Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for Success in Blended Learning Models

Webinar Date: January 20,2014

Webinar Description

Nearly all K-12 schools are expanding their use of technology to support student learning, and many of them are implementing blended learning models. By definition, blended models include online learning opportunities that empower students with some control over the time, place, path, and pace of their learning. Therefore new teachers need additional preparation and perspective so they can effectively leverage new technologies to meet the continually evolving needs of all students.  In the Blended Learning community’s January webinar, Dr. Tim Hudson, Senior Director of Curriculum Design at DreamBox Learning, shared ways to prepare pre-service teachers for success in blended learning models by helping them understand how to make the best use of precious class time when they enter the profession.  Topics covered included: rigorous standards, valid assessment, analyzing data, useful feedback, differentiation, personalization, and research-based pedagogy. Tim provided helpful tools to help prepare pre-service teachers for success in blended learning models.

View Transcription

Nearly all K-12 schools are expanding their use of technology to support student learning, and many of them are implementing blended learning models. By definition, blended models include online learning opportunities that empower students with some control over the time, place, path, and pace of their learning. Therefore new teachers need additional preparation and perspective so they can effectively leverage new technologies to meet the continually evolving needs of all students.  In the Blended Learning community’s January webinar, Dr. Tim Hudson, Senior Director of Curriculum Design at DreamBox Learning, shared ways to prepare pre-service teachers for success in blended learning models by helping them understand how to make the best use of precious class time when they enter the profession.  Topics covered included: rigorous standards, valid assessment, analyzing data, useful feedback, differentiation, personalization, and research-based pedagogy. Tim provided helpful tools to help prepare pre-service teachers for success in blended learning models.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, “Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for Success in Blended Learning Models.” My name is Tim Hudson; I’m the Senior Curriculum Director at DreamBox Learning. Our team at DreamBox is sponsoring today’s webinar. DreamBox offers a rigorous and engaging PreK through Grade 5 math program that fully adapts and differentiates for each student no matter where they are in their learning to complement classroom teachers and support schools using Blended Learning models. I’ll share a bit more about it at the end.

Today’s webinar is intended to help pre-service teachers and teacher/educators prepare for the changing landscape of schools and particularly, when there is an increase in the number of schools using Blended Learning models. Now nearly all K–12 schools are expanding their use of technology to support student learning, and many of them are implementing official Blended Learning models as they’re called. By definition, Blended Learning models include online learning opportunities that empower students with some control over time, place, path and the pace of their learning. Therefore, new teachers entering the profession really need some additional different kinds of preparation and perspective, perhaps more than anything, so that they can effectively leverage new technologies to meet the continually evolving needs of all students. So in this edWeb Blended Learning community webinar sponsored by DreamBox, I will share some ways and to prepare pre-service teachers for success in Blended Learning models really by having a conversation about how to help them understand how to make the best use of precious class time when they enter the profession.

So feel free to join our Blended Learning community. You see the website right there, And you can get all sorts of great information including invitations to upcoming webinars, the webinar archives, online discussions, and then continuing education quizzes for archived webinars. And then as you can see in the chat box, everything will be posted in the Resource Library on the community.

A couple of a technical tips that you see here on this slide that—you know—close other applications, to make sure you can hear the video and audio just fine, maximize your screen to see things. And you will get that continuing education credit within 24 hours. Well, you can use the hashtag #edwebchat right now if you want to be doing some live tweeting.

All right. So real quickly a bit about myself, there’s my Twitter handle there, @DocHudsonMath. I am the Senior Director of Curriculum Design here at DreamBox Learning. Previously, I was the K–12 Math Curriculum Coordinator for the Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, where I also had the pleasure of doing some district-level strategic planning and facilitating that. And actually, several of the ideas that I’ll be sharing today came out of that work with the Parkway School District. Prior to that, I was a high school math teacher. I got my degrees from the universities you see there, Saint Louis University and Truman. I’m originally from Missouri and now live in Seattle. And also, I was a co-author of a chapter in a book published by NCTM about models of intervention in mathematics. I don’t get any royalties for it, but if you’re looking for math intervention resources, I would highly recommend that book there. And then also if you see there in the chat, feel free to put any questions that you have right there in the chat, and we’ll be collecting them so that we can discuss them near the end.

So an overview, the things we’re going to talk about today, if you are a pre-service teacher or any teacher, really, this fundamental question: what are teachers hired to accomplish? That’s certainly something that a pre-service teacher needs to know when they’re going into the profession. We certainly need to clarify some things around Blended Learning. I know that—I saw in the chat prior to the start of the webinar that we have some Blended Learning veterans, I guess you’d say, who have been using it for a while. Hopefully, there will some new ideas for you in this webinar. And I’ve done a couple of Blended Learning webinars before, and some of you may have joined previously. So there will be may be some parallels as everyone’s still trying to get a deeper understanding of what Blended Learning is as we work to improve the learning for all students.

And then really this question, I think is kind of the essential question: “How do pre-service teachers learn to make the best use of precious class time once they enter the classroom?” What sort of mindset is needed for a teacher when they’re trying to decide, “Well, what am I going to do tomorrow? What am I going to do next week?” Certainly, with the wealth of resources that are available online, what are some of the things that I, as a pre-service teacher, need to be doing in my classroom that are maybe different from the math classrooms or other classrooms I experienced? As a high school math teacher, I sometimes talk about math. And then what preparation is necessary for any of you who are working with pre-services teachers? Hopefully, I’ll give you some additional perspective and mindset about the realities that they’ll be experiencing entering the classroom. So it’s really about changing everyone’s mindset and shifting it to think about Blended Learning.

So the main topics we’re going to talk about—because an hour is only so much and there were quite a bit, a number of topics listed in the description. We’re mainly going to talk about pedagogy, personalization, and that third key piece: how do you develop wisdom as an educator in the use and inclusion of technology as technologies are so rapidly advancing. I think a lot about if you’ve ever read Robyn Jackson’s book, Never Work Harder Than Your Students, there’s—I think the very first page or the first chapter—the introductory quote is I think a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. It talks about how if you understand principles, then the methodology you use is kind of—the strategies that you use don’t matter as much. But if all you know are methods and strategies without knowing principles, your life is going to be kind of challenging. So today is more about principles than it is about specifics. We’ll also talk about using data, standards, useful feedback about assessment. We may have to tackle those more in questions and answers if you have specific wonderings about it.

So first things first: what is the teacher hired to accomplish? And the teacher’s mission is the district or the school’s mission. That’s kind of a—that’s a critical point, a critical understanding. I know when I first entered the classroom, I don’t think I paid much attention to what the school’s mission was or the district’s mission was even though I should have. I just sort of thought I’m hired to teach math, specifically five classes of mathematics with a certain class size, that I thought my was job was a little more isolated to my own classroom without necessarily viewing it as being a more broader part of a bigger whole. So when we ask what are schools supposed to accomplish and what are teachers hired to accomplish, it’s largely, I mean, it’s sort of the same thing in many regards.

And I remember Allison Zmuda, who’s written for ASCD and is a great thinker. She, at one point, said that if you’re talking about—so I taught tenth grade geometry, for example. And if you would have said I would have talked about my students. These are my students. And she brought in the good point that these aren’t your students. They’re on loan to you from the district for a year, because everything I do in tenth grade should be building from ninth grade and then preparing for eleventh grade. So I can’t really think of them as my own so much as I think of it as a collective that we’re here, we’re a school, a district with the same mission. And that’s where some of the ideas of Schooling by Design come in handy, and I’ll talk a little bit more about these and hopefully, frame some of your thinking about where teachers fit in the mission of the school as a critical part of the mission of the school.

They point out we’re schooling by design, we’re not schooling by habit or by impulse to say, “Well, this is how I know my English class or my science class was taught. So I’m just going to sort of stick with that habit.” And then this is the kind of point related to what I’ve said Allison Zmuda a second ago. It’s without a commitment to a mission, we don’t really have a school. We just have a home for freelance tutors of subjects. And I know that teachers, for the most part, like to be a part of a community. They like to know that they’re a contributing team member, a part of something bigger. I think that’s especially true of younger teachers who are just now in college and entering the profession. There’s a connectedness there that they seek and rallying around the school’s mission. We’ll take a look at a couple of school missions here in a second. Rallying around that, really, I think is something that’s going to help pre-service teachers feel more connected to the bigger things that are going on for a student across the course of their entire K–12 experience.

Many pre-service teachers will likely enter schools that are using professional learning communities, PLCs. Many of you are probably quite familiar with that. And I’ve got a couple of slides here from Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work. You can see that at the bottom of the slide, from DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker. And they bring this great point up about mission and have these—these next three slides are going to be sample missions they have in their book that help frame our thinking about what we’re supposed to do with students in classrooms. So this might be an example of schooling by habit. “Our mission is to ensure success for all our students. We’ll do whatever it takes to ensure their success provided we don’t have to change the schedule, modify of our existing practices or adopt any new practices”—and a lot of times, that happens. I know when I was a math coordinator, when we would try to do some problem solving around a particular student’s circumstances where they were really struggling in math for one reason or another or really advanced in mathematics and we really tried to figure out the best learning option for them, a lot of times the existing schedules and practices and even policies and state laws, which we’ll talk about here in a second, really limited the ways that we were able to meet the needs of a particular learner. So some change of practice is needed, and that’s kind of what—Blended Learning is a key change that allows us to modify some of our practices.

As far as an unspoken mission criteria, a lot of times we’ll say, “It is our mission to help all students learn if they are conscientious, responsible, attentive, developmentally ready, fluent in English, and come from homes with concerned parents who take an interest in their education.” Do we really have—and pre-service teachers I think really need to confront their perhaps unspoken criteria or biases that if they’re a first year teacher or in there student teaching and they think, “I’m not getting any support from home,” that communicates something about their expectations or perhaps parents meeting you halfway. And every community is different. The amount of parent involvement is wide ranging and different. So you really need to confront some of your unspoken expectations for what students are coming to your classroom, what home connection you’re going to have, and sort of work with that reality and plan accordingly that if year after year after year, there’s not a lot of parent involvement, then you do need to plan differently. And you probably, I would say definitely, shouldn’t make assumptions about parents not caring or things like that. It’s different circumstances. And you need to plan for that and not assume you’re going to get all of these criteria right here that you see on the screen.

Or this one, “Our mission is to create a school with an unrelenting focus on learning. Failure is not an option. But ultimately, it will be the responsibility of the student and his or her parents to take advantage of the opportunities for the learning.” And I think this is perhaps the most common one that maybe educators going into the teaching profession bring with them, because there’s that adage; if you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. And there certainly is some sort of philosophical truth to that in the sense that learning has to happen in someone’s brain. As far as working out goes, if I want to grow my muscles, I have to be the one at the gym working out the bench press. So there is some truth to that. However, as pre-service teachers and educators, we really have to do whatever it takes for students and change some of our practices and policies and ideas and approaches to reach every single learner. And I know that’s why most teachers go into the profession, to reach every single student and not just sort of put it off on them.

And one good resource for ideas how schools in tough situations are working, you can look at some of the 90/90/90 schools’ work. And I think it’s Karen Chenoweth. I heard her speak maybe two years ago at an ASCD conference where she had the principal, assistant principal from a military-based school where they have parents overseas, serving in the military, and there’s all sorts of issues that they have to deal with related to those things and being in the community where it’s a small community and it’s tough to recruit great teachers and there’s continual development of new teachers. But the one thing that they focus on is things that are in their control. So the pre-service teachers knowing going in, and say, “What can I control and exert the most influence on the things that I can control and really not focus a whole lot of energy on things that I wish were the case or things that I don’t have control over.” On a military base, you don’t have control over the deployments. You don’t have control over when a student’s parents are coming back. So you learn to think more strategically and control what’s in your control.

Now this was the mission that we reworked for the Parkway School District. And I want to use it to frame this conversation, mainly because if a pre-service teacher’s job, as any teacher’s job, is to help accomplish the district mission, I know a lot of teachers probably don’t even know what their district’s mission is, or maybe they’re not fully onboard with it, or maybe it’s not a great mission. But here’s what we worked on with the Parkway School District, and I really like it because, first of all, it’s about all students, that we need to ensure that all students are capable, curious, and confident learners who understand and respond to the challenges of an ever-changing world. I think that’s like a life mission in a way to say you—as a learner, that’s the thing—we’re a learning institution. So a pre-service teacher starting their classroom with a mission like this would need to be constantly be reflecting and saying, “Okay, what am I doing to make my sure my students are capable learners?” And that’s where, if you’re a high school math teacher, you would be thinking, “Okay, they need to be able to use the quadratic formula. They need to be able to find the area of a rectangle,” those sorts of ideas.

However, the curiosity and the confidence—not just curiosity and confidence but rather what does it take to be a curious learner? What, as a teacher, do I need to do in my classroom that’s going to facilitate curious learning, that’s going to be make sure every single student has great questions and asks great questions and wonders things rather than come to my classroom and assume that the teacher is going to tell you what the questions are and then provide the answers to you. And then certainly, confident learning; that every teacher wants to their students to be confident in their learning, in their approach to tackle new problems. So that’s a key thing and then understand and respond. It’s not enough to just know things, to know the causes and the effects of different historical events but rather to understand those causes and then to decide, “Well, what do I need to do next? How do I respond to that? What would be action to be taken as I’m learning about something new?” Because the world is ever changing. The circumstances are ever changing. Arguably, you’re here in this webinar because technology is changing, because schools are changing, and you need to know more. You want to understand more about it and be able to respond within your own context, within your own classroom, within your own teacher education program.

So this is a framework for thinking about mission and thinking about the role of teachers in a school’s mission. And this is adapted from that book Schooling by Design, and the sort of house metaphor is kind of helpful, where the school district exists, it has a mission. And you just saw Parkway’s mission, for example. The idea of a vision adds a little more specificity to that. And then on top of that are learning principles. Just as a hospital says, “Our mission is to heal people, and there are certain health-related medical principles that we adhere to,” in the same way, a school needs to have some learning principles that they agree to. And arguably, there are certain learning approaches that you can take in your classroom that facilitate curiosity, and there are some approaches you can take in your classroom that don’t facilitate curiosity. And so having those agreements on learning principles is something that, if you have a school, you build those in. And then when you hire teachers and pre-service teachers are looking at districts, they have some knowledge of the expectation of how learning takes place certainly within this school.

Then you have curriculum and assessment. Of course, any pre-service teacher, as soon as they can, they want to see the curriculum. They need to know what I’m going to be teaching, how are students going to be assessed this year. Those are key things that a teacher would need to see. And then the progress monitoring instructional practices that when a school district establishes those and says, “This is how we monitor progress. This is the curriculum we’re using.” And keep in mind, all of these things don’t necessarily imply anything about class size, about technology use or even about who to hire or how many people to hire.

And that’s where the next level comes in: personnel, hiring, evaluation of teachers, professional collaboration and development. At that point, once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, then the school district should decide, “Okay, well. Who are we going to hire to accomplish these things?” And if pre-service teachers—I know that in my pre-service teacher, in my preparation, I learned tons about content. I learned about pedagogy. I learned tons about classroom management. I did not really learn a whole lot about, as much as I should have about schools systems and where teachers fit into that, about how decisions were made, about policies, structures, governance, which is actually the next layer on top of that, because what pre-service teachers are going to encounter is the reality that many of the things that they do or want to do or can do or are empowered to do are going to depend heavily on the existing policies, structures, resource allocation, budget. Class sizes are going up because resource allocation is causing that. And so in a lot of ways, school decisions are made sort of with this diagram flipped upside down, that we first start with policies. Then we say, “Okay, we’re going to have 180 days of school, and we’re going to have math class every day for an hour for 13 years.” Those sorts of policies and structures are going to impact the pre-service teacher’s classroom.

So I think it would have been helpful for me and I think it is helpful for pre-service teachers to see where their role fits in a broader, grander scheme of things. And then once you see how professionals are collaborating, I mean this is the whole—this level with personnel hiring, evaluation, professional collaboration and development, that’s sort of where a lot of the PLC work builds upon mission as you saw from the previous slides. Then you decide how are teachers going to connect and collaborate within each school. You see tons of teachers who—maybe you’re the only teacher of AP European History at your school. And teachers are turning to social media. They’re turning to Twitter and trying to connect with other people teaching that because at their school, there just isn’t another section.

All right, so how do we accomplish missions. So you’re a pre-service teacher. You get hired by a school district. Maybe you know something about the mission. How do we help students understand and respond to unfamiliar challenges? And how do students remain curious learners, capable learners, and confident learners? That was also a key piece of the mission, you might have noticed, might not have noticed, that we don’t say all students will be curious learners, capable learners. We say they are. So kindergarteners come in with a tremendous amount of capability. They’ve learned a spoken language, most of them within a matter of years. And it would take me quite a while at this point to learn an spoken language, but five-year-olds have done it. They’re extremely curious and certainly confident, ready to tackle anything. So how do we keep that all the way through graduation and college?

So let’s get a little bit to the Blended Learning definition so that for the rest of our time together, we can talk about these things in the context of Blended Learning. So if you’ve done work with Blended Learning so far, I guess you’ve probably seen Michael Horn and Heather Staker’s publication from 2012 called Classifying K–12 Blended Learning. And here’s the definition, that it’s a formal education program where a student learns, at least in part, through the online delivery of content and instructions with some element of student control over time, place, path, and pace and then at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home. Now it kind of took me a while to get to this slide mainly because Blended Learning is a means to an end, that a school’s mission is not to be a Blended Learning school. That’s not the mission. That’s the strategy. That’s the approach, arguably, and I think I’m going to go back here for just a second. Blended Learning is actually something that takes place here a little bit at the top of the house when you talk about policies and structures and technology needs and things. There are some elements of Blended Learning that live within perhaps the curriculum assessment system. But by and large, if you say we’re going to be a Blended Learning school and we’re going to have—you set out the number of devices, the number of teachers, the size of the classroom, those sorts of things, those are decisions made at the top level of the house where you first have to know what you’re trying to accomplish in order to know if Blended Learning is going to be appropriate.

So as an example, so in DreamBox, we have elementary math software. That’s on the iPads or on the computers. And there are some math standards that talk about using a yard stick, using a meter stick, and I would argue that that’s not a good use of technology to try to figure out how to teach students to use an iPad to measure with a yardstick. I would say at school, you have a yardstick—work with it. And in that sense, it’s the mission and it’s the curriculum that determines whether I’m going to use some technology to support learning or I’m not. And that’s why I started with the mission work, because the Blended Learning is a means to accomplish the mission. And I really want to hone in on the pedagogy piece.

I’m going to focus the online delivery of content and instruction, that what we’re kind of implying here is that it’s delivery of content and instruction at the school. So I want to talk a little bit about delivery of content and instruction, because that is arguably the pre-service teacher’s primary role, what they’re going to be hired to do, to be an instructor, to be I would also say a facilitator of learning, a coach of learning. And it’s really important to look at underlying pedagogical principles both in software and that are going to be used in the classroom.

So another way to expound a little bit on this idea of students progressing in Blended Learning according to their own time, their own place, their own path, their own pace, you see here this breakdown to say, so time, learning is no longer restricted to the school day or the school year. And in some subject areas, this has happened for a very long time, that there are students who have taken piano lessons, for example, outside of school for many years. I mean students have gone to private tutoring for any number of subjects. So there has always been learning taking place outside the school day and really, the tricky piece we’re working with now is how do we verify what’s been accomplished sort of outside the school day and how do some of those things sort of earn credit become accredited. Then the place, it doesn’t have to happen within the walls of a classroom giving students flexibility there. All of you are currently participating in an online learning experience, and certainly, there are great opportunities for students to be a part of webinars and talks that are from around the globe on any number of subjects. There’s plenty of information out there.

Then the path, this is a key one that I’m going to hone in on in just a second, and then I’m going to skip down to this fourth one, pace. The pace of the entire classroom of students, that’s something that really needs to disappear, because it is not strategically designed to support the needs of all learners, that it’s kind of inefficiency design that schools have used for a long time. I mean it’s really hard to sort of break free from, but we’ll talk about that too.

Let me hone in on this path piece, that what it says—I’ll make it a little bigger there. Learning is no longer restricted to the pedagogy used by the teacher. Interactive and adaptive software allows students to learn in a method that is customized to their needs. Now as someone spent 10 years in public education as well as have spent the past two years as an adaptive software curriculum director, I’m keenly interested in this idea of pedagogy and about what should students best be learning with peers in a classroom and what are some things that technology can really truly support learning in new and innovative technological ways. And the word pedagogy there, the learning is no longer restricted to the teacher. Pedagogy never goes away. It’s always there whether in software or in a classroom, and we want better pedagogy moving forward. The future of learning should be better learning, not necessarily faster learning in some respects, because the speed of a brain to make sense of something is not like trying to get a car to go faster or something like that.

So what pre-service teachers need to be thinking pretty much all the time every day is are these key questions and I guess any teacher, really. In what ways in your classroom are students controlling when they learn, where they learn, how they learn and then the pace of when they learn, time of the day and pace? And what’s probably an unfortunate thing is a lot of schools answer so many of these questions for students already. So your pre-service, your new teachers and even veteran teachers, a lot of these things are out of their control. They’re structures that have been decided up at that top level of the house not always strategically in light of the learning outcomes.

And I think about so in the fine arts, for example, that if you have a traditional schedule and it’s 45-minute blocks, it is really hard to have marching band practice in 45 minutes because the kids need to get to the class, get their instruments, get out to the field, have a meaningful practice, get back in. So like 45 minutes is not the best way to go about doing that or even having say choir rehearsal for a 90-minute block. It’s really hard to sing for 90 minutes. So we want to be thoughtful about scheduling. And yeah, an unfortunately reality is new teachers are going to have too many of these things decided for them. However, if it’s a Blended Learning school and a Blended Learning model and new teachers can bring their experience, their ideas, and their expertise to how we can rethink the schedule, how we can rethink time, that teachers can be more flexible about where students are learning. You talk about flipped classrooms. What can be done at a student’s own pace and own time rather than I have all of these tenth graders here and I’m going to do this just because this is the sort of most efficient thing for me to at this time.

And I think about this tweet at the iNACOL conference about Online and Blended Learning back in October. This if from a student but tweeted from Stacy Hawthorne. My daughter said, “Why is sitting in a history lecture every day at 7:22 a.m. the only way I can earn this credit?” And I think that’s the very real and understandable pain point that every student—certainly, at 7:30 in the morning listening to a history lecture, that’s a very reasonable question. And I think a lot about how, as adults, if you think about staff meetings, faculty meetings, the last time that you were at a faculty meeting thinking, “None of this applies to me. Why do I have to be here?” Or thinking, “This is just information I could have read in an email,” or those sorts of things.

I think one of the great opportunities of Blended Learning is, as I’ve said a couple of times, the strategic use of class time of precious class time. So if you’re a fourth grade teacher and you have a students who are working on fifth and sixth grade ideas and some that are working on third and second grade ideas, you have this wide range of diverse learners. The way time and schools are currently scheduled actually makes that a problem because you’re thinking, “What can I even do with these students who are all over the place? I don’t even know.” When with Blended Learning, a better question to be asking is, “What are some things that I can only do with a diverse group of fourth graders that I can’t do any other time or in any other way.” And you have to sort of—if you are constrained with some of these Blended Learning things about scheduling time and path and place, at least reframe the question to couch it as an opportunity rather than a liability. Certainly in mathematics, there are plenty of great rich mathematical problems and tasks that even if you’re computing and dividing fractions at the sixth grade level or you’re just adding three-digit numbers at the third grade level, there are some rich math tasks that you can have a meaningful conversation about with all students.

All right. So key question: What happens in your classroom that students cannot get on the Internet or anywhere else?” And I think that’s kind of how—I pose this question to all of the new middle and high school math teachers that came into our district when I was the K–12 math coordinator, because there’s tons of things online. If all I’m doing is explaining, for example, like I mentioned earlier, the quadratic formula, I don’t know that the student needs to come to my class at 7:22 a.m. to see an explanation of quadratic formula. There’s tons of videos that will explain that to you. Rather, when students come to my class, we’re going to be doing something different with the quadratic formula that they can’t get online anywhere else, that they can’t get unless they’re connecting with their peers and with me as a facilitator and a coach of learning. So I think this is a key question pre-service teachers need to ask themselves, because that’s kind of the reality. You saw the previous tweet. If I’m just giving a history lecture at 7:20 in the morning, my students aren’t going to be too happy about that and arguably, rightfully so.

So I like posing this question. And if you’ve been part of my webinars before, you’ve probably seen this slide: “Which blended model is better?” And these are from the Michael Horn white paper, the flipped classroom. And it’s kind of an oversimplified graphic in a way. And then the enriched virtual. So there you’re staying at home, there’s work on computers, online instruction and content. At school, there’s practice and projects. And the key question for pre-service teachers if you’re operating in one of these models. And I don’t think either of these are elementary. I think these are both secondary, but the key questions if you’re pre-service teacher, if you are this person in the infographic who’s working with the students at the school, what’s happening with the teacher and what’s happening on the computers, those are key things. You can’t say one blended model is better than the other because it comes back to that pedagogy piece, what learning experiences are the students being a part of, engaging in. And this begs that question: okay, well, Blended Learning is a means to what end?

We have to make our decisions based on what’s best for the learning, and we can’t just say, “Well, you’re in a math class at school, so you’re going to be making some progress,” nor can we say, “Well, you’re using math software in a computer, so you’re making progress.” We have to be far more thoughtful about the way we’re evaluating and designing what’s happening in that class. And for a new teacher in a Blended Learning model, that means really getting to know the software and the programs that a student’s going to be using when they’re not in class. And maybe with the flipped classroom model, maybe everything a student is accessing online are things that you’ve generated as the new teacher. You’ve created videos for your students. Maybe they’re out on YouTube. Maybe they’re password protected on a local network. And I know teachers are doing this for better or for worse, for really young students even too. I’ve heard of that even happening as young as third grade. So you really have to think deeply about what you’re trying to accomplish and why you’re bringing computers in.

So I really quickly want to—all right. So as a thought exercise, especially if you’re working with Blended Learning models, it’s interesting to ask why don’t we see the term blended associated with other professions. And if we were live together in one great big room at a conference or something like that, I’d want to solicit some answers. I’d want to solicit some answers from the group. In the interest of time, we got about 15 minutes till the Q&A. A couple of things we talked about Blended Learning, but nobody talks about blended farming or blended exercising. Nobody goes to a Blended Health Club. Does anybody know accountants who practice blended budgeting? I’d say most accountants these days would be crazy not to use technology. Blended medicine, is your hospital a blended hospital? Blended cooking, is your favorite restaurant, do they practice blended cooking? I think the reason why we don’t use the term blended in those other circumstances is because in those circumstances, I think there’s probably a stronger focus on principles and outcomes. If you think back to the mission that I shared from the Parkway School District, I mean that’s a very clear outcome and we had very clear learning principles in our district to help us accomplish that outcome. Every restaurant needs to make food that is safe, healthy, well presented, tastes good, those sorts of things. And those are pretty easily measurable, and most people are like, “Well, if you use the blender, I don’t really care, because the food tastes good and it didn’t make me sick.” And I think that’s why we have to focus, pre-service teachers really need to focus on learning principles and learning outcomes. That’s going to serve them better than a lot of things. That’s the mindset that they need to have. We do have blended drinks. That’s true. That’s pretty excellent.

I tend to think when we say Blended Learning, we really mean blended schooling. And I’ve created, I don’t even know what you call it, a framework or something like that that I’ve not shared before on any of my webinars and I just want to share it with you here in two slides as a way to help pre-service teachers think about what they need to be doing. So too often, from Schooling by Design, reform efforts, especially if a new teacher is coming into a Blended Learning school, it may be pretty new to Blended Learning. It might not, but chances are it’s probably fairly new to Blended Learning, and you can’t think of Blended Learning as the goal. It’s the means to an end. So too many school reform efforts focus on various means such as structures, schedules, programs, PD, curriculum, or Blended Learning or flipped classrooms or iPads, but we need to remember that these reforms fuel improvement but the destination is improved learning. So if any of those things really aren’t really helping the kids be better thinkers in any content area, then maybe they’re not the right approach.

So here’s kind of the framework, the way I think about learning and schooling as opposed to personalized and impersonal. The majority of schools who are using Blended Learning approaches are trying to really personalize education, and I’m kind of referring that as relational as well. And then there’s the impersonal more industrial approach to schooling. And on the left we have schooling which have “structures from adults,” and then the learning I think more of the pedagogy with the students. So I think when a lot of times when we talk about Blended Learning, we think about it as—what we really mean is blended schooling. So you have industrial schooling, industrial learning, and I’ll flesh these out here a little more in a second, as opposed to personalized schooling and personalized learning. So I think there’s four distinctions here, and let me flesh these out for you.

So impersonal industrial schooling. If you’re looking at this lower left-hand quadrant here, impersonal industrial schooling, when a new student comes to the school, the first question isn’t, “Oh, well, what do you know? What are you interested in?” those sorts of things. It’s, “What’s your birth date?” And everything flows from there too often, and that is pretty impersonal. That is pretty industrial. And that’s because, as I mentioned earlier, so many of the decisions that existing teachers, veteran teachers, and pre-service teachers will still be coming into—a system where the policies, structures and governance were decided way before the mission. So the idea that we have a schedule, we have these facilities, we have these computers or tablets, the class sizes, the budgets, those are all policy structural things. The idea of age-based cohorts, credits, courses, the school calendar, seat time, all of those ideas are policy ideas that are not necessarily a result of the logical outworking of mission, building that house up from the bottom to say if we want curious learners, then arguably, we’re not going to care as much as seat time. And therefore, our policies around seat time need to be different.

So I think pre-service teachers entering the profession—in my dissertation in educational leadership was actually about why new teachers leave the profession in the first five years. And I don’t think that people have investigated that question nearly enough, but I think one very key reason is too many new teachers are coming into the profession don’t know the sort of broader context in reality. A lot of them, a lot of times they were good students. They kind of feel, “Oh I kind of know how school works,” but to let pre-service teachers know from the outset, there might be policies and structures that are running counter to your learning goals with students, that are running encounter to your mission. And the goal is to get school districts and schools to be more thoughtful about their practices and policies in light of the mission they’re trying to accomplish. So helping pre-service teachers see where they fit and see how decisions are made or have been made is a critical thing that I think will prevent some of the disenfranchisement that may come later down the line.

All right. Well, I have these animations because that’s kind of how decisions were made. Oh, you know what? We have all these. We have a school. Maybe we should come up with a mission. I think that probably happened a few decades ago. So to flesh this out a little bit more, here’s impersonal schooling where the structure the adults set up that are in policy and things are pretty impersonal. They’re designed for efficiency, for economy and scale where there’s no other option but a fixed schedule, a fixed location, a fixed path, a fixed pace. It always kind of bothered me as a high school math teacher that if I was working with juniors and I would ask a classroom of 25, 30, 35 juniors, what are you thinking about doing after high school, Sort of regardless of what they said, Algebra 2 was the only class in math for them to take, and that seemed terribly impersonal, terribly industrialized. Whereas a more personalized schooling approach—and this is why Blended Learning is increasing in popularity, where the policies and structures should be designed around students as unique individuals, where’s there’s a strategic and varied schedule. The location can varied. The path and the pace, those things can all vary because the student’s needs as a unique individual come first.

Now the pedagogy is a key thing. I think when we say Blended Learning, I think we really mean blended schooling. So let’s talk a little bit about learning. You have this traditional industrial approach to learning, paradigm of mass instruction for lack of something better, where there’s teaching and practicing and testing, and the students really kind of sit and get the teacher’s ideas. I think pre-service teachers should also have this habit of mind where opposite, I guess, of how I started when I was teaching. I came into the classroom thinking I know a whole lot about mathematics, and I’m a pretty good communicator. And I understand it deeply enough to communicate it effectively. So my job today in class is to communicate my knowledge and understanding in a clear enough way that my students will also come to acquire that knowledge and understanding in a clear enough way that my students will also come to acquire that knowledge and understanding. And that’s a very different mindset than if you read a lot of literature about mathematics, about learning, about facilitating learning, about being a great coach of learning.

My mindset should have been something more along the lines of I need to hear the ideas from the students. I need to activate their prior knowledge about something, than my challenging job as a teacher isn’t explaining things clearly and getting everybody to pay attention. My toughest job as a teacher is to hear all of the ideas coming up about what we’re discussing today and deciding which ones of those to press on to probe further to say, “You know what? This student has an interesting idea.” Let’s talk about that a little more, knowing that if I’m not activating all my students’ prior knowledge, no amount of explanation is going to make a whole lot of difference for students.

So those are two mindsets the pre-service teachers need to check themselves on. Do they think their job is to bring their knowledge to the room? Or is their job to facilitate learning in a way that empowers students to acquire that knowledge without just having to be told everything? So that’s where more personalized learning comes in. Is it empowering learning experiences that are taking place in classrooms? Where’s the critical thinking? Where’s the creativity, the exploration? And that’s where students have to think and do using their own intuitive ideas. And that’s kind of the exciting thing I see for the future of learning, that there are, as we think about, pre-service teachers, current teachers, think about how do I make the best use of class time? What can I only do when I have a diverse group of fourth graders for an hour a day for math; I think the answer becomes great learning experiences. I think that’s the way that Blended Learning needs to approach things and how classrooms should be designed.

Now the cool thing, the interesting about Blended is I can apply Blended to either of these sides. And really then the question is: do I use technology in whatever quadrant that I’m in, that you can find technological tools that will fit any of these, in any of these quadrants. When I think about in our Algebra 1 program, we tried to do some standards-based grading at my district, and what we found was we were using a grading program, student information system that had a grade book feature. And unfortunately, that grade book feature was sort of locked in to percentages and letter grades rather than trying to give the more qualitative feedback that the parents wanted and the students needed. So we had a technology tool that was really built for impersonal schooling and to sort of collect percentages and grades that way, and what we really needed was technology to record student progress in a different way, a more personalized way.

In the same way, if you think about the upper right-hand quadrant, there are—as far as pedagogy goes, you can find personalized lessons and learning things. That’s part of what we do in DreamBox. But you can also find technologies that sort of replicate the traditional lesson paradigm of mass instruction. The question of Blended Learning, to my points earlier, it’s entirely about what we’re trying to accomplish. If you want curious learners, then you’re going to have to be personalizing school more and personalizing learning more as in you cultivate curiosity by empowering students to ask their own questions and to seek out their own answers. And some technological tools will help with that and others will work counter to that, but you can certainly use technology in any of these quadrants.

So I think in our last four minutes here before we do some questions and answers—and I see there’s been a lot of great comments coming through chat, but Joseph just typed, “By law in North Dakota, every school district must use a particular grade book program.” Man, oh man, that is troubling, and I think that house graphic really speaks to the fact that policies are being decided first a lot of times at a very large level of impact, at a high level impact, and they don’t necessarily align with and support with the mission what we’re trying to accomplish. And some of those policies, it was tough, for example, for us to create new math electives for high school students to take because some of the electives we created didn’t have a state code. This was the State of Missouri. There were only certainly math classes and codes that could be used. And this new class, because it represented new ideas in mathematics, new technologies, computer science elements and things, it didn’t have a connection to the state list. And therefore, we were kind of at a loss with what to do. Yeah, it’s pretty challenging.

So personalized blended schooling would ask—actually let me go back there. Personalized schooling, blended schooling would ask something like, “What should this student be learning, doing and thinking about tomorrow?” And granted, you probably want to do more than just every day, I don’t know what you want to do tomorrow. I think I saw some questions coming through about that so we’ll talk there, but the key question, where could he or she be learning it, where could or should she be learning it, these are the questions for blended schooling, personalized schooling.

This is a DreamBox data report that really prompted some good conversations in my previous district before I joined DreamBox, where these were the actual class data reports for the first week in first grade for a class of students who had all used DreamBox in kindergarten. And what you see here as you look at this, you see the blue and the orange represent things that students tested out of, that they already knew before they started working on DreamBox. And then the orange represents things that the students had completed in DreamBox, completed the lessons. And so you see several students, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 students are about halfway through or more, at least halfway through the first grade math content only on the first week of first grade. And interestingly enough, the three students who made the most progress, if you look at their time on task, it’s very different. One student took 51 hours to get about three quarters of the way through first grade. One student took 28 hours, and one student took about 16 hours.

So with Blended Learning, with personalized learning and blended schooling and personalized schooling, when you hold the outcomes, the learning outcomes, the content mastery if you will, when you hold that constant, students are going to need a different amount of time to get there. You have to let time be variable so that achievement that can be constant, and you can see that in this very report. And it begs a lot of questions. The first grade teacher, she said, “Well, what should I do about this?” And the school wasn’t a Blended Learning school, but it was certainly trying to find ways to meet every student right where they’re at and rethink some of the policies and structures. So we didn’t have all the answers, but we did have some data that we needed to do something differently because of it. That was a great sentence.

So in Blended Learning models, pre-service teachers need to know that, one, there very well could be meaningful robust data points and data reports about their students learning that come prior to the students showing up in their classroom, so using data and not just assuming a clean slate because I haven’t gotten to know these students. That’s not something that students or parents want. Students and parents expect, “Hey, this is what they accomplished last year? Can you pick up where they left off?” And a lot of times, that’s going to be a challenge for new teachers and Blended Learning models. But it’s also a great opportunity to say I have much more information about what my students know than I ever have before, so it’s really a pretty great opportunity.

And then lastly, one of the other reports that we have is it shows which students have completed a particular topic or standard or idea in DreamBox. So if the teacher is going to teach multiplication today, they can take a look at which students already know something about multiplication, which students are currently working on it in the software, and which students haven’t started. And so for a pre-service teacher in a Blended Learning model, having access to these data and considering these data similar to how you might consider outside piano lessons to say, “Oh, well, I know they’ve been taking piano lessons for a while, so maybe I’m going to do things differently in my music class.” In the same way, use the data and figure out some ideas for how you’re going to do things differently knowing that seven of your students already know what you’re going to be teaching tomorrow. That’s going to make your classroom more personalized, and the technology is what empowers these data to be obtained, and I think most software programs do provide these sorts of data.

So I think at this point, we got about nine minutes left, I want to do some questions and answers, and let’s see. I hope you’ve been typing in some questions and answers as you’ve been going along. You know what? Before I do that, I want to go to my last slide. We did get some feedback, and we get this from time to time from teachers using DreamBox who said they didn’t like actually how students can move ahead in DreamBox above their current grade level. And as you can see here, this is a straight quote. This could become a real problem if students progressing in the higher grades. Then next year in fifth grade, well, they already did things in DreamBox that were fifth grade, and now they’re going to be bored. This is kind of that mindset of we have a hard time changing our practices. And I totally empathize with the group of teachers that have this worry or this sense of worry, but if you focus on more personalized schooling, this becomes less of a problem. I mean the good question to ask here is, “Well, is the student bored now? We want to prevent boredom later but what about boredom now?”

All right, I think we’ve been collecting some of the questions. So let me get to a place where I can see them, all right. So how do you manage a Blended Learning classroom? That was one Melissa asked pretty early on. And I know that in elementary schools, because I also think—yeah, Melissa you also asked the same question. What does Blended Learning look like in an elementary classroom? Most elementary classrooms are using what’s called—in Michael Horn and Heather Staker’s paper, it’s called the Station Rotation Model, and it’s one that’s kind of familiar to elementary school teachers where, understandably, for the past several decades, teachers have said, “For this block of time, we’re going to have students working more independently. We’re going to have different independently directed activities so I as the teacher can maybe work with a small reading group or a small math group while other students have meaningful tasks to accomplish.” And in that sense, Blended Learning models in elementary school and classroom management that sort of goes along with that have been making the iPads or the computers. Those become additional stations.

And one of the key caveats I think that I share with teachers all the time, this is where you really, as a teacher, need to know the nature of the software that kids are working on, the nature of things that they’re doing on computers, because some math software, for example, is just digitized worksheets or it’s just computation games. And in that sense, you may say, “Okay, spend 10 minutes on the computer. Spend 10 minutes on the iPad.” But DreamBox is designed as a more conceptual learning experience that has practice and skills sort of embedded. And in that case, 10 minutes really isn’t enough for the student to get in and do that meaningful critical thinking that they need to be doing, exhibiting, if you’re a common course state, these standards for mathematical practice where the students are the ones who have to be looking for a structure in mathematics rather than just real quick, hop on, do some mathematic questions, hop off. Teachers managing that classroom in that station rotation model need to deeply understand how the software works.

Let’s see. So let’s see. One question about what data help teachers know whether technology can deliver a learning outcome better than other strategies. And I think that’s kind of an exciting and somewhat unanswered question in some regard. We have some efficacy studies and case studies at DreamBox that explain how our software support student learning in different ways, in different grade levels and things. But I think the first thing that teachers and educators need to consider is the learning principles inherent in the technology, inherent in the software, that if student achievement at your school is great and you’re thinking about using Blended Learning and maybe you have evidence that students just need additional practice in mathematics, well then find the technology solution that has some skill practice. But if it’s something that a little more—if students are having more trouble with learning mathematics or whatever content area it is that runs deeper than simply skill and additional practice, then you need to take a critical look at how do people learn, what’s the research on what it takes for students to make sense of the problem and to figure things out on their own and to be great critical thinkers. And are those learning principles as you saw in the house graphic, are those embedded in the technology? Does the technology enable students to better make sense of things whether it’s teacher-guided software or independently run software.

I think this, if you’re familiar with the SAMR Model, that the SAMR model—I didn’t come up with it, but you can see down there a website to get more information about it. When you think about Nicholas’ question, how we know technology is going to deliver a learning outcome better, this is a pretty helpful framework to say, “Okay, is technology is just a substitute? Is this just a worksheet on an iPad? Or does technology allow kids to do new things? Is it a modification of tasks? Is it a redefinition of tasks that the students are engaging in? It reminds me of digitized worksheets, worksheets on an iPad. It’s still a worksheet. You may have seen this. Sean Junkins’ tweeted this awhile back. I wasn’t made to be a worksheet. Neither was I. So take a look at the learning principles inherent in the technology.


Let’s see. We’ve got time for a couple more questions. Here we go. This is a great question especially for Blended Learning models. I need to—let’s see. I need to display this question. Yeah, there we go. How did you know that the work being submitted is actually done by the student and not someone else? How do you monitor evidence of a skill mastery? That’s one of the key challenges of technology in Blended Learning, that we have a sense as teachers that if I watch the student taking the test right in front of me without a cellphone, then I know that it’s their work and there’s no concern about cheating. And in every subject area, it’s probably going to be a little bit different. I know there are tools out there for submitting student-written essays through technology in order to figure out if any element of it was plagiarized, but even then, you still don’t know if it was the student who actually wrote it.

Just like with the typewriter, you didn’t have necessarily 100 percent evidence that the student would go home, use the typewriter. Or even—well, with handwriting, I guess you kind of do. But that’s a very unique question I think to each subject area and the age of the students as well to know whether it was actually done by them. And then how do you monitor evidence of skill mastery? Good software programs like in DreamBox, I can explain to you how we monitor evidence of skill mastery in ways that we think eliminate the possibility that the student’s cheating, because we collect so much data over time. It’s not just, “Oh, you multiplied fractions well on this one day, so you got it.” But rather it’s, you’re going to have to solve a lot of problems over a long period of time in order for us to know that you have that skill, but also, I think if you’re looking at your skill mastery in your Blended Learning model and I think a lot of schools using Blended Learning are also using competency-based learning models.

I wrote a blog post after the iNACOL conference that was about competency models and how too often, we focus on just minor skills rather than on evidence of sort of conceptual understanding. And so we don’t want to measure just skill, skill, skill, skill, skill but mastery. And there was a great ASCD edition back in December. The whole ASCD Educational Leadership Magazine was about mastery and conflicting ideas there. So I would encourage you to look that up.

Wow, okay, it’s now 2 o’clock. So I’m going to have to wrap this up but let’s see, all right. So let me get to—yeah, let me close out here with just a bit of information about DreamBox Learning. I really want to thank you all for your time and participating, for your great questions. I hope you learned some new things about Blended Learning. DreamBox is a PreK through Grade 5 elementary mathematics program that is used in a lot of Blended Learning models. We’re web based. We’re also available on the iPad. And DreamBox differentiates uniquely for each student. Some middle schools are using DreamBox for intervention. We combine rigorous mathematics so that kids have to think critically, not just doing practice. It’s conceptual. We don’t in DreamBox start lessons by saying, “Here’s how to do it. Go practice.” The kids really need to understand numbers in order to make progress in DreamBox.

We have on staff at DreamBox full-time, experienced classroom teachers who work with our programmers and creative team to build manipulatives for sense making and really capture how our students are thinking about mathematics while they develop vocabulary and critical thinking skills. We then have our Intelligent Adaptive Learning engine which is what empowers us to differentiate uniquely for each student and have each student follow millions of unique learning paths in nonlinear progressions and give students real-time feedback based on their strategies and mistakes. I mean if you’re counting by ones and I’m counting by tens, those two students need different lessons.

And then lastly, the motivating learning environment where we provide games that are more than just skills. We want students to persist and progress to proficiency. We have engaging contexts that are highly visual, concrete, special, interactive, virtual manipulatives. The quality of math software or any software is just as important as the quality of classroom learning experiences, and schools use DreamBox as a partner along with their great classroom learning experiences. At DreamBox, we intelligently adapt to students’ own intuitive strategies, the kinds of mistakes that they’re making, the efficiency of their strategy, and their response time. I showed you already a couple of the reports and talked about those, so I’ll skip over those.

We do provide a bunch of free tools for teachers to use in Blended Learning models or not, but they’re great math manipulatives that are available at We have tons of—around four or five for each grade level that are free to use today. And if you’re interested in a free school-wide trial, you can go to There’s an orange bar up at the top, and you can get more information about that there.

I really appreciate—again, just to say I really appreciate the time that you’ve shared with me today. I hope that you’ve gotten some great information not only about Blended Learning but also about the habits of mind, the principle, the things, the mindset that I think a pre-service teacher needs to enter into the profession knowing ahead of time so that they can think of ways to be innovative in their own context and really understand their role and how they’re contributing to something bigger than just a Blended Learning initiative, but rather their contributing to the mission of the school and strategically leveraging technology in order to accomplish that mission for all students.

All right, lastly, you will get that continuing education certificate for today’s webinar. It will be e-mailed within 24 hours, and again, feel free to join the Blended Learning community. And yeah, thank you very much to for always being a great host not only for our community but also for this webinar. And yeah, if you have any questions and information, bring that through

Join us for our next webinar. I’ll be talking along with Joanna Bannon about “Personalizing Learning with the iPad to Really Empower Interactivity and Student Thinking.” That’s what it’s about, great ideas for students and empowering them to be the great thinkers that we know that they can be. So thank you for your time, and have a wonderful day.