“Blended learning” is everywhere these days—but it can look very different, depending on the individual district, school, or teacher trying to put it in place.
In a new special report, Education Week examines some of the trickiest barriers and unresolved questions schools face in trying to implement blended learning—defined in simple terms as combining tech-based lessons with some form of more traditional, teacher-led instruction without digital tools.
Many of the stories profile individual districts and schools attempting to try improve teaching and learning with blended learning, and circumventing barriers they face with technology and classroom practice as they go.
Here’s breakdown of the coverage you’ll find:
- Michelle Davis takes a look at school districts’ efforts to provide impoverished students with Internet connectivity away from home. She focuses in particular on the Kent, Wash., system’s efforts to bring free Wi-Fi across the community, including in public housing.
- In a batch of related stories, we examine the Forsyth County, Ga.,district’s attempt to enlist businesses to advertise free Wi-Fi for students after school hours; the Vail, Ariz., system’s creation of Wi-Fi hotspots on school buses for students’ long commutes; and a project in Green Bay, Wisc., to loan out mobile hotspots to students.
- Ben Herold looks at who should have the most say over decisions to buy blended learning software—central district offices or schools? Do the potential efficiencies brought by centralized control outweigh the merits of giving individual schools flexibility?
- Figuring out what works in blended learning can be frustrating, because the topic and its definition are so amorphous, and K-12 technology is constantly changing. Sarah Sparks looks at what can and cannot be said about the research base for blended learning.
- Reporting from Chicago, Bryan Toporek (also Education Week’s Schooled in Sports blogger) takes readers inside a charter school, housed inside a former lumberyard, that was refurbished and laid out with blended learning in mind.
- Robin Flanigan takes a look at the Mentor, Ohio, school district’s creation of a laboratory (complete with two-way mirrors, a sound system, and an observation area) that allows teachers to experiment with blended learning strategies, and receive feedback from their peers.
- And Carol Brzozowski looks at how the Vancouver, Wash., district, and others like it, are rethinking the role of school librarians to accommodate schools’ digital needs.
Many of the challenges facing these districts and schools will probably resonate among readers facing similar questions. Other articles could provide K-12 officials with ideas of strategies to try—and pitfalls to avoid.
Photo: At the Intrinsic Schools’ first permanent campus, in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood in Chicago, students rotate through interconnected classrooms, or “pods,” where space is laid out with different instructional strategies in mind.