Leave it to a school district in Silicon Valley to develop a prototype for a blended learning environment.
Milpitas Unified School District did just that. They hired a new Superintendent and Chief Technology Officer. They asked the staff at each school what their idea of the school of the future would look like. Once they go the ideas back, they took the novel approach and began building it.
Two elementary schools were piloted for the model in 2012-2013 and now all have implemented some form of blended learning.
Some key ideas that were developed:
Ø Transition from traditional education to a flexible model
o The district invested in new network equipment, WIFI and around 5,000 new Chromebooks
Ø Leaders empowered principals and teachers to integrate technology and implement blended learning any way they wished.
o The pilot schools choose the “rotational” model where students rotate throughout the day among online instruction, teacher-led instruction and small-group collaborative activities
Ø Developed a learning lab where students rotate through twice a day for math and English language instruction.
o This is set up to provide custom digital instruction which allows students to proceed at their best pace
Ø Schools are implementing the program differently to allow for “testing” environments to see what works best
Results are favorable so far. The technology has invigorated teachers and students are more engaged in class as evidenced by the dramatic decrease in suspensions and disciplinary actions.
In other parts of the country:
Coorado’s Boulder Valley School District is working towards a long-term vision of supplying every student (30,000) with a computing device. While they work up to that they are investing in IT infrastructure, technology pilots and professional development.
In Ohio’s Hillard City Schools they have been working on creating online courses for the past 10 years. Most teachers have already turned their classes into blended learning courses through the use of Moodie, Google Apps and their own websites.
But they also point out that the district is not exclusively going to online applications. They still use interactive whiteboards, projectors and document cameras.
Time limitations on the teachers is a factor especially with a new program, but given time, expanding the teacher’s comfort zone and the programs will allow for students to enter the “real world” better prepared for what’s next.
With the continued use of interactive whiteboards we suggest that you look at eBeam products. A big advantage of the eBeam product line is utilizing your existing assets (whiteboard, projector, computer). The only moving part is the wireless pen/stylus. Unlike competitors who require their board to be used, eBeam don’t fail since there are no moving parts or screens. The stylus is subject to failure over time but at $85 each, it is a relatively small replacement cost.
Check out the eBeam Product line at http://www.ebeamrocks.com.