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blended learning

Located just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rio Rancho Cyber Academy (RRCA) is an accredited, diploma-granting enriched virtual learning school that serves 180 students in grades 6-12, and is part of the Rio Rancho Public Schools. 49 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and 14 percent of students receive special education services.

In today’s blended learning environment, an increasing number of students and teachers have access to technology that extends the educational process well beyond the classroom walls. As part of this trend, school districts across the U.S. are implementing practices and policies that transform learning environments into one of participatory learning, for the purpose of improving student outcomes.

Participatory learning is a collaborative student-centered environment in which students learn from both their peers and teachers using digital media resources and other tools.

Educators too often treat instructional software for students like physical therapy for the injured: You get diagnosed for your specific injury, you undergo a physical therapy regimen, and one day you’re healthy again.

To implement blended learning effectively, administrators must gain a thorough understanding of the best tools, training, and processes necessary for teacher and student success. Thesys International offers custom curriculum designed to improve learning outcomes through blended learning. This web seminar, originally broadcast on October 25, 2012, featured Fairmont Preparatory Academy and the Pasadena (Calif.) Unified School District, which are in varying stages of implementing blended learning, with help from Thesys International.

Blended learning, a combination of online and in-person instruction, is gaining traction around the country. For many administrators, however, there remain many questions about what blended learning actually means and how best to implement this model. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on October 24, 2012, John Bailey, executive director of Digital Learning Now!, outlined the trends and key elements of effective blended learning.

Neuroscientist William Jenkins suggests that educators shift the school environment to improve memory and ability to learn.

1. Create a non-stressful environment. And this includes eliminating or reducing bullying. If pupils are angry or frustrated, their “frontal lobe is turned off and executive function skills are not operating,” Jenkins says. When students are comfortable and relaxed, they are more open to learn and retain memory.

Socializing with classmates online gets homework done faster.

I recently asked a group of middle school students to name their favorite use of technology for learning. An eager eighth-grade girl said, “My work has gotten so much better since we started using Facebook to do homework at night in my math class. We’re all online together, so if I have questions, I get them answered while doing my homework, instead of the next day or even later. Sometimes my friends even explain the math better than the teacher, and we send each other links to stuff online.” Wanting to learn more, I asked her which teacher had set up the group.

The Whittier Union High School District administrators who organized the Whatever It Takes campaign.

In 1969, a concern with the deep inequity of students’ experiences and opportunities in traditional school systems first drove social studies teacher Rick DuFour to begin advocating for the kind of reforms that would jell into his transformative model, Professional Learning Communities at Work, some 16 years later. The core belief of the PLC at Work model—that all students should have access to the most rigorous curriculum and that all students should learn, was counter to common practices in the era when DuFour taught.

Students at Weller Elementary School use Avatar Kinect for learning.

Students at Steuart W. Weller Elementary School in Ashburn, Va., toss darts, play guitar, dance like rock stars, raft down rapids, and talk to youngsters in Romania. Yet there are no darts, no instruments, no DJs, no white water and no expensive international plane tickets involved. Instead, the students use their arms, legs and body movements to do the activities through a video game system, which also allows for live video chats around the world.

Facing the twin specter of state and local budget cuts, Falcon School District 49 in Peyton, Colo., has done “some pretty radical things” with technology that have enabled the district to survive without drastic staff cuts, according to Kim McClelland, assistant superintendent and innovation leader for one of various regions in the district. The moves even allowed teachers to receive a 2 percent raise for the 2012-2013 school year.

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