Start Anew and Build Back Better

Start Anew and Build Back Better

I once believed that the term blended learning, would slowly vanish, as it would just become the classroom norm – taking the best of online learning matched with the best of face-to-face instruction. That, in this new century, teachers would partner with digital curriculum, guide instruction based on the data available within their digital partner, and have the time to craft peer-to-peer active engagement and authentic assessment opportunities. In other words, embrace what I like to call the curriculum, instruction, and assessment, or the CIA of Blended Learning – digital curriculum, guided instruction, authentic assessment.  This huge worldwide experiment of school closures and adopting remote learning has exposed the great truth. Blended learning is not the norm. And yet, had it been, the transition would have been much easier. Yes, there would still have been access issues, but instruction and pedagogy shifts would have been minor, as would have the learning losses. Had we embraced blended learning, school closures would have still allowed students to continue learning within digital partners with teacher guidance – focusing on the core business of schools: relationships and learning. Yet, too many were caught off guard, ill-prepared to continue with learning new concepts aligned to standards and benchmarks for the remainder of the school year, as learning losses got deeper and deeper. See the NWEA COVID-19 Slide report. As we look to the future, our education system should aim to recover but not replicate the past. We have an opportunity to “build back better.” Use the most effective crisis-recovery strategies as the basis for long-term improvements in areas like pedagogy, technology, assessment, financing, and...
Planning with Balance in Mind During COVID-19

Planning with Balance in Mind During COVID-19

In these COVID-19 times, we are all learners. Teachers, students, and families are learning new skills, pedagogies, and technologies. While new learning and professional growth is exciting, it is also exhausting. Be kind to yourself, your students, and their families. Not only are teachers looking for new lesson planning ideas, technology options, and creating a digital presence, your students are also learning new skills, course content, and working with family members new to schooling at home, who themselves may have lost their job or are also trying to work from home. Repost from SoftChalk’s Innovator’s in Online Learning with a supporting webinar. Click here for playback. As the former Online & Blended Learning Director, in Nevada’s Clark County School District, I’m a huge fan of digital learning. Even today, I help others across the nation establish actively engaging learning environments so that students are empowered to take ownership in their learning as the founder of i3DigitalPD with numerous blogs on partnering with digital content and author of a book titled: Think Outside the Box,  but I never expected a world quite like the one we have been pushed into today. Check out other continuous learning tips shared in my previous blog Teaching in COVID-19 Times.   The seriousness of closing schools for COVID-19 will affect us all. Time away from ‘normal’ educational setting pulls students away from friends and social services once provided by schools (e.g., food). The emotions that students, families, and teachers will experience during a time like this will be stressful. Disappointments abound – missed friends, field trips, ceremonies, and family outings. As you plan lessons,...
Continued Learning in the Wake of COVID-19 Times

Continued Learning in the Wake of COVID-19 Times

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has put us all in a world that we did not see coming. The rapid deployment of social distancing took many by surprise, and each state, school, and individual teacher will contend with their own unique challenges as they tackle this crisis. Yet, as educators, we must figure out how to continue the learning. In times like this, even our teachers will be learning – learning new skills and pedagogy. Repost from SoftChalk’s Innovator’s in Online Learning with a supporting webinar. Click here for playback. As the former Online & Blended Learning Director, in Nevada’s Clark County School District, I’m a huge fan of digital learning. Even today, I help others across the nation establish actively engaging learning environments so that students are empowered to take ownership in their learning as the founder of i3DigitalPD with numerous blogs on partnering with digital content and author of a book titled: Think Outside the Box,  but I never expected a world quite like the one we have been pushed into today. Ideally, designing effective distance learning programs requires planning and targeted professional development. However, in our current state of emergency, educators are caught in triage mode and are not in a position to craft an ideal online learning program. The key is to maintain the indispensable human touch of teaching and learning during this period of social distancing. With school closures, our focus should not be online or distance learning, it’s about maintaining continuous learning. Technology will be a crucial tool for learning when physical classrooms and schools are closed. Yet, teaching and learning is not about the...
3yr Roadmap to Growth

3yr Roadmap to Growth

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. See Roadmap for Blended Personalized Learning infographic below. 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...
Digital Learning Creates Opportunities to Thrive

Digital Learning Creates Opportunities to Thrive

When students struggle in the traditional classroom and absences become daunting, creating larger and deeper learning gaps, where can educators turn? One way to help struggling students is by providing opportunities for success in different learning environments. Past practices often led students away from neighborhood schools, to alternative placement educational facilities. Yet, not all students that struggle need such a drastic remedy. Access to digital curriculum in a comprehensive school setting can be an excellent way to create opportunities to thrive. Digital curriculum is the first piece of the CIA of Blended Learning (digital Curriculum, guided Instruction, authentic Assessment), yet it’s important to ensure that educators understand the partnership between digital content and teacher-led guided instruction. Otherwise establishments create digital learning environments that isolate and remove high quality instructional practices, such as teacher and peer interaction, plus they tend to lower standards/expectations. This is often seen in credit recovery programs across the nation, as documented by Nat Malkus in his whitepaper Second Chance or Second Track (September 2018), were second chance credit recovery becomes a lower-level pathway of isolated, independent study programs designed for struggling learners. When we lower expectations, we are creating a lower track of students, many of whom were struggling to begin with. The TNTP whitepaper Opportunity Myth (2018) notes how schools and teachers are letting students down with low level learning opportunities that just don’t meet the standards. Yet, we must cultivate classrooms where struggling students learn how to take ownership of their learning. Where students can track and manage their learning outcomes in a digital platform, that allows them to pick up where they...