Let’s talk about the path to developing a successful digital learning program. Mike O’Callaghan Middle School just completed its third year of adoption of blended learning. When speaking with the principal, Scott Fligor, he shared a 40.5 growth in student performance in 2018-19, the highest in the District. I remember the day that Principal Fligor came to me and said, “My school is at the bottom. We have nowhere to go but up. I’ve heard about this thing called blended learning. Can you help us?” My advice was to go slow to go fast. The plan was to create a small pilot as a proof point with some incoming sixth-graders, then roll up a new grade each year. This was at the same time we rolled out the 7 Steps to Program Design and now we celebrate with a new infographic.
It started small, yet with a BANG! Check out the 2016 i3Learn Academy promo video. As stated by the assistant principal in the video, “The proof is in the pudding…the students in the blended classrooms were growing academically faster at a higher rate than in the traditional classroom.” Principal Fligor could not ignore that the data was showing greater academic gains in the handful of blended classrooms and felt that he had to give every student the blended classroom advantage. He had staff visit the blended classrooms to notice the instructional differences. He brought in professional development for staff to transition pedagogy mindset when partnering with digital curriculum using the CIA of Blended Learning, to help his staff with a balanced one-third tech, one-third teacher, one-third student instructional approach. In 2018, after two years of adoption of blended learning and a name change, Mike O’Callaghan MS i3 Learn Academy was selected as a new STEM magnet school, grandfathering in grades seven and eight, with magnet sixth-grade applicants. Yet, it was the students who had been exposed to blended learning the longest who showed the largest gains, as they too, like their teachers, transitioned to a new personalized learning environment.
This once one-star school, moved to a two-star, then a three-star, and now sits one-half a point away from a four-star. The 40.5-point academic growth came in the third year of blended learning adoption (from 2016 to 2019). The transition from a traditional teacher-led classroom to blended personalized learning with a balanced approach of digital Curriculum, guided Instruction, and authentic Assessment – the CIA of Blended Learning took time to practice, reflect, refine, and iterate.
Mike O’Callaghan MS i3 Learn Academy is truly a blended personalized learning success story. Congratulations to Principal Fligor and his administrative leaders, teachers, and students! You too can follow in their path.
The roadmap to digital learning often starts with a purchase of technology devices. Transition to a blended learning environment begins to take place as teachers partner with digital content and change their instructional pedagogy by releasing control to students and tech. When teachers and students both start using data to inform and drive instruction is when we start to create a blended personalized learning environment where true success is achieved. Increased rigor, with higher Depths of Knowledge (DoK), can be obtained when digital learning is balanced with quality instruction and student ownership. See the roadmap infographic below and download a PDF Roadmap handout.