As more schools embrace technology, many are experimenting with finding the balance between digital and traditional instruction. A group of charter schools in the Bay Area, Rocketship Education, requires two 50-minute technology sessions daily for all students, known as the Learning Lab. In the Learning Lab, students complete exercises in math and reading that are similar to “short video games,” according to the article “Combing Computer Games with Classroom Teaching.”
Blended learning is becoming popular in schools as educators realize that when students are having fun while learning their core subjects they are more engaged, learn more, and raise standardized test scores. A math teacher in the article explains how the Learning Lab has given her more time for classroom instruction since she doesn’t have to spend teaching time doing rote and ineffective exercises. Students are also happier because their “drill exercises” have been replaced by video game breaks. The math teacher said:
“They’ll be doing [drill and kill exercises] using fun games and exercises, and in here they’ll be applying their practice knowledge. I think I’m allowed to be a teacher, more so because of this model, because I can teach to their general needs rather than having to play catch-up. So I’m teaching what I’m supposed to rather than what should have already been taught.”
Rocketship schools have already started to see the benefits of their blended learning curriculum. One of their low-income schools, which 91% of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch, have seen their standardized test scores grow to the same average of a nearby school in an affluent community.
To tap into the benefits of blending the digital and traditional worlds, educators will need to assess if the blended curriculum is more than fun and that it is teaching students core subjects, electives, or computational skills. Your school doesn’t need technology like Rocketship’s DreamBox Learning to join the blended learning movement. Introducing free programs like YouTube and Scratch in the classroom allow educators to teach basic computer skills in any subject. For example, students in an American Government class can make a short documentary of a local politician using YouTube for their group project. Students can create a cartoon in a history class using Scratch to illustrate a battle in the American Revolution.
How will you assess if learning is taking place while students are having fun with technology?
What tools are you willing to learn with your students so you are also improving your digital skills?
Are you ready to experiment with student led teaching?