During my research for this blog, I was unprepared for my reaction to the video clip that was generated by my search for how many people died in the 2004 Tsunami. I could not bring myself to click on the video and instead spent a little time thinking of the hundreds of thousands of survivors who lost loved ones that dreadful December Day.
The aftermath of the 2004 tsunami brought my family to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, for my husband’s job as a Livelihoods Recovery Specialist with World Relief. I saw first-hand the devastation, and heard account after account of how loved ones were torn away by the tsunami.
Of the hundreds of disaster relief workers in Banda Aceh, only a handful brought their families. Our children were in pre-K, 2nd, and 6th grade. We decided to set up a home school on the second floor of our rental home with four other expat families. When my husband and I went shopping at the hardware store, I was thrilled to find hard hats for the kids to use as protection during the many after-shocks. Other supplies and curriculum would not be as easy to come by.
Because I was an experienced teacher, I ordered most of the curriculum for our co-op school. My second grade son was reading well above grade level as I had used Reading Horizons to teach him, along with 22 other 1st graders, at an international school the previous year. I would do the same for the pre-K and Kindergarten students so I could assure they had a solid foundation for reading. I felt confident teaching language arts to the 6th graders, but science would be a problem. I needed a rigorous curriculum taught by a competent science teacher. Enter, Blended Learning.
Blended Learning is best defined by Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker in their 2015 book, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve School: “…a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.”
Although very shaky at times, I had the brick and mortar part down. However, science instruction would be a challenge as I needed a more knowledgeable teacher to deliver rigorous instruction. In 2005, there were almost no online learning programs so I was thrilled to find a science program that arranged for a teacher in America to broadcast online in the evening so students in Asia and Africa could join the class in the morning. What an awesome blended learning experience my son, Ryan, had as a student in a real-time virtual science class with kids living in Malaysia and Addis Ababa! That was my introduction to the world of blended learning and the benefits for teachers and students.
Reading Horizons and the Power of Blended Learning
Long before the popularity of the term “Blended Learning” and my experiences in the tsunami, Reading Horizons was leading the way in the use of this powerful education program. In 1985, Reading Horizons developed the first educational product to run on CD-ROM. By combining effective teacher training, direct instruction, and engaging computer-based lessons, teachers finally had the tools to dramatically improve the reading success of their students.
Reading Horizons Discovery v.6 software 2014
Fast forward to 2015. Today we are fortunate to have more and more research-based, quality programs that help facilitate effective blended learning. As educational systems of instruction shift to learning that is student-centered with a greater use of technology, Michael Horn clarifies the new role of teachers in the book Disrupting Class, How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (2008), co-authored with Clayton Christensen and Curtis W. Johnson.
“Teachers will act more as learning coaches and tutors to help students find the learning approach that makes the most sense for them. They will mentor and motivate them through the learning with the aid of real-time computer data on how the student is learning.”
Reading Horizons student-centered technology enables teachers to obtain the data they need to provide more personalized attention and greater differentiation, and allows for students to achieve mastery at a rate that works for them. “Each student can go at his or her own pace with the [Reading Horizons] computer software without having to wait on other students who don't catch on as quickly or struggling to keep up with skills they're not ready for.” June, K – 2 teacher, Louisiana
The same day I began writing this blog, my husband called for a lunch time chat. He directed me to go online and search “BBC 2004 Tsunami Then and Now.”
I find solace in seeing the “now” picture of our town, Banda Aceh, and I find hope in where blended learning can take reading instruction in the future.