Webinar Date: May 30,2013
LH: Hi everyone and welcome to today’s webinar, Blended Learning in the Math Classroom. My name is Liana Heitin, I’m the Associate Editor for Education Week Teacher. Today’s Webinar has been sponsored by DreamBox Learning. As you all know, schools across the country are starting to blend online learning into their instructional design as a means of personalizing students’ learning experiences. But with myriad options for structuring the combination of online and face-to-face learning, teachers and administrators are faced with tough decisions on how to best implement the technology. This afternoon we’ll explore the different blended learning models that schools are using to support math instruction. I’m joined by two impressive guests today. Heather Staker is an education senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation and the co-author of the research report “Classifying K–12 Blended Learning.” Kaylie Reed is the lead teacher at Acton Academy, an independent school in Austin Texas.
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HS: Thank you it’s a pleasure to join you today. I am coming to you from the Clayton Christensen Institute and our work focuses mostly on observing and writing about the dominant innovations that are taking place in classrooms across the country. We were just right rebranded a couple weeks ago, we used to be Innosight Institute so if you are familiar with them or with the book, Disrupting Class, that’s our group. And so we really come at classrooms and the changes that are happening in classrooms from and innovation lens. And it used to be that as people were thinking about innovation, really the best we could do was take the “Let 1000 Flowers Bloom” approach. The idea that innovation was mostly guesswork and so what we needed to do was just allow a thousand flowers to bloom, and those that seemed the most promising, nurture those and allow the rest to wither.
So what we are finding in our research is that through more deliberate research and theory building, we can actually take some of the guesswork out of innovation, so that educators as you’re thinking about new innovations and new ways of structuring your classroom hopefully some of the patterns that we can see from a theory-based perspective can lend some channeling to your work and allow you to channel it the higher quality without it being so unpredictable or haphazard.
So that’s the idea of our practice and the thing that gets me out of bed every day is working to try and help channel innovation to higher quality. One of the things that we are finding with online and certain models of blended learning in particular is that they are emerging as disruptive innovations. And so I want to talk for just a minute about the characteristics of a disruptive innovation in hopes that lens will provide some context on a national perspective about why it is that even thinking about blended learning in a math classroom at the elementary school level.
So just in a nutshell for those of you who aren’t familiar with this theory, you can imagine or visualize disruptive innovation as a series of concentric circles where those with the most wealth and the expertise are in the center, and those of us, most of us live most our lives on the outer rim of these circles where we have very little wealth and expertise. And then what happens is originally an industry or a sector starts on that outer rim where the applications are simple, and most everyone can afford them.
An example is with computing. Before computers were invented, most people carried around a slide ruler and that how they did their calculating, but then along came of the mainframe computer and that just snatched the industry to the center where only those with the most wealth or expertise could afford one of these gargantuan mainframe computers produced by companies like IBM they cost more than two million dollars and really only teams of sophisticated PhDs could run computations and then the world of disruptive innovation began. Disruptive innovations are simpler, lower-end solutions that take root—typically the lower end of the market and then they get better and better until eventually they become competitive with even those in the existing or pre-existing market.
So the first wave of disruptive innovation in the computing industry were the minicomputers and these were more like two hundred thousand dollar machines instead of two million dollar machines and so more organizations and higher education institutions and companies could have their own minicomputer as oppose to having go to a central mainframe computer facility. And when the waves of disruption continued as we moved out on these circles, then you see the personal computers, the desktop and the laptop and these are more like two thousand dollar machines, and suddenly many more people could access a computer compared to those who before had no access to a minicomputer to mainframe computer and then today we see those smartphones and the handheld devices starting to disrupt the personal computers.
And so really that process of disruptive innovation in many ways is an unmitigated blessing for mankind because what it does is it allows things that before were only available to those with the most wealth and expertise to become available to many, many more people. What we are finding in our research is that online learning and certain models of blended learning are emerging as disruptive innovations that are allowing opportunities to come to students and teachers that before were out of reach. And I want to suggest a few reasons why we think online learning is starting to become compelling in the way that disruptive innovations are. The first is that it brings to the system the prospect of personalization. Traditional classroom structuring in K–12 is patterned after a factory which structure was originated in the late 1800s and it was a great thing because it allowed more students to come through the classroom then was possible in the one-room schoolhouse pattern of the past. So the factory was a good thing but what it did was it created standardization and the idea of moving students through the system in batches.
What we are finding with online learning is it allows for personalization. It allows for students to work at their own pace, and what we’re finding is that when a student personalizes it’s actually really hard to predict who will advance the most if they can control their own pace and timing. Let me give you an example of that. In 2010 in November, the Los Altos School District run a pilot test using Khan Academy. And many of you are surely familiar with Khan Academy at this point. He has more than three thousand ten-minute videos available online in subjects mostly math and some other subjects as well. And what he proposes is that by accessing his videos and problems sets, students can experience highly-differentiated instruction where they’re actually working uniquely at their own pace in accordance with their own learning pathway.
So the students from this pilot study embarked on that proposition and were able to move through the modules. I want you to focus on that blue line that goes up the page and that represents one of these fifth grade students who at the beginning of this pilot was at the bottom and then by the end of the pilot he’s the third from the top. And what they found is that there’s no reason to track students anymore into separate classrooms based on their track or their ability or even their age because when they are able to personalize and move at their own pace there’s no telling who will move forward at a faster pace than anticipated. And suddenly even the idea of age-based cohorts falls by the wayside.
Another aspect of personalization is this idea competency-based learning. Competency-based learning goes hand-in-hand with online learning because in the traditional system students typically move forward based on time. When they spent a certain amount of time in the class, they can move forward but with competency based learning, it really flips that on his head so that students now advance based on when they master the material. Online learning is uniquely suited for competency-based learning because it will provide these real-time feedback loops. So that students continually show what they know and engage in daily formative assessment and then move on according to when they are ready as opposed to when the class or the subsection of the class is ready. And that ability to personalize in that way has been a powerful feature that is attracting a lot of people to online learning for at least part of their classroom experience.
The other thing about personalization is that it allows for adaptive learning pathways. The algorithms are slowly but surely improving to help dish up just the right lesson at the right time in the right way for each student. And we don’t have the data yet to allow to this position to completely be in place, but we can anticipate that as the technology improves, eventually students will be able to move forward at their own path according to where they are in the curriculum.
And so as students do that—this is an example of two—William and Loren for example and they would actually move through these math subjects according to where they are in their learning. And what that does is eventually it creates this idea of student ownership where as students gain control of where they are they start to feel ownership. Khan is now in 10,000 teacher-led classrooms and they are serving over 350,000 students around the world. And so as they gain data from doing that, they can better recommend where students can go next. And students can actually visualize on a knowledge map like this in Khan or in several other math offerings that are available online. They can see where they are and then control where they want to go next.
The second value proposition that is honing people into this online learning universe is the idea of access and equity and bringing opportunities to students who otherwise wouldn’t have had them. This is a picture of my daughter who really has taken to the math racks on this DreamBox platform. And it turns out that DreamBox is actually a sponsor today which I didn’t know when I prepared this so I have to tell you that I was not trying to give them free promotion but this is the math track the sheet gravitated to and was interested in.
And then one day we went to IKEA and she saw a real live tangible abacus there and went up to play with it. And I was very interested to see that she could manipulate those beads on the abacus very fluidly without ever having done it before. And it was because of her experience with the virtual abacus. And so it was striking to me that that virtual simulation was very translatable into a real world experience. And as these simulations get better and better we can predict that more and more students will be able to have experiences that otherwise they might not have access to if they relying purely on a physical or brick and mortar experience to deliver it to them.
The third value proposition that seems to be pulling people into this new world is the idea of teacher effectiveness and providing tools for average teachers to help them to become great teachers. One example of that is functionality that helps group students into the right small groups for teacher intervention. So one program calls this the Groupinator where they look at each student’s scores at that particular moment in time or their progress. And then recognize the right small group intervention for the teacher to engage with those students. That kind of tool can help teachers take some of the guesswork out of who they should be working with and how they can be intervening to provide the most just in time support.
The last the value proposition that seems to be driving this disruption is the idea of cost control. And that by allowing the Internet to be the backbone of some of the content and instruction schools are finding that then they can shift their spend to other priorities that are important to them so an example is Rocketship which is a charter school based in Northern California. And they have a learning lab that their students go to for about two hours a day for some of their online learning. And because of that innovation they can pay their teachers about 30 percent more than peers in neighboring districts. And they also save about half a million dollars a year that they reinvest into, I’m sorry 500, yeah 500,000 dollars a year that they then reinvest into other parts of their program.
So those seem to be the value propositions that are pulling people into online learning. One of the other attributes of the disruptive innovation is that it tends to improve over time such that it eventually it becomes performance competitive with the pre-existing way of doing things. And we’re finding that’s the case with online learning the technology is getting better. The pipes are getting faster to allow richer content to flow quicker. The communications vehicle like this webinar software that we’re using right now are getting better and better to allow for more synchronous communication. And then the content itself is becoming richer and more engaging for students and it’s typical of that relentless march up market that we see with most disruptive innovations.
Another way that online learning is improving is that it’s starting to blend into brick and mortars locations, brick and mortar schools. And basically that’s the definition that we proposed for online—for blended learning as we have surveyed the landscape of programs across the country that are engaged with something that looks like blended learning. The common denominator tends to be that it involves online learning combined with learning in a brick and mortar setting, and then the modalities along each student learning path are integrated, they are connected, so that if a student is learning something online and something offline those two modalities are connected to providing integrated learning experience. And that’s really how we define blended learning is that combination of online and brick and mortar.
I wanted to point out that blended learning is different from just a technology-rich classroom, which is a common misconception that we find in the field. And that is that anytime that a teacher has perhaps the fancy smart board or there’s even a wide distribution of laptops in the classroom then that’s blended learning. And it’s not necessarily because unless that student really enjoys some control over time, place, path, or pace it’s not blended learning. What we’re doing right now is not blended learning either. It’s more of a full time virtual learning because we’re learning completely online. If we were all to meet up tonight and have some kind of a face to face experience or a brick and mortar experience to then supplement or enhance what we have been learning in this webinar that would be a blended learning.
So we’ve also tried to categorize the types of models that are starting to emerge on a national level across the field. And we have found that there are four models that seem typify the field: the rotation model, the flex model, the à la carte model, and the enriched virtual model. The rotation model is actually starting to develop four sub-models because it’s becoming developed enough if that’s the case. I wanted to just to describe these briefly. And then Kaylie is the lead teacher at Acton Academy who will go into more depth with her model which is a flex model. So you’ll get to deep dive into one of these at least today.
Basically the rotation model, the first one, is any time that students are rotating on a fixed schedule between learning modalities and at least one of them is online. The station rotation model is where they are doing that within their own cassroom. The lab rotation model is where their rotating out into learning lab usually for the online learning portion and then rotating back to their classroom for the face to face stuff. The flipped classroom is where they are engaging with the online portion usually at home in the evening and then coming to the classroom for enhancement and application. And then the individual classroom is where the students are continuing to rotate, but they do so, on a completely individualized to this so they do it according to their own set means.
An example of the rotation model is the KIPP Empower Academy based in Los Angeles. This is a kindergarten through fourth grade school. They have 115 students per grade level. They are about 92 percent free and reduced lunch. And they are 99 percent Black and Hispanic. And what happened was that in 2010 they were faced with the loss of a hundred thousand dollars of California class size reductions funding that were planning to use to allow for small group, for small student–teacher ratios. So they had to scramble and they decided to innovate with a blended learning rotation model. And basically the way it works is you can see in this picture there are students around the edges that are engaged with online learning. And then there’s a lead teacher who’s delivering some small group time. And there’s another teacher who you can’t see in this picture who is also doing some small group instruction. And then on the fixed schedule the students would rotate among those three modalities.
And so what they found is that they are able to persevere even though their student–teacher ratio has gone up from 20 students per teacher to 28 students per teacher. They maintain an instructional ratio of least 14 to 1 or smaller. And so they are actually able to spend more time with the individual students by having this kind of a station rotation model in place. They spend about 45 minutes each day in a math block where they engage in this kind of a station rotation. They also spend about 15 minutes of full group math learning in the morning during like a math morning meeting. And then they do about 25 minutes of math as one of their rotations during their science block. So in total they spend about 85 minutes on a typical day doing math instruction.
So far the results have been promising. Again this is a relatively new thing. But by the end of year two at least 96 percent of their first and second graders which is all that they have scaled to at that point had performed at or above average in both reading and math on the SAT10 tests. That was 96 percent so they’re so far encouraged by what they’re seeing with the station rotation model despite the fact that they were forced because of their budget to increase their student–teacher ratios.
The second blended learning model that is starting to rise up across the country is the flex model. And Kaylie is going to talk more about this one. This is a screenshot of the typical day at Acton Academy where she teaches. And basically the idea is at the beginning of the week students would set their own learning goals. And then throughout the week they move at a more fluid schedule to progress through the content on their own. And then they would report back at the end of the week. The flex model is different from the rotation model because the bell schedule does not dictate when students rotate between modalities. But instead it’s more flexible based on each student’s individual needs. So the students really have to make their own choices about when they’re going to be doing what. And then there is some sort of an accountability system built in at the end.
So the third model that is becoming pervasive is the à la carte model. We used to call this the self-blend model for those of you who are familiar with our work. And basically this model is any time that students are taking a fully online course at the same time as attending their traditional school. So the classic example might be that a student wanted to take AP Calculus at the high school level. And that wasn’t available at his or her school and so they would take this course online. And then continue to have their traditional experience for the rest of their courses.
This is the one model that we’re not seeing as commonly at the elementary school level for math. We’re seeing more rotation, flex, and enriched virtual models. But there certainly are some students particularly towards the end of their elementary school experience who might want a more advanced course and it’s not available at their elementary school and so they might choose to just take that course à la carte for math, and be able to go to like a lab—a learning lab—for that math course. And then attend the rest of their traditional school day.
And then finally the enriched virtual model, this is anytime that students are rotating between on campus and off campus. So they’re perhaps doing their online learning off campus and then their coming to school for application. An example of this is the Hawaii Technology Academy. They have—they use K–12 curriculum for all of their subject matter including math. And so these elementary school students as well as some high school students who are part of that school would do their math instruction online. But they come to learning centers on the Islands of Oahu and Kauai for face-to-face supplementation and reinforcement and tutoring and whatever it is that they need to really nail it with those courses. And so that’s an example of moving between on and off campus in the enriched virtual model.
Quite often the question then is where to start. Bring me back one slide. So I just have three quick stops and then we’ll turn it Kaylie. The first is that we’re starting to see in this sector that you can plagiarize. It used to be that people felt like they had to just start from scratch when they wanted to do blended learning implementation but now we’re recommending that often times the best strategy is to copy and to use an example from the field of someone’s whose already successful or a model that’s already working. And then pull from the best of that. We at the Christensen Institute have a database called the Blended Learning Universe that is a repository of dozens and dozens of examples of school that are blended learning. And you can sort that by design and by model to find one that might be a good example for you. And we also have these reports about blended learning that you’re welcome to access.
The second idea is just to start with the problems to be solved. Too often I see that schools start with an enthusiasm for like iPads or for laptops. And they want to make sure that their students have the great technology, and they aren’t thinking so much about what problem they are trying to really solve. So start with what the students needs are or the teachers needs and work from there as opposed to start with just love for technology.
And then my final thought is that after arriving at your big picture strategy and design choice really pay attention to the nuts and bolts, the culture that you’re working with. How you’re going to deal with electricity and hardware and software. And the different professional development pieces that might be necessary to help your teachers thrive in this new type of a set up. And so that was one of the reasons that Kaylie seemed like a great person to now turn to for the second part of this webinar because I think that Acton Academy has done an exceptionally good job with first the strategy piece and then the nuts and bolts. So we’ll turn it to you now Kaylie.
LH: Oh I’m going to jump in first. Thank you so much Heather. Before we move on to Kaylie’s presentation we got a quick message from our sponsor, DreamBox Learning.
TH:Hi I’m Dr. Tim Hudson. I’m the curriculum director at DreamBox Learning. And we’re happy to be sponsoring this webinar. I’m thrilled that there have been a couple of DreamBox examples already. DreamBox combines as you can see here three essential elements to accelerate student learning. We have rigorous math, a motivating learning environment, and our intelligent adaptive learning engine.
At DreamBox we build our content and tools to be adaptive. We have experienced classroom teachers who write lessons that capture whether kids are counting by ones or like you saw on that picture with Heather’s daughter that math bead rack has a hundred possible things that a student could touch first and move. And our adaptive engine adapts and responds and differentiates for students based on which one of those hundred possible things they click. So students are truly learning not simply practicing. And they work independently while teachers might be working with other students. And I’ll share more at the end.
LH: Thanks so much Tim. Just reminder if you have a question for our presenters please type it into the Ask a Question box. And we’ll do our best to get to it during Q&A. All right, Kaylie you’re up. Thanks so much for being here today.
KR: Thank you. And yes, my name is Kaylie Reed and my passion is learning, facilitating learning, being around learning myself. I studied developmental psychology and Montessori education, which I taught for several years before helping start the Acton Academy elementary program four years ago. Acton is a one-room schoolhouse with 36 students in the elementary program. And I’ve had the unique opportunity to experiment with different programs and ideas as I’ve refined the math—our math program over the past four years. And I’m really excited to share with y’all some of what I’ve learned.
We have seen our math programs to be highly effective with students often progressing, as much three grade levels in a year with no assigned homework and minimal teacher intervention but before I go into more detail on our program. I want to give you a glimpse into my classroom.
You saw I’ve taken a schedule before but here it is again. Our model is unique with first through fifth graders interacting socially and academically throughout the day. Roughly half the day is spent in individual core work. And the other half of the day in project time. So in that individual core work they’re doing—students are doing reading, writing, arithmetic at their own level and at their own pace. And then later in the day they apply some of those basic skills in small groups with hands-on projects.
The large unbroken chunks of time are really important to our model because students—it gives students more control over what they do. And also requires and encourages them to learn time management. It’s a really important piece of our model. But we don’t start out the year that way. We ease into it. So we start out the year with an hour set aside for math, an hour for writing, and maybe half an hour to an hour set aside for reading.
So what I’ll talk about with our math programs while we do it in the context or my students do it in the context of an unbroken period of time where they could be doing other subjects as well. I know it works as a standalone program because at the beginning of the year that’s how we do it. This and it is taken last week. And as you can see those students engaged in a variety of activities, some are on computers and some aren’t. So then a zoom back into the right hand—or that corner of the classroom where there are six students reading and one student on his computer doing math. He’s using an adaptive—he’s using DreamBox actually—which is an adaptive program. So for the most part he is being given lessons that are at his level or just beyond the reach and he’s been given virtual manipulatable tools to solve those problems.
So he does really can work alone. But our students are encouraged to reach out to each other for help. So a few minutes after this was taken he asked an older student, he’s in second grade, she’s in fifth grade for a lesson. And I got the pleasure of watching her guide him gracefully through a little lesson where she didn’t give him any information. She asked him questions that lead him to the discovery that multiplication and division are the inverses of each other. And he left after that little three or four minutes with her feeling empowered like he’d made a discovery on his own and was able to get back to work on his own.
And in other part of the room are some other students working together. There’s I think five here and three of them have chosen—they are all working on same program and they are at about the same level. And they’ve chosen to sit together. It’s an open classroom where students can walk around and see what each see what other students are doing. They can observe each other and then our students also set goals and share those publicly.
So as students just start to know what everyone else is doing, and they often choose to work together when their working similar material, you can see in the picture on the right, one boy is giving another some kind of instruction. And the guy the one the boy who’s receiving the instruction actually went the next day and gave that same lesson to somebody else. And then you can see a little guy who’s peeking his head in. He is two years younger than the other two working. He’s in first grade and he came in this year in first grade with pretty typical first grade math skills. And he is working with in a third or fourth grade level because he spent, he works, he learned well through observation and has spent a good portion of his year looking over other people’s shoulders and it works for him.
So here you see 12 or 13 of our students, the rest are doing other are engaged around the classroom doing a similar activities. There are about 24 other students and they are doing working on DreamBox Khan Academy, ALEKS, Manga High, those are all math programs, doing foreign language on Rosetta Stone, one is writing a story, students are tucked all over the place in corners reading, practicing spelling on Spelling City. They are doing a whole variety of activities. And our math program works, our students are my students are progressing with all of this going on. But at the beginning of the year like I said we have a specific time each day for math. And that might be more applicable to your programs and it’s really it’s actually even easier to make it work when their all doing math.
So what have I learned over the past four years of building and refining this model? I’ve spent hundreds of hours testing math programs myself. And observing students interact with them. And there are a few essential elements I believe drive a student-centered math program where students can learn efficiently, effectively, with joy—like true joy—and with little to no teacher intervention.
One of the keys is having multiple programs. One reason and actually what I initially thought when I started and knew I wanted multiple programs was that each student would find the program that suited them the best. And that’s the one they’d use. And over the years what I’ve seen is it’s really the repetition and transfer skills from modality or one program to another really helps fortify the learning.
Students are still able to find which program works for them best and do the bulk of their learning on that program. And then when they get on another program they have really mastered the material, they zip right through it. However if they haven’t, any gaps from one program are caught by the other. So that works really well.
All the programs we work with are adaptive which means students are spending the bulk of their time on material they haven’t mastered. There’s built-in review. There is choice within the programs. They are not just the students have a choice of what program they use, but within every program we use students can choose what lesson they want to take or what topics they want to focus on. That’s super motivating for my students.
There’s also some sort of system of rewards built into every program so badges or points or maybe a storyline also highly motivating. And then there’s a visible progress indicator for students, some sort of roadmap that shows them where they have to go and how far they’ve come. And that’s huge for motivation.
And then on the back end there needs to be some kind of progress tracking for the teachers so that we use four programs right now. And I’m just going to briefly go through them. DreamBox is what all our students start off in first grade. You’ve already heard a little bit about but it, but they’re given Montessori-like virtual tools to help them solve problems. There’s a storyline to motivate the younger students and a more game-like environment with badges and points and virtual prizes for the older students.
After a couple of years our students start working with other programs. ALEKS breaks each grade curriculum into many lessons that fill a math pie. And they choose one lesson at a time. And each slice of the pie has a different category of math so geometry or algebra. And students are presented with one problem at a time. If they don’t know how to solve the problem they can click an explain button. Give them like a really good in-depth explanation. And a sample problem and then they keep working through. If they are able to answer the problems easily with no help they do fewer problems and move on to the next topic.
And I said that ALEKS after a couple of years they start using other programs or it’s real I mean completely dependent on the student I had a first grader last year who started using other programs besides DreamBox after a couple of months. But I also have students that might stick primarily with DreamBox for three years or four years. It really just depends on the student.
Manga High is a really fun program we use primarily to boost excitement about math. And it also helps to reinforce concepts and some students learn very well with it and choose to use it more than others. But about once every few months our students all get on and what they really love is that you are able to challenge another school to a five-day competition. So on the program students go through a series of timed challenges of progressively more complex concepts. If they answer a problem correctly, they get a harder problem. The harder the more problems they answer in a row the higher the medal they get the more points they get. And when they challenge another school the competition is a school wide competition, so it’s our cumulative point versus another school’s cumulative points. And it just creates this explosion of math and school spirit that’s really awesome and fun and the reason we only do it every couple of months is because the students get pretty obsessed. I let them stop almost everything else and just do Manga High for the week. They encourage their friends to skip free time typically to do more math. They go home and beg their parents to do more math, so it’s a little bit much to do all the time. But every couple of months that really boosts up our school spirit and our spirit around that.
And then Khan Academy is kind of the backbone of our math program the way they present different concepts in math and how their interrelated in this sort of galactic web is really elegant and students find it very motivating to work through the web much like ALEKS, they are presented with one problem at a time. And if they can’t solve it, they can get the written explanation or on Khan Academy they can also get a video explanation. So that works clicks for some learners. And I say it’s at the backbone of the program because regardless of what other programs they use, when they returned to Khan Academy they are really able to see their progress, not just in a particular level of a program, but—so their progress in math learning overall through the way the web is designed.
So a large part of our program is just taking advantage of these incredible adaptive software programs. But there’s a few other things we do that really make it all come together. And one of those is essential to students being able to work independently and collaborate productively is their ability to set and track their goals. So every day or every week depending on what part of the year we’re in, students set goals before they begin working.
And then when they finish working they evaluate how they’ve done with it, pretty simple: check—I completed it; check plus—I exceeded it; check minus—I didn’t complete it. And that’s really just for them, there’s an advantage too, I get to see the goals and see how they’re doing but it’s really for their own benefit.
They begin they set their goals in small peer accountability groups. It takes about three to five minutes a day. And they share their goals with each other and they challenge each other. They’ll ask each other, “Is that a specific goal? Can you measure it? So do you think that’s an appropriate challenge for you?” And then they discuss any potential stumbling blocks that they anticipate for the day. And they brainstorm how to prevent these as a group. And occasionally the facilitator who is the oldest member of the group will escalate a problem to me. And I’ll work with that student.
I didn’t plan when I set up the peer accountability groups and this whole goal setting process. I didn’t plan for celebrating to be as an important piece of the puzzle. But for my students that really seems to be while the programs they use all have avenues for motivation, the camaraderie within the classroom and the support for each other may be the most powerful motivator of all because the students share their goals publicly. They also are able to celebrate each other’s successes.
The other day I noticed a small group forming around one girl’s desk. Yeah, two students that’s pretty common to see, but then there were four and then six and seven. And so I walked out just walked over to see why a mob was forming around her. And she had been working for several weeks on a really hard goal. And she was about to complete it. And so this group had gathered around her. And when she hit enter and completed her goal the classroom erupted in cheers. And I’m not sure that anything could actually be more motivating than that.
Another way that students support each other is through peer mentoring. And we facilitate that mentoring by using the really simple teacher dashboard in each of the programs to see where students are. So it’s easy for me to make a quick list of the afternoon of good matches- two students that are struggling on the same area that might just feel the need for moral support. One student that’s just completed something paired with another student who is struggling in that area. Sometimes two students that are doing just fine but I know they could do better. And so putting them together gives them a little competitive a little push.
But I pair them up and pretty quickly peer mentoring takes on a life of its own. And I don’t have to continue doing that for very long. The students just reach out to each other or a student who just struggled through something and come out the other side of it is as soon as they have that success are up and looking around for somebody they can teach it too. So they’re so excited to show off what they’ve learned. For that struggle is really important. And not reacting too fast every time a student isn’t succeeding is something I’ve had to learn because struggling through something teacher resilience and perseverance and getting over a plateau or over a little mountain on their own is so incredible.
It’s so motivating for the student. But there are times when I can see through those teacher dashboards that a student been struggling for awhile and maybe I have tried pairing them up with someone and that hasn’t worked. And they do they could use my help. And so that allows me to provide what we processed in time support. And typically that looks like me sitting down with the student, and observing for about 15 minutes watching them struggle and trying to figure out what they’re why things aren’t clicking for them maybe asking a few questions and then I am able to give a two, three, four minute mini lessons that allows them to move forward.
And my background is monitory so I often do that by introducing monitory materials. And actually putting an object in the tile pan can be so powerful. But if that’s not something that’s available for you, I don’t think it that means the rest of this can’t work.
If you have a time set aside each day for math and you have access to computers, using the multiple programs that gives students choice and ownership over there they’re learning and allow them to learn at their own level and move at their own pace, incorporating cool setting and peer accountability, using those teacher dash boards not just to know where every student is but also to help encourage peer to peer mentoring and for you to be able to come in just at the right moment and give a little bit of extra support. All of those things go along way so your students would be able to learn efficiently, affectively and be able to with real joy.
So if you try this out in your classrooms, I’d love to hear about. I’m always excited to hear how different people are using things and to continue to learn and experiment and play with everything out there. So please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions along think way. Thank you.
LH: Thanks so much Kaylie. That was excellent. We have a ton of great questions coming in so I’m just going to jump into Q and A right now. A lot of people are asking about cost and maybe Heather you can speak to this. They’re wondering if you need separate licenses for each of the programs and if kids are switching between programs, how do you do that, and is there a way to do this in a way that’s not financially prohibitive.
HS: Great question, the cost are- all over the map depending on the implementation strategy that you choose. So, some of the content, like Khan, that we talked about the three, there are open education resources that are also free or inexpensive and then there are some that you pay for. And so, a lot depends on that and then you include the cost of the hardware and enter that net access and those kind of logistical things.
And so, really, it depends on your implementation strategy. A good report which I will just in a moment link to you for you in the chat window is produced by the Pearson on Group and they sketched out some rough estimates for what it takes to implement a blended learning program versus the traditional classroom and versus the full time virtual school. And I think, those are probably the best estimates that we have right now as field.
LH: Excellent and Kaylie you can jump in at anytime.
KR: Yeah, I mean this is the program that I talked about Khan Academy is free, Manga High, the portion that we used is free and DreamBox I think is about 20 dollars a year per student. ALEKS is a little more expensive, but if you couldn’t do it, I think you could have a followed program with just those three.
LH:Great. I have a few people asking I think maybe Kaylie, you can speak to this. How are you all gauging success with these programs? Are you looking at state standardize test scores or are there other ways to gauge success and know that blended learning is actually working?
KR:Within each program, all the programs we use are tied to the Common Core so I can see students progressing along that and then we also give a standardized test each year. So we’re getting to see those scores as well.
KR:And my students are moving us, you know one to three grade levels a year on all of those measures.
LH:Heather if you want to jump in, go ahead too.
HS:Yeah, so the most common measure that people are using right now are the standardize test scores. We envisioned that as the field continues to progress that the assessment types that we have to pull from will mature, so that we can do a better job at measuring according to all the things that we might value in terms student succeeding in life. But right now, mostly, we’re just relying on the basic standardize test for comparison sake.
LH:Great. Several people are asking about, how do you make this work with student with special needs and also English language learners? In terms of students with special needs, several people are asking about especially students with attentional problem. How do you make this work with them? Heather, maybe you want too.
HS:So what we’re finding kind of with pattern among the samples that we’re seeing across the country is that in some case was this works really well for special education students. There’s a school leader I was just talking to the Yuma Arizona the Carpe Diem School and he saw that interestingly, some of the students that were showing that they were special needs before he engaged in the blended learning model actually are no longer testing that way because some of them are new technologies that help them overcome their disabilities. At the same time, there are some students who do not work well in whatever modality it might be.
So the idea is not necessarily that all students would be doing one type of modality but rather that you personalize based on how each student learns best. An example of that is that ST Math program that’s designed by Mind Research, the Mind Research Institute and its’ basically created for those who are struggling with the English language so that they can progress with math without being held back by their inability or struggle to navigate through the English language.
And so most of the ST Math modules experience don’t require a person who can speak with English so that’s an example of how the technology might pick up students that so that they can move forward their math learning despite the challenges with English acquisition.
LH:Perfect. Kaylie, maybe you can speak to this. What do you need in terms of class sizes-What’s a good number of students to try this with and also number of computers that you might need?
KR:I have seen this- so I started with seven students and added ten a year. I’ve had 36 this year and this is the year where it’s been most effective. It kind of needed a critical math to maybe just allow me to give the students the space to actually learn on their own. I think when there are less students I was able to give a little too much help and so it couldn’t really, it didn’t work as well. But I supposed with a smaller class group and a teacher who was able to step out of the way really effectively, it would be fine. I needed more students to force me to do that.
Computers, if you are doing if everyone is doing math at once then it’s a one to one ratio, my students each have a computer but really we could probably do with a one computer for every two students because they spend half their time online and half time offline. We have the luxury of having one available to each student whenever they want to use it.
HS:The Tip and Teller school that we should you pictures of, they have ratio of three students per computer and their doing just find that. So really depends on your model like Kaylie said.
LH:Excellent. Can you guys speak to some of the challenges that you have encountered with blended learning maybe at first implementing and also do you any tips for avoiding bad implementation?
KR:I am – my biggest challenge was finding the right programs or programs that work for us. I’m sure there’s more than just these four that work. But I went through some that didn’t- and one of the biggest things is just that they didn’t have student choice like that the student wasn’t able to navigate their way through the program, and didn’t have a sense of where they were and where they were going. We found that that’s really essential. Other than that, really the biggest challenge probably was just, like I said before, getting myself out of the way so that the students could drive on their own.
HS:And it’s not easy Kaylie because when I have heard other teachers talk about implementing one of these, it seems like the most common thing they say is that the hardest part is just helping the teachers like navigate through different mentality of what it is that their job is in the classroom. And they often as we see teacher with satisfaction surveys post implementation that for the first month or two they are complaining and frustrating and wondering what on earth they are doing. And then after that typically we hear go back to the older work and save really value that opportunity section. So it’s that pivot for the teachers to be the hardest thing.
LH:Great we have time for maybe one or two more questions. How about- Heather I could you probably speak to this preparing pre service teachers to use blended learning. What suggestions do you have and is this being done?
HS:Suggestions for teachers who are preparing is what you said?
LH:Or for people who are preparing pre service teachers.
HS:Oh that is preparing pre-service teachers. So this is an emerging field and I think the professional development sadly is still not where it needs to be. And so I think that’s one of the risk factors to recognize as you do this. I really love to blend my learning blog which I will also post but it has some of the trenches reports of the teachers who are implementing blended learning. And I think it’s helpful to just hear from them about what they’re encountering as they go about their transition.
I think also hopefully our classifying K-12 blended learning document can give a nice landscape picture of what are some of the options. Watch for more professional development and on teacher training because I just think that so far I don’t have a just perfect solution to recommend that would solve every problem in terms of helping teachers transition to this new environment. And some of it I think is still needs to be created.
LH:Excellent, all right and I think we got time for about more question. And I guess this is best for Heather. Can you talk a little bit about how this looks in the middle school and high school classrooms? Kaylie was mostly speaking about her experience elementary. Can you talk about what might be different in middle school and high school?
HS:Sure, one thing that is different is that I think the most common model that is being used in high school and middle school is different. We actually got the census data from the California E-Learning Census. So this is just for California Districts and charters for 2012. But I think illustrative. And basically it shows that by far 80 percent of districts and charters at the elementary school level are using the rotation model. And that’s really just works the other model at the elementary school level. One the things that sort of fun to in hearing Kaylie today is that they’re one of the unique elementary schools that’s actually using a flex model proving to some that it can work which is exciting to me but definitely the rotation.
So then at the high school and middle school level we start seeing other models to be much more common the A-La-Carte model is the most prevalent where students are wanting to take a Chinese course. It’s is not available at their school. And so they’ll blend that into their schedule followed by the enriched virtual and the flex models and the rotation is not as common. So that’s one of the big differences is that those older students often times are able to deal with a fully online course like an A-La-Carte course whereas the younger students typically have more of the face to face kind of blended into that programming.
LH:Excellent, there are so many great questions coming in. And I’m sorry that we couldn’t get to everyone’s questions. I hope we got to a lot of people. So right now we’re going to have another quick message from our sponsor DreamBox Learning.
TH: Thank you everyone. Thanks Heather and Kaylie for the great information and for the rich conversation happening in the chat box, just a couple of quick things for the next couple of minutes about DreamBox. We like to think we’re actually reinventing the learning experience. There’s been a lot of questions coming through the chat about what are students doing when their own computers. Is it learning? Is it just practice? And with our DreamBox PreK to Grade 5 math content with some sixth and seventh grade headroom for those advanced fifth graders we do a truly formative learning.
We’re eliminating the wall between instruction and assessment that every mouse click and where a mouse click isn’t necessarily a multiple choice answer but rather how students are manipulating the mathematics with all of those mouse clicks, we’re responding to the students in real time just as a teacher would working one on one with the student. Because if you’re a teacher and your trying to differentiate for a classroom of students and you’re using technology to support reaching all learners right where they are then you should expect that from software to engage students into mathematical thinking.
DreamBox has developed conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. We have both consistent progressions and coherent connections that are required if you’re a Common Core State. And that real time data that we collect, 50,000 data points per hour per student, is not just about their answers, but also about how they’re thinking about their answers. DreamBox is highly visual or very interactive Virtual Manipulative. You can compare those with some of the online testing coming out of Park or the Smarter Balanced Consortiums and see how we are developing learners who are going to succeed mathematics on those assessments.
We develop vocabulary. And like I said earlier we don’t have any lectures. They’re doing the thinking for themselves. You can see here a couple of examples of our lessons. We collect student’s own intuitive strategies. You know the kind of mistakes that the student is off by one that’s a very different mistake. And their off by ten or if their off by a thousand and one. These are all as great teachers know you can learn a lot from a student’s mistakes. We look at how efficient student strategies are, how long they take to
answer, the kinds of scaffolding needed, how many hints do they need. So you see there a picture of our number line for young students.
Multiplication with the open array and then fraction multiplication are three of those screenshots there. Basically DreamBox as an adaptive program gives students an embedded unit pre test. It doesn’t feel like a diagnostics but it is. And if you understand you can skip ahead to our future lessons. That’s how we personalize but if you don’t, then different lessons open up to you. And it’s not at all a linear progression. You could be working on skip counting in third grade content and second grade place value and maybe even some third grade fractions.
So the grade levels are sort of disappearing away. We have robust reporting. This is an actual slide from a classroom at the end of kindergarten after using DreamBox. You see how long they’ve been on it. And how many of them are actually working in first grade content. The time that they’ve been on DreamBox varies widely and is not, you know, a one to one direct relationship between how much they progress. So students are able to move at their pace and at their path as Heather discussed.
And then we also offer support for differentiation. Heather had shown a group related report from another product. And DreamBox offers a similar thing so that teacher can see with one mouse click which students have completed certain things with proficiency whose working on it and who hasn’t started it.
So if you’d like more information visit DreamBox.com and again were very happy to have sponsored this webinar and are so thankful to the great information to Heather and Kaylie for the great information they shared. And I’ll turn it back to Edweek.
LH:Thank you so much Tim. And thanks so much again to Heather and Kaylie for your excellent presentations and to all of you for participating. It was such great conversation. We actually encourage you to continue the conversation on Twitter using the #edwebinar. If you’d like to watch today’s presentation again, an on Demand archive will be made available through edweek.org within the next 24 hours. You can also …