Posts Tagged 'content'

#Blendedlearning Implementation: Technology

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

elementgraphic2* Element 1: Leadership
* Element 2: Professional Development
* Element 3: Teaching / Instructional Practice
* Element 4: Operations, Systems and Policies
* Element 5: Content
* Element 6: Technology

When I talk about the technology, others refer to this as the technology backbone or infrastructure. This includes the network, software and hardware, and devices used to access the content and resources for the blended learning initiative. Most school districts and schools have this infrastructure in place at some level. However, as any educator or student knows, if you can’t access what you’re looking for when you want it, then the infrastructure is not working right. The goal is to make sure there is a reliable and robust network that can be accessed by administrators, teachers and students when they need to use it. Many years ago, I had the good fortune of visiting the main office of eBay in San Jose, California. They showed us their main computer room and shared that their goal is to be up and working 99% of the time. That seems like a reasonable goal for any technology infrastructure in any school district or system.

In addition to ensuring that the technology infrastructure is reliable, there is also the need for ongoing support in operating the technology, the devices utilized and how to access the online resources. In the beginning, this support is critical and is much more time intensive than it will be once the initiative is up and running. The technology support staff should be the type of people who are encouraging and empowering to the end users, whether the end user is an administrator, teacher, parent or student.

School leaders should should consider the following key questions regarding the technology used for the blended learning initiative:

  • What technology, hardware, software, and networking, will be needed to run a successful blended learning initiative?
  • What technology infrastructure is currently available to support blended learning?
  • What investments need to be made to the school’s technological infrastructure including but not limited to bandwidth, hardware, and software?
  • What support systems are needed to maintain the technological infrastructure?
  • Will the school employ a single-platform hardware approach or utilize multiple platforms (PC, Macs)?
  • Will the school support BYOD (bring your own device) for students?
  • If the school is providing devices for staff and students, what is the ongoing plan and funding for the devices? Will you purchase or lease?
  • If the school is providing devices for staff and students, what is the ongoing plan and funding to refresh the devices? (every 3 years? or 4 years?)
  • Will staff and students access the network via wireless or hard wired?
  • What technology accessibility, if any, will students need to have outside of school?
  • How do you ensure interoperability between systems (content, hardware, learning management system)?

Overall, schools or districts will want to ensure a successful implementation of a blended learning initiative by putting the following technology infrastructure support systems and promising practices in place:

  • A robust network that can be accessed by a variety of student and teacher devices.
  • A course management system/platform has been provided for use by blended teachers, including individualized student logins, discussion board, teacher assignments, and digital grade book.
  • A platform that includes reporting and analytic capabilities that provide information to the teacher about student learning and provide opportunities for teachers to individualize student learning.
  • District technical support is available via phone and email.
  • Ongoing meetings between leadership, teachers and students about technology use and tools that facilitate progress towards the blended learning goals.
  • Ongoing communication loops (e.g. website of FAQs, ongoing blog about issues, use of Twitter, etc.) between the technology support people, school administrators, teachers, students and parents about the overall technology infrastructure and blended learning initiative.
  • Ongoing training and professional development and materials for administrators, teachers and students in the use of technology and the technology tools (this should include face-to-face, online, videos, how-to videos, screenshots, etc.) and never underestimate how students can help with this as well.

Next week, I’ll share how these elements are being instituted in a variety of schools and settings throughout the U.S.

#BlendedLearning Implementation: Content

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.

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 written about the importance of leadership, professional development, teachers and operations, systems and policies. Today the focus is on Element #5, which is Content.

When talking about content, there is an initial decision that needs to be made by each system or school district: Will teachers use content from an online provider or vendor, create their own or a combination of both?

Regardless of which content decision is made, it is important to learn from the past. In the past, dating back to when computers were first introduced into schools, many school districts believed that administrative leaders should choose the technology or content first, and then invite teachers to participate. There are so many examples of  technology implementation over the years where administrators or tech coordinators chose a technology and then rolled it out to teachers. In most cases, there were a few teachers who initially adopt and use the technology and then there are those who really are not interested. When considering a blended learning implementation, the involved teachers or a group of teachers should be involved in selecting the content for blended learning. This can be part of the planning process, but should also be part of the ongoing program evaluation process. Throughout most school districts today, there are a variety of vendors being chosen to meet the different teaching and learning needs rather than selecting one vendor who can meet all needs.

The key questions to ask regarding content should be:

  • Will your school purchase vendor content or have teachers build the content?
  • If your school chooses to purchase vendor content, what process will be utilized to select the content that best meets the needs of your school?
  • If your school chooses to build their own content, what professional development will be provided for the content developers?
  • Which content management platform will be used with your purchased or developed content?
  • Which funds will be utilized to purchase or house the content?
  • How will your school ensure content meets the goals of the program (best fit)?
  • How will your school ensure content is aligned to standards?
  • What ongoing professional development will be provided to teachers regarding the use of content, the platform and alignment to standards and quality?
  • What measures will be used to indicate if the content is effective?
  • What ongoing process will be put in place to measure the effectiveness of the content?

Overall, promising practices have emerged in the content element for the implementation and sustainability of a blended learning program. Specifically these include: 1) A common platform; 2) Content Decision Making; 3) Platform Reporting, and 4) Customizable by teachers.

Having a common content and technology platform chosen by teachers makes ongoing professional development much easier. No content provider will meet all of the curriculum standards or technology needs of any school, so it is good to select one and then work with it to understands it’s strengths and weaknesses. A good content provider will work with schools and teachers to modify and improve their system to best meet the needs of the customer. Overall, having a common platform facilitates:

  • Professional development, consistency and common reporting across schools and teachers
  • The opportunity to share content between teachers and across several schools
  • Learning about the technical aspects of the platform by teachers to better deliver instruction

Choosing and evaluating the common platform is something that administrative and teacher leaders should be engaged in on an ongoing basis. Content decision making is important to consider so that:

  • Schools choose the vendor content that best meets the needs of the students that attend their school.
  • Teachers are involved in the selection of the content used at each school.
  • Students in older grades can also provide ongoing feedback about the effectiveness of the online content.

The reports that are available from the chosen content management system should be easy to use and in the ideal world, easily integrate into the other technology systems used by teachers and the school. Efficient and effective platform reporting is important so that:

  • Administrators can utilize the platform to view usage and reports to indicate teacher use and student engagement
  • Teachers can utilize platform reports to determine student learning and then customize learning for students as well as reporting information to students and parents

Finally, the platform should be customizable for daily use. The platform should be customizable so that administrators and teachers can:

  • Use the platform customize learning for students
  • Develop their own content in the platform to enhance the vendor content to customize learning for students
  • Provide individualized learning plans for students
  • Students have some choice in how they learn the content (e.g. audio, video, text, etc.)
  • Teachers can archive all lessons for the entire year so that content can be reused
  • Integrate functions of the platform on a daily basis  including lesson content, assessments, student dropbox for turning in work, and the electronic grade book that integrates with the district electronic grading system

Utilize the above content promising practices to identify and develop the ongoing review and evaluation plan for your school or district.



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