Blended Learning Brings Out the Best in Educators and Students

If you’ve been paying attention to education news lately, you’ve probably noticed that the conversation around technology in the classroom is shifting. When EdTech first burst onto the scene almost three decades ago, access to more technology – devices, broadband – was everything. Educators, policymakers and parents all wanted to know how to get as many devices into the hands of students as soon as possible. How students leveraged technology to support learning would not become a primary focus for many years to come.

Today, EdTech success is measured with a different yardstick. The parents, teachers, and other mentors who guide a child’s education – whom I like to refer to as “learning guardians” – aren’t merely satisfied with increasing the amount of tech in the classroom. What’s more important now is that the technology in our schools and homes is positively impacting student learning through engagement, personalized lessons and effective curriculum.  Building competence in academics and skills while building confidence in learning has finally come into full focus.

On September 24, I participated in an Education Week webinar focused on how technology and traditional classroom instruction can go hand-in-hand. The panel was moderated by Tom Vander Ark of Getting Smart and included myself, Nick Gaehde, President of Lexia Learning and two school district administrators. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

Edtech should adapt with the learner

Educators agree that no two students learn the same way. If that’s true, then we must design our education technology to help teachers adjust material to the style and pace of each student.

At DreamBox Learning®, we build that concept right into our learning platform. As students learn with our Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ math platform, teachers receive feedback not only about which concepts students are mastering, but how they’re learning them. Teachers get a detailed breakdown of each individual student’s learning experience and which concepts they may be ready to learn next. Using our AssignFocus™ feature, teachers can then assign lessons not introduced by the adaptive algorithm to help educators guide a student’s learning pathway.

Not just fun and games

When we talk about student tech use both at home and in the classroom, what students are doing with technology is just as important as how much they’re using it. Effective EdTech implementation empowers students to become producers using EdTech, not just passive consumers of digital content. We aim to build student agency in life-long learning pursuits.  Deep thinking, problem solving, critical thinking and, yes, learning from mistakes will all build resiliency in learning and prepare students for a more successful and productive learning career and life.

One thing any learning guardian can tell you is that when a student is proud of the work that they’re doing, they can’t wait to share with a trusted adult. Learning guardians should encourage students to share both the lows and the highs of their learning experience to help students understand how productive struggle helps them grow as math learners.

Empowering teachers to do what they do best

As class sizes continue to grow, teachers are facing more demands on their time. Simply put, the more students there are per class, the fewer opportunities there are for educators to engage with students in small groups or one-on-one.

When we ask DreamBox teachers to tell us the biggest issues they face in the classroom, large class sizes come up time and again. Education technology can help alleviate some of the pressure on teachers to be in 30 places at once. Adding instructional technology into the mix opens opportunities for more advanced students to work ahead while learning guardians can spend more time with students who need extra help.

It’s not about time, it’s about impact

One of the concerns critics often raise about EdTech is a lack of proven results to impact student learning. At DreamBox, we share that concern. That’s why we partnered with Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research to test whether DreamBox Learning can effectively improve student learning in a neutral setting.

The results were clear – in a controlled study, students who used DreamBox for at least one hour a week improved their math learning by nearly 60 percent more compared to expected state growth norms than those who didn’t use DreamBox at all. Even still, we’re always looking for ways to increase student achievement in even less time. Education technology can’t drive student achievement on its own. But it can provide learning guardians with additional tools to help every child – regardless of race, gender or zip code – reach their full potential and develop the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly tech-focused world.

Jessie Woolley-Wilson

Jessie Woolley-Wilson

Throughout her life and career, Jessie Woolley-Wilson has been driven by a singular belief that all children need and deserve high-quality learning opportunities, regardless of who they are or where they live. She believes that by supporting great teaching and learning, everyone wins: kids, families, communities and the world. Jessie has worked in the education technology space for nearly 20 years to support school and district leaders to improve learning and life outcomes for K-12 students.

Jessie joined DreamBox Learning® in 2010 as Chair, President, and CEO. The startup software company had pioneered Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ in 2006 and began partnering with schools soon after Jessie joined. Today, DreamBox serves nearly 3 million K-8 students and approximately 120,000 teachers. The company provided more than 350 million math lessons across the U.S. and Canada in 2017.

Jessie recently secured a $130 million investment in DreamBox from The Rise Fund, a global impact investing fund managed by TPG Growth. Prior to joining DreamBox, Jessie served as president of Blackboard’s K-12 Group and LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the K-12 division of LeapFrog Enterprises. Jessie also served in leadership positions at, the interactive division of The College Board, and at Kaplan, the leading test preparation company in the U.S.

Jessie supports the broader K12 industry by serving on the boards of several educational organizations including Rosetta Stone, Newsela, the Western Governors University Board of Trustees, and Ursuline Academy. She is also a board member for Boeing Employees Credit Union, Pacific Science Center, and The Bullitt Foundation. She has been a featured speaker at international events including TEDx Rainier, SXSWedu, DENT and GeekWire Summit 2018.

Jessie is a two-time recipient of EdTech Digest’s EdTech Leadership Award for her work in transformative innovation in education and honored her as one of 2018’s Top 100 Influencers in EdTech. Seattle Business Magazine awarded Jessie the 2015 Executive Excellence Award in the CEO of the Year category and Forbes placed her on its “Impact 15” list for being a disruptor in education. The Puget Sound Business Journal honored Jessie as a “Woman of Influence” and 425 Magazine named her as one of eight “Unstoppable Eastside Women” for having a clear focus on the greater good. Additionally, The New York Times has profiled Jessie and her leadership style in their Corner Office column.

Jessie holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from the University of Virginia. She is also a 2007 Henry Crown Fellow and moderator for the Aspen Institute.
Jessie Woolley-Wilson