Learn how blended learning can improve your classroom today—and—how it can drastically improve education in the future.
Q: How different is blended learning from using assistive technology for students with disabilities? Could this approach be seen as assistive technology for the general education population?
A: I believe it’s very much the same thing, if I understand the question correctly. We actually have a few special ed students in our math Khan Academy flex program this year and it has turned out to be very beneficial to them. One of our ninth grade students who reads at a first grade level and math at a Kindergarten level is able to be in there with his peers and work on the Khan Academy system and find motivation in things that he really felt like a failure about. I think it’s very similar; I think it’s very applicable.
Q: I would like to start a flipped classroom as a way to get started. Do you have any suggestions on starting with a flipped classroom or how to implement this?
A: It depends of course on what subject you are teaching, but I think the last flipped conference that I went to, they call it “Flipping Utah,” what they say is just jump in. Find whether if you have the ability to use some of the free online courses out there, I would take one day and take one of the lectures that you can find online, have your students go home and watch it and then come back with a set of problems and just take it one day at a time and see how that works. We had a teacher do that last year and this year she has an entire chemistry curriculum in a flipped classroom way. And that chemistry class has become one of the most popular classes in our school, just because she started flipping it last year. Jump in, take it one day at a time, find those modules out there that are already available to you.
Q: With such large classes, how are the contents of what the students are supposed to be working on, how does the teacher control that?
A: That is such a great question because when I went and visited Carpe Diem where there where 300 kids in one room from sixth grade to twelfth grade… It is unbelievable how easy it is to manage students when they’re working at their own level and they understand what they have to do in order to reach their goals. Carpe Diem had a very, very good motivator and that was if they were up to their pace, if they had reached their goals (their weekly goals), they did not have to come to school on Friday. So they managed themselves really well. When we have these larger classroom experiences, we don’t have the ability to let them stay home on Fridays so we set up external motivators, prizes, we set up their chart levels in their class so that they can see, so they can use their agency to move themselves along through their curriculum. You just have to try it out to see how amazing students are when they know what their goals are, when they’re a part of the process of understanding their goals for the curriculum and letting them take control of it. It’s really amazing.
Q: How do you start educating parents about moving a school into a blended learning environment?
A: That’s a very important question. The more communication, the better. It definitely was not easy for me when I started this five years ago and I appreciate that challenge. I think there are a lot of benefits now that we have today because of the popularity of Khan Academy, because of the many TED Talks that are out there that educate parents. I would just say the more parent nights you can have, the better and using the tools that are there on Youtube videos. The books are there, of course getting parents to read those books would be tough, but there are really a lot of great videos out there from the best minds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Clayton Christensen Institute to Harvard, Stanford… Everyone is supporting this movement and you can communicate that to parents.