Archive for the 'Blended Learning' Category

Getting Classroom Observations Right and #BlendedLearning Classrooms and Productive Chaos

Education Next recently published the article, “Getting classroom observations right.” The article, among many indicators of effective teachers discussed how teacher success is partially determined by the evaluation and observation systems in place in four urban school districts. They found that districts that integrate in a number of factors into the teacher evaluation system – including classroom observations, teacher identified criteria and school wide student achievement – lead to greater student achievement overall. While those school districts they studied that only used student test scores as the only measure of teacher effectiveness revealed that student achievement did not increase.

We know that in education – face-to-face, blended or online learning – that the teacher is the key to student learning. In a blended learning classroom, the teacher is the motivator, encourager and guide for students to learn concepts with the help of technology. The same is true in an online learning classroom. The way the teacher interacts with students directly impacts how engaged students are with their learning.

Currently, classroom observations focus on the teacher and how the teacher teaches in the face-to-face classroom. As blended learning is implemented in more classrooms across the U.S., what is observed in a classroom will have to change. A recent article in eSchool News talked about blended learning teachers in Idaho and how a blended learning classroom is “productive chaos.” It is challenging for an observer to know how to observe a classroom that looks like “productive chaos.”

In New York City a few years back, a principal shared with me about one of his experiences in observing a classroom that had implemented blended learning. In New York City Schools, a quality assurance officer accompanies new administrators in the observation of classrooms. Together, they observe classrooms and then compare notes after the observation. In this one case, the quality assurance officer and the new principal observed a blended learning classroom. The principal observed engaged learning, excellent use of technology and ongoing data analyzed by the teacher. The quality assurance officer saw just the opposite. That is the challenge of observing a blended learning classroom: new guidelines need to be developed to guide administrators and others in how to best observe a blended learning classroom.

Recently, the TNTP issued the working paper entitled, “Reimagining teaching in a blended classroom.” The diagram below is one aspect of thinking about how observations of blended learning teachers will need to change. The authors identified a blended learning teacher (as different from the traditional teacher) needing to be a researcher and developer, integrator, and guide.  Something for administrators and classroom observers to think about.


How does #ConnectedLearning Overlap with #BlendedLearning ? #ce14

You never know what is going to get you thinking about the various terms we banter around in education. I was part of a this (now recorded) Connected Learning Webinar talking about blended learning.


Prior to starting the webinar, this Tweet appeared from @DaveQuinn :

Looking forward to your seminar on . Can you suggest some readings on the overlap of the two?”

So it got me to thinking about the top 5 reasons ways that Connected Learning and Blended Learning overlap.

First, to be a connected educator and a blended learning educator, you have to expand your thinking and know that information and ideas can come from a variety of sources, including students.

Second, being a connected educator and a blended learning educator means that you understand the importance of personalizing learning for all students and how technology can facilitate this.

Third, connected educators and blended learning educators network with other educators in various ways through social media, meeting up online and in person, and continually share ideas with one another in a variety of ways.

Fourth, connected educators and blended learning educators love learning about the newest technologies that can impact learning – no matter what level you teach.

Fifth, connected educators and blended learning educators are lifelong learners and lots of fun to be interact with and be around!

Update: After the webinar, I would add that connected educators and blended learning educators are engaged in personal learning networks.

Tips for Administrative Support and Leadership for #Blendedlearning Implementation #ce14

As part of the blended learning strand for Connected Educator Month, a unique panel of experts provided recommendations for leadership and the implementation of blended learning programs in a recent webinar. The Recording and Slide Deck from this webinar and other CEM blended learning strand activities can be found here.


First, Anna Gu from the Christensen Institute shared the important conversation she and Michael Horn had with California superintendents about barriers encountered by superintendents who want to implement blended learning. They then produced the document, “Knocking Down Barriers: California Superintendents and Blended Learning.”  In Fall 2013, the Christensen Institute convened a group of superintendents to talk about how to overcome hurdles that inhibit the implementation of blended learning. The conversation fell into two categories: how to redesign teacher roles and how to manage the technology infrastructure. The leadership in the area of redesigning teacher roles requires administrators to deal with teacher contract issues and overall, have open ongoing conversations with teachers about their changing roles and how that may impact the teacher. One other area that schools may find barriers is the use of curriculum materials in both print and digital format. There are “perceived barriers” that keep leaders and teachers from moving forward toward blended learning goals. Identifying these “perceived barriers” and talking about these are important for the implementation of blended learning goals.

Brian Bridges from California shared the importance of longitudinal data and ongoing surveys of schools to understand how blended learning is being used. He oversaw the collection of data from California schools about blended and online learning called the eLearning census. The questions asked are an important guide for other districts and schools to consider as they gather further information about blended and online learning. Over three years, the eLearning Census in California provided some important data to show the increase in use of blended learning. Some of the other important insights provided from the surveys indicated the importance of planning ahead with input from more stakeholders regarding the blended learning implementation and provide more ongoing professional development From a leadership perspective, ongoing data and surveying of stakeholders helps to provide important information and survey metrics that can inform implementation. One of the initiatives in California under the leadership of Brian is the eLearning Strategies Symposium which will take place December 12 and 13, 2014 in San Mateo, Ca. All are invited to attend.

Anne Pasco from Huntley High School in Huntley Illinois shared how their high school implemented blended learning three years ago. At the leadership of the superintendent, the district decided it was important to have a school of choice. They started small with 3 teachers in the first year, with students taking the blended course in the first or last period of the day. The program has now grown to one-third of their school and students can take a blended class at any period during the day. When students do not have to attend their classroom, students can go to stay in commons area of the school, the learning resource center or leave campus. Common assessments in all of the subjects have shown that students do equally well in the blended and the traditional classrooms. Student surveys show that they take more responsibility for their own learning and they like that. Overall, leadership and teacher support systems have grown in a variety of ways including a better understanding for counselors in conversations with students. Students may take either a traditional or blended learning class in this traditional high school.

Travis Phelps works at St. Justin Catholic School in Santa Clara, Ca as part of the Drexel Initiative in the Catholic Diocese of San Jose. The blended learning implementation has taken place at the 8th grade level. The important aspect of blended learning is to start small and build. Overall, he shared the importance of having teachers who are flexible in teaching and with the use of technology. He and other teachers have participated in blended teacher training provided by the University of Santa Clara. He also mentioned the importance of having a supportive principal in implementing blended learning. In addition, he talked about one metric to use regarding teacher implementation is the SAMR model, which is a metric that can be used with teachers to help them understand their implementation level and direction they are heading.

Overall, the important leadership principles shared by the panelists for implementing blended learning included:

  • Start small and build
  • Get input from a variety of stakeholders as the implementation begins and continues
  • Provide a culture of innovation and empowerment support systems for teachers
  • Provide a reliable technology infrastructure
  • Have ongoing feedback from stakeholders in the form of surveys indicating amount of use and student surveys about their learning
  • Identify variety of ongoing metrics by which to measure progress of blended learning implementation

#BlendedLearning Continuum and Rocketship Si Se Puede

I am gradually writing about California schools I have visited in the past year and applying the “From Textbook Enhanced to Online Teaching and Learning Continuum” to each school in an effort to better clarify what blended learning looks like. I wrote about the list of schools here.

School: Rocketship, Si Se Puede Academy (K-5, Charter, San Jose, Ca. Opened in 2009. 658 students).

  • Students attend all day
  • Blended Learning Models: Rotation and Flex.
  • Spending per student: $8,382 (according to School Report Card)

Rocketship Charter schools have been the trail blazers in the use of blended learning. I had heard about Rocketship schools for years and was pleased to be able to visit. Upon walking into the school, the first thing that becomes evident is that there is a strong culture in the school, very much focused on learning. Students wear uniforms to school and appeared engaged in learning in the classrooms I visited including the computer lab. Teachers were passionate, enthusiastic, and systematic in delivering instruction to students.

Computer Use/Blended Learning: Students in grades 1-3 participate in a rotation station model of blended learning in that they rotate into a computer lab each day, specifically for use of math and reading software programs. Grades 4 and 5 were in one large room that included computers and several teachers and instructional aides. As of the 2014-15 school year, Rocketship switched back to a computer rotation model for grades 4 and 5.

Blended Learning Continuum: Based on the “From Textbook to Online Teaching and Learning Continuum”, Rocketship Si Se Puede is primarily a “Web Enhanced” School. This school could move to the blended learning column by employing a learning management system such as Edmodo or Moodle and more of the teacher instruction was viewable via the Web (e.g. online newsletters, teacher videos, etc.). It is possible this school does employ these types of strategies, but they were not visible during the visit.


Find detailed continuum information here.

Comparing the SAMR Model and #BlendedLearning

About six months ago a friend of mine mentioned the importance of the SAMR model as it applies to the use of technology in education today. Because he shared that, it caused me to stop in to a session at ISTE 2014 where the speakers were talking about the SAMR model as applied to coaching teachers. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the session, the doors were closed. Thankfully, the session was broadcasted to a screen outside the door and the speakers used Today’s Meet as a back channel to post various links about the session which included a discussion of the SAMR model (and a link to the session slides). The back channel proved to be more useful in discussing the SAMR model.

The SAMR Model was designed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura who is the founder of Hippasus, an educational consulting firm specializing in transformation applications. Ruben had previously been a teaching fellow at Harvard. For more detailed information about the SAMR model, here is a website and a video.

Here is a diagram of the SAMR Model.


And here is the “From Textbook Enhanced to Online Teaching and Learning” continuum:

Blended Learning Continuum Illustrated

In the SAMR model, Substitution and Augmentation are enhancement stages in the use of technology, while Modification and Redefinition are transformation stages. This is the same in the world of blended learning as I think the continuum illustrates. Textbook enhanced and technology enhanced teaching and learning fit the enhancement stages of the SAMR model, while the web/online enhanced teaching and learning is  the beginning of the transition from enhancement to transformation, and blended and online learning most closely align with the transformation station.

With that being said, there are online learning and blended learning courses that simply enhance the teaching and learning and do not truly transform teaching and learning. It is in this transformation stage when teaching and learning becomes more student centered, teachers better use data to customize student learning, and students become more engaged in their learning. This occurs best through the use of technology in the transformation stages of the SAMR model and in the blended learning section of the continuum.

The challenge of measuring #blendedlearning schools

In my post last week, I shared that I have visited a variety of schools around California and I was going to identify where they fit on the “Continuum from Textbook to Online Teaching and Learning.” I will eventually dedicate a blogpost to each school and their place on the continuum. But, first I wanted to just list the basics of each school so you can get an idea of the variables involved in determining where a school fits on a continuum from an outsider’s perspective. Categorizing where a teacher or school fits in blended learning can be challenging for a variety of reasons. In May 2011, the Christensen Institute profiled 40 schools that fit a general definition of blended learning. Since then, other organizations have written case studies about various programs. The field continues to better define what is meant by the term blended learning. Hopefully, in the weeks to come, applying the continuum to various schools will help to better define blended learning for you and your schools.

As you look through the basic information of the schools below, note the similarities and differences. What do you notice?

In the weeks ahead, I will apply the continuum to each school.

Join the #BlendedTeacher #BlendedLearning Network

Join the  “Blended Teacher Network.”  It’s free! (

Blended Teacher Network Image

The Blended Teacher Network (BTN) will be a place for teachers to share ideas, strategies and tools about blended learning. As you know, blended teaching and learning is much more than simply putting a computer in front of a student or a lesson plan online or uploading a video – it involves a pedagogical shift in teaching that causes students to become more engaged in their learning.

Many organizations and individuals have defined blended learning, written case studies, produced research and reports, and discussed its importance. At the heart of all research and reports regarding learning is the teacher. Teaching has become more complex as more computer and online technologies have become available. The network will help you to sort through these complexities of being a blended teacher.

The purpose of the BTN is for teachers to learn from each other about what blended learning means, to contribute to the complex field of blended teaching, and to validate your work in your schools and in your classrooms.

Join the network to share your expertise and then invite your colleagues. Meet, empower, encourage and help grow the network.

Flickr Photos