a couple of discussion starters for you and your community:—remember that is now Christensen Institute—Caroline sent you the link to that. Another discussion starter is from, and they produced Opportunity Culture outlines about 10 very specific school staffing and budgeting strategies that extend the reach of great teachers, and they’re now beginning to work with districts around the country in a partnership, to improve their reach of great teachers. And then finally, the white papers series that we’ve been supporting, it’s called and the DLN Smart Series. You see the link there, there’s seven great papers including the “Blended Learning Implementation Guide” that we’re going through today.

So, let’s stop and take a quick poll and see how many of you are using Blended Learning strategies. [Attendees respond to live, online poll.] “Sometimes” just pulled ahead; some “Class Rotation Models”; any “Lab Rotation”?; a few “Lab Rotation”—only one. Alright, it looks like there are some—I would guess there are some—it probably means flipped classroom strategies; lots of teachers doing exciting things in their own classroom, a Lab Rotation we’ll talk about, that would indicate that the whole has adopted a strategy. So, let’s go into those two strategies in a bit more detail.

So, here’s a quick summary from Innosight of the basic models. At the elementary level, you basically can choose between a Lab Rotation and a Class Rotation model. It means where you’re rotating from a traditional environment to an online environment. The Flex Model that Innosight describes is really most often a high school model, because you’ve shifted to an online curriculum, and the second important distinction about a Flex Model is that you’ve really shifted to an individual progress model. So rotations still rely quite heavily on cohorts, those might be dynamic cohorts, but it’s usually kids moving in a group. And a Flex Model is usually an individual progress model, so kids really have control over rate, time, location, and some control over path. What’s becoming more and more common is a Self Plan, and that, again, is at the high school most often, where kids do some of their course work online, and we’re beginning to see more choice to the course level. That’s now common in Utah, Louisiana, Georgia just launched about 135 publicly available courses. Texas has a bill on the Governor’s desk today on a more choice to the course. So kids are getting more options at the high school level to blend their own learning, but today we’re going to focus on a couple other Rotation Models for elementary schools.

Here’s an example of a classroom Rotation Model. For you elementary teachers, it will look pretty common, it will look like strategies that you frequently use or kids are learning in centers in your classroom. In this case, one or two of those centers are now computer-based learning. At a school like KIPP Empower in Los Angeles—an early pioneer in this class rotation model—they use a classroom set of computers to knock down the reading level to groups of less than 14. So kids will spend some time every day in a reading group of less than 14, they’ll often spend time in a math group of less than 14, and computers really buy time for teachers to work with students in small groups.

The second model that some of you may use on occasion makes use of a computer lab. This model was pioneered by Rocketship Education, the highest performing elementary network in California. It’s almost all kids in or near poverty and over 75 percent ELL. So a high-need population, but a very high-performing, and they use a long day and long year powered in part by a lab. The kids will spend almost two hours a day in a learning lab, and they’ll rotate through that lab. The school is structured in a way that about three teachers can cover the class that would have taken four in the past, so they leveraged this learning lab. It is fair to say that Rocketship is looking for better ways to connect the data from their learning lab to their classroom. So you’ll see as they enter Nashville, and Memphis, and Milwaukee in the coming year, you’ll see some changes to that model, maybe some of the aspects of class rotation.

Lab Rotation models are really easy to use when you’re using an adaptive math product like DreamBox or an adaptive reading product. Carol just said, “Isn’t this what we’ve been doing for years?” It may be, but what’s powerful about Rocketship is the way they’ve leveraged their staffing, and because their lab is covered with TAs and Vista volunteers, it has stretched their staffing model, so that they’re able to pay their teachers 20 or 25 percent more, and allowed them to work with a larger number of students. And the lab has also helped power a longer school day. So they have been smart about how they’ve incorporated the lab into creating extended and improved learning opportunities for students.

I mentioned adaptive math products, these products that automatically adjust the learning level for every student. We’re going to talk about those a little bit more. I think they’re a terrific place to start if you’re new to Blended Learning, so I wanted to know how many of you have had any experience using an adaptive math product. [Attendees respond to live, online poll.] There are quite a few of you that are using one, or have had experience using one, and quite a few looking, so between “Yes” and “Considering”; more than half, so that’s great. I think adaptive math is really the best and easiest place to start when you’re thinking about Blended Learning strategies. The adaptive math products have been around for a few years. They’re the most mature of any of the Blended Learning tools that are out there. They provide all the benefits of Adaptive Assessment linked to the benefits of the Targeted Tutoring. So if your school is just getting started with Blended Learning, I think this is a great place to start.

Let’s talk about Platform and Content. DreamBox is a K­–5—soon to be extended into the middle grades—a really terrific adaptive and game-based math program. i-Ready is another example of a K–8 Adaptive Assessment linked to instruction in reading and mathematics. There are some others that use the NWEA Adaptive Assessment, so there are a number of products out there. There are some middle-grade math products. There are a growing number of colleges that are using Adaptive Math or Adaptive Instruction as part of their Developmental Math, to more quickly get kids to credit bearing courses, so this is not new. It’s been successfully used in many settings K­–20, they’re a set of proven products and strategies for using them, so I think it’s a terrific place to start.

When you think about picking the platform, you really want to think about three things. One is, you want to make sure that you have a single sign-on, particularly if you’re going to use multiple forms of content, multiple vendors. It’s great if you can get unitary reporting, so that you can have a single set of progress reports for students and parents. And then, finally, I think the key to running competency-based environments is going to be standards-based grade books. The way these should work is that they should automatically suck in data from multiple sources, and link them to Common Core or state standards, and provide a composite report of progress. The most commonly used standards-based grade books today are PowerSchool, PowerTeacher. I think we’ll see some innovation in this space that will make it easier to grab data from multiple sources, including teacher observations and much nicer visual reporting. My point here is just pay attention to single sign-on, reporting, and grade book as key products for managing a personalized and competency-based environment.

Now that we’ve talked about the goals, we’ve talked about platforms, we’ve talked about a little bit about content, now you can have that conversation about tablet versus laptop. Tablets, as everybody knows, are great because of the potential behind touch-enabled and all the apps that are being developed. They’re super engaging. A lot of our kindergarten kids are coming to school touch-ready; they’ll grab a hold of a computer screen and drag stuff, because many of them have had access to tablets. They’re less expensive, the battery lasts longer—so there’s lots of advantages for tablets and that’s why Apple and others have sold so many. There’s lots of problems with them, too. They’re not as easy to manage as they should be. There are a few management tools that are coming out, and Apple did recently make it easier to buy apps in bulk, but they’re still at the heart of it, a consumer, consumption device. I still think, at the secondary level, that laptops have a lot of benefit.

I’m particularly interested in kids writing a lot across the curriculum at the secondary level, and a laptop is still a better production device. But they’re more expensive, the batteries don’t last as long. So think hard about the school model and the content that you want to run. I talked at some length about Adaptive Instruction, if you want to use Adaptive Instruction, make sure that you have a chat with the vendor about what that runs on best. Most of those still run better on a laptop, or a desktop, than they do on a tablet. So there’s pros and cons, it really depends on your school and the model and the goals that you’re shooting for.

Let’s spend a couple of minutes talking about staffing and staff development. As I said, check out, it’s a great site to feed faculty conversation about what your options are. We’re starting to see more and more schools incorporate a differentiated staffing strategy. That means where there’s multiple levels, from sort of TA, to a beginning teacher, to an experienced, advanced, or master teacher. There’s a number of teacher development systems that are really competency-based, that look at a broad dashboard of indicators, where teachers demonstrate their expertise to their peers, to move up a skill-based ladder. I think we’ll see more and more environments like that, where there are lead teachers working with a group of teachers; a much more supportive environment for new teachers. We’re also seeing schools incorporate experts at a distance, so that might be a speech therapist brought in; in the high school it might be a physics teacher, an advanced placement teacher. I think we’ll see more special education folks brought in at a distance. So distributed and differentiated staffing is going to become much more common.

In terms of staff development, we are seeing schools combine school-wide activities, with a lot more individual development plans. And these really combine scheduled activities with a lot of just-in-time learning to make it really easy for teachers to learn what they need to learn, when they want to learn it. So, personalized learning is for teachers, as well kids. And I think all of these things are combining to begin to improve conditions, to make the job more doable, to reduce isolation, make the job more collaborative. And, in addition to a school team, many teachers are joining professional learning communities on platforms like Edmodo. There’s two million teachers on Edmodo, many work in a PLN, where there’s job-alikes, facing of the same challenges, able to share strategies and resources easily in a free, sort of an anywhere/anytime learning network for teachers.

We’re also excited about these improved career opportunities, so more leadership opportunities for teachers, more opportunity to share lessons with a broader audience. One company that I work with is called It’s a place where teachers can share assessments with each other, and just today they hit seven million assessments scored on Mastery Connect. Teachers Pay Teachers is another site where teachers are sharing lessons. There’s lots of lesson plans. The AFT has a Share My Lesson site. So lots of new ways for teachers to collaborate, and with the explosion in EdTech, lots of opportunities for teachers in the EdTech’s base supporting school. So, I think the exciting thing is that career opportunities and education continue to get better.

There’s lots of ways to make a difference in student learning these days. And we’ll close with just a couple of thoughts on building your plan. We think there’s four important steps, it starts with creating conditions for success, that means a community conversation that results in a plan around the five decision points that we’ve described, and then a good plan for implementation, and, as I said, in most schools it’s going to make sense to phase in a plan over three or four years, and as you’re phasing it, using continuous cycles of improvement. Your plan will need to be updated every year, as capabilities get better and better.

A couple critical success factors. Hold a kick-off meeting. Make it really clear the goals that you’re working on, who’s responsible for what, what’s the timeline, what’s the budget. These are complicated projects, because they change everything about a school and a school district, so they require coordination of the academic team, the financial team, the human resources team, they may change how the facility is used, they may change the schedule, the bus times, so it may require a coordination of a lot of different people across your school district, so you’ll need a good project manager.

A school district needs a program management office, where you have good links across all those departments. And then, finally, it won’t work the way you thought it would—in some cases better, in some cases worse—you’ll have to continue to adjust your plan. Here’s a list of the papers that we’ve written on this subject, in the last few months, on how to fund the shift. We’ve written about data, and the importance of a big backpack of data that moves with kids grade-to-grade and school-to-school. We’ve written about Online Assessments and Competency-based Environments; the Implementation Guide that we’re talking about today; State Funding; and then the subject of Conditions and Careers. We’ve got a couple papers that we’re writing with our friends from DreamBox that will be out this month and next month, on Blended Learning. So, with that let’s try to take on some of the questions that you’ve been feeding, and—Tim do you want to help?

TH:       Yeah, I sure do. Thanks Tom.

TVA:    We’re getting lots of great questions.

TH:       Yeah, I’ve documented some that have come through. I’ve got about five or six that came up. I think the first one that might be helpful for our audience—you mentioned in the middle of the presentation and didn’t speak too much about it—the idea of Competency-based school or learning environment. That might be a new idea for some in our audience, though—can you just describe Competency-based Learning and how it fits with Blended Learning models?

TVA:    Competency-based environment just means kids show what they know. Here’s a blog that I wrote about Detroit called “What’s all the buzz about Detroit?” Really a very exciting model there. The Education Achievement Authority has created, they’re working with 12 schools now, on a Competency-based Environment. In K–8 there’s 18 different levels of math and 18 different levels in ELA, and each of those levels has a unit of instruction, with a number of multiple learning targets inside it. And so, lots of ways to learn, lots of ways to apply what you’re learning. And then from an assessment standpoint, every student has to collect three forms of evidence around each learning target. And that’s how you complete a unit, by bringing forward evidence of each learning target.

So, students move to the next level after they’ve collected evidence that they’ve met every one of the learning targets. I love the fact that they, the kids are taking ownership of their own learning, taking ownership of multiple forms of assessment, and that they know that they have to show, they have to demonstrate at least proficiency, to be able to move on. The other neat thing about the Buzz Platform, that they use in Detroit, is that when a student scores “Advanced” in a unit, they become eligible for peer coaching, and it shows up on the dashboard. If you log in and are working on a unit of instruction, they know that they can see which students have mastered the subject and are eligible for peer coaching. So, in a Competency-based environment, kids move once they’ve demonstrated mastery, not just because the whole class got a year older.

TH:       Great! Let’s go ahead and take those two questions that Caroline reposted. First from Mark: “Can you elaborate more about how teachers can take on leadership roles?”

TVA:    Sure! It looks different. It looks different in every school. What I think is the most common, is probably a teacher that’s leading a grade level team, so, you know, a K–2 team, a 3–4 team, a 5–6 team. In some cases, a K–8 school may have a math lead in it, so it might be a grade level plus subject, would two different ways that you can create a teacher leadership role. Caroline and I visited Decker Elementary in Las Vegas about 10 days ago, and in that school, teacher leadership is really important.

The principal pushes down a lot of responsibility to these grade span teams, and there’s a leader of each grade span team that has to make choices about the apps and strategies that they’re going to use. I wrote a blog about it after visiting. Leading grade teams and subject teams is probably the best example. I think we’re also seeing districts making much better use of teachers on special assignment, either full- and part-time, so, a partial release to take on a district responsibility. When you’re trying to go through something as profound as Blended Learning and Competency-based Learning, having a lot of teacher leaders of that sort I think is super useful.

TH:       Yeah, I oversaw 29 schools K–12—about 18,000 students—and, one of the things that I would always suggest teachers do is, you know, if you have ideas, most administrators should be looking for great ways to impact student learning as best as they possibly can. So, certainly get in touch with people in your school and your district who are looking for great ideas and it’s hard to keep abreast of everything. So the next question then Tom—

TVA:    Let me just say on a Competency-based Environment check out, that’s an iNACOL sponsored site, it’s a whole community inventing Competency-based education together. It’s a super, it’s a great resource.

TH:       Good point, good point. So, the next question from Matt: “How does Blended Learning fit into the traditional LMS structure? Do you need one, are you better off without one?”; and that of course is a Leaning Management System.

TVA:    Yeah, well that’s a great question. Most LMS were developed—they started in college—most of them were developed to manage courseware so this is a unitary system of content developed for a semester, and they’ve been adapted to run in K–12, that sort of thinking is most useful in high school. It’s less useful, I think in, in elementary school. We have seen a few of the LMS providers shift to more modular thinking, so, Buzz is an example of a product built on BrainHoney which comes from, a Salt Lake City LMS provider. And they have proven, I think pretty agile at shifting from sort of courseware, to this more object-oriented way of thinking. If you are going to use an Adaptive Instruction Platform, you may be able to get away without using an LMS, and instead just think about a unitary reporting system. You could use an Adaptive Instruction system with a simple social learning platform, like Edmodo, that’s pretty common. We’re also seeing a number of schools using a Blended Learning Platform called I think DreamBox is—and some of the other products I’ve mentioned—is working with Education Elements, that provides a teacher reporting system that gives teachers some strategies for grouping kids. So it’s a—I wouldn’t call it an LMS in the traditional sense. Another one we just wrote up is called Silverback Learning, and Silverback is an Instructional Improvement System. It’s incorporated now a lot of free content from, so that would be another example of an Instructional Management Strategy that’s a little different than the traditional LMS. So, Matt, you need some of the functionality of a LMS, you need a good grade book, you need a good reporting system, but you may be able to find those without adopting what we’ve historically thought of as an LMS.

TH:       Alright. Thanks Tom. We had pretty early in the session someone that said they were joining this webinar because they’ve felt that their school was a little bit behind on the cutting edge of technology. So what suggestions would you have for a teacher, or a principal, what could they do in the short term, if their school is pretty far behind with maybe even their hardware, or they’re not using technology at all?

TVA:    I think field trips are life changing. I mean I’ve had the good fortune over the last 20 years to visit thousands of schools. It’s clearly the best way for me to learn is just to see it. There’s just no substitute for being able to experience the culture of a good school. Short of that, the Decker Elementary that I mentioned in Las Vegas, they actually use in-school field trips, which means that during a release time, the principal encourages teachers to visit each other, and she’ll specifically point out strategies that some of her teachers use that are really productive, and she’ll encourage new and struggling teachers to visit them during their prep period. So, you may not need to go across town or across country, you may just need to go across the hall to see what a good flipped classroom looks like. Besides field trips, videos. There’s a lots of terrific school summary videos. We have some up on our resources page. We are looking at a Carpe Diem video is great, KIPP Empower has a great video. So, visit classrooms, visit schools, at least visit them with video.

TH:       Alright. Thanks. That was for Jean, from New Hampshire. She’s happy for the advice. Are there any predictable, sort of early mistakes that in the schools you’ve visited and talked with, and they make in implementing Blended Learning?

TVA:    Yes, buying a truckload of tablets without a plan. I mean, that’s the most common mistake. We get a lot of phone calls: “My school just bought a bunch of iPads, what do we do with them?” The main lesson that we’ve tried to impart today is start with goals, consider the kinds of school models that we’ve talked about today, investigate them, read the NGLC profiles, go visit schools, look at videos.Then have a conversation about platform and content, and only after those things, start talking about the device. Don’t get the thing backwards and go out and buy devices. Have a conversation, do some adult learning first, then worry about your device.

TH:       Alright. It’s all about picking the great tool for the job.

TVA:    We can put up some of the digital learning videos. Check out the videos that Caroline’s mentioning, those are all terrific resources.
[Carpe Diem Video:]
[Digital Learning Videos:]
[NGLC Profiles:]

TH:       Yes, she’s putting through a lot of great links that people have a lot of great things to view, and to read through. What would you say are any downsides to Blended Learning? If there are critics of Blended Learning, what some things that they might say or might point to about a Blended Learning approach?

TVA:    Well, I mean as you can tell, I think we have an opportunity to create much better schools. Schools that work much better for kids and teachers. So you know, as Carol just pointed out, there’s stuff you’ve got to watch out for, you have to have bandwidth. A lot of schools that bought truck loads of iPads, had kids push the play button and they got the spinning circle, because they didn’t have enough bandwidth. You know, people are sometimes worried about kids spending too much time online, and so I think of a progression from K to 12 of increasing time online, increasing academic autonomy. And so I think young kids shouldn’t be spending more than 20 percent of their time online, but by the time they’re in high school, they can do a lot of their work online and so it should be age appropriate.

You should go into this with a clear set of design principles that focuses on relationships, on communication, on application. So, list out the things that are important to you and your community and hold fast to those as you think about the options that are available to you. I guess the other thing, Tim, is these Adaptive Instructional Programs are so powerful, they have so much data, it’s like kids being in an Adaptive Assessment every day, or several times a week. Use that data, use that data to shape the Core Instructional Program, particularly in mathematics. I guess that would be another common mistake that we see: the school teams are not taking the full advantage of all the great data, what they’re learning about kids.

TH:       I think those are all really good points. And actually it’s not really a downside necessarily, but it causes your entire school or district to be far more thoughtful about decisions that you’re making, like you said, what are the design principals, what are the implementation realities, and then even the data like you’ve just mentioned, we’ve talked to a lot of schools who have asked about our DreamBox data reports, and I always ask them, you know, what are your current data analysis structures and procedures that you have in place, just incorporate the DreamBox reports right into those protocols. And a lot of schools don’t have those set up yet, so it’s definitely causing that shift.

TVA:    Right.

TH:       Alright. We’ve definitely generated quite a lot of excitement, I can see in the comments. Tons of resources there. Tom, you’ve shared some great thoughts, some great ideas. A lot of excitement that I’m reading in the comments. So, as we’re coming up here on two o’clock time, any last thoughts you’d like to share before I wrap it up?

TVA:    Time to get started. It’s an exciting time, but we’re still in the early innings. We need to keep conversations like this alive to share what we are learning, but I’m as you can tell super optimistic about making a difference for kids and creating work environments that are better for teachers. As Caroline’s noting, we’re trying to run a really active conversation on, and I’m always happy to take comments and take guest blogs, as people are learning in this space. So, thanks everybody for attending today.

TH:       Great. Thanks, Tom. Well, in closing as I mentioned earlier, DreamBox, as Tom referenced, we’re an Intelligent Adaptive Learning Platform with Grades K through 5— Pre-K–5 actually—mathematics content, that meets students right where they’re at. We have rigorous math, a motivating learning environment, and the Intelligent Adaptive Learning Engine that helps differentiate in real time for all students. You can check out more about DreamBox at We have a lot of resources on there that you can check out, white papers, including a white paper that Tom recently authored, (that you also will be getting in a follow-up email), so that you can also access a recording of this webinar— is a great place to connect with other educators who are trying Blended Learning.

DreamBox is the sponsor of the Blended Learning Community. You can see the link right there, you can sign up. Keep up-to-date on what other webinars are happening, ongoing conversations, and discussions. So yeah, continuing education credits, quizzes, and certificates. All that information is there, and in the next 24 hours, you’ll get a recording, after this live session is over. And we invite you to join us for our next webinar: “How to Successfully Transition to the Common Core for Math” with John SanGiovanni, who’s out in Maryland. He’s a great guy, a great educator, and I hope you’ll tune in for that, if you’re looking at additional resources in mathematics, as you transition to the Common Core. So, again, from DreamBox, and our whole team here, we want to thank you very much, and once again say “Thank you” to Tom Vander Ark for a great conversation, great information, and tons—tons of information resources that Caroline was posting in the comments so, and thanks to and everyone. Have a great day!