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Guide to Blended Learning for Elementary Mathematics

Maximize student engagement and achievement by bringing traditional instruction and online learning together

As blended learning is implemented in more schools across the country, administrators need to consider which online programs will most effectively drive student success. DreamBox Learning utilizes Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ technology to provide differentiated instruction, maximizing the benefits of the blending learning experience. This web seminar, originally presented on February 14, 2013, addressed the future of education, the benefits of implementing blending learning, and how online programs can meet students’ unique needs.

Jeff Piontek, Ph.D.
President, Curriculum and Assessment Consultant
Educational Consulting Services, LLC

When we talk about the future of learning, we talk about providing a high-quality, personalized learning experience to every child across the country. Blended learning achieves this personalized instruction by combining online learning with some face-to-face interaction. When we look at blended learning, it provides opportunity to meet the needs of all of our students. Online-only learning tends to only work for the small portion of students who are self-directed. All students, regardless of ability, can benefit from blended learning. The high-achieving, self-directed students can learn at an accelerated pace. Struggling students can focus on difficult subjects at a more relaxed pace.

Students today expect school to be as technology rich as the world around them. They play video games and want that same kind of engagement in the classroom. Schools need to be pushed into the future. The future of learning involves customization and personalization. Project Tomorrow conducts a survey yearly about what parents expect from their children’s education. Many parents responded that they wanted education to be more interactive. They want more communication and information about grades, attendance, and different aspects of their child’s academic lives. Blended learning and the data it provides fulfill these wishes.

When students were surveyed, they said they wanted flexibility and personalization. DreamBox Learning is one of the few programs available that truly differentiates instruction and is flexible and adaptable to each student. As we move from teacher-centric instruction to student-centric, we need to figure out how to make students feel like they are the only student in the classroom. Students want more say and flexibility in what, when, where, and how they learn. As online tools become more collaborative, students can virtually lead and learn from each other.

Programs like DreamBox allow the use of virtual manipulatives. As technology advances, some of the best aspects of a brick-and-mortar education are now becoming possible online. With blended learning, students have the ability to learn anytime, anywhere. Some people are not sure if blended learning is right for elementary school kids. However, K5 kids are the ones who were born into this age of technology and have been using it their entire lives. I think they have the power to benefit the most. Blended courses allow content to be delivered online at the pace that is appropriate to a student at that point. The best thing about using DreamBox Learning in a blended learning program is that it adapts to the child’s learning style.

Thousands of data points are drawn from how a student answers a question. As students answer more questions, modifications are made based on those points. According to research, almost 60 percent of students play educational games. Students are engaged by games and want to use them to learn. Educational games can teach the same critical thinking skills as traditional learning. Blended learning exists on a continuum, between 100 percent face-to-face and 100 percent online learning, neither of which are completely successful for most students.

Blended learning is synchronous with a live classroom where students can join together in person to interact with a teacher and each other. It is also synchronous in an online environment, where teachers broadcast a lesson online and students and teachers can chat and interact via web tools. There’s also the asynchronous portion, where students are self-paced and can go online and learn at their own pace, whenever they want. Students don’t have to be online at the same time. Blended learning allows for anytime, any place learning. When considering implementing blended learning, administrators need to consider many factors.

Something important to note is that all classrooms do not need to be full of technology. Students can take turns logging onto the single classroom computer for 15 minutes, which means blended learning can be offered in a school with a minimum technology budget. Administrators also need to look at the different models of blended learning and figure out which will work best for their school. Fortunately, since the process is student-centric, it involves minimal professional development. The most successful classrooms are student-centric, with the teacher providing the support using the data provided by blended learning.

One model of blended learning is the rotational model, which includes the flipped classroom, which in my opinion can minimize engagement and motivation. The flex model is mostly found in high schools and allows for fluid schedules. Self-blend allows students to pick their own classes and take one or more courses online. I also find this to be ineffective, because students may keep picking courses they are interested in, instead of courses with which they need more help. The enriched virtual model is comprised of students learning at a physical school at times and other times remotely. I believe this is the best model because it personalizes the educational experience for each student, with the best aspects of brick-and-mortar and online learning included.

Tim Hudson, Ph.D.
Director of Curriculum Design
DreamBox Learning

Education expert Carol Tomlinson discusses differentiation in her book Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom. She stresses that teachers need to ensure that all students master necessary content. Plans need to be specific and continually evolving to ensure this mastery occurs. The nature of scaffolding needs to be adjusted based on student differences. Teachers need to ask themselves what a specific student needs at a particular moment to progress with specific content.

We all know that this is a tall order for teachers. There simply is not enough time in a day or data collected to be able to do this for every student in a brick and mortar environment. This is one of the reasons why we need to leverage technology—to meet students where they are, and meet these standards of differentiated learning.

Before you introduce blending learning into your school, there are three key questions to ask:

  • What do you want your students to accomplish?
  • How will you measure achievement and success?
  • What technology will you need for learning?

DreamBox Learning helps students learn and choose good strategies when solving math problems. It teaches them what fluency is and how it is learned. Since understanding cannot be given, DreamBox Learning uses its adaptive engine and virtual manipulatives to help students see for themselves the power of an idea. Our assessment engine has unit pretests. If students pass the test, they can move on, because they have demonstrated mastery and proficiency. If not, lessons are unlocked and the student can work through a unique sequence until mastery is gained. DreamBox Learning combines rigorous elementary mathematics with an intelligent, adaptive learning engine in a motivating learning environment to keep students engaged, progressing, and deeply understanding mathematics.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: