Monday, March 6, 2017

Good, Bad, & Ugly: Blended Learning Effectiveness #SXSWedu

Good, Bad, & Ugly: Blended Learning Effectiveness
SXSWedu 2017 Debate

  • Julia Freeland Fisher, Director of Education Research, Christensen Institute
  • Lisa Hansel,  Advisor, Knowledge Matters
  • Saro Mohammed (Moderator), Partner, The Learning Accelerator

Personalized learning is one of true transformational opportunities in education.

Q1: Is personalized learning a measurable framework?

Start with the definition.

Personalized learning - Anything from personal development/interests (hobbies, individual pursuits) all the way through to traditional coursework which includes courses offered online when it isn't offered in person at the student's campus.

Public education has to meet the needs of civil society. Everyone pays in whether they have students in school or not.

  • Create Informed Voters
  • Serve as serious jurors
  • A subset of people who will participate in the political process as leaders/legislators
  • Need to know enough science to think about global warming, history to understand international relations, etc, in a broad base of knowledge
  • Need to be capable of life-long learning
Large swaths of the education community have a bad understanding of what skills students need to think critically. Critical thinking is grounded in knowledge bases. 

For the sake of civil society, our young people need to finish high school with a massive base of knowledge.

Can we have personalized learning environments that are ineffective? (Yes!)

With blended learning, what we can ask is if a particular suite of tools in a particular environment is effective. Just because there is technology in a classroom, doesn't mean it is an effective learning environment.

Measuring personalized learning is much more difficult to do. What dimensions should we use to measure personalized learning? Are we leaving something out when we choose these dimensions? What about wrap-around services that students might need to be successful in an personalized environment.

Q2: What would effectiveness look like in personalized/blended learning?

Are we measuring growth at an individual student level? When we are answering that question, then we can answer if learning is effective.

Are students successful academically and personally? (Success Schools redesigned their curriculum when their graduates were making it to college but not through college.)

Standards are not enough. Let's get serious about defining a core of content, that once it is mastered, you are a graduate of a public school in the USA.  EX: Shouldn't every child in the US know and study the Constitution? In whatever language they need? At whatever level of facilitation they require.

Without a shared core of basic knowledge across the disciplines, purely personalized/blended learning will lead to communication breakdown.

Do we cover the basics more effectively and put the rest of the time toward the personalized learning? Or do we cover the basics using more effective tools and weave personalization in? 

Q3: How should we be measuring effectiveness?

Focus on individualized pacing instead of just teaching to the middle. This requires clarity in standards for outcomes.

A real fear: With real personalized pacing/learning, we will become ok with some students always being behind.

Students who come in ahead should be able to finish the core curriculum early and then pursue purely personal learning until ready to go on to higher education.

Assess tools by use case as opposed to features and functionality. 
  • Ex: This works for a student who is struggling with place value. This works well for a student who tests well in reading but struggles with every day decoding and comprehension.

Open Responses to Audience Questions

How do you assess with rigor beyond "the test"?

Other forms of assessment beyond "the test" - 
  • Performance assessment, rubrics for grading (time it takes teachers to do this is enormous). 
  • Citizen assessment - present projects to experts in the field for critique

Find a way to connect students with similar interests across the globe in learning groups so they can collaborate/debate/discuss what they are learning.

How do you bring student agency and voice into blended programs to ensure that the tech empowers rather than simply delivers content differently?

Look for things that deliver a "but, for" - But for my involvement in this, this would not exist.

Whatever we are doing with tech should be empowering teachers and students to do more, have richer experiences OFFLINE.

How do you factor culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy into the blended environment?

Content from multiple cultures can be incorporated into blended/personalized learning. Designing for culturally relevant instruction is much more difficult.

Schools, whether we like it or not, are forming our kids identities. Social/emotional learning and networking beyond the school building with mentors and role models they can relate to is important.

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