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 left off (due to absences). Where students and teachers share responsibility in obtaining higher standards and depths of knowledge – again via a balanced approach in the CIA of Blended Learning. It begins with a partnership mindset among digital Curriculum, guided Instruction, authentic Assessment, and not waiting for credit recovery to help our struggling students.
Digital curriculum is ideal for delivering low level basic understanding, skills, and practice. It must be matched with high quality teacher guided instruction that requires students to think strategically about the content and collaborate with peers for deeper analysis and understanding. The CIA of Blended Learning one-third (digital Curriculum), one-third (guided Instruction), one-third (authentic Assessment) balance maintains standards without lowering expectations. Teachers and schools need to know how to establish quality digital learning programs that partner with their students as owners of their knowledge at rigorous levels – so that all students can thrive.
Using digital content to create learning opportunities goes well beyond just using digital curriculum. Program design and teacher mindset are key to designing high quality digital learning environments. Check out my book: Think Outside the Box – The CIA of Blended Learning and 10+ Designs for Secondary Schools. Hear more about how to create digital learning opportunities through a spectrum of advisory programs, blended classrooms, digital electives, and more when I guest appeared in Opportunity Thrives podcast: Blended Teachers and Technology to Help Struggling Students Thrive.
Or join me in Miami, FL at the Future of Educational Technology Conference (FETC) on Jan 14-17, 2020 and in Austin, TX at the Digital Learning Annual Conference (DLAC) on Feb. 24-26, 2020. Let’s continue to learn and grow together, building quality digital learning environments where students thrive.