High Tech, High Touch, High 5

High Tech, High Touch, High 5

At Alliance College-Ready Public Schools in Los Angeles, California, we think about blended learning as being “High Tech, High Touch, High 5.” What does that mean? Let’s talk about it.

At Alliance, we strive to provide our students with the technology tools and digital content – “High Tech” — to make teaching and learning more engaging, more relevant, and more effective for our students. This in no way means we are trying to replace the teacher with the technology; rather, we are leveraging the technology to allow for “High Touch”, the cultivation of deeper, more meaningful relationships with our students. With the increased productivity and efficiency afforded to our teachers through the use of technology, our teachers can spend more time teaching to our students’ individual needs and aspirations.

The final piece is “High 5,” which are our 5 signature practices, or core expectations, when it comes to blended learning instruction in the Alliance.


In Alliance’s “High 5,” each finger of the hand represents each one of our signature practices. I’m asking you to follow the “Your Turn” steps outlined below to better understand each of our signature practices.

#1: Index Finger Stands for Differentiated and Personalized Teaching and Learning



YOUR TURN: Show me a #1 by holding up your index (or pointer) finger.

Signature Practice 1 refers to using blended learning to differentiate and personalize teaching and learning. It refers to the idea of personalizing instruction to meet the needs of our subgroup of 1. When we think about personalizing instruction, let’s think about it as supporting each one of our students to meet their individual needs.

YOUR TURN: Using your index (or pointer) finger to point in front of you. Point in back of you. Point left. Point right. Point up. Point down.

When we’re personalizing instruction for students, this means giving them opportunities to choose how they spend their time, their pace of learning, what tasks they work on, what learning pathways they take, and the level of depth of knowledge.

#2: Middle Finger Stands for Data Driven Decisions Support Mastery-Based Learning



YOUR TURN: Show me a #2 (or a “Peace” sign) by raising your index finger and adding your middle finger. Please do not just show me your middle finger.

Signature Practice 2 refers to the idea that in the middle of all of our blended learning work, it really comes down to using data to drive our instructional decision and support mastery-based learning. We use technology to get and make decisions about student performance data in a much more efficient manner than would normally be possible without technology. Finally, just as the middle finger is the longest finger on our hand and in the middle of all of our other fingers, data is the biggest driver of blended learning and is at the center of this work.

#3: Ring Finger Stands for Integrated Digital Content and Learning Tools



YOUR TURN: Show me a #3 by adding your “ring” finger to the middle and index fingers.

Signature Practice 3 represents our commitment to using digital content and learning tools to support student achievement in a blended learning environment. It represents our commitment to vetting our technology tools and digital content to make sure that they’re the best for our students. However, we must understand that just like in any marriage or relationship, it takes love, commitment, hard work, and dedication to make them successful. This is not easy and takes hard work and dedication. For our teachers and school leaders, it means being committed to learning about the latest tools, applications, and digital content, and engaging in the professional development needed to maximize all of their effectiveness. For our students, though they may be “digital natives,” it means working hard and pushing through challenges that may come up with their digital learning tasks. For all, it means being able to persevere through technical glitches, learning obstacles, and other challenges. As long as we love what we do, though, we can be successful.

#4: Pinky Finger Stands for Students as Creators and Producers



YOUR TURN: Show me a #4 by adding your “pinky” finger to the ring, middle, and index fingers.

Signature Practice 4 represents these little things called Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, etc. that are now part of education today (Read sarcasm). These more rigorous standards call for students to move beyond the consumption of information to being creators and producers. We believe that providing opportunities to use their creativity, be innovative, and try to solve difficult problems, no matter how little, can go a long way in our students’ academic and professional careers. Especially given the nature of the 21st century job marketplace and economy, blended learning really needs to call for students to have opportunities to think outside the box and do things differently. One of my blended learning principals calls this our “Pinky Promise” to the Common Core, NGSS, and 21st century education.

#5: Thumb Stands for Student Agency and Ownership of Learning



YOUR TURN: Show me a #5 by adding your thumb to the pinky, ring, middle, and index fingers.

What do you think about when see someone give a thumbs up to someone? (Think Time). Good job. That’s great. Awesome. Approval. Etc. A lot of positive thoughts come up when you think about a thumbs up. When we think about Signature Practice #5, let’s look at this as representing the positive thing of having students take more agency and ownership of their learning and being more self-directed. These are good things that will undoubtedly support them through college and career. Just as there’s a lot of information and data out there that talks about students, particularly low-income students coming from low-performing schools or communities, going to college and struggling because they’ve been so used to being spoon-fed information and not taking responsibility for their own learning, we need to use blended learning to support students being more self-directed and have more ownership of their learning so they’re able to more successful in college and career. As one of my Assistant Principals would say, “Who’s taking ownership over his/her learning? This guy (or girl)!”


All In: Putting the “High 5” Together



YOUR TURN: You’ve made it this far. Next, put your fingers together to form a fist.

When we put all of these blended learning signature practices (or our fingers) together, we have something very powerful that can really support students to be more successful in school and in life. Let’s leverage blended learning to provide the best education possible and really push to differentiate and personalize learning through the purposeful and effective use of technology.

As one of my favorite television characters, Barney Stinson, played by Neil Patrick Harris on the show, How I Met Your Mother, would say, “High Five!”


Written by Jonathan Tiongco

Jonathan Tiongco

Jonathan Tiongco is the Director of BLAST Implementation for Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, a charter management organization in Los Angeles, California. Jonathan oversees Alliance’s portfolio of blended learning schools, which includes blended learning pilots, full-school conversions, and a Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) grantee school.

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