Blended learning is quickly gaining ground in K-12, with more and more schools adopting this model. But making it work is a big job. When my district decided to implement this model, we put together a plan to ensure it would be successful and effective, for students and staff. Here’s what we did:
- Created a support team. We knew support would be key to getting teachers on board with this model so we put together a team of instructional-integration specialists and coaches who could help ensure a smooth transition. The technology-integration specialists learned and tested the new technology we would be integrating into our curriculum. The trial-and-error experience helped them see – and prepare for – the common mistakes staff might make. Further into the implementation, we selected early adopters from each grade level and asked them to share their creativity and be pioneers for our digital content. They opened their classrooms as models for their rest of the staff.
- Gave students choices. We wanted to maximize teachers’ and students’ use of digital curriculum and drive engagement. The best way to do this was by offering a range of content choices. We started with myON then later added Imagine Learning, Odysseyware, Discovery Education, and McGraw Hill. Students enjoyed having more choice with their literacy and assignments; they enthusiastic and engaged. This was a big key to our program’s success.
- Analyzed and applied data to instruction and teacher training. myON collects data on students’ use of its system. We use this data to monitor progress and modify instruction to fit students’ reading levels and personal interests.
We also use the data to shape professional development. It’s essential to make connections early on between the data and the teachers so we can ensure that the results they see in their students’ increased interest in reading are associated with the changes made to the curriculum.
We have a staff position at Meriden, our supervisor of blended learning, whose job is to consider ways to increase teachers’ use of digital curriculum and provide help when they need it. We want to be open to staff feedback about what’s working – and what’s not – and replicate the positive results while taking on new challenges. Regularly scheduled monthly meetings with assistant principals and key teachers focus on feedback and strategies to strengthen content usage. Data discussed include Lexile levels, number of selections, and minutes read.
It took just two years for us to implement the program across our district. We’re encouraged by the curiosity and excitement we’ve seen in our students. They’re more active, engaged and inspired. And with a more receptive and technologically-savvy staff to support them through their blended-learning experience, the more likely they are to become lifelong learners who learn anytime, anywhere.
Barbara Haeffner is the director of curriculum and instructional technology at Meriden Public Schools.
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