Blended Learning Implementation Requires Cooperation
Every blended learning implementation requires cooperation from many different teams within a district and school. Since many districts do not have a “Director of Blended Learning,” there must be a project manager that can coordinate all of the different tasks that must be accomplished for any implementation. The following are descriptions of different stakeholders that can help make sure blended learning implementations have all of the foundational aspects necessary to be successful in a specific school environment.
On the network side, the IT staff can be really helpful in calculating how many devices can be used simultaneously using the proposed online programs. The calculations should consider number of computers used simultaneously in a given classroom, in the entire school, and the whole district. These metrics will help IT staff gauge everything from servers to switches to firewalls to content filters to wireless controllers to wireless access points, etc. Keeping IT staff in the loop for any future blended learning plans could help them design eRate requests and Technology Plans that prepare the district for expansion in bandwidth and network capabilities.
On the user side, the number of IT staff who can help setup/troubleshoot devices is also really important. When computers don’t work, teachers may blame the entire implementation. Therefore, an honest plan that includes a realistic ratio of devices to IT support staff is necessary for a successful implementation. Our network of schools doesn’t have a robust tech team, so we have invested in low maintenance machines like Chromebooks. For help on implementation and setup, we have used Google Groups. Chromebooks are very east to set up, and more importantly easy for teachers to incorporate into their classroom.
RESOURCE #1: Chromebook Central
QUESTION #1: As we grow the number of schools in KIPP Chicago, what will the technology department look like?
The picture shows a classroom that uses Chromebooks in a 1:1 ratio.
In our district, the flow of student data travels between all of these systems:
- Enrollment/Registration database
- PowerSchool (School Information System)
- Digital assessments: ~6 different online programs with student accounts
- Digital content in math and reading: ~7 different online programs with student accounts
- Google accounts for Chromebooks and programs using Google login
- Active Directory accounts (we have transitioned away from this, but some districts still use it)
At first glance, this might look like a flow chart that goes from one end to the other. Once you have students, you can progress from one system to another. In a perfect world, it would be that easy. However, students are constantly entering/exiting schools, each program has a different interface for loading accounts, and many programs are managed by different teams at the school/district level. I can’t say that we have all of this figured out, but there a couple companies trying to simplify this process. I learned about them on EdSurge. This website reports news about many different types of education technology.
RESOURCE #2: EdSurge
QUESTION #2: How do we keep track of all of the programs we’re researching in a meaningful way for non-“techie” people?
One of the main motivations of implementing blended learning in the first place is to efficiently collect student achievement data. Having data in many disparate systems makes it hard to analyze trends, gauge efficacy of programs, and use data to drive instruction. We are currently creating a data warehouse and analytics engine to help make sense of all of the data we suddenly have on our students. For data analytics, we use an open source program called R. This program has a huge online community of followers and allows for more robust analysis than traditional spreadsheet applications (some programming needs to be learned, but there are tons of resources on the web).
RESOURCE #3: R-Project
QUESTION #3: What sorts of data /graphs help drive instruction?
The picture included is the NWEA MAP data for our incoming 5th graders (the first grade served at our middle school). By 8th grade, our goal is to push as many kids as possibly into the top quartile (college-ready).
Curriculum and Instruction
Alignment to academic goals is absolutely crucial for blended learning implementations. Students and teachers are the most important users in any education technology. Even if everything works perfectly and is technologically sound, students and teachers may not be motivated to use it if it’s not aligned with an academic purpose. Most schools/districts have a framework for teacher evaluations, and aligning technology to that framework will win over many teachers. The framework we use at KIPP is below. I always talk about how how technology can help facilitate differentiation, data-driven instruction, etc.
RESOURCE #4: KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching
QUESTION #4: How do we measure the impact of blended learning on different teacher competencies?
Moreover, aligning technology implementations to student achievement data will increase supporters as well. For example, we had a grade level of students who performed lower than expected on our state test in sixth grade math. Therefore, the principal was motivated to find an intervention solution in seventh grade to help raise student achievement scores. These interventions included both small group instruction and blended learning.
Schedules, physical space, and classroom organization are all important aspects in blended learning implementations. Hardware and software choices must take these factors into consideration. There are a million different possibilities, but here are a couple example situations:
- Your school might want to implement a station rotation model where students rotate in three groups every 20 minutes for an hour within one classroom. However, the chosen software might require a minimum of 30 minutes per session, so students would begin at the same point every day and lose engagement.
- Your school may only be able to afford one computer lab, but want to have every reading and math class rotate into the lab. If the screen time is more important, then the school may want to consider Chromebooks which are much cheaper. However, that would impact the software choices since not all programs work on Chromebooks.
Helping school leaders make decisions that align with these factors is crucial. The Innosight Institute has produced a document that helps explain the most popular blended learning models. Even though school leaders may not have time to read white papers, the diagrams really help school leaders visualize what blended learning could look like in their school.
RESOURCE #5: “Classifying K-12 Blended Learning” by the Innosight Institute
QUESTION #5: How do we balance innovation in blended learning models and aligning to established models?