Posts Tagged 'online learning'

How to measure #BlendedLearning and what does it look like?

There are excellent blended learning teachers in most schools across the U.S. When I say “blended learning” I am talking about teachers who use technology to teach with on a daily basis, use a course management system such as Edmodo or Moodle on a daily basis, use ongoing data to inform their instruction and to customize learning on a daily basis, provide a truly student centered classroom where students have some control of their learning, and they are teachers who now function more as learning coaches rather than the traditional “sage on the stage” who imparts information for students to learn.

The challenge becomes how does a whole school become a blended learning school with all of these attributes of teachers. It is easy to start a new school and only hire teachers who have these qualifications. But, transforming a traditional school into what we would term a blended learning school that has blended learning as part of the culture and belief system of the school is the real challenge.

In order to identify schools that are already blended learning or on their way to become a blended learning school, it is important to have some measure that suggests movement in that direction. Blended teaching, just like traditional teaching is complex and involves multiple variables. However, teaching and learning really comes down to the teacher, the student, and the curriculum. In the broad sense, this encompasses teaching strategies, pedagogy and formative and summative assessments.

In an effort to identify schools that are exemplars of blended learning, I designed this simple continuum that I call, “Continuum from Textbook Enhanced to Online Teaching and Learning.” I have written about it before, but here is the quick graphic. A more detailed continuum can be found here.

Blended Learning Continuum Illustrated

Now, having visited many blended learning schools in the past 6 months, I will apply this continuum to a variety of schools to provide the framework by which schools may assess their progress towards blended learning. Follow this blog in the coming days and weeks to learn about how and where the variety of schools fit on the overall continuum.

#BlendedLearning Implementation: Operations, Systems and Policies

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 talked about the importance of leadership, professional development and teachers. Today the focus is on Operations, Systems and Policies.

Successful implementation of blended learning requires the use of digital learning systems that provide teachers, school administrators, students, and parents with real-time student progress information and the ability to easily adapt content and instruction based on student performance. The systems in a school or system can include the learning management system (LMS), the content (or curriculum) management system (CMS), student information system (SIS), benchmark testing system, and other systems such as the library system. Ideally, data from all of these types of systems can be easily accessed as needed by school administrators and teachers. However, as of this writing, there are few systems in place that truly provide this type of easily accessible “data dashboard.”

In addition, the policies and the culture of the school needs to embrace innovation because implementing blended learning does not always go as smoothly as envisioned. School policies should be in place that reward innovation to impact student learning. A review by a team of teachers and administrators can uncover policies that may inhibit the type of innovation and experimentation needed when implementing a blended learning initiative.

Examples of policies that may need to be examined include but are not limited to: seat-time as a measure student performance and funding, length of time that a student has to complete required courses, scheduling availability of courses, instructional credentials, professional development to support blended and online teachers, access to required technologies, and privacy issues for student information.

Key Questions to Ask Regarding Operations, Administrative Systems, and Policy

  • How does the plan for blended learning potentially change the structure of a traditional school day (scheduling)?
  • Which state, district, and/or local policies foster or inhibit implementation (testing, accountability)?
  • What data should be collected to support individualized student learning? What systems are in place to collect this data?
  • What CMS/LMS will be utilized for the delivery of digital content and instruction?
  • What ongoing professional development will be provided to teachers engaged in blended learning?
  • What support services to students will be provided?
  • How will parents be both informed about what blended learning is, and how they can support the effort?
  • How will this new way of delivering instruction necessitate a change in teacher observations and student evaluation?

Some of the promising practices regarding operations, systems and policies that support the flexibility and innovation needed for the implementation of blended learning include:

  • One course management system selected by staff, teachers and administrators that includes the types of reports and analytics that allow teachers to easily personalize learning for students
  • Operational support for teachers is provided by one identified administrator who interacts often with a lead blended learning teacher or blended learning team
  • A culture of data driven decision-making is developed throughout the school from administrators to teachers to parents and students. Individuals at all levels need to understand how to best access, process and act upon real-time student data.
  • Participating teachers share a common planning time during the work day on at least a bi-weekly basis

#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.

Reflections from #iNACOL13

The iNACOL Symposium ended two weeks ago, but the excitement, energy, the learning, the sharing and collaboration continues. The total attendees were 2424 and represented educators, thought leaders, administrators, teachers, companies, organizations, and individuals who are passionate about blended and online learning. For me, it is always meeting people that I have not had a chance to meet before, hearing about how people are making an impact on education, and realizing how important it is for all of us to be unified in our voices. The symposium reaffirmed the common beliefs that I think we all share: that we want to impact education in new and more efficient ways so more students graduate from high school career and/or college ready. To do this, it will take all educators – traditional, blended, online – to accomplish this.

Reading the various reflections that others have written affirms the importance of the annual iNACOL Symposium as a catalyst for change.

On YouTube, an interview of Michael Horn with Rose Fernandez.

Through the symposium online community,  individuals continue to interact, collaborate and share their thoughts. I found some specific blog reflections that I have highlighted below.

  • David from Just Popped in My Head shared the importance of modularizing professional development – especially when using blended and online learning approaches.
  • The Getting Smart team produced several blogposts that highlighted the conference. Their reflection post pretty much summarized the key aspects of the symposium including blended schools and tools, digital development, teachers and tech, higher, deepear, further, faster learning.
  • George Rislov discussed seeing the future at the iNACOL Symposium.
  • Melanie Malski wrote, “passion is contagious, brilliance is inspiring, and commiserating with co-workers is refreshing.”
  • Stacy Hawthorne shared that iNACOL13 was a GPS for Learning.
  • The Hot Lunch Tray blog shared a wonderful “brain dump” of all of the things she learned at the symposium including how to foster online rapport with students, how to roll out a blended learning program, and online communities of collaboration.
  • Margo Flowers shared the importance of photos and shared this slide from the game based learning session where she posted the definition of “FAIL” = First Attempt In Learning.

Various articles appeared in different publications such as this one from EdWeek entitled, “District Officials Eye Blended Learning, With Cautionary Lessons in Mind”.

More images of the Symposium can be found on the iNACOL Facebook page or the Twitter Stream (#inacol13). And use Tagboard to see more tweets and pictures from Instagram with the hashtag #inacol13.

I look forward to seeing everyone at iNACOL14, which will be November 4-7, 2014 in Palm Springs, California.


Keeping Pace K-12 2013 Report at #inacol13

One of the yearly reports I always look forward to reading each year and is always released at the iNACOL Symposium is the report: “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice.” The Keeping Pace Report is a survey of all states and how K-12 online learning and blended learning are being used in each state. One of the first things I always do is check the snapshot of the state I live in (California) to see what is happening in my state.

John Watson and Amy Murin shared the overview of the new report with the State Virtual School Leaders PreConference at the symposium.  John and Amy shared some interesting findings of the current report that stood out for me.

The process of counting online students in supplemental programs is: One student taking one semester of one online course.

In 2009 there were 27 states with state virtual schools and in 2013 there are still 27 states with state virtual schools but some have been added and some states are no longer funding state virtual schools.

 A course choice program in Keeping Pace is defined as:

  1. Students to choose to take a course from one or more providers
  2. A district cannot deny a student’s request to enroll in an out-of-district course
  3. Funding follows the student at the course level

The State of Florida is the lead in many of these areas for three reasons:

  1. Florida Virtual School was established in 1986 and is consistently the largest statewide virtual school
  2. Florida is a school choice state by law (and has been for many years)
  3. There is a law that requires all schools to offer some type of online program options for students

Blended Learning is included in the Keeping Pace 2013 report. See p. 19 for the chart. The authors have done a good job of beginning to count the number of states that have blended learning schools. 

The Keeping Pace Report defines fully blended learning schools as: 

  • A stand-alone school with a school code
  • Much of the curriculum is delivered online
  • Attendance is required at a physical site during the school year for more than just state assessments

The ongoing challenge is how to define what “much of the curriculum is delivered online” really looks like. Until districts and states really start to count blended learning students, this will be a challenge. But, maybe it is not important to count students. After all, the more important questions are:

  • Are students learning?
  • Are students engaged in learning?
  • What strategies or educational structures most engage student learning?
  • Are students prepared for college and the world of work? 

#vss12 Reflections and Perspectives

A variety of individuals – all who care deeply about education – recently attended or participated in iNACOL’s Virtual School Symposium 2012 that took place in October in New Orleans.  More than 2000 people attended the conference and about 45% of the people who attended were new to attending the conference. Everyone else had attended at least one time in the past. There were more than 1500 tweets that occurred with the #Vss12 hashtag and a number of blogposts were written.

First, it seems like the “Toms” were some of the key bloggers who wrote their ideas about their take aways from VSS. First, Tom Vander Ark wrote about the six trends he observed including creative tools, competency based learning, educational choice, personalized learning, bring your own device and rethinking systems.  Tom Whitby, in a post entitled “The Missing Link“, shared that he believed that the VSS12 attracted some of the best of the best in online and blended learning. He found that many of the sessions he attended were presented by vendors and education reformers, and emphasized the importance of having “real classroom educators” presenting the sessions in the future.

Other trends shared included how the virtual school symposium is shifting to learning more about blended learning and teaching as shared by Education Week blogger Ian Quillen while Andrew Miller wrote about how games in virtual education is another trend. Another Education Week blogger, Katie Ash wrote about how blended learning models have developed that foreshadowed what would occur at VSS12.  In addition, Tory Gattis from the Houston Chronicle wrote about his take aways including the keynote speech by John White, Superintendent of Education in Louisiana  how Louisiana and other states are empowering schools to utilize blended and online learning, and how 46 states have adopted the new Common Core standards.  Bekci Kelly wrote about how VSS is a call to action by all who attended to share and collaborate about online and blended learning, while Joy Nehr wrote about what many considered was a highlight of VSS – the student panel.  A recording of that student panel can be found here. Finally, Roxy Mourant shared her notes from the VSS sessions she attended here.

Other reflections include:

Many of the VSS sessions were recorded which can be found here.

The ongoing conversation about schooling

The ongoing conversation about school continues today with this post by Chris Lehmann where he states that he is “against for-profit companies running schools as for-profit ventures.”  Gary Stager followed up with a post where he agrees with Chris and states, “Since the evidence supporting computerized teaching systems has been weak since WWII, the dystopians and their bankers pushing this idea feel compelled to dress it up in fancy names like “Carpe Diem,” “Flipped Classroom,” “School of One,” “Blast,” “Khan Academy,” etc….”  Gary also referred to writings of Seymour Papert to reinforce his thoughts and referred to a post from Will Richardson where he liked the statement Chris made calling “for-profit education a thin value proposition.”  Will, in his past posts here and somewhat here continues to question the value of for-profit companies running schools.  Another voice that seems to support this perspective is Diane Ravitch who discusses privatization here and big business charter schools here.

I continue to wonder…

  • What is education reform?
  • Should the conversation and action regarding education reform only occur within traditional public school systems?
  • What is the solution to the  30% of students who drop out of high school without a diploma each year?
  • How do we engage learners – especially African-American and Latino males – in school that leads to a high school diploma?
  • How do we engage all learners so all students are excited about learning?
  • Are students only engaged in learning if they are in face-to-face traditional classrooms with a teacher in room?

And then this update from an article I read after posting the above…How do we engage learners when many reports like this one show that poverty is the issue?


Flickr Photos