I’ve done a lot of writing in this space about blended learning: a blend of traditional and virtual learning to give students learning opportunities/experiences they did not have before. In my own practice, this means using the School of One program. School of One is a web-based interface and assessment system with a grouping algorithm behind it. School of One assesses student learning and assigns students new groupings and lessons based on that assessment every day. Like the students, I also get a new teaching assignment every day, so I have to stay as sharp as they do.
School of One’s technology allows me to work smarter and target my skills so that I have the most impact on students. Instead of teaching one skill to a class of 30 students who are all learning at different paces, School of One will assign me to teach a lesson to a group of 10 students who all need a lesson in that particular skill while my colleagues (there are 5 of them) teach other targeted lessons.
School of One can assign me and the students one of seven possible lesson modalities (five of which are built around teacher-student interaction). It creates different student groupings every day to meet students where they are on their own individualized learning path. Its system allows students to progress at their own pace and truly learn for mastery.
It makes a lot of sense, and because of it, student engagement is through the roof. Students who have gaps in their learning from previous years catch up faster than I ever thought they would. My data show that the lowest performing students are actually making the biggest gains. Students who were behind in past years apparently just needed some extra time on these skills for whatever reason, and a blended model like School of One provides these individualized opportunities to my 300 students every day.
School of One is a great blended model, but it is not the only one out there. I know lots of teachers who are experimenting with different models, many created on their own using Google Classroom and whatever available tech they have. There is no shortage of tech, but with these new tools and trying to navigate a new teaching landscape comes a lot of questions:
How do I setup my own blended classroom?
Which technological tools are effective and which are not?
Do I have to set up the entire system myself or can I use a platform like School of One?
What will the culture in my blended classroom be like?
What is my role as the teacher in a blended classroom?
How do I maintain a strong bond with students in a more tech-focused environment?
These are hard questions. But from my own experience, missteps, and work with other colleagues who are also blending their classroom, I have found some strategies that work. My blended classroom is set up differently from my traditional one yet some of the basics of any classroom – strong culture and strong instruction – are still at the core. But it wasn’t without a lot of experimentation and miscues along the way. This year, I’ve tried to tackle more of these questions with colleagues through a fellowship at BetterLesson. In case you don’t know BetterLesson, it has, for the last 5 years, recruited “Master Teachers” from around the country to share best practices in every area and grade level of teaching in a well-curated format. This year, BetterLesson recruited 11 of us blended teachers from around the country to showcase some best practices in blended learning because, well, it doesn’t exist anywhere else! If you want to start blending your classroom and are looking for some good strategies and tips, check out all of the great resources from teachers of all subjects and age groups at www.betterlesson.com/blended. A description is also below. Enjoy.