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4 tips to make blended learning a success

By Julie Randles 7/16/2018

Educator Emily Dillard’s school district defines blended learning as “the deliberate connection of edtech with face-to-face instruction to enhance and personalize a deep and meaningful curriculum.”

But as with most big ideas, arriving at a definition is easier than carrying it out. That’s where Dillard, coordinator of instructional technology for Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia, weighs in, providing a road map for leaders who are implementing a blended learning initiative in their districts.

In her definition, the “deliberate connection” is the key phrase. “There’s planning that comes into that,” she warns leaders. “It will be easy for some teachers and some will need support.”

But when done right, blended learning enhances curriculum and provides learners with something they were unable to do before.

Dillard offers leaders these tips:

Start with a vision. Leaders should ask where they want blended learning to take their district and be sure that answer ties to the organization’s strategic plan. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about devices. Instead consider how the devices you have or those you may purchase can support your strategic plan.

Don’t go it alone. One person cannot drive a blended learning program. Any initiative must include the voices of teachers, coaches, curriculum and instruction staff, parents, students and community members. Go big in your outreach and include people or businesses from the community who might be valuable partners down the road.

Pro tip: Be sure you have a coach on the team who can model edtech use and motivate teachers and leaders.

Create a to-do list. There are steps to going blended. After all, it’s about a complete mind shift. Your list should include securing funding, creating partnerships and planning for teacher professional development (PD). Specific communication with curriculum and instruction staff is a must to ensure the services and tools you’re providing support or enhance curriculum.

Pro tip: PD should be ongoing and active. Be sure to provide extended learning opportunities for teachers, not just one-off or after-school sessions, Dillard says.

Schedule a launch event. A shift of this scale deserves attention. Plan a kickoff event and supporting communication that explains how blended learning will enhance and deepen meaningful curriculum. And use the terminology that ties to your vision so that the message is clear and consistent districtwide. Share that the initiative is designed to take learning to the next level and will change pedagogy and teaching.

Pro tip: Involve teachers or coaches in the launch event to demonstrate the deliberate use of edtech.

Dillard discusses the leadership support needed to back blended learning initiatives in her recorded ISTE Expert Webinar, “Leadership Levels to Ensure Blended Learning Success,” which covers: 

  • The collaborative efforts needed to support blended learning.
  • The research on systems thinking to leverage technology.
  • Strategies, resources and planning documents to plan for blended learning initiatives.
Julie Phillips Randles is a freelance writer and editor with 30 years of experience writing about education policy, leadership, curriculum and edtech.

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