Recently SV2 Partners had the opportunity to observe blended learning in action at two charter schools in San Jose CA. The latest trend in using technology in schools, blended learning combines online lessons with traditional teacher instruction. Advocates of this approach use computers to individualize instruction so that each student can master content and skills at his or her own pace.
As our tours demonstrated, there is no one way to integrate blended learning in a school. At Alpha Public School’s Blanca Alvarado Middle School, half the students worked individually on math or reading on laptops at one end of the classroom while the other students sat at their desks reviewing a grammar worksheet with their teacher. At Summit ‘s two San Jose campuses, tables full of freshmen armed with laptops and earplugs worked independently while math teachers circulated the room to help individuals with questions. At Summit each student had a “playlist” of skills and accompanying resources to help master those skills. For example, students could chose to attend a class on a topic or join a small group tutorial.
Blended learning changes the expectations for both teachers and students. Teachers are no longer able to just teach a class. They must become data experts, tracking the scores of each student as he or she progresses through a series of discrete skills, determining which skills that student needs to succeed. (This may include skills that a student failed to master three grades back.) And at both Alpha and Summit, students are learning how they can take responsibility for their success. Each student sets mastery goals and tracks his or her own progress and pace.
In theory, then, there are no excuses at a blended learning school. Teachers can’t blame a student for failing to learn, and students can’t blame their lack of success on a bad teacher. Instead, teachers and students become partners, actively working together to ensure that each student is challenged and no child is left behind.