How to Successfully Implement a Blended Learning Program

No educational technology topics were off limits, and for good reason, during last week’s NCTies. Everything from identity management to flipping the classroom was fair game, and with the state’s NCEdCloud initiative still somewhat of a mystery, there’s a lot of change going on in the Tar Heel State.

One session that caught the attention of many educators during the day-and-a-half long event was on blended learning in the elementary school classroom. Rebecca Phillips and Emily Schmidt from Coltrane Webb STEM Elementary guided a crowded room of teachers on how to successfully implement a blended learning program.

The presenters stressed that, when implementing any blended learning model, educators should focus on teamwork while making sure administrators and parents understand that blended learning doesn’t replace the need for a teacher. Rebecca and Emily provided some additional suggestions to keep in mind.

• Consider students’ experience with technology
Keep in mind the types of technology that students have access to at home. For instance, not every student has a tablet and/or smartphone, or even a computer.

• Be organized
Assign each student to a specific device. Even if 1:1 or BYOD is not possible, make sure you know which student has which device, even allowing two or more students to create their own schedule as to when they are used.

• Don’t forget headphones
Add headphones to your back-to-school or donation lists. Easily to overlook in the race to get hardware turned on, students very likely will ask for the volume on a peer’s device to be turned down. Also keep in mind that headphone buds might be uncomfortable for younger students.

• Choose hardware wisely
If you’re lucky enough to have a choice between computers or tablets, be sure to consider the purpose of using the specific technology. Test the programs you want to use for compatibility, and consider technology limitations like Flash not working on iPads.

And if hardware isn’t readily available, the teachers suggested starting with what you have, and thinking about different ways to get what you need. Rebecca and Emily have gone straight to their PTO and held small fundraisers. You can also “scrounge around” and look for unused or underutilized resources, even unused computer lab seats and times.

Lastly, the teachers suggested finding out what your students think about you new blended learning program, and take pride and ownership in them learning in new and different ways.