Making Blended Learning Work in Elementary Schools
In this web seminar, originally broadcast on October 4, 2012, education technology experts and practitioners from K5 schools described how they are utilizing adaptive instructional technology as part of blended learning models to individualize and differentiate math instruction in the classroom.
Blended learning involves an instructional shift in some portion of the day to an online environment. This shift is intended to make learning more productive by giving teachers better tools, more time, and informative data. One of the models of blended learning is a rotation model. Best used in an elementary classroom, the rotation model has students moving to an online environment for 10-25 percent of their day.
Rocketship Education elementary schools in California use rotation-style blended learning to stretch their budget. Because their learning lab is staffed by volunteers, the schools have saved enough money to employ six fewer teachers and run close to an eight-hour school day and 200-day year. This has allowed for reinvestment in teacher salaries, coaching, and growth.
Rocketship Education’s labs are using innovative, adaptive learning technology like DreamBox Learning’s K-5 Math Program that use visual and gaming approaches to math. Results and data are then streamed to teachers so they can provide better informed instruction in the classroom. Among DreamBox’s benefits is its ability to customize instruction. Its tools vary the individual learning paths so students learn at the right level and in the best learning modality.
The game-based system also allows for appropriate motivation. Games are calibrated at the right level so they are not too hard or easy for the learner. Additionally, real-time data is provided to students, teachers, and parents to guide online and offline instruction.
IDEA is a growing network of tuition-free K12 charter schools with 13,000 students in 28 schools. Our mission is to prepare students in under-served communities for college, success, and citizenship. Blended learning helps us achieve this. Previously, our elementary schools had been under-performing compared to our middle schools, which were doing better than all of the other schools in the area.
We felt individualized instruction was key to getting our elementary students to perform at the necessary level and be prepared for college. Amidst budget cuts, we devised the “BetterIDEA” Blended Learning Solution. “BetterIDEA” includes a new core curriculum in every classroom, as well as individual schedules that are frequently changed based on a student’s progress.
We also built blended learning spaces called iLearning Hotspots, where IDEA students utilize DreamBox Learning for math instruction.The spaces range in size from 30-60 students and are facilitated by one paraprofessional. Students visit the hotspots every three days for 45-50 minutes.
DreamBox Learning Math is part of our blended learning solution because it fulfills our main criteria:
- Intuitive enough to drive students to the right lesson without adult input
- Engaging with a motivating structure that students enjoy using
- Correlated to the Common Core State Standards During the 2011-2012 school year, our students averaged 60 extra hours of individualized math instruction per student with DreamBox Learning.
We found that parents loved receiving email notifications regarding how their student was doing. DreamBox’s adaptive engine removed the burden of determining correct placement for students from teachers. Lab facilitators were able to use the program’s real-time data to work with teachers and principals to drive classroom intervention and determine what students might need.
Blended learning is being transformed by a new class of technology that is powered by data and gets to know the student through use. There is now the opportunity to deliver a personalized learning environment at the point of instruction in an engaging framework. While the goal of creating personalized learning environments is not new, we now have the technology to support that goal.
To be successful in implementing blended learning, a key component is the ability to deliver and capture data in real time. DreamBox Learning has created a platform that records what a student is thinking and allows them to demonstrate what they know. Instruction for each student is optimized as it is being delivered. Immediate, personalized assistance can be offered and the level of difficulty adjusted based on real-time data.
Struggling students can move back and advanced students can move forward without getting bored. We like to say DreamBox “learns the learner as the learner learns.” DreamBox contains a motivating learning environment that allows students to measure their own success and drive their own learning. Students who can persist through challenges will progress and find proficiency. Learning is made fun through game protocols that delight and surprise.
I have been using a blended learning model for two years in my first grade classroom. It is far easier to implement than I imagined and makes my teaching more efficient and effective.
I looked to blended learning as a means of helping with the challenges I am currently facing. My class size has increased by 47.5 percent since 2009. While there are higher performance expectations, cutbacks have lead to five fewer instruction days and three fewer staff development days. We no longer have a computer lab teacher or physical education instructor and specialists have been cut to the minimum.
Of all of the programs I considered, I found DreamBox Learning Math to be the most sophisticated and engaging program available. It is instructional and allows for skill building and development, not just practice. New skills are taught through modeling and students are challenged to find the most efficient solutions. It is adaptive and provides immediate feedback and instruction scaffolding.
The real-time reporting allows me to see a quick snapshot of a student’s progress or a more in-depth look at their current curriculum level. Students find it easy and fun to use; they can log on and learn without adult support. There is even simple home access that does not require anything additional to download. I use the rotation method in my room. Students spend 80 minutes per day on math, with 20 minutes on DreamBox. Many go beyond this and use the program at home, as well. Blended learning has made it possible to meet my students’ academic and support needs.
They are engaged at a just-right level of instruction. The program assesses their progress and gathers information in a way that means less testing and less loss of instructional time. I am able to work with smaller groups and allow for differentiated instruction. Achievement has increased due to online and offline support that is aligned to individual needs.
Even anxiety has decreased, with behavior issues at a minimum. The result has been much more confident students who have experienced an exponential growth in math skills. Every student progressed a full grade level from November 2011-May 2012.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to http://www.districtadministration.com/ws100412.