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While in its Infancy, Experts See a Bright Future for Blended Learning

WOW! What a great group of knowledgeable experts in the Blended Learning (BL) panel on Tuesday! We are at the beginning of this BL wave (and our experts agreed that blended learning IS NOT a fad). Gisele Huff (of Innosight Institute) likened the infancy of BL today as analogous to the early days of the Sony transistor radio. Boy, have we moved lightyears from that! (radio+phone+GPS+wallet+movie/music player+HD camera+TV+home thermostat controller+kitchen sink, all shoehorned into an even *smaller* device today). We learned that our kids are spending over 53 hours/week interacting with media on these devices - more time than they spend in school per week. Our experts were clear - we can't create a static, sterile, alternate universe for our kids in school or we will lose them. They will not become the global digital native citizens that we aspire (and need) them to be.

How do we get from where we are today, with few and far between BL working pilots, to a whole school, whole district, whole nation of public schools practicing true, student-centric learning? Our panel highlighted some barriers and a few ways in which SV2 Partners can help.  

Focus on teacher training. BL requires teachers to create differentiated lesson plans to meet each individual students' needs. It requires analyzing student data and implementing sophisticated classroom management skills. Even the most experienced teachers need some retraining. Now, BL teacher training is being done locally, on a site-by-site basis. Julie Mikuta (of New Schools Venture Fund) pointed out that there are no great BL programs in teaching colleges. This means that we are (still) not filling the teacher pipeline with new BL native teachers. We need to change this.

Find new ways to fund BL. In this era of yearly budget cuts, how do principals find the dollars to invest in BL?  This is tricky, because even if some of the content is free (Khanck12BetterLesson, etc.) the hardware is not.  Mike Lorian (of Common Sense Media) referenced Project RED, an initiative that demonstrates -- counter-intuitively -- that NOT spending on technology is more costly than biting the bullet and spending on technology. Project RED helps districts review all sources of funding and reallocate funds to technology purchases. 

Advocate for BL. This is a new field without many proof-points. While some of us will take the leap of faith and believe that BL, personalization, and student-centric learning will transform education, most will not. And many have not heard of, or experienced BL yet. This is where SV2 Partners can help. We can put a megaphone to this movement through the nonprofits we work with and the schools we visit. We can evangelize and can help teachers, principals and supervisors connect the BL dots. We can work with experts like Gisele Huff, Julie Mikuta, and Mike Lorian to learn more and to help them spread the word that BL is here to stay and is vital to captivating and engaging our digital native students.

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