by Quinn Palermo | September 27, 2019 12:08 pm
Every year the administration and staff do their best to bring new and innovative techniques and programs in order to improve education at RB. This year will be no different. The administration and a core group of teachers worked over the summer to pilot the blended learning program.
What is blended learning? “Blended [learning] is an instructional strategy that is a blend between face-to-face in class instruction and students working online to supplement that face-to-face instruction,” said Kylie Lindquist, the Assistant Principal of Curriculum Instruction.
“For example, in a blended learning classroom, I, as a teacher, might give an assessment to all of my kids… and let’s say I’m trying to figure out if they know how to construct an argument. Once I look at the results of that assessment and I see that these 7 kids really need help constructing an argument, and these other 18 really have it. Then I’d have a flex day in my blended class where the 18 kids that already have the concept are gone,” said Lindquist. These students would be elsewhere in the building, independent of the classroom and able to focus on other things that they need to do, even if it isn’t related to the blended learning subject.
One of the biggest obstacles in implementing blended learning is finding places for these kids to go outside the classroom, as well as how to deal with these students in the event of an emergency. “Well, as with any pilot, this is the first time that we’re doing this at RB, so we don’t know exactly what to expect, which is why it’s really exciting that we have an amazing group of 9 teachers who are willing to pilot this over 8 different classes. We’ll see what challenges come up as they do, and we’ll figure out solutions to solve the problems,” says Bridget Wilmot, an english teacher at RBHS and one of the staff that has been essential to managing the blended learning pilot.
Of course, RBHS isn’t the first to try and implement this program. Wilmot and a few other staff attended a workshop on blended learning at Huntley High School, where they first learned of it. Huntley High School is the pioneer of the program and has offered it as a part of their curriculum since 2011. “Our former superintendent, Dr. Burkey, introduced the idea of blended learning to Huntley High School. He initially ran meetings with interested teachers. The first year we had three courses running with three teachers. We currently have over 60 courses and approximately 80 teachers involved,” says Shelly Kish, Associate Principal of Huntley and the coordinator of blended learning at Huntley. Although RB and Huntley are very different schools in terms of layout and structure, RB can still learn a lot from Huntley.
“There are many things to think about when starting a blended learning program as we learned as our program grew over the years. Professional development for teachers; developing consistency and best practices in online course development; how blended affects the school in ways like ERT (fire drills, shelter in place, etc.), seating space in the hallway for students, and supervision of students out of class… If we were to redo blended knowing what we know now, I would limit the number of blended classes a student can take and develop more strict protocol for blended class development for the teachers,” said Kish.
Ultimately, the blended learning pilot is still in its early stages, and the RB administration and staff won’t know how well it suits the RB curriculum until later in the year. However, Lindquist is confident in RB student’s ability to adapt to the blended learning style of learning and thrive in those classes. “We have a lot of students who are independent learners in our building who are self-advocates and so those kinds of students are really the students who will thrive in a blended learning environment. I think it’s the combination of our teaching staff and our student body that’ll make this possible… I think anything is possible, right? I don’t think that the Superintendent would have supported the possibility of a pilot if there wasn’t a possibility of it working really well here at RB.”
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