Budget cuts and staff reductions have hit many schools hard. It’s time to look “outside the box” when trying to deal with growing student populations and fewer quality teachers to serve them. Digital content is ideal for building foundational skills. We need to look closely at how schools can use digital content to support student learning and reduce the teacher workload, yet increase teacher reach (e.g. caseload).
Use of digital content within the lab rotation model is a great deployment strategy. Depending on your state statues and/or school district regulations, schools may be able to use a support staff in the lab to monitor and guide students through the digital content. For example, in Nevada the law allows non-licensed personnel to manage computer labs when a licensed teacher is behind the instructional deployment. At the secondary level, Nevada students may be assigned a virtual lab period during the day for mathematics. Students go to a lab and work on digital courseware, rather than meeting with a teacher. The highly qualified math teacher is working with students from a distance within the online classroom. This maintains the concept of one prep period for the teacher and 30 students in a lab/classroom. It’s time to think outside the box, beyond the four-walled classroom and structured timeframes of the day.
Let’s consider a Hybrid model where students spend part of the week with their high qualified teacher face-to-face for hands-on engaging instruction and the other days in the week working with digital content. Typically elementary software and secondary courseware is a form of low level skills based direct instruction, yet the digital platform allows for quick and easy assessment of student knowledge. Digital content can replace teacher lecture, reading from a text, passing out worksheets, collecting and grading papers, putting grades into a gradebook, and then returning the papers. This provides teachers with more time to spend on engaging, motivating, hands-on instruction, or small group activities and student projects to assess high order thinking skills. It’s this balance of teacher interaction and digital content that will increase student motivation and teacher reach without increasing teacher workload.
Using a college model of Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday students can split their time within the lab and with their teacher. Now instead on one teacher to 30 students, their reach is doubled (1:60). Where they only see one group of 30 students every other day. Assessments and low level skills analysis is taken care of within the digital content tool. Using the data from the software, teachers can target individual needs and guide instruction toward student success. Instead of preparing five lessons a week the teacher is now only conducting 2-3 engaging higher order thinking activities.
The Hybrid model balances teacher face-to-face instruction with digital distance in the online classroom, unlike the virtual lab model noted above. It’s definitely thinking outside the box. The Hybrid model reduces the teacher workload, yet increases teacher reach and in a age of teacher shortages it’s time to start thinking differently.