Superintendent Larry W. Davis

 

 
 Superintendent Davis
 For All the Kids Out There...

 

“Blended Learning” is another piece of the education puzzle

On Sept. 25, 2017, Emery District principals and supervisors began training in what has come to be known as Blended Learning, a bringing together of effective traditional instructional practice with today’s cutting-edge technology. Just so there is no misunderstanding of this training, know this:

  • There is no charge to the district or our schools for this training. The Southeast Education Service Center and UETN are sponsoring the training.

  • Minimal time outside of their school or district responsibilities will be spent by those involved. There will be five 4-hour sessions held once per month September through February (There is no training in December).

  • The professional development will take place in our school district, and real people will come to the Emery District to provide the training. Also, a few administrators from Carbon County will travel to the training in Emery County. Typically, we travel to Carbon for such activities.

     

    Why is Blended Learning important to our school district and to our stakeholders, especially our students? The Emery District is on the cusp of breaking the glass ceiling on technology, and we need to be prepared with school-level plans on how we are going to integrate the past and the present with the future. The Blended Learning training is specific to that point and will provide leadership opportunities for the design and implementation of individual school plans.

    The potential of Blended Learning is enormous, and it is a natural fit with the district Professional Learning Community and School Collaborative Team philosophies. More than anything else the two lend themselves to individual student academic growth. Good teaching has always taken place in American schools to varying degrees. However, with the rapid advancement of technology in today’s educational setting, combining good teaching practice with the cyber world has left many wondering how to bring it all together in systematic ways that lead to student success.

    The five Blended Learning sessions include the following topics:

     

  • Session 1- Defining Blended and Digital Learning with an overview to Blended Learning and the role of the school principal in leading the transition to Blended Learning.

  • Session 2- Creating a Culture for Blended & Digital Learning with a focus on the important cultural shifts for all stakeholders involved in a Blended Learning transition.

  • Session 3- Shifting Teaching and Learning with a focus on the key changes in curriculum and instruction in a Blended Learning environment.

  • Session 4- Supporting Teachers Through Professional Learning with a focus on the competencies of a Blended Learning educator and professional learning models.

  • Session 5- Implementing and Sustaining Blended and Digital Learning with a focus on the nuts and bolts of shifting to a Blended Learning model and implementation strategies.

By the end of the program, school administrators and district office supervisors will know and be able to:

  • Understand and differentiate between various models of Blended Learning

  • Create clear goals for Blended Learning in their school and within the district

  • Establish a culture in their school community that supports Blended Learning

  • Engage stakeholder support for Blended Learning

  • Identify digital tools and curriculum that support Blended Learning in their schools

  • Develop systems that support the transition to Blended Learning

  • Use digital tools and social media for their own professional practice and lifelong learning

  • Support teachers’ transition to Blended Learning with ongoing professional development

  • Understand the infrastructure needs Blended Learning programs require

  • Develop and implement a Blended Learning Planning Road Map for their schools.

       The adoption of the Blended Learning professional development model stems from work done by the Emery School District Technology Committee and its Professional Development Subcommittee. The Technology Committee was organized in July 2016 and tasked with establishing long-term technology plans for every school and for the Emery District. Part of that planning included conducting an inventory of school and district technology infrastructure, capacity, and programs. From that survey the committee determined that there existed a wide variety of preferred programs from school to school and that there also existed a number of programs that were purchased but not in use. Also, other than the Student Information System (SIS), there was no district-wide data platform for teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders to use in crafting educational plans for each student.

Over the last year, the Technology Committee has been engaged in a process of addition and subtraction that has resulted in the elimination of duplicate and marginally used programs while adding a district data platform, SchoolCity, which will be used by teachers to track student progress, create common assessments, and develop individual learning plans. Such plans will be based on student progress toward meeting core standards. For those who have mastered a standard, there will be “extended learning” opportunities, and for those who have not mastered the standard, there will be re-teaching and expanded ways of showing mastery.

Teachers and administrators who were in the Emery District back when Ernie Weeks was the superintendent, the last 80’s and early 90’s, will recall the district’s efforts in bringing Madeline Hunter’s Mastery Learning into common use. Dr. Hunter even spent time in our district training teachers and visiting classrooms. In my view, the only difference between Mastery Learning and Blended Learning is the integration of technology. The same is true for Professional Learning Communities and Collaborative Teams. Consider this definition of Blended Learning offered by Michael Horn of the Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation: “A formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path and/or pace at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home (such as school). The modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”

It was obvious from Dr. Hunter’s research, as well as research by those who have crafted the Blended Learning approach, that all children have the capacity to learn, but each learns at a different rate and through different means. As educators, we cannot set teaching on cruise control and expect every child to keep up. Nor can we expect those who reach mastery to stop learning while waiting for others to reach the finish line. Rather, we must adapt to the needs of our students, not the other way around. Like PLCs and Collaborative Teams, Blended Learning is a tool… a piece of the educational puzzle. When applied in earnest and with fidelity, amazing things can happen in the life of a child.

Questions or comments about this article should be directed to: larryd@emeryschools.org.