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#Blendedlearning implementation: Teachers are the key!

This is the continuation in a series about the 6 Elements for the Implementation and Sustainability of Blended Learning that I helped develop for iNACOL.

elementgraphic2The six elements that are needed to sustain and implement a blended learning program include:

  * Leadership
  * Professional Development
  * Teaching / Instructional Practice
  * Operations, Systems and Policies
  * Content
  * Technology 

I have talked about the importance of leadership and professional development. Today the focus is on teaching and instructional practice.

In any educational implementation, the teacher is the key. The teacher is the one who is interacting with students day in and day out. In a blended learning environment, this interaction occurs face-to-face and online. When teachers are truly implementing blended learning, their teaching practice changes. This change includes pedagogy, more personalization of for each student, classroom organization, how curriculum is delivered and the ongoing communications between teacher and students. As one professional commented, “If you walk into a classroom and all the desks are in the traditional formation with students facing the front of the room, you’re probably not in a blended learning classroom.”

The key questions to ask regarding teaching and instructional practice are:

  • What is the school’s pedagogical philosophy?
  • How will teaching change?
  • How will the role of the teacher change?
  • How will best teaching practices be modeled and shared?
  • How will the classroom setup change to support the blended learning models?
  • What tools, professional development, and resources will teachers need to support this new model of teaching?
  • How will student learning change?
  • How will teachers analyze real-time data to personalize instruction?
  • How will blended teaching be observed and evaluated?

Ongoing support for teachers implementing blended learning is critical for sustainability. This support should come in a variety of ways. It should be recognized that each teacher is on his or her own journey in the implementation of blended learning. Different teachers have developed different skills and have different needs. Although general professional development is important that provides for all teachers to come together for common learning, individualized and ongoing professional development should be encouraged. One size does not fit all. As teachers learn new strategies in teaching with online tools and content, there should be a mechanism by which they share these ideas with colleagues. This can occur in staff meetings or department meetings or in an online discussion board. Regardless of how it is shared, it is critical for the successes and challenges to be communicated with one another to improve the overall blended learning system.

Promising practices for blended learning teachers include:

  • Change in classroom organization. There should be flexible classroom space with desks in groups that should change depending on the needs of the students.
  • Student engagement increases. Teachers who are implementing blended learning report there is more time to interact with students, more collaboration occurs between students, and students are more engaged when each student has a computer and is focused on a specific blended learning lesson.
  • Ongoing data analysis. Teachers should have access to reports from the course management system or content vendor that provides just-in-time information about each student. With this information, teachers should be changing instruction based on the needs of each student.
  • Individualized instruction. Both teachers and students should be involved in identifying daily learning goals for each student. Starting as young as second grade, students can be involved in setting and meeting daily goals based on data. Each student should have a voice in their learning path and have some choice in how they learn various concepts.
  • Digital content is continuously updated. Teachers who are immersed in blended learning discover that no one content provider can provide all the content needed for each student. Therefore, teachers are continually adding content and lessons that better meet the individual needs of students in their respective classrooms. Teachers also become adept at recording small group lessons that can be put online for students to listen to over and over.

Overall, teachers are the key in a successful blended learning implementation. To learn more about a day in the life of a blended learning teacher, listen to this 60-minute webinar or view the accompanying slide deck. Through ongoing and personalized professional development, teachers transform into providing more customized learning for all of their students in blended learning initiative.

#Blendedlearning Implementation: Professional Development

This is the continuation in a series about the 6 Elements for the Implementation and Sustainability of Blended Learning initiatives that I helped develop for iNACOL. Yesterday, I talked about the importance of leadership. Today, the topic is professional development.

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The second element of importance is Professional Development. This is the second element listed intentionally, because too often, technology or blended learning initiatives are implemented and the powers-that-be think that school administration and teachers will just get it and start using it. It is important to note that the Theory of Diffusion of Innovations is very much present in the implementation of a blended learning initiative and that results take time – at least three years to follow a course of action and to actually see the return on the investment. With that being said, the goals and plan for a blended learning implementation should include the ongoing professional development needed by administrators and teachers and staff.

In the 20th century, professional development meant bringing in a speaker for one day, having all staff attend the session and then expecting staff to implement the new concepts in the next week. The expected results would be that student achievement would soar and all would be well. In the 21st century, professional development needs to look different. Part of the reason it needs to look different is that implementing blended learning is messy, but the other reason is that teachers are very capable of learning on their own. With the variety of tools available today, an ongoing professional development plan should include face-to-face time but also developing online networks as well as professional learning networks that occur in person and online. There are such a variety of professional development opportunities now available online that teachers and administrators should be empowered to embrace them all – including blogs such as MindShift or Blue Skunk Blog, free webinars such as the Future of Education, Tweet Ups such as California Ed Chat or Ed Tech Chat as well as many other formal and informal ways to network with others such as Meet Ups.

Professional development should be a coordinated, intentional and systematic professional development plan based on the implementation goals. This would include both formal and informal learning as well as the initial and ongoing professional development for teachers, administrators and staff. Professional development for blended learning educators should include professional development delivered face-to-face, blended and online.  Key questions to ask regarding professional development include:

  • What are the professional development needs of blended teachers?
  • What are the professional development needs of school leaders?
  • How will professional development be delivered (online/face-to-face/blended)?
  • Who will deliver professional development?
  • How will ongoing professional development needs be identified and met?
  • How will ongoing professional development be ensured, monitored and tracked?

Promising practices to facilitate professional development would include:

  • Needs Assessment: Survey the administrators and teachers about the needed professional development. Many times, the knowledge and talent needed to teach others resides within the school. Administrators and teachers should be empowered to chart their own path and track their learning and progress over time. Every administrator and every teacher does not need the same learning nor the same type of professional development structure in order to make progress towards goals.
  • Time: Time for involved teachers and administrators to meet on an ongoing way to share the things that are working and the things that are not working. Release time for this should be built into the regular weekly teacher schedule.
  • Resources: Teachers need a variety of resources to access in a variety of ways including group workshops, one-on-one support, online resources, videos, etc. Identify ways that teachers can share resources with one another because the most effective professional development occurs within the school or system.
  • Professional Sharing: Professional learning networks should be encouraged to develop with designated teacher leaders to facilitate the learning. Documenting these meetings and sharing meeting minutes will help to ensure progress towards the stated goals.
  • School Support: Having a designated teacher or support teacher to empower and encourage action towards the blended learning goals facilitates the implementation. In most schools where implementation has been successful, there is this designated person that can be a teacher on the staff who is given release time or someone who may be hired as the implementation specialist that can be assigned to one or more schools.

Professional Development is essential for the successful implementation and sustainability for any blended learning initiative.  In the planning and implementation phase, the following areas should be addressed in terms of professional development:

  • Costs/funding: Which ongoing and one-time funds will be used for professional development? Initially, the cost will be to deliver and participate in leadership and teacher professional development courses. Initial offerings should focus on the pedagogy, teaching with digital content, analyzing data, and technology systems for teachers and technology, observing blended classrooms, and supporting the needs of blended teachers. Costs for ongoing professional development should also be budgeted.
  • Evaluation/research: Several research studies and reports have been published over the last five years to identify the needs of teachers. These resources are essential in planning, providing, and evaluating professional development opportunities. Once professional development has been identified and delivered, it is recommended that participant satisfaction and needs assessment surveys, which are easily administered online, be used to evaluate a variety of professional development experiences.
  • Quality: How will you determine that the professional development is at a quality level? Communicating and seeking input from all constituencies such as teachers, school leaders, professional developers, and support staff will help to ensure quality implementation. Teachers and leaders should be able to provide feedback after each professional development offering. In addition, parent and student feedback of their experiences can also assist in measuring the quality of their experience in learning and if additional professional development is needed. Finally, some ongoing process for the monitoring and tracking of professional development over time is needed to ensure progress towards the stated goals.

“Professional development is most effective when it addresses the concrete, 

everyday challenges involved in teaching 

and learning specific academic subject matter.”

- Professional Learning in the Learning Profession (2009).

 

 

 

 

#BlendedLearning Implementation: Leadership

Yesterday, I wrote about the six elements needed for the successful implementation and planning for blended learning.

elementgraphic2

The most important element for the planning and implementation of blended learning (or any program) is leadership. Leadership can come from a variety of places including a governing board, a superintendent, a principal, a teacher or a parent. In efficient and effective systems, leadership is empowered and welcomed from all stakeholders. And the person who facilitates all of the stakeholders embraces leadership from all groups and provides an inclusive and cooperative leadership style that focuses everyone on the overall goals of the program. Successful implementation of a blended learning initiative requires strong and consistent leadership. In order to have a successful adoption, implementation and sustainable program, leadership needs to occur throughout the organization.

When implementing a blended learning program and examining the leadership of the school or system, the key questions that need to be asked include:

  • What are the year-to-year measurable goals of program?
  • What are the planning year and ongoing implementation goals?
  • What need is being fulfilled by implementing blended learning?
  • What is the 3-5 year implementation plan and how will it potentially affect teaching and learning?
  • What support systems are needed to build the program?
  • Who will oversee the implementation of the program?
  • Who will provide ongoing communication, support and professional development for involved teachers?
  • What human and financial resources will be utilized to build, support and sustain the blended learning program?
  • Who are the teacher, staff and administrative leaders for the implementation?

The best practices regarding leadership that I have observed in a variety of schools include the following:

  • There is a written and articulated vision for the implementation of blended learning that is shared with everyone across the system or school.
  • There are specific written short and long term goals that are measurable and attainable.
  • The vision and goals were developed and embraced by all stakeholders.
  • The vision and goals are continuously communicated and measured by leaders at all levels.
  • Ongoing support personnel are in place to support the vision and goals of the program.
  • Ongoing funding is identified for multiple years to support the vision and goals of the program.
  • Ongoing meetings and professional development for teachers, staff and administrators occur on at least a bi-weekly basis for discussions, sharing and networking to support the vision and goals of the program.

In future blogposts, more specific examples will be shared from various blended learning schools and hopefully, those reading these blogposts will offer other examples of leadership that help in the implementation of any blended learning program. The next element to be discussed tomorrow will be element 2, professional development.

 

 

The elements of #blendedlearning implementation

The definition of blended learning has pretty much been determined as “a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.” (Horn & Staker, 2013).

The real challenge is how does one best implements blended learning. In research I did as part of iNACOL, we determined there are six elements that are needed to implement a successful blended learning program:

  • 1. Leadership
  • 2. Professional Development
  • 3. Teaching
  • 4. Operations
  • 5. Content
  • 6. Technology

These six elements are in a specific order on purpose because without leadership, it is difficult for any initiative to succeed. Many have said, and I  agree, that blended learning is a top down and bottom up initiative all at once. However, when all of these elements are in synch, then the likelihood for a blended learning initiative to be sustainable increases. It should also be noted that implementing blended learning in a new school is much easier than transforming an established school.

Future blogposts will focus on each element with examples of promising practices for each element. In addition, I will share about the schools where there are examples of these elements in action.

Why a doctorate? The Top 4 Reasons

Four years ago I earned my doctorate from California State University, Fresno as part of the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at Fresno State.

Here is a picture of my colleagues from four years ago in May 2010.

2010doc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend (May 2014), the fifth cohort of doctoral students graduated from Fresno State and it was an honor to be there to celebrate with the fourth cohort from the Fresno area and the first cohort from the Bakersfield area – a total of 37 new educational doctorates. Here is a picture of some of the 2014 graduates. You can see more of their pictures here.

2014docgroup

Each individual doctorate represents three years of learning, networking, research as well as hours and hours of research, study and reading to complete a dissertation. Each of those dissertations contributes to the overall information and knowledge  in a variety of areas. But, more importantly, the individuals who completed the dissertation now have the knowledge about a specific topic that they will share with their local community. This means that educational communities from the Tejon Pass on the Grapevine in Southern California to Merced County in Central California all benefit from the new Doctors of Educational Leadership – more than 200 miles of places are now enriched.

Watching others earn their doctorate caused me to reflect on why pursuing a doctorate was important to me eight years ago. To start with, I am one of those people who is really a lifelong learner. I love learning new things and diving deeply into a topic to better understand it. Overall these are the top four reasons I would encourage anyone to pursue their doctorate:

  • 1. Relationships
  • 2. Networking
  • 3. Learning
  • 4. New Opportunities

The relationships I gained with colleagues, professors and the university are immeasurable. In a variety of ways, I continue to interact with my colleagues in both professional and personal ways that enrich my life daily.

Networking with both my colleagues, the research and with those whose research I interacted with has caused me to think in new ways and continue to seek better ways to impact learning and education. These interactions that continue today have increased my confidence in my beliefs, in my research, and in myself.

The learning continues on a daily basis. But how I learn changed because of my experiences in the doctoral program. I now look at studies, reports and articles with a new lens that better informs the right direction. I also learned the difference between surveys, reports and real research. And I learned how to ask the right questions.

On a daily basis, I now recognize the new opportunities that are afforded to me because of my doctorate. As one speaker reminded all of us, just 3 % of the U.S. population has earned a doctorate. Knowing which opportunities best fit my passions as a learner, as a researcher and as an educator all occurred because of the experience in the doctoral program.

Take the opportunity to pursue a doctorate for yourself and to improve the educational opportunities for the people in your local community.

 

Learning about Badging #blendedlearning #srl14

I attended the MacArthur Foundation gathering to hear about badging.

badgesmozillaThe gathering was entitled “Summit to Reconnect Learning” and was held in Redwood City, Ca. I thought I knew about badging – I mean I’ve been on FourSquare for quite awhile and have earned lots of badges there!  What I’ve learned from interacting with a variety of people at this gathering is that badging is simple and complex. One of the speakers suggested that badging is where email was in 1965 – and that badging will become broadly adopted similar to email. Pathways of badging is one area to understand. Another area is how badging intersects with competency based education. And then, how badging fits with gaming systems that causes informal learning to occur.

The work that has already be done with badging appears to have started with Mozilla’s grant competition for digital badging in 2011. Since then, Mozilla and others have created a common vocabulary and concept papers that are open for anyone to use.

Throughout the gathering, there has been a combination of plenary talks, panel discussions and guided group discussions. The most productive time for me were the focused table top conversations that challenged us to identify how we may implement badging in our respective institutions and organizations. The other table top group that developed was one around badging for teacher professional development. It is interesting to think about how receiving badges for teacher professional development. I wonder about badging for professional development and how badging may fit into teacher education programs, credential renewal and ongoing professional development that allow teachers to move across a salary scale.

One of the more exciting projects shared was Chicago Summer of Learning which used a badging system for young people throughout the city in summer 2013. The case study here provides a nice snapshot of the program. There are people here from all major cities and are talking about how badging can extend learning for all ages of people beyond the school day – on school campuses, in libraries and in museums. One developing example is the Beyond the Bell program in LA Unified School District which is hoping to link schools, libraries and museums in the summer of 2014.

The excitement about badging was palpable among the attendees. This excitement has been helped with the active Twitter feed, the illustrator who has kept visual notes of the proceedings and the overall organization of the event.

badgingpartnerships

badgingimage03

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful Links to Learn More:

Schools, #BlendedLearning Road Trip and Digital Learning Day #dld

Happy Digital Learning Day! As part of this week, I’ve been writing about blended learning. There are excellent resources available for implementing blended learning. The Christensen Institute has done an excellent job of defining and profiling different blended learning schools across the U.S. The Getting Smart team, with Digital Learning Now and the Learning Accelerator have provided a very useful Blended Learning Implementation Guide (now in v2). 

My colleague, Allison Powell from iNACOL, and myself are spending this week visiting blended learning schools in California. I even got a little creative and created a blended learning roadmap for our blended learning road trip via Google maps that I will continue to add to. We are in the process of developing a blended learning roadmap that can be used by schools and teachers across the field in implementing blended learning.

We have visited three schools in two days and will be visiting another five in the next two days. We’ll write more about our observations later. However, it occurs to me that as we look at blended learning implementations, it is important to consider the type of school that is implementing blended learning. There is a difference between implementing a blended learning program in an established traditional school, a new charter school or an established private school. There is also a difference in how a blended learning program looks at an elementary school, a middle school or a high school. Some how, we need to make these distinctions as we continue to discuss the implementation of blended learning across the field.  

We know from past experiences in the implementation of ed tech initiatives, such as 1-to1 devices, that it takes time in an established school to implement, sustain and move a program across an entire school. And it takes time to show results on state assessments and to provide the needed professional development so that all teachers understand and implement the innovation. I am often reminded of Everett Roger’s Theory of Diffusion of Innovations and what causes an innovation to become accepted throughout an organization. Overall, helping teachers to transform their teaching and transform their classroom into a more student-centered classroom where students have more control of their learning is often the greatest challenge. Historically in the U.S. we have taught teachers that they are the dispensers of information and the sage on the stage and the keepers of the knowledge to be dispensed to their students on  a daily basis. A true blended learning implementation shifts the paradigm and the pedagogy of teaching to something much different than most teachers are used to. Although leadership, technology and other elements are important, the teacher is the key element in any successful and ongoing blended learning implementation.

When I walk into a classroom that has implemented 1-to-1 devices or blended learning, there is a different feeling in the classroom that is often difficult to capture and articulate. Students are engaged in learning in a way that did not exist in just the print world. When a classroom is organized to allow students to have more ownership of their learning, teachers have more time to spend with students individually and to better personalize the learning experience when formative student data is easily available. 

I look forward to sharing further observations of blended learning programs as we complete our California Blended Learning Road Trip. As I shared in my blogpost earlier this week, blended learning is messy. However, with many educators and researchers across the U.S. and the world writing about what blended learning looks like, and how it impacts student learning, it will become easier to understand…and for all schools to implement. 

 


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