FAQ for Teachers, Administrators and Parents
FAQ for Teachers:
I already have a successful practice. Why should I change?
At Alvo, we believe that blended learning is a data driven, technology enhanced way to deepen differentiation to the level of personalizing instructional plans for each student. Blended learning helps extend what already works in your classroom. Done well, blended learning incorporates new practices and tools into your existing best practice repertoire. It does not require a complete overhaul of everything you do in your classroom. Blended learning has some unique things to offer your students through personalized, data-driven learning experiences, opportunities to engage in technology, and increased responsibility in directing their own learning.
How will blended learning change my practice?
You will gradually implement elements of blended learning, such as more small group work, greater individual differentiation, and less direct instruction, into your existing practice. In addition to using computer-based learning in a meaningful way, you’ll be examining how to personalize learning for each student in your classroom with the aim of meeting each student’s individual needs.
How is blended learning different from using learning centers?
One popular model of blended learning, the station rotational model, does resemble traditional learning centers. Though, many of the routines used in learning centers are similar, the main difference is that the centers or “stations” are customized to the learning needs of each group of students that uses them. All students might not need to rotate through all stations, and the learning that goes on for each student in a station is likely to be different, according to their needs. Another big difference is the inclusion of online content as one of the instructional experiences.
What will my role be as a teacher in a blended model?
The teacher’s role in the classroom is still that of the expert. You will be making decisions about how your students will be learning, and you will facilitate much of the instruction, like whether to implement traditional direct instruction or small groups, independent practice, project based learning, and/or online work.
I don’t currently customize instruction, or I don’t use a lot of small group work. It seems complicated. How can I plan all these different lessons?
You’ll gradually implement components of blended learning based on your strengths. While you develop a streamlined system for lesson planning and classroom routines, you will slowly increase the level of complexity in differentiation of instructional experiences. Although it may seem like an entirely different approach, you will be surprised by how many components of blended learning you are already using in your classroom. And remember, you will be adding to your current best practice repertoire.
I’m the only teacher in my classroom. Will this still work?
Yes! Blended learning does not require more teaching staff. It does require that you release students to become self-directed learners (with your oversight and facilitation). You’ll develop a system of classroom procedures to engage your students in learning that will free you to focus your professional skills where they are needed most: to provide a rich and robust learning environment for all your students.
How can I stay on track with my school’s curriculum expectations?
Your plans for your students’ learning will be closely aligned with your school’s/district’s curriculum expectations as well as state and/or Common Core State Standards. A successful blended learning program depends on careful tracking of student progress toward these curricular and standards-based expectations; it is part of the process of personalizing learning for each student.
What does it take to get started??
Start by reflecting on what is happening in the classroom and with student achievement. What are you are trying to deepen, solve, or enrich in the classroom experience? Take time to learn about the different models of blended learning that have been implemented and the different types of classroom models that are already out there. Then, choose one or two ways you’d like to introduce elements of blended learning to your classroom initially. Start slow. Be ready to innovate, evaluate, and adjust.
I already have my students learning in groups, and I differentiate instruction. What’s next??
That’s a wonderful start! In addition to deepening those practices, consider how you might further personalize each student’s learning using data collection and analysis as well as some computer-based learning to expand the variety of instructional opportunities for students.
FAQ for Administrators:
I’m afraid this will put a strain on teachers. How will they have time for this?
Evaluate how you use current collegial meeting time and funds. Are teachers being brought together in groups to do things that they can only do when they are together? Blended learning will require a big shift in practice for some teachers, while others are already poised for adoption. If your school is piloting blended learning, it is recommended that teachers be given extra planning time as they adjust. They will need support along the way.
How can I present this to my board?
We suggest giving your board a glimpse into several real schools and classrooms that are using blended learning effectively. You can find some videos and articles in the resources section of our website[KK1] . Educating your board about what blended learning is, being very specific about why you are interested in pursuing this method, and how you will measure the impact, will help them to make an informed decision.
What are the technology and budget requirements to make this happen?
That differs for every school site and classroom. The online learning components of blended learning require enough internet bandwidth to support a certain number of users at a given time. Some online learning programs require purchasing licenses. However, much high-quality content is available for free. Also, it doesn’t cost anything for teachers to begin using blended learning methods in their classrooms. We always recommend adopting online content that does not require onsite servers to avoid the expense and hassle of server maintenance.
How will blended learning affect our state test-prep process?
Since, ideally, test-prep is conducted according to individual student needs, blended learning lends itself nicely to this process. Using myriad data sources, teachers and students will know what areas need review and re-teaching. Then, they are able to focus on those areas via online learning and face-to-face instruction.
What’s the best blended learning model for my school to use?
The Alvo Institute doesn’t recommend any one model. Just as we believe that each student is unique, we recognize that each school and classroom has unique needs. The model you choose will depend on many factors, such as the instructional needs, student demographics, grade levels, whether the school is brand new or already established, current teacher practice, available technology, and budget.
Can blended learning be used in elementary school? Middle school? High school?
Schools at all grade levels are using blended learning with great success. It looks different at each level, but the underlying principles are the same: customize the instructional experience for each student, maximize the teachers’ expertise and time, and help students become self-directed, high achieving, life-long learners.
FAQ for Parents:
Will my child spend less time developing paper-and-pencil skills?
The best blended learning programs are designed to focus on the skills schools believe are necessary for student success. Even programs that are highly computer-based include “paper-and-pencil” skills.
Is learning from a computer valuable?
The computer-based learning programs that schools use are purposefully selected to be valuable components in student learning. Schools have found that carefully chosen computer programs can motivate, engage, and accelerate students’ learning in ways that traditional teaching and learning cannot.
How is an automated computer program good for my child?
The computer based learning programs most schools use allow students to work at their own pace. Many actively involve students in tracking their own progress, making learning choices, and engaging them in learning in ways they had not been learning before. Additionally, most programs use adaptive instruction, meaning content is constantly adjusted to the students’ needs in the moment.
What will the adjustment to a new classroom setup be like for my child? What will change?
Teachers beginning to use a blended learning model in their classrooms will carefully plan classroom routines and introduce them to the students gradually. We have found that students thrive on the increased responsibility and autonomy they are given within this structure. Students become more active learners in every sense.
Wasn’t the old way working just fine?
Blended learning offers personalized, data-driven learning experiences, opportunities to engage in technology, and opportunities for increased responsibility in their own learning. The tech-enhanced learning creates flexibility for teachers to spend more time exploring concepts, engage students in active learning and to work with small groups rather than managing an entire class around one lesson.
Is the teacher being replaced by a computer?
No. The computer-based components of blended learning comprise only a part of the instruction. In blended learning, a teacher is given the ability to focus his/her time and energy where it can be the most effective, such as working with a small group, providing one-on-one support, and designing engaging learning experiences. The teacher is still the expert practitioner and coordinates all learning in the classroom.
Will my child get less guidance from the teacher?
With blended learning’s focus on data-driven teaching and learning, your child’s teacher will know your child’s abilities, strengths, and learning needs even better than before. The teacher is in an improved position to create and facilitate learning experiences that are best for your child.
Will my child be as well prepared for the next grade level / state tests / honors courses / college?
Blended learning sets your child up to be even more prepared for his/her academic future, thanks to the increased degree of personalization this model provides. Students spend their time productively working on areas they need to focus on and can advance at their own pace, free from traditional curriculum pacing and other logistical restraints.
Will the new classroom environment be too distracting / complicated for my child?
Teachers carefully design the classroom environment to ensure that each student is engaged in learning at all times. Students adjust to new routines through support and practice and teachers develop procedures that will help students stay focused on their learning.
What if my child can’t handle working in groups / working alone / needs constant teacher attention?
All types of learners succeed with blended learning. The program is designed to support behavioral and social needs as well as students’ academic needs. Time is spent modeling proper group behavior, self-reflection, and fostering independence.
What about my child’s special needs? What about his/her IEP?
Teachers have even greater ability to meet the unique needs of each student in a blended learning classroom as they design learning experiences with each student in mind.