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10 tips for bringing blended learning to elementary schools

Blended LearningAs elementary schools throughout the United States continue to innovate instruction to accommodate a generation of young students, many are turning to blended learning as a means of engaging students and doing more with fewer resources. Blended learning requires the true integration of technology in the classroom, combining traditional face-to-face learning with multiple forms of media. The idea is to strategically get the most out of the the school day as possible, and bring efficiency to the days of both teachers and students. If your elementary school is in the process of implementing a blended learning program, keep these tips in mind:

1. Use a rotation model
There are many different blended learning models from which to choose – flex, online lab, self-blend, face-to-face driver, online driver – but the most effective and easy to implement in elementary schools is generally the rotation model. This is because many of the classrooms in elementary schools already operate in a similar fashion. Students often rotate between different labs or stations as they learn new things, and it is fairly simple to add a new online-learning station.

2. Make the most of student performance data
One of the unique capabilities of blended learning is that when combined with the right technology, teachers and administrators can have access to student performance data in real time. The key is to make the most of it. Rather than letting the data accumulate, teachers should analyze it each week or month, identify problem areas or students who are struggling, and give extra attention or instruction where it’s needed.

3. Choose technology that’s simple to use
Although elementary school students are very adept at using technology, it’s best to choose online instructional programs that are simple to use and will truly help students learn. For example, if you plan to implement adaptive learning systems in classrooms, choose something that will be intuitive and engaging for students. Because many students enjoy video games, it often helps if the technology has a gaming approach.

4. Turn teachers into facilitators
One of the big changes you will encounter when implementing blended learning in the schools in your district is the shifting role of teachers. It may be tough to make the switch from the one-size-fits all model to acting as more of a facilitator of learning. With blended learning, the ownership of learning is shifted more to the student. Students must be encouraged to explore independently.

5. Give teachers proper support
In that same vein, it is important that teachers receive proper support as they navigate their shifting roles. Carve out times for staff training sessions and encourage communication between faculty members as they test out different ways to approach blended learning in their classrooms. You may even want to put them in contact with educators in nearby districts who already use blended learning models so they can ask questions and maintain a dialogue.

6. Keep parents informed
Parents appreciate being informed about what’s happening in their children’s schools. To support your blended learning initiative, launch community conversations by presenting at school board meetings and PTA or PTO meetings, and asking for constructive feedback.

7. Use devices compatible with standards
If your district is already in the process of updating its technology to be compatible with support implementation of the Common Core State Standards assessments, it’s a good idea to choose technology for your blended learning program that is also compatible supports this transition. This way, you won’t find yourself trying to find the funds to once again update technology when the online assessments are implemented during the 2014-15 school year.

8. Consider a BYOT program
Many elementary school students already have their own tablets, e-readers, smartphones and laptops, so consider instituting a bring your own technology (BYOT) program as a means of saving money. Rather than confiscating these items, monitor student use so they can be used in an educational manner. This can help reduce the likelihood of having to take costly measures like updating all of your school’s computers.

9. Phase in blended learning
If this is the first time you are implementing blended learning in elementary schools in your district, you may want to phase it in rather than making the switch all at once. For example, you could have certain grade levels or teachers run a pilot program before fully implementing blended learning.

10. Be flexible
Although it’s important to have a clear plan for implementation before you make the switch to blended learning, it’s also important to be flexible. This is a different approach to education, and it will take some getting used to. Encourage the active participation of and feedback from teachers and students as you begin this journey.

If you want to learn more about introducing blended learning into elementary schools, check out DreamBox’s free whitepaper.