Webinar Date: March 28,2013
One of the hottest topics in education is blended learning – a disruptive innovation that is changing both teaching and learning. Don’t miss one of its foremost experts, Michael Horn, Executive Director of Education at the Innosight Institute, for a conversation about the present and future of blended learning. Attend this web seminar to learn the benefits of the blended learning disruptive model, get up-to-date on current trends in blended learning technologies, and learn the key elements to consider when evaluating blended learning models, technology and solutions.
- Michael B Horn - Co-Founder and Executive Director of Education at Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation,
KE: Hello everyone and welcome to today’s District Administration web seminar. My name is Kurt Eisele-Dyrli. I’m the magazine’s web seminar editor and I’ll be your moderator for today’s event. The title of today’s event is “Blended Learning Today and Tomorrow” and is being brought to you free of charge by our sponsor DreamBox Learning. One of the hottest topics in education today is Blended Learning, a disruptive innovation that is changing both teaching and learning. Today, we are fortunate to have with us some experts in Blended Learning, who will discuss the benefits of the Blended Learning disruptive model, the current trends, and Blended Learning technologies, and the key elements to consider when evaluating Blended Learning models, technology, and solutions.
Before we begin though, some brief housekeeping notes for you. This is the WebEx platform and panels for communicating with us are located on the right side of your screen. Please note, you may have to expand these panels, to do that, you just click the small triangle, that’s to the left of the panel name. If you’re having any trouble listening through your computer speakers or if you’d prefer to listen over the telephone, please just click the request telephone button, it’s under your name at the attendee panel. A pop-up window will appear with a phone number and access code. We’ll also post a phone number in the chat panel that’s located in the middle right of your screen. And speaking of that chat panel, please use that to send a message to our host and producer, her name is Kylie Lacey, about any technical issues you may be having. If you have a question for our speakers, you can use the Q&A panel that’s located at the bottom right hand corner of your screen, not the chat window but you will use the Q&A panel to send a question. Please send your question to all panelists, that’s the default option. Now, you can send a question at any time during the presentation. We will answer as many as possible during the Q&A session at the end of today’s seminar. Our speakers’ slide decks will be available for you to download and the archived recording of today’s presentation will also be available for you to review or forward to your colleagues, but I’ll tell you more about that a little bit later on.
And so with that, on to our program, our presenters today are Michael Horn, he is the Education Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Innosight Institute; Angela Langley, the Dean of Math and Student Data Analysis at Rocky Mount Prep in North Carolina; and we’re also joined by Tim Hudson, he is the Director of Curriculum Design at DreamBox Learning.
So, Michael Horn is our first presenter. So with that, I will turn it over to him, Michael, welcome.
MH: Thanks so much, Kurt. It’s a pleasure to be with everyone today and to be able to present alongside Angela and Tim is real pleasure. What I thought I would do is just give some of the research that were seeing emerge the field both from the innovation lens that we bring around Disruptive Innovation but also, in terms of the Blending Learning models that we’re seeing occur across the country and what the implications are for districts and schools as they get started with Blended Learning as well and hopefully that will make for an interesting conversation then.
What I thought I would start with is really our research where we came to education from a very different perspective from what people come to study education with. We came from the perspective of how to make innovation predictable and far more successful. And the basic thing that we looked at in education was this process of Disruptive Innovation, which has been so helpful in transforming so many sectors from the entities and things that are complicated, expensive, inaccessible, and hard to use into things that were far more affordable, convenient, accessible, and simple. And what we thought was that Disruptive Innovation could really help us transform our education system into something that was far more student-centric to personalize learning for far many more students to bolster their learning.
And so, the basic model of Disruptive Innovation that is responsible for transformation in sector after sector unfolds in this way that I plotted and will describe for you up on the slide right now, which is if you imagine a series of concentric circles. The innermost circle represents those people with the most expertise or wealth in a given field. So, I’ll just circle that here, so you can see it. As you go out each successive circle, it represents those people who have comparatively less expertise or less wealth. What you see is, in every sector that there is a process of centralization followed by Disruptive Innovations that decentralized the world. And so, the easiest way to visualize it for me has always been through the computing world. Before the advent of the computer, we all just hung out here on the outside, fringes of the circles and would just whip out our slide rules whenever we had some computing to do and the advent of the mainframe computer, deeply centralized the computing world in the inner circle because it cost a couple million dollars to own or buy. A mainframe computer was extremely complicated to use and therefore, only the people with the most expertise and wealth were able to use it in that inner circle and what we saw at Disruptive Innovation do was gradually decentralize this world, so that many more people in these outer circles, these non-consumers, is what we call them that could not consume the existing technology, were able overtime to have access to computing.
And so, the first Disruptive Innovation was the minicomputer. The minicomputer cost a quarter-million dollars. So, it was relatively more accessible than the two million dollar machine of the mainframe computer there in the center. And then the big Disruptive Innovation was the personal computer, which costs only a couple of thousand dollars and enabled far more people to have access to a computer. The big distinguishing thing here was that before, you have to go to the mainframe or minicomputer center in a corporate headquarters or at a university to have experts run computing for you. With a personal computer, computing now came to you at your fingertips at your desktop and it is so simple that you could do computing. Now, in the early years, these machines were very primitive, such that they could barely do basic applications like word processing and so forth but over time, they improve very predictively, which is a very common feature of a Disruptive Innovation, such that at one point what was just good enough for something like people like kids or hobbyists who were these non-consumers here in the outer circle.
Over time, packed in so much functionality and speed and performance, the people in the inner circle actually rapidly migrated out to the outer circle delighted by this simpler, more convenient, and affordable product that could make computing accessible to them as plenty good enough. And that’s how we see transformation occurring. Of course, it’s continued to occur to the point that most of you probably do not have desktop computers anymore but use laptops, net-books, tablets, and of course smart phones being the Disruptive Innovation that when cell phones got their start a few decades ago, where huge clunky devices. But now, they have more computing power and one of these devices that existed in the entire face of the Earth some 50, 60 years ago and indeed has more computing power in one of those devices than sent the first man to the moon. And we’ve seen this process of Disruptive Innovation transform sector after sector, from the for-profit world to the not-for-profit world, and from highly regulated to unregulated industries.
And, what I’ve done up here is just put a list of companies in blue, who over the previous couple of decades were disruptive to those organizations in red. And, you can tell the same story in sector after sector, where Toyota, they got their start with these crummy cars called Coronas that enabled people who couldn’t afford the gas-guzzling cars from companies like GM and Ford to have access to cars and then, they got better and better over time from the Corona, to the Tercel, the Corolla, the Camry, the Forerunner, the Avalon, and then the Lexus that truly transformed the world. Now, of course, Toyota today is being disrupted by entities like Kia and Hyundai from the Koreans, who a decade ago, we would have made fun of their quality but now that we see that they are actually winning all the quality awards and they’re running this commercial that says, “Isn’t it time someone did to Lexus what Lexus did to Mercedes.” And we can predictably see that this process will transform the automotive industry, yet again. Then underneath them of course of the Chinese in Chery that I put in the green column and you can tell the story through sector after sector.
As we move to education, what we saw was that in a higher education, online universities were having this tremendously disruptive impact in the higher education landscape and we thought that online learning could have the similar transformational power in K12 education but the big mystery was where would these areas of non-consumption be, that this online learning could get its start. Where would these children, for example, that could not afford mainframe computers. Where were their equivalents? And, it turns out that in the United States, because schooling is compulsory, it was a difficult question to think about. If of course, you were looking at the developing countries, there is lots of non-consumption, where children literally have no access to schooling at all. Seventy million students have no access to primary school worldwide. Two hundred million students worldwide have no access to secondary school. But within the United States, it was trickier and it turns out that if you look at the level of courses themselves, that there’s actually lots of areas of non-consumption within schools and so the big observation was that online learning in the United States will not disrupt school but it will disrupt the way we do the classroom experience. And so, we see these lots of areas of non-consumption that we can talk about it in depth, maybe in the Q&A if it is interesting. But for time’s sake, I think I will keep pushing through it. The interesting trend was that over the last several years, the looming budget cuts and increasing teacher shortages have actually increased these areas of non-consumption and so enterprising districts have been able to use these things to actually adopt online learning and start to transform the way their schools actually operate. And our prediction out of this was that online learning is growing so fast that by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online in some form or fashion.
Now, when this prediction first came out in 2008, out of our book, “Disrupting Class,” everyone though we were actually crazy that public schools could never adapt this fast and use online learning to transform how the classroom operated. But about six months later, financial crisis and other things hit, people came back to us and still felt we were crazy but now they thought that we were too conservative in our predictions and that the change was happening actually much faster. For reasons, I’ll discuss later, I actually think it’s the wrong question, but I think it will be right plus or minus a few years on either side of the prediction. And so, the big thing though that we see in the last several years is that the bulk of the online learning is happening in these Blended Learning school environments, which makes sense because we’re talking about the disruption of the classroom, not the disruption of schooling itself. Schools and teachers are going to be critical components of our education system for as far as the eye can see. And so this led us to think about what really is this Blending Learning phenomenon, how do you define it?
So, we did a lot of research over the last several years thinking about how to define Blended Learning and this is our definition at the moment, which is, it’s “a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning where this student has some element of control over the time, the place, the path, and/or the pace of learning.” The second component is that it happens “at least in part in the supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home,” so generally is school, and the third part is that “the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.” That is, that if the student is learning online for part of a math course and then moves to small group instruction for another part, that those experiences are not disconnected but the data actually makes them an integrative learning experience so that the student does not repeating something that they have already mastered in one modality or the other. And in fact, these different things are reinforcing each other to provide a holistic experience for learning. And so basically, the simple way to think about this is online learning in schooling and where the different experiences the student has are connected through data.
Now, importantly with this definition means is Blended Learning is not a few things. It is not just simply putting an electronic whiteboard in front of students and beaming online curriculum at them. Because you haven’t fundamentally changed the pedagogy or the actual model itself of learning where to give the students some element of control over the time, place, path, and pace of learning. Similarly, it’s not just simply the mere introduction of one-to-one laptops or digital textbooks. While those things can be important enablers of Blended Learning, just introducing them in and of themselves, does not mean you’ve actually changed that model of learning to really give the student the element of control over time, place, path, and pace. And, actually one of the things we see is that many of the most successful Blended Learning environments actually are not one-to-one laptop environments. They’ll even be three students for every laptop in a school and they do just great.
So, it’s important to keep that in mind because we spent a lot of money equipping schools with technology over the last several decades without an increase in learning outcomes, and our sense is that, it’s because we have just used the technology to really sustain the chalkboard, from chalkboards to whiteboards, to electronic whiteboards and lots of technology in between that just sustained that current paradigm rather than actually shifting the model of learning itself. And so the model is way more important in many ways than is the technology itself. To that point, we are actually seeing that Blended Learning has a lot of different flavors and a lot of different models are evolving into this fear and we are seeing lots of different schools innovate with lots of different ways to construct blended learning environments.
So, the chart that I put up here is a little bit confusing but on the first line, what I want you to imagine is it’s just brick-and-mortar schools and online learning marrying. They have a baby, and it’s called Blended Learning. And those things in yellow, on the second line, are all the things that are not Blended Learning but Blended Learning sits in the middle of these two things and then we are seeing four different distinct types of models emerge in the landscape. The Rotation model of which there’s a bunch of different flavors, the Flex model, the Self-Blend model, and the Enriched-Virtual model. And I’ll talk about what each of these one’s look like now over the following several slides. But this is basically what we are seeing occur across schools right now is that people are adapting these sorts of models.
So in a Rotation model, in essence what it is, is students within a given course or subject are rotating at fixed points in time between different learning modalities. A Station-Rotation model is a classic example of it, in which students are rotating between individualized online learning, small group teacher-led instruction, and then collaborative activities and stations. This is one type of Station-Rotation model. We are seeing plenty of others but what’s unique about it is it occurs within a given classroom. As I said, students rotate at fixed periods of time and they rotate through all of the modalities.
A second kind of rotation model we’re seeing, you’re actually going to hear from Rocky Mount shortly and what they have done to implement it in the elementary schools and I also recommend there’s a great piece and Education Week this morning by Tom Vander Ark about what Rocky Mount has done and it’s very illuminating to the steps that they have taken to implement Blended Learning in their school but basically, the Lab-Rotation has a lot of similarities to the Station Rotation, the exception is that students are rotating between a traditional classroom and a learning lab, which is where they do the online learning. And you can see this represented here where students are doing teacher-led learning in a particular subject matter and then they rotate out the learning lab, where they might do math with DreamBox Learning or they might do reading and so forth.
The third type of rotation model is what a lot of people are buzzing about, which is the Flipped-Classroom model. And, what we are seeing is the Flipped-Classroom model in essence says it’s a rotation between school, where you are doing practice and projects what used to be homework and at home, you are doing the instruction and content online, which used to be the lecture and so forth that was delivered in school and so, it’s still a Rotation model in that sense but it just flipped the model.
The final kind of Rotation model is the one I get quite excited about. It’s one of being pioneered by Rocky Mount Prep as well in their upper level schooling, which is this Individual Rotation model, in which students learn online and there’s still fixed periods of time when they rotate out to different modalities such as group projects, direct instruction, small group intervention, or seminar learning. But now, actually each individual student has an individualized playlist, which helps determine where they do next. So, they won’t necessarily rotate through every single day if they don’t in fact need it for their learning needs.
[INAUDIBLE 20:06] into the next type of learning model we’re seeing developed, which is the Flex model. The Flex model is very similar to the Individual Rotation in some respects in that each student has an individualized playlist for what they’ll do in a given day and how they’ll work between different modalities and so forth but the key distinguishing feature is that students don’t rotate at fixed periods in time between those modalities. They rotate flexibly as needed on their own schedules and so it;s a very fluid experience and the key thing about the Flex model is that the teacher of record just like in the Rotation models is on site and so, we are seeing a lot of Blended Learning occur in high schools in these Flex models particularly in dropout recovery and credit recovery programs.
The next model of Blended Learning that we are seeing is what we call the Self-Blend model. We are actually about to change the name to the À La Carte model, because what happens in this model, is that students are taking a few courses very traditionally, still in the traditional brick-and-mortar format and then they are taking a few courses online, where the teacher of record is now virtual as opposed to the Flex model where the teacher of record is in person with them. And students are learning online in this online course in essence and the reason it’s blended is because some of their courses are online and some of their courses are in the traditional brick-and-mortar environment. And the reason we’re shifting the name from the Self-Blend model to an À La Carte model is that the Self-Blend model implies that the students are always making these choices themselves. When in fact, oftentimes, schools are creating these À La Carte models to be able to use online learning to help them offer things that they otherwise, would never otherwise to be able to offer. What you see Rocky Mount doing for example in its high school, is that they are able to use North Carolina virtual school courses. For example, to be able to offer AP courses or specialized language courses that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get a teacher for.
The last type of Blended Learning we’re seeing is what we call the Enriched Virtual model and this is very similar to a full time virtual learning environment in which, in a full time virtual school, students are learning exclusively off campus online. In the Enriched-Virtual model, students are learning a few days a week at home online and then a few days a week, they’re actually coming into school to where they do face-to-face supplementation working with teachers and peers and so forth. And, we’re seeing a lot of fulltime virtual school models start to move to more Enriched-Virtual models, so, they can give students more support and so forth.
Now, the question out of all this is, I’ve just thrown a lot of information at all of you and the question is where do you start if you are trying to jump into Blended Learning. My big recommendation is to start with actually asking yourself what’s the problem that you’re trying to solve. Don’t dive into Blended Learning for Blended Learning’s sake. Really think about what problem are we trying to solve and we’ll talk about a little more about what these problems might be shortly but really, I think that the really critical part and as you start to identify that, it starts to suggest what type of model or a design process that is appropriate for you to be able to actually solve that problem. As you start to hone in on the model selection and design, you have a whole series of questions that you can start asking, so that you could optimize that model for your students.
If it’s a brand new school, the hiring strategy, or if it’s an existing school, what’s the professional development strategy we have to do for our teachers? What type of hardware and Internet strategy do we need to support the model? Is it going to require one-to-one laptops? Then, we might need outlets in every single classroom. Do we have that sort of infrastructure? And then, what type of software strategy are we going to see as well to support that and these things tend to be interdependent boxes such that what we’re really seeing as that if you make a decision on what type of software to deploy, it actually has implications for what hardware will and won’t be compatible with that type of an experience such that it informs what you can and can’t do. And from there, once you’ve made these choices really getting into the implementation is key. And diving in and then taking a test to learn strategy, were you thinking “Gee, let’s see what works out of this implementation” and then go back into these model selections and these dream boxes of hiring strategy, pd strategy, hardware, and software to rethink what’s working depending on what’s actually happening on the ground and continue to tweak to best serve our students.
Now, I just got one question about if we have an example of a high school that is doing this really well with a huge number of students. The short answer is we’re seeing a lot of high schools and other schools dive into these sorts of Blended Learning experiments in incremental ways by doing it on a course-by-course basis. Some schools like Rocky Mount are doing much bigger implementations but tend not to be the full comprehensive high schools at this stage that have over a couple thousand students or something of that nature at least at this point.
Now as you think about what’s the problem you’re actually trying to solve. It’s worth thinking about what the benefits of moving to an online or Blended Learning world are and thinking about how you might be able to really tackle that in a strong way. The first one that I like to think about is individualization. You’re really trying to boost the ability to individualize for students. And this skips at the heart of why I think it is important not to simply do Blended Learning for Blended Learning’s sake or to get too caught up in our projections that by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses will be online. Because the real benefit of online learning is to escape our current factory model system that bashes students up and treats them in the same way and in every single day. Even though students have incredibly different learning needs at different times. Some students learn really fast. Other students learn a lot slower and therefore need time with material. We all have different working memory capacities or aptitudes to absorb and work with information at a given point in time. And we all bring different levels of background experience to learning as well that is we have different long term memory, which means that if I’ve used a concept so far in the webinar that is unfamiliar to any of you, even if that wasn’t the objective of the lesson, you might get so caught up on that particular term that you lose the point of the lesson. Because of this, we really need to move away from that factory model system into one that can individualize for different students.
The second benefit we’re really seeing out of online learning is the data and feedback, and the ability to leverage data and feedback out of these systems to really bolster that individualization. And one of the key things you see from DreamBox Learning is how they use data and feedback to truly creating adaptive learning environment that adjusts for each individual student’s needs in some really important ways. One of the things that we’re also seeing however, are current factory model system that treats time as fixed and learning is variable. So, we deliver contents to students. We test and assess. Students progress to the next grade. Subject or body of material and only afterwards get their results. Feedback in this type of a system is actually very demotivating and hurts learning because students have no ability to do anything about it and the research is very clear on this. Instead, in a Competency-Based learning environment, which is really what I encourage you to do as you move toward a Blended Learning world, is to treat time as a variable and the learning as the constant. So offer learning experiences for students. We still tests and assess because testing and assessment is important. But, now it’s to get real time interactive feedback that informs what students do next. Such that students only progress to the next body of material once they’ve truly mastered what they’re currently working on right now. And in that system, feedback is very, very important.
Now, two more points on this and then I’ll turn it over and then maybe we can, I’m getting a few questions privately but maybe we can save some of those for the Q&A. The teacher effectiveness is another big benefit of online learning to help make a good teacher’s grade to help the computer do what computers do well to allow teachers to do what humans do uniquely well and duly free them off from a lot of the administrative and lesson planning tasks that take a lot of time but aren’t terribly useful for bolstering student learning. The other thing is, it can start opening us up to a lot of really neat teen teaching models. Where we start having teachers really specialize in different aspects of their work. And so, I just put one slide here from the school in Detroit that is moved to a different way of thinking about the role of the teacher.
They have four different roles for teachers, which really allows you extend the reach of your best teachers and give different career growth opportunities and so forth. The final benefit and I’ll finish here, is that for some districts that are facing budget cuts and so forth, leveraging online learning to change the learning model itself in some key ways can really help with cost control so that we can do more with less and do what we what Secretary Duncan talks a lot about which is coping with the new normal to be able to deliver more learning for students even as we have less resources. And the reality is, even as the economy roars back over the next couple of years, because of the rising cost of pensions and retirees and healthcare in our state systems, those things are going to eat up a bigger chunk of the budget and education is very likely to get short thrift relative to those things. Meaning, we are going to have to figure out how to innovate to help solve these problems. And so, this is the another benefit of online learning, is it allows us to rethink these structures in neat ways to both better individualized learning and improve those learning outcomes at the same time as being more cost-effective.
And so, I’ll maybe stop here. There are a couple of great questions about Flipped Classroom as well as the Learning Lab model but maybe if it’s okay with the others, I’ll make sure to come back to that in the Q&A period and now I’ll turn it over to Angela. Thanks so much.
AL: Thanks Michael. I really appreciate your time and walking us through that. Welcome everyone this afternoon. My name is Angela Langley. I am part of the Rocky Mount Prep Team and I’m the Dean of Math and Student Data Analysis and I just want to take a few minutes this afternoon to share with you some of the successes that we’re seeing here at Rocky Mount Prep with what we are calling our model of Blended Learning. I’m going to focus mainly on our elementary side. We are K12 School. We are a public charter school here in North Carolina. We do have just over 1,100 students at our school and we probably matched some of the demographics of school that maybe listening to this presentation today. So, we will be definitely happy answer any questions and share you the lessons that we learned as we made this transformation at our school. What I kinda wanted to start out with is, just what Michael said, was we had to start out our year on deciding what needed to be solved within this school year. We are based in North Carolina I’ve moved into the Common Core state standard, which was new for our classroom teachers and they were going to need help. They needed help to have tools, so that, were going to help the students succeed.
We also really felt that we needed to take our students on a journey to mastery. That learning has got to be the key. So, these are the points that really defined our model. What we faced was years with a lot of students that were underperforming in math and reading. So we needed to make certain within our model that we could tackle both of those opportunities because as we move to Common Core State Standards, we knew that the gaps our students had were only going to be further highlighted and they were not going to be reading to meet all of these Common Core standards. Needless to say, the assessments that come along with the standards. So our solution was a Blending Learning solution in our elementary, which is the K3 section of our building. We have a brand new learning lab that can accommodate up to 100 students. It’s a great opportunity to allow the students to rotate through their day to come into the learning lab every single day.
We also have learning labs that are geared towards our fourth and fifth graders. Our middle school has their own learning lab, which accommodates over 75 students and then our high school as Michael eluded to earlier in his presentation is very centered in a learning lab situation where each individual does rotate through their own individual station and we have just under 300 students in that part of our building. The learning lab not only allows our students to come into this lab to work on digital programs, it also gives us a new space that we can do individualized small tutoring groups, because the data that we get back and the feedback from our digital curriculum is just incredible. It allows us to pinpoint weaknesses, those weakness that are either identified through assessment. Now, we have another tool with our digital curriculum that allows us to zero in on what’s causing that problem. And we have that opportunity in our math and in our reading.
Why did we choose DreamBox Learning? This was an opportunity for us this year to select new tools. It was very new to us prior to our learning lab. We had the infamous rolling computer cart that many of you maybe familiar with. It was wonderful as long as all four wheels stayed on but one of those wheels fell off and then it became a doozy to push down the hall. Teachers were on the waiting list; who had the cart today, who was using the cart, and Internet was spotty at times. So, we didn’t invest a lot in our digital resources. Now that we have this year our new learning lab, we wanted to take the time to look at digital curriculums that are out there that could truly supplement our new Singapore Math Program. We wanted to look at programs that allowed us to go back to solving our original problem of completing that journey to mastery for our students. And that was one of the reasons that DreamBox really fit for us.
It gave us an opportunity to use this tool that was going to identify the gaps in math for our students. It was going to help the teachers see where those gaps were and to know that we had a tool that was going to enable the student to succeed, to give them an experience where they could continue to learn and also create a tool that was very engaging for them. Because we know that our students learn differently and we know just as Michael said on some topics, they may learn very quickly and on other topics that they may struggle. And we needed to have continuous data, continuous feedback from our digital curriculum that would go to the student, to the teachers, and even to the parents on how were we doing on our journey to mastery. So that’s definitely one of the reasons that DreamBox was our number one choice in helping us in the elementary.
We began DreamBox in September. Again, each one of our K through fifth grade students have a daily rotation through our lab. They spend 90 minutes in the lab every day. During this time, it is their digital curriculum. They are working on math programs and they are also working on reading programs. With that data, we now have tools that made this education individual to them. It takes them back to the standards that they had gaps in and fills those gaps, and it really makes learning a personal experience for the student. And yet their screens continue to look like any other students and they’re excited to finally feel success, some of them maybe, for the very first time.
Some of our results that we see in DreamBox this past fall, our third grade group just under 100 students, we wanted to take and we used information on where were our students in math computation. We knew what the new Common Core standards that we wanted to identify our students early for those who were not ready to meet the standards, what were we going to do and make sure we are ready to move them forward. As you can see from this slide, the results at the beginning of the year testing, which was conducted in September, we had a 100 percent of our students that we called math-frustrated. This meant that these students were not ready to learn at the level of the Common Core State Standards for third grade. So we knew we had our work cut out for us and we couldn’t rely on the teacher to have to always continue to go back with each individual student. We know that learning is key, but we had to give her tools that with help her help each student individually. And then lab rotation has definitely been that experience for us that allowed the student to work at their pace and fill in the gaps that they had.
The second blog that you’ll see on the screen is the third grade data, again, same group of students. We did have one new student that joined us but we were still measuring using our same tool. And where students were middle of the year and this was in December. This very past December and you’ll see the huge gains that our students made, and we truly identify this as a combination of working with our digital program and classroom room experience. We went from a 100 percent frustrated students in math, down to 34 percent. We’ve even see some of our students move into what we call math mastery, where they are now working above the current grade level in Common Core standard.
Do you see that this is basically a gain of about 76 percent from the beginning of the year, which was the pretest, when we are looking at where are students coming to us at, all the way to that mid-year. So now, their comments of, “I don’t like math,” “I can’t do math.” So now, when they walk in the lab, the students are engaged in math. They are motivated in math. And one of my favorite lines that they say is, “Did you see what I can do now?” Because they are excited about what they can do, what they can accomplish as well. And I think that is definitely what Blended Learning lands itself to, is giving those students a sense of accomplishment.
We also talked about our middle school and was it really all DreamBox, did digital curriculum truly play a large role into it? In our middle school, we didn’t have all of the digital components that were available to us in elementary. So, if you look at our sixth grade results, this is new, and again, our benchmark testing only started at the beginning of the year in September, you’ll see that out of a 118 sixth graders that we had about 67 percent of those guys and gals working on grade level. They were on target with 10 percent of them being frustrated. As you know, there are certain benchmarks that we all set and have to obtain and they continue to grow and the expectations rise as the year continues within our standards. When we did our winter benchmark in December, you’ll see that we actually lost some ground. Our frustrated students, now we have 14 percent. We did gain a little bit with our mastery at 31 percent but a red flag to us again is that we had some students who lost ground. And as you know, those students will continue to lose ground as they learn in middle school math, given the gaps that were created from their elementary experience, given where something didn’t click for them, given where they did not have enough practice that was individualized for them. So now the gap is continuing to show.
And we have similar results for our seventh and eighth grade students, as well. We have introduced DreamBox to our sixth grade students. We have not done our benchmark testing and we’ll not do that until late April but we’re excited to see where the results can take us. The data on the feedback that DreamBox Learning offers us tells us tells us that these guys and gals are truly starting to fill those gaps. We can go back and see where many of these gaps center around fractions or decimals. So that now when the small pullout groups in tutoring, that has been identified for this select group of student and we can gather around four to six students and do lessons to reinforce that learning to make it individualized. And that’s what we are excited about Blended Learning here at Rocky Mount Prep and being partners with DreamBox Learning.
KE: Okay, great. Thank you so much, Angela. At this point, I’d like to introduce Tim Hudson from DreamBox Learning. Tim, take it over to you.
TH: Thanks so much, Kurt. I am the Curriculum Director at DreamBox Learning. I spent over 10 years in public education as a high school math teacher and then a K12 Math Curriculum Director. It’s great to hear Michael’s perspective and thoughts and insights about trends from the past several decades and heading on into the future as well and then the work that Angela has done at her school to really, really move the bar to really improve learning, thinking, and achievement for students. That’s why we all do what we do, right? So, a little bit about DreamBox Learning, one of the things that Angela had said is, kids get real excited and confident in what they can accomplish and that’s a key part of DreamBox that not only are students working at their own pace and at their just-right level, their zone of proximal development, but the way that the teachers and the game designers and creative team and programmers here at DreamBox, the way that we put together our lessons is entirely designed around students being independent, critical, strategic thinkers that you think about something, Angela had mentioned fractions, which we know where a huge pain point. And you know, you have students who, I mean, I thought high school, they would say, “We’re multiplying fractions now, is that where you multiply both the top ones and the bottom ones, is that were you have to add the top but leave the bottom the same?” They are trying to remember things that they don’t actually understand, just trying to remember things someone told them, whereas in DreamBox, we make them the creators of their ideas. They are the ones that have to make sense of fraction multiplication and in doing so, we prevent misconceptions and we ensure that they’re thinking like mathematicians even as young as kindergarten.
So we combine three essential elements to accelerate student learning. We have rigorous elementary math that we have reporting that’s aligned with several different standards including the Common Core and we really embody some of the standards of mathematical practice if you’re in a Common Core state. Things like reasoning quantitatively and abstractly. Things like looking for and making use of structure. When you think about what mathematicians do is they look for structure that is something that students have to do independently on their own and sometimes when you see pictures like what’s happening at Rocky Mount Prep, the last time, people don’t really appreciate seeing students in a learning lab, where they are working on computers individually but the quality of the learning experience in there is key and in DreamBox as Angela said, teachers can trust that kids are the ones doing the looking for structures. Kids are the ones doing the thinking and it’s always at their just-right level.
We also have a Motivating Learning Environment, where we know that you know, students don’t show up to school then it’s really hard for them learn and similarly in DreamBox. If you’re not there, and enjoying it, and getting challenges that are just right for you, if not engaging and you don’t want to be a part of it. And then we have our Intelligent Adaptive Learning Engine, which is a pioneering technology that differentiates for students in real time, not just based on multiple choice, right–wrong answers but actually how students are answering their problems. So, if a first grader is solving problems by counting by ones. We have manipulatives and tools that can hone in on students who are counting by ones. And those students need very different things next, than a student who solves the same problem using jumps of 10 or using a different strategy. So, our Intelligent Adaptive Engine in the lessons that are specifically offered for our platform really hone in not just on students’ skills but on students’ understandings on their conceptual development providing every student with their own unique path and there are millions of those paths.
Students aren’t ever locked into a linear progression but rather they have several things they can choose from. You can certainly learn more at our website. We have several sample lessons. In fact, we have some free whiteboard teacher tools that the teachers can use our tools on a smart board to engage their whole class and a lot of information on there about research, about case studies, about how we do, what we do here at DreamBox and why we do it. In order to really accomplish better learning for students in the future, kids needs to be doing the ones doing the thinking. Kids need to be the ones doing the doing as it were because it’s their brains that need to grow and we are happy to partner with Angela and other educators all around the country as they try to make their achievement outcomes for kids way better and put kids on a positive life trajectory. So with that, back to Kurt.
KE: Okay, great. Thank you so much, Tim. Now, let’s get to the Q&A portion. Let’s get to your questions. Just a reminder if you have a question for any of our presenters, just use that Q&A panel, that’s at the bottom right hand corner of your screen there, not the chat window at the middle right but the Q&A at the bottom corner there. We will get as many as we care here. The first question is the question perhaps in a general sense, Michael could speak to, but Angela, I think as well. It says what is the best way to gather quantifiable data about a blended program so as to be able to demonstrate student success, how do you evaluate effectiveness? Angela, in your presentation you talked quite a bit about evidence that your blended program is working. Do you have insights or advice about how to evaluate whether or not a program is working? Angela.
AL: Yes, we are very much data rich at our school because we focus on small assessments and trying to make certain that things are moving our students forward. We do not want to wait until the end of the year to say, “Oh so, how’d that work?” We actually do beginning-of-the-year benchmarking, we use two different tools. One of those would be our computer-based monitoring, where it’s math fluency that we are testing for. We also do as an 8- to 12-minute task on Common Core based upon the grade levels that the students take. They give us an idea of where the national benchmarks are and where the students should be working at. We also use NWEA Assessment three times a year that gives us an opportunity to see where some of the students’ strengths and weaknesses are. We found a high correlation of that. We do progress monitoring with our students who are not working at grade level, so that we can see the efforts that we’re making if they are impacting the students. And then also, the tools that we have selected for Blended Learning give us the data constantly as far as all the way down to the amount of time a student was working within that tool, what accomplishments they made and again, an opportunity to see what knowledge they gained, what did they master during that lesson.
KE: Okay. Michael, do you have insights about gauging the effectiveness of Blended Learning, is it different than gauging the effectiveness of traditional instruction?
MH: Well, so I think Angela has summarized it quite well and I agree with what she says, which she said there’s just tremendous opportunities to use data far more richly and in real time than there is with traditional instruction. So, it’s not inherently different from evaluating a different program but you could actually get a much richer view than is possible in a traditional program about what’s actually happening with students in Blended Learning environments, which is exciting. The second thing I would say is, our accountability system that thinks about quality, which I would argue is, well, accountability is extremely important and testing is important. The way the current accountability system works is flawed in a few respects, those flaws become much bigger when looking at Blended Learning programs and the reason is, for example, there is a school district in California that was using Blending Learning in the fifth grade and they had students who are aged fifth grade so, 11 years old that were actually doing math concepts in high school, Trigonometry, Algebra, pre-Algebra, and so forth.
And then at the end of the year, they got to the state test and they took the fifth grade test, which doesn’t show any of the growth that the students had in those experiences anywhere they actually are in their learning and similarly, the same is true if a student enters and experience, again say, they’re fifth grade age wise but they’re the second grade math leveled and the teacher in the Blended Learning environment are able to bring them up to a fourth grade level, that is a huge growth, that a system does not capture accurately for the individual student and so what happens is, because we give the fifth grade exam. We don’t get accurate picture of where the student really is in his or her learning and we also get an accurate accountability picture of what type of growth teachers are able to make with students, and so, my sense is that, the accountability system breaks even more in a Blended Learning environment, where we’re truly individualizing for students and allowing them to tackle things in their zone of proximal development.
KE: Okay, great. Thank you. Here’s a practical question, Angela maybe you give some insight to it, it just says, “How do you integrate online work and small group teacher-led instruction?” It seems to be what we are talking about in general here when it comes to Blended Learning, did you run into pain points, Angela with implementing Blended Learning or challenges? It sounds like this person does not know what to do when it comes to doing this.
AL: There’re definitely pain points, you know me well, you know, I will never lie to you. I think the number one way to get around any of the pain points that we had, is flexibility because that’s what we are asking our students to do as to be flexible and to individualize their learning. With our grades that we pull out, again, we identify those students, who has weaknesses in multiple areas and tackle these weaknesses one at a time. We will group them based upon their weaknesses maybe place value. Then natural, we’ll pull a certain number of fourth graders or fifth graders who are very weak in that skill and they will have an individualize pullout sessions for about 45 minutes and we’ll monitor that and really gives them another test of place value.
That way, they’re seen in the classroom instructions with the teacher continues to teach many times on grade level and through that common core and then we have DreamBox that is helping us fill the gaps on where do the gaps start with place value. Does it go all the way back to second grade or how far back? And, it gives us an opportunity to know and to see where some of our tutoring is working just for how quickly they’re able to now go back into that digital curriculum in a forward. For some students, they may need multiple sessions and that’s we’re where at now. We’d like to continue to work on our flexibility with our grouping. We’ve not perfected it but I think we’ve done extremely well. We also allow flexibility grouping and are classrooms whereas we see students who were excelling in certain areas to make sure that we are not putting our frustrated learners with them, so that, they don’t feel a sense of deflation in what they are accomplishing. So, it is a lot of time, a commitment but I can tell you, it has been one of the most rewarding years that I’ve been in education.
KE: Okay. Thank you. Another one for you, Angela, is just practical question. I think you kind of answered it there in what you just said, what it said is, DreamBox Learning that the math instruction or you have daily face-to-face instruction based on grade level standards also. You talked about the role of DreamBox, maybe you can spilled that out a little bit more.
AL: Definitely. We do each one of our student have an NK file. They have a 90-minute block of mathematical instruction every day. We do use the rotating schedule that we call A, B, C, D day, which allows students to not always have math at 8 AM in the morning. Given our school, there are some students who or consistently late. So, we don’t want to put those students further behind but always have a math at the same time. So, we do on a rotating schedule with our classes that students do receive a 90-minute of teacher focus, teacher-led, common core math and we do use a Singapore method here at Rocky Mount Prep the students also again, everyday have a 90-minute rotation through the learning lab. The entire 90-minute is not dedicated just to math. It is between ELA and math
KE: Okay, okay, great. Here’s an interesting kind of a philosophical question for you Michael. You talked about that competency-based model, then I asked how can you work in a competency-based model when they are still sixth grade, seventh grade, etc. Wouldn’t this require a mindset shift of all stakeholders to get out of grades as ways to group students? Is there attention there, Michael, between competency-based and seat time I guess, some people describe it as?
MH: Yes. That’s exactly the tension is. One of the reasons why all of us working to educate policy makers and department of education around how to see time has really been measuring the wrong end of the students in the last 100 years and if you think about it for a little bit, you will know what I mean but really getting to a competency-based learning system that’s really actually measuring learning itself and rewarding those for helping promote learning for students. There is certainly attention there. We are seeing schools be able to work around it and in some cases, there is a competencyworks.org does a good job of giving some examples that a lot of the Blended Learning models were talking about effectively below beyond grades but then retroactively assigned grade letters back to these things in some ways to make it work for students, which is uncomfortable [INAUDIBLE 58:47] but is definitely possible.
And then, we are seeing states like New Hampshire, Maine, and others, actually really start to open up pathways for competency based learning in their state code and so forth which is really exciting and I think it worth watching the ESPA waivers that those states may get from the department of education in the coming months because the hope is that is actually going to search and pave the way for competency-based learning to be recognized by the Feds as well because the department of education at least in certain quarters is very aware of the need for this. Sooner or later, it’s raised to the top and district competition, talked a lot about competency-based learning, so, it is becoming a bigger and bigger issue that’s people are becoming more and more aware of and in higher education, the department just granted waivers in Southern New Hampshire University to move in the first competency-based model but has absolutely no tieback to credit ours or higher educations version of seat time, which have been tremendously hopeful for us all pushing forward in the future.
KE: Okay, great. Thank you so much. Well, unfortunately, we have come to the end of our time here. If we weren’t able to answer you question, we are going to ask the DreamBox Learning to put together an email in FAQ to send out to all of our attendees. So, look for that at some point in the future. Hopefully, we will answer your question but at this point, on behalf of District Administration, I would like to thank our speakers, Michael, Angela, and Tim. And, thank you again to our sponsor, DreamBox Learning for putting on this event and of course, to you our audience. Thank you so much for joining us. I hope you find today’s web seminar informative. Producing events just like this one is just part of our mission to inform K12 leaders like you about news and trends in school district management. You’ll find more comfort about issues such as the one we discussed today in the pages of our print magazine as well as on our website and in our free daily E-newsletter DA daily.
And as I mentioned before, for those in the audience who would like to share this web seminar with your colleague or review our speakers’ presentations at your own phase, you can access it from going to our website at districtadministration.com/webseminars or it will be posted in the archive section within about 48 hours and you will get an email notice about that when it’s ready. If you like to download our speakers’ slides, you’ll find instructions and a link and a thank you email that you’ll receive later on today. So, watch out for that. So, that’s it for today’s event. I’m Kurt Eisele-Dyrli, District Administration. On behalf of our producer Kylie Lacey and my other colleagues, good bye everyone and enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you so much for joining us.