I can’t think of a better place so spend Digital Learning Day than at a school – whether it is a building, a blended learning environment or online.
Today, I was fortunate to be at the Bronx Arena High School in the Bronx. iLearnNYC Implementation managers Britt Neuhaus and Gerard Zoehfeld organized a cohort meeting to take place at the Bronx Arena School. Cohort meetings invite members of each cohort to attend a professional development day focused on blended learning.
In addition to information shared by Bronx Arena principal Ty Cesena, Bronx Arena students toured three different groups around the school – visiting classrooms and talking with students. Bronx Arena High School are for students who are over aged and under credited students who have not yet earned their high school diploma. In each classroom, we saw each student on the computer, the “teacher’s area” was somewhere central in the classroom and the teacher was either circulating around the room or meeting with individuals or small groups of students. The school has a course management system that they developed with content developed by the teachers. This is the content that students are using for their learning.
As part of our observation, we were asked to look for evidence of blended learning around these types of facilitation modes:
- One-to-one support
- Small group mini-lessons
- Small group discussions
- Whole group instruction
- Peer to peer interaction
- Teacher circulation
In addition to the observations and discussions, we invited three principals to be part of a “Conversation about Implementing Blended Learning.” This digital learning day activity information can be found on the iLearnNYC wiki. The three principals are all at schools where blended learning is being implemented in a variety of ways. Peter Oroszlany is principal at Mott Hall V, which is a school with grades 6-11. They have begun to implement blended learning with science teachers in grades 6, 7 and 8. PJ Murray is principal of Olympus Academy, a transfer school for students who are over aged and under credited student. And Ty Cesena is principal of Bronx Arena High School, also a transfer school. They were asked a series of questions. The common information that was shared if you are planning to implement blended learning is:
- All students need to have their own computer or device
- Start small and build
- Build relationships with teachers and check in with them on a daily basis
- Provide time for teachers to plan and discuss how blended learning is working as related to student outcomes (all schools have dedicated time for teachers at least once a week)
- The teachers now spend more time circulating around classrooms interacting with students both individually and in groups more when there is blended teaching.
The entire conversation was U-Streamed and recorded. Enjoy watching the conversation here. (Those of us involved in the recording, now realize that we should have had a microphone for the speakers, so the audio is a little quiet in spots).
The questions answered by the principals were as follows:
- When you first started blended learning at your school, what did you do to support teachers at your school to move in this direction – to buy-in to blended learning?
- Now that blended learning is functioning in your schools, what ongoing strategies/professional development takes place to support teachers?
- What measures (formal and informal) are you using in your school that indicate blended learning is being successful?
- How has the teacher experience different since you have shifted to a blended model?
- What other tips would you offer an administrator who would like to have their school shift to blended learning?
Happy Digital Learning Day!