Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Blending Online Learning into Schools

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Blending Online Learning into Schools

Article excerpt

At a suburban school in an affluent area of Northern California, an 11-year old student, Jack, started the year at the bottom of his math class. He struggled to keep up and considered himself one of those kids who would never quite "get it."

In a typical school, he would have been tracked and placed in the bottom math group. Consequently, he would not have taken algebra until high school, which would have limited his college and career choices.

But Jack's story took a different turn. His school transformed his class into a blended environment by mixing online learning into Jack's weekly math routine. After 70 days of using online math tutorials for a portion of his math three to four days a week, Jack rose to become one of the top four students in his class. He was working on material well above grade level.

Jack's rapid progress is an example of online learning's power to help teachers differentiate and customize learning to fit a student's individual needs. Schools across the country are starting to awaken to the potential of blended learning to enable personalized instruction, delivered at just the right pace and level of difficulty for each student.

As it grows, blended learning is evolving into seven models: Station Rotation, Lab Rotation, Flipped Classroom, Individual Rotation, Flex, a la Carte, and Enriched Virtual. Educators who want to get started with blended learning should begin with one of these basic models. From there, customize and combine models to suit your specific needs.

Which model works the best? The answer depends on your circumstances. Each model has succeeded in certain settings and failed in others. To help determine the best match for your context, a few observations related to each model are worth bearing in mind.

Station Rotation

The model that many classroom teachers gravitate toward first is the station rotation. This model involves students rotating within the classroom-on a fixed schedule or at the teacher's discretion-among learning modalities. Often, students rotate among an online learning station, a group discussion station, and a pencil-and-paper task at their desks. Or they may rotate between online learning and a hands-on project.

Station rotations can be helpful when teachers want more time to meet with small groups while the rest of the class is engaged independently. Another benefit is that the model does not require a computer for each student; in fact, many classrooms get by with only one device for every five or six students. Just be sure to have enough devices to accommodate as many students as will be learning online at any given point during the rotation.

Station rotations do not work well when students need a highly flexible learning environment. For example, some students are best served by working online throughout an entire unit without stopping to meet in small groups. Some students may prefer the flexibility to complete some of the course off campus or during study hall. In these circumstances, other blended models are better matches.

Lab Rotation

In the lab rotation model, students leave their classroom and go to a computer lab for the online learning portion of the curriculum. The idea is to free up teacher time and classroom space by using a computer lab for the online component and to allow students to benefit from digital content for a portion of the course.

FirstLine Schools' elementary and middle school students in New Orleans rotate to computer labs for part of their math block so those who are behind in math can get caught up using game-based software. Teachers walk with their students to the lab and use the time to meet in small groups in free lab space.

Like other rotation models, lab rotations typically require professional development to help teachers hone their data skills. The most efficient implementations are diligent about assessing student progress each day to ensure that when students slow down or speed up on a concept in one modality, they are allowed to adjust backward or forward in the other modalities as well. …

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